|WCC assesses impact of Decade to Overcome
Feb. 20, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Linda Bloom
Jan Love, a United Methodist, is chairwoman of the WCC's "Decade to Overcome Violence."
By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK (UMNS) — When the World Council of Churches initiated its “Decade to
Overcome Violence” in 2001, the idea was to “shine a bright light” on places
where Christians are working on issues of justice and peace — places that could
be models for others.
Now, at the halfway point, the decade has had an “important impact,” according
to Jan Love, a United Methodist who has served as chairwoman of the decade.
“There are parts of the globe where the decade has really taken hold,” she told
United Methodist News Service before a Feb. 18 plenary session on “Overcoming
Violence” at the WCC’s 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre.
In Europe, for example, “the decade is really helping to define how many
organizations articulate their own work,” she added.
Love, the chief executive for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board
of Global Ministries, also finds evidence of the decade’s impact “in shifting
the terms of debate over issues related to war and peace.”
Both the Rev. Samuel Kobia, the WCC’s chief executive, and His Holiness Aram I,
the WCC moderator, now emphasize “under what circumstances would we, as
individual churches, and we, as churches collectively, devote ourselves to
creating peace with justice,” she said.
The plenary session included stories of reconciliation, a plea for assistance to
a population under siege in northern Uganda, and a recommitment — led by youth —
to the decade’s five goals. Those goals include:
- Addressing holistically the wide varieties of violence.
- Challenging churches to overcome the spirit, logic and practice of violence
and affirming anew the spirituality of reconciliation.
- Creating a new understanding of security in terms of cooperation and
- Learning from the spirituality and resources for peace-building of other
- Challenging the growing militarization of the world.
At the end of the plenary, a letter from the U.S. Conference for the World
Council of Churches was read. In it, the U.S. Conference thanked the assembly
for its hospitality and the council for its compassion after the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks and offered repentance as citizens “of a nation that has done
much in these years to endanger the human family and to abuse the creation.”
The letter deplored U.S. attempts “to dominate and control for the sake of our
own national interests” and lamented “with special anguish the war in Iraq,
launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights.”
The letter pointed to the failure of the United States to deal with global
warming and other environmental concerns and to acknowledge or confront the
global economic injustice that perpetuates hunger, poverty and disease.
|A UMNS photo by Linda Bloom
Panelists at a World Council of Churches press conference discuss the group's efforts to overcome violence.
The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, moderator of the U.S. Conference for the WCC,
added that the letter is not endorsed by the churches’ decision-making bodies
but “does represent responsible and committed thinking.”
Some in the United Methodist delegation thought the statement would have
benefited from a wider input. “In hindsight, it would have been best to have the
(U.S.) delegates have the opportunity to receive and respond to the document,”
said the Rev. Larry Pickens, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission
on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.
Pickens added that he saw a draft of the letter before the assembly. “One gets
the sense that the document does a lot of hand-wringing, but it doesn’t really
set a tone for what we’re going to do next in terms of the war.”
Love pointed out that many noteworthy efforts are being made for peace with
justice in the United States, and “this statement makes virtually no mention of
those.” While it is important to name the problems and confess complicity, she
added, “We also seek to show the signs of hope and the opportunities for
building reconciliation and peace.”
“I think there is a great deal that our churches can do and must do in terms of
witness,” Pickens said. Once the sin is recognized, there is an obligation to do
more “simply because of who we are.”
Love also expressed concern over the letter’s last paragraph, which begins,
“Sisters and brothers in the ecumenical community, we come to you in this
assembly for hospitality we don’t deserve, for companionship we haven’t earned,
for an embrace we don’t merit.”
Such a statement dilutes the meaning of hospitality in the Christian community,
where those who are offered hospitality “deserve it in the same way as when God
offers us grace,” she explained. “We’re always worthy of being included in
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or
During a press conference, the Rev. Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian
Church (Disciples of Christ), acknowledged that while a majority of Americans
now believe the war in Iraq is a mistake, “many of our faithful will not agree”
with the letter’s contents.
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