World Council of Churches celebrates 70th anniversary in the Netherlands

(Photo: WCC)Founding meeting of the World Council of Churches in 1948.

In the Nieuwe Kerk, a 15th-century church in Amsterdam, the World Council of Churches leaders have celebrated the WCC's 70th anniversary at the very spot in which the organization was founded in The Netherland's capital.

The council's general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit and WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom, along with many representatives from the WCC worldwide fellowship, participated in the  August 23 ecumenical service.

A "Walk of Peace" in Amsterdam gathered hundreds of young people and religious leaders who, as they strolled together, celebrated the ecumenical movement and challenged each other to accomplish even more.

The walk paused for reflection and prayer at several houses and buildings - including a synagogue, the Sant' Egidio Community, the Armenian Church, and many others - all of which carried stories of blessings, wounds and transformation.

Abuom spoke on behalf of the WCC, and was joined by speakers from the Council of Churches in Amsterdam, Free University in Amsterdam, and the organization PAX, a nonprofit peace organization in the Netherlands.

The Kenyan moderator urged people to make tomorrow greater than yesterday and today.


"The establishment of the WCC is because our ancestors believed in a peaceful and prosperous future in spite of the World War I and II experiences and devastation inflicted on the people and nature," she said. "Our founding mothers and fathers had hope."

Unfortunately the wisdom of youth does not receive its due attention, noted Abuom.

"May I on behalf of the adults on this walk repent the bureaucratization and tokenization of young people in the ecumenical movement," she said.

"Our repentance is because the youth were not bystanders of the movement but rather the root and foundation of the ecumenical movement."

Abuom said the engagement of young people in the ecumenical movement is imperative for its future.

She reflected. "Let us move to the spaces where transformation and formation of leaders who will carry through the vision of ecumenism can be realized," she said.

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairperson of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, the umbrella for Reformed, Lutheran and United Protestant churches, also spoke during the Walk of Peace.

"It is wonderful to be here together with Christians from the Netherlands and from all parts of the world and say joyfully: 'Happy birthday, WCC!!'

Bedford-Strohm said, "It is wonderful to be here and feel what the WCC is all about; feel the brother and sisterhood around Christ which intimately connects us beyond our various cultural and denominational backgrounds. I thank God on this day for the blessings which 70 years of WCC have meant for the church and for the world."

Young people from different continents offered their help for this ceremony. The music will be provided by The Passion Choir from the Bijlmer led by Kirsten Michel; Henk Verhoef, organist of De Nieuwe Kerk; Marian Jaspers Fayer (flute); and Gertru Pasveer (harp).

Also as part of the 70th anniversary of the WCC, the Protestant Theological University organized a symposium under the theme "Hospitality on a pilgrim's way to peace and justice."

Speakers were Mpho Tutu, executive director of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and former Dutch parliament member Kathleen Ferrier.

The symposium took place at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam on August 23.

The WCC brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians and including most of the world's Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches.

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