WCC Head Visits Church of Greece

The head of the World Council of Churches spoke with members of the 12-person Holy Synod of the Church of Greece and other hierarchs yesterday in a meeting that coincided with the one of the largest gatherings of church representatives and mission organizations in the 21st century.

During the meeting to discuss progress in WCC-Orthodox relations and other issues, WCC general secretary the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia expressed the “deep gratitude” of the Council for the invitation of the Church of Greece to host the conference, and for the “splendid welcome” of the Holy Synod.

“First, I would like to express my deep gratitude for the kind invitation extended a few years ago to the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism,” Kobia said in his address to His Beatitude Archbishop Christodoulos and the Church of Greece. “Today, this invitation has been materialized through the generous hospitality offered by the Church of Greece to some 700 participants in the World Conference on Mission and Evangelism, now being held in the premises of Aghios Andreas.”

Though the WCC general secretary did note that "the Greek society is facing today the many challenges of modernity and post-modernity within a rapidly evolving European Union, the radical socio-economic changes within a globalized world, the deep spiritual and existential questions particularly raised by the younger generation," he also noted the Church of Greece "has a tremendous potential in terms of theological, spiritual, human and material resources."

"I hope, therefore, that my working session with the Synodical Commission on Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations this afternoon, and increased contacts between representatives of the Church of Greece and my staff colleagues in Geneva, will allow us to establish mutually beneficial ways of cooperation," Kobia said.

According to the WCC, the Orthodox church leader reiterated Kobia's “sense of hope and measured optimism” for the future of Orthodox participation in the WCC, following proposals for reform made by the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC, which was set up in 1998 to address Orthodox criticism of the Council's orientation and priorities.

In addition, Christodoulos expressed his hope that the suggested changes will be endorsed to “the benefit not only of the Orthodox churches but the entire WCC constituency”.

Responding to the archbishop, Kobia thanked the Church of Greece and other Orthodox churches for opting to be “active protagonists and not mere spectators” in the life of the ecumenical movement. He affirmed that the “harvest” of the work of the Special Commission anticipates “radical changes in the life, culture and direction of the WCC, allowing this unique fellowship of Christian churches to face the challenges of the 21st century.”

During the three-day visit to Greece, the first by the WCC general secretary, Kobia also held talks with the synodal committee on inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian relations, which is the church’s main body responsible for ecumenical relations. Meetings with the international mission agency of the Church of Greece, ‘Apostoliki Diakonia’, which is actively involved in foreign and domestic missions, resulted in a commitment to revive programmatic collaboration with the Council in the areas of mission and service.