The planning committee for the World Council of Churches's (WCC) 2013 General Assembly, which will be held in October in Busan, South Korea, has suggested themes focused on unity and justice and peace as possibilities for the upcoming event.
The themes of "God of life, lead us to justice and peace," and "In God's world, called to be one," were presented during the WCC's Central Committee meeting, which began today at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.
Central Committee moderator the Rev. Dr. Walter Altmann said that both of themes reflect a common vision.
"The proposed themes should not be seen as basically alternatives," Altmann said in his opening address to the 150-member Central Committee - the highest governing body of the WCC. "Each of these two perspectives is part of the one overall understanding of the ecumenical calling and commitment that unites our fellowship."
Altmann noted that a focus on justice and peace is necessary due to events such as the global financial meltdown and recently successful democracy movement in Arab countries.
According to Altmann, who is a Brazilian Lutheran, such events "bring to our attention the risks of policies that affront human dignity and oppress whole populations," adding that, "the eradication of poverty, the campaign against hunger and commitment to justice in international economic relations must remain on the WCC's programme agenda."
Justice and peace is already a major focus for the WCC this year as the group hosts the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica in May.
Regarding the issue of unity, Altmann noted that, because Christian unity "is a reality in the heart of God," the "task of the churches is "to persevere in that unity, not to depart from it, not to rebel against God and not to break off relations with one another."
"The most genuine ecumenical commitment yearns for and seeks a visible unity of the churches and while taking this path, we strive not only for fraternal meeting and willingness to respectfully listen to each other, but also for practical cooperation and 'commonalities' in the discovery of 'another' church with unsuspected riches that are perhaps absent from our 'own' church, that is, riches that we ourselves lack," Altmann said. "And this requires open minds, prayerful attitudes and rigorous theological work."
The 2013 General Assembly is one of several issues on the agenda for the WCC Central Committee, whose meeting ends next Tuesday. The WCC is an association of 349 member churches, denominations, and church fellowships in 110 countries, representing some 560 million, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, Orthodox, United, and Independent churches.