[World Council of Churches] “The WCC can be and still is prophetic today,” said the Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, reflecting on highs and lows in the ecumenical movement and on the identity of the WCC.
In a Central Committee session on 29 August, Altmann spoke of “sailing” the ecumenical movement, traditionally symbolized as a boat, and how its journey continues towards “transformation and overcoming injustice”. The 150-member Central Committee is currently meeting at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Kolympari, Greece.
The AGAPE (Alternative to Economic Globalization Addressing Peoples and Earth) study process of the WCC, said Altmann, has proved that “the major global economic structure shows a reality that excludes most, benefits a few privileged” people and destroys the earth’s natural resources. He stressed that outcomes of the AGAPE study are significant amidst the current European financial crisis.
Altmann made reference to the Busan Communication Statement called “Reclaiming communication for life, justice and peace” issued by the International Consultation on the Theme of the WCC 10th Assembly held in Busan, Korea, 22-25 May 2012. It says that “Communication plays a vital role in confronting threats to life. It affirms life by promoting truth-telling, fairness, participation, dialogue, openness, and inclusion. Communication that threatens life is characterized by censorship, misinformation, hate-speech, lies, and exclusion.”
The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) was instrumental in drafting this important Statement in the belief that “Communication can strengthen people’s ability to identify and respond to threats to life and can advocate for those made invisible and excluded. In a world that has enabled people of different backgrounds, religions and cultures to be more aware of each other and their inter- connectedness, communication has the potential to promote life together in faith, hope and love.”
Speaking on the churches’ calls for a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty, Altmann expressed hope for the process despite negotiations being postponed at the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in July this year. He led the ecumenical delegation at the UN conference in New York.
Similarly, Altmann expressed the frustration felt by many over the lack of strong commitments at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20. Even so, he spoke about positive aspects of the conference.
“The WCC, alongside other partner organizations, such as the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and ACT Alliance, underlined the positive aspects of the outcome document of Rio +20. These included the adoption of language that values rights, including very specific ones, such as the right to water and sanitation,” he said.
Altmann commented on the churches’ struggles for justice, peace and transformation as highlighted at the WCC’s International Ecumenical Peace Consultation held earlier this year. Tese themes will impact the WCC’s 10th Assembly in Busan, Korea, in 2013:
“The theme ‘God of life, lead us to justice and peace’ is an invocation of God, knowing that we are in the midst of a journey and we cannot stand still, and we must not resist. On the contrary, we must let God push us further on the path of justice and peace.”