The World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee used their new consensus model for conducting meetings for the first time on Thursday, allowing discussions on human sexuality to be held without the heated atmosphere that often surrounds such meetings.
"This is our first encounter with this type of session," central committee member Anne Glynn-Mackoul of the Orthodox Church of Antioch said in introducing the process for the hearing, according to the WCC press. We would ask that you enter into a spirit of discernment.
Glynn-Mackoul, a lawyer from the United States, was one of a dozen WCC leaders who helped draft the proposed new consensus rules.
According to the WCC, the consensus approach is more fitting to the council, which historically acted as a forum to discuss a variety of viewpoints, cultures and beliefs. The consensus model, which will be tested out throughout the weeklong committee meeting, will be used during the WCC ninth assembly in February 2006 in Brazil, should it be approved at the committee meeting in Geneva.
Thursdays discussions were centered around the debate on human sexuality. Erlinda Senturias of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, outlined the work done on the topic thus far, and Dr George Mathew Nalunnakkal of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church gave a summary review of the 80 church statements on human sexuality collected by the WCC.
No statements on the issue will be penned, but the central committee is expected to look for ways to expand ecumenical conversations from several perspectives.
Ultimately, the WCC committee members said the presentations and table discussions allowed "the possibility to exchange our experiences, give our insights [ ] Consensus starts with this kind of conversation."
Several delegates also affirmed the value of the consensus approach during the human sexuality discussion.
"This allows us to go from confrontation to dialogue," said Msgr John Radano of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, a delegated observer to the meeting. "The world needs to see Christians doing that at this particular point."