Nukes, Climate Change Deplored at WCC Assembly

The head of the world’s largest Christian ecumenical group said that the spread of nuclear weapons was “an outrage” and that “climate change” was arguably the most severe threat to humanity on Wednesday.

The statements were made by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, who delivered a wide ranging keynote address and report at the WCC 9th Assembly. The 58 year-old group’s most important gathering of Christian leaders from around the world is taking place this year in the south Brazilian riverport city of Porto Alegre.

“Nuclear proliferation is an outrage to all humanity,” said Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya who became general secretary in 2004.

“The recent reports of countries acquiring nuclear weapons technology are frightening. But it is equally a scandal that countries which possess vast arsenals of nuclear weapons are unwilling to renounce their use,” he added, according to the Associated Press.

Prior to his speech, Kobia told reporters that his remarks were aimed at both nations with nuclear arms and others, such as Iran, which may be seeking to acquire them.

Wednesday’s gathering of delegates from regions around the world includes clerics, scholars and activists who will meet for the 10-day conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil, that began Wednesday and ends next week.

Members of the WCC include mainline Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox Christian churches. Representatives of the Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches are also present at the Assembly but participating only as observers. The latter two groups have not become members of the worldwide group, concerned that the organization is too liberal or too restrictive for individual church growth and fundraising.

In his address Wednesday, Kobia argued that Christians should have united voice about environmental problems.

"Climate change is arguably the most severe threat confronting humanity today,” he said. “This is not an issue for the future; severe consequences are already being experienced by millions of people."

The general secretary said that those gathered at the Assembly "must call on all Christian churches to speak to the world with one voice on addressing the threat of climate change".

Other topics that the reverend touched upon included placing relationships at the center of the gathering, adding that approaching consensus at the Assembly should be seen “as a process of spiritual discernment.”

He also encouraged youth to work and pray with Christians of “different traditions and contexts.”

In addition, he noted the progress churches have made in taking action against global violence, poverty, debt, HIV and AIDS, and instability in Africa.

In his address, Kobia described his vision for the ecumenical movement speaking of “the central question of our time” being “the question of faith and the presence of Christ in the ‘other.’”