New WCC executive committee addresses world issues
May 23, 2006
The Rev. Larry Pickens
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
The world’s hot spots have drawn the attention of the World Council of
Churches’ new executive committee, along with a planned reconfiguring of
the council’s work.
Meeting May 16-19 at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute
outside Geneva, Switzerland, the executive committee held its first session
the WCC’s 9th Assembly
in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in February.
The 25-member committee, led by the new moderator, the Rev. Walter Altmann
of Brazil, was elected at that time. Committee members include the Rev. Larry
Pickens, chief executive, United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and
Statements on the Sudan, the Israeli/Palestinian situation, Iran and the new
U.N. Human Rights Council emerged from the meeting. In addition, a letter signed
by WCC leaders expressed concern to churches in Brazil about recent outbreaks
of violence there.
Committee members also spent time getting to know one another and the complexity
of the work involved, Pickens told United Methodist News Service.
“We have, I think, some very strong youth involvement on the executive
committee,” he added. “They made a significant contribution to
the work of the committee.”
One of the tasks of both the executive committee and the 150-member WCC Central
Committee, which meets Aug. 30-Sept. 6, will be to follow up on reconfiguring
the council and ecumenical movement.
|A UMNS photo by Peter Williams, WCC
Rev. Walter Altmann (left), the new moderator of the World Council of
Churches' executive committee, stands with the Rev. Samuel Kobia, WCC
chief executive and Methodist.
Pickens said the committee affirmed six program areas: the council as an instrument
of the ecumenical movement; unity, mission and spirituality; public witness
and advocacy for justice and human dignity; justice and diaconia, or servanthood;
ecumenical faith formation; and interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
About 35 percent of the representatives on the
central committee, which will consider these new program areas, are from
denominations, he pointed
out. “I think that’s very significant in that it does speak to
the ecumenical involvement of Methodism.”
Recalling the Methodist movement’s historical influence on ecumenism,
Pickens said he expects Methodists “to pay a pivotal role” in reshaping
In a statement on the violence and loss of life in Sudan, the executive committee
noted “the fate of the people of Sudan seems to oscillate between hope
and despair.” The committee voiced hope for the May 5 peace agreement
between the government of Sudan and the Sudan Liberation Army.
But it also expressed caution. “There is a real danger of renewed conflict
unless the churches of Sudan, the ecumenical fellowship and the international
community together respond to the political and economic challenges and move
from monitoring to action,” the statement said.
|A UMNS photo by Aleksander Wasyluk, WCC
Participants leave the World Council of Churches 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazi.
“The gravity of these crimes against humanity, by some even considered
as ‘genocide,’ poses a serious challenge to the international community
that has a moral responsibility to bring the perpetrators to justice. As a
result, Darfur faces an ominous humanitarian crisis of gigantic proportion.”
In a statement on the tension between Israelis and Palestinians, executive
committee members urged the international community “to establish contact
and engage with all the legitimately elected leaders of the Palestinian people
for the resolution of differences, and not to isolate them or cause additional
suffering among their people.”
Two-way, equitable negotiations are supported “as the path to mutual
recognition between Israel and Palestine and to the resolution of other contentious
and substantive obstacles to peace,” and both parties are called upon
to be held to the same standard for ending violence and meeting existing
The new U.N. Human Rights Council, which replaces
the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, must avoid situations that “virtually paralyzed” the
old body, the executive committee said in a statement.
The WCC’s Commission of Churches on International
Affairs worked closely with the old commission on issues of militarization
and national security in
Latin America, bringing victims of human rights violations, human rights defenders
and church representatives from the regions to give live testimony before the
“Much of this work contributed to the setting up of safeguards against
torture, disappearances, violence against women, arbitrary and extra-judicial
killings,” the council said.
In recent years, however, the commission fell
victim to “practices
and policies of double standards and politicization of (the) human rights
by member states, including en-bloc voting by the regions.”
While recognizing the contributions made by the
former commission, the WCC executive committee strongly emphasized the “need
to recognize the role and contribution of churches and civil society organizations
in the promotion
and defense of human rights and ensure them unhindered access to effectively
participate in the debates and discourses at the forthcoming sessions of the
Human Rights Council.”
Concerns about Iran
Addressing the nuclear crisis related to Iran,
the WCC executive committee urged the Iranian government “to fully
comply and cooperate with IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and Security
directives and requests.”
Iran also must put a moratorium on its uranium enrichment program, recognize
the state of Israel and support international efforts to end terrorism.
“There was a real concern that Iran make every effort to address the
concerns already raised by the international community,” Pickens said.
The full statements of the executive committee can be found at http://www.oikoumene.org/en/home.html,
the WCC Web site.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.