Churches across the world are preparing for the World Council of Churches 9th Assembly, scheduled for February 2006, with gatherings reflecting on the Assembly's theme, "God, in your grace, transform the world."
Leaders of WCC member churches in the United States recently held a conference in Chicago, Oct. 10-12, to address some of the key issues of concern to the ecumenical movement.
Discussing the changing religious context of "Ecumenism in the 21st Century," panel speakers highlighted the strengthened denominational identities and the increasing "denominational mobility" among young people.
The 9th assembly, which will be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, is expected to be the "youngest Assembly in its history" according to a released statement from the WCC. Young people will have the chance to make an impact as they voice their vision for the developing ecumenical movement.
Just preceding the WCC U.S. conference, youth delegates, students and seminarians also took preparatory steps for the Assembly as they joined for a two day event titled "Shift your space - transform the world."
"We recognize that greater youth participation is a reality which all of us must faithfully work toward," said Michael Neuroth, coordinator of the youth event, according to the WCC. "Our message is one of thankfulness, equal partnership, and desire to contribute our talents toward the future work of the WCC U.S. conference."
"As young adults people often tell us that we are the future of the church. The future is now," stressed Ray Ranker of Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. "We share your passion, energy, faith and hope. We want to be equal partners at the board tables, where decisions are made, at the round tables, where we deliberate, and at the communion table, where we join in fellowship."
Carrying forth the ecumenical vision together with global religious leaders, the young participants will be heading toward the international assembly upholding the culture of peace, which serves as WCC's global initiative Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation & Peace."
The upcoming ninth assembly will be WCC's first of the 21st century, gathering up to 3,000 church leaders and ecumenical representatives from nearly every Christian tradition around the world.