WCC Ninth Assembly Planning Committee Closes First Meeting with ‘Inspiration and Hope’

The international planning committee for the World Council of Churches (WCC)’s upcoming ninth Assembly closed their first meeting with a message of “inspiration and hope,” in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Nov. 13, 2004. Participants, including the WCC’s general secretary Samuel Kobia, agreed that the upcoming international assembly, slated for Porto Alegre on February 2006, will become one of the largest venues to celebrate, reflect, and pray for worldwide ecumenism.

The assembly will “strengthen the ecumenical fellowship and Christian commitment" of the participants, said the planning committee moderator, Rev. Norman Shanks from Scotland.

The main role of the preparatory committee was to visit the location of the celebration – the campus of the Pontifical Catholic University (PUCRS) in Porto Alegre, undertake formal administrative tasks, and identify the series of theological and social themes to be emphasized during the Ninth Assembly.

The Assembly has the general theme “God, in your grace, transform the world,” and is expected to gather over 3,000 church leaders and ecumenical representatives around the world. The assembly, held once every seven years, is the “supreme legislative body” of the WCC – the largest ecumenical body in the world.

According to the WCC, the assembly will be marked by the Latin America context, and will draw questions of church unity, the future of the ecumenical movements, economic injustice, and the role of the churches in building a culture of peace. The questions will be discussed through a series of “ecumenical conversations” between the diverse Christian groups. Additionally, the assembly will provide opportunities for churches and ecumenical organizations to arrange exhibitions, workshops, music and presentations.

"The talents and potential of the local churches forms a microcosm of the diversity of the ecumenical movement and give us great hope for the success of the assembly," commented WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, who preached at the opening ceremony of the planning committee, Nov. 9.

The assembly worship committee also met in Porto Alegre, prior to the planning committee.

We have had a strong conviction from the start that prayer will be at the heart of the assembly, and that the daily worship, drawing on the riches of the assembly theme of grace and transformation, will inspire and support the participants during their work," said Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, who moderated the worship committee.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Ervino Schmidt, the general secretary of the Brazilian National Council of Churches (CONIC), which invited the WCC assembly to the country, said he was thankful for the chance to host such a gathering, and emphasized his belief that the assembly would become a “time of kairos” for the ecumenical movement.

The Rev. Rui Bernar, WCC ninth assembly local coordinator agreed: "We hope that the assembly can be a moment of spiritual renewal and authentic encounter among the local churches and the participants.”

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of over 340 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox and united and other churches in over 100 countries representing more than 550 million Christians.

For more information on the WCC’s ninth assembly, please visit: www.wcc-assembly.info