World churches discuss issues that both unite and divide them
PORTO ALEGRE (Brazil) – How the world’s churches deal with the issues that both unite and divide them was a focus of the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) held here last month.
More than 3,000 people, including a United Methodist delegation, attended the Feb 14-23 meeting at the Pontifical Catholic University in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The theme was “God in your Grace, Transform the World.”
The tension among God’s people, even when it comes to worshipping together, is a reality, according to the Rev Larry Pickens, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Concerns. But he believes the recent decision to use the model of consensus as a decision-making process for the assembly is a “landmark development” for the council and helps address past complaints by Orthodox members.
The consensus process “provides the Orthodox with a significant structural development within the life of the WCC which enables their voices to be heard,” he explained. “The creation of a permanent committee representing the interests of the Orthodox will play a significant role in the assembly and in the life of the WCC in the future.”
The Rev Pickens said that under the leadership of the Rev Samuel Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya, “the WCC also will be more intentional about entering into significant dialogue with evangelicals and Pentecostals”.
The Rev Kobia was pleased that the organisation held its first assembly in Latin America. “The testimonies of the churches and the challenges faced by the societies throughout the continent will inform our work in Brazil,” he told the WCC Central Committee.
The assembly’s location also reflects the realities of today’s world as the growth in church membership shifts to countries of the south, according to the Rev Pickens.
This was a significant opportunity to interact with the issues of Latin America and, particularly, Brazil, he said. Brazil has an Afro-Latin population of more than 70 million people. This community carries the history and tradition of the African diaspora experience and would have served as a significant backdrop to the assembly.
Assembly delegates refined a “reconfiguration” effort to prepare the WCC for the future. “The result of this reconfiguration should create a more streamlined and effective ecumenical movement that relates to local levels with more precision and direction,” said the Rev Pickens.
The assembly, which functions as the council’s top legislative body, meets every seven years. The last assembly was held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998.
Member churches select 85 per cent of the assembly delegates, with the remaining 15 per cent named by the council to balance factors such as female and youth participation. – United Methodist News Service.
Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
NCCS produces Lenten Devotional Booklet
THE National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS), of which The Methodist Church in Singapore is a member, has just produced a Devotional Booklet for use in Lent 2006.
Entitled Journeying with Christ to the Cross, the publication has enough daily meditations throughout the season of Lent. It is published by The Bible Society of Singapore.
Priced at an affordable $1 a copy, it comes in two editions — English and Chinese.
The handy 140-page booklet takes on a thematic approach. The theme is “Journeying with Jesus to the Cross”.
The period covered is from March 1 to April 15, 2006. There will be a total of 47 days of meditations (40 days plus 7 Sundays).
Scripture passages are taken from Luke 18:31 to 24:53.
The meditations include those on Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Resurrection Sunday.
The format of the daily devotion covers a lectionary header (e.g, Friday of the Second Week of Lent), a daily topic (e.g. “Give Them All to Jesus”), a reading passage (e.g. Luke 9:57-62), meditation, practice and prayer.
The writers are heads of denominations, pastors and lay leaders from the various denominations. The heads of the denominations contribute their thoughts on “The Seven Words of Christ on the Cross”.
Prepare your heart for Easter. Make sure you get a copy of the Lenten Devotional Booklet. Limited copies are available at The Bible Society of Singapore at 7 Armenian Street, Bible House, Singapore, Tel: 6337-3222.