World Leaders Call for Future Oriented Ecumenical Movement

Representatives from the WCC, Roman Catholic Church and Pentecostal churches established a 15-member group to study possible ways to change ecumenical institutions and strengthen fellowship among individual groups

Over 100 leaders in the world’s Christian scene gathered at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the challenges and promises of a “future-oriented” ecumenical movement. The consultation, which lasted from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, also affirmed the role of the largest ecumenical organization, the World Council of Churches (WCC), in "facilitating the further and deeper participation of all those involved in the ecumenical movement, including those that are not members of the WCC."

Representatives traveled from all over the world to take part in the unprecedented conference, where leaders from Christian groups related and unrelated to the WCC took part. Notable attendees included representatives from the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Churches – both groups have historically denied participation in the WCC.

In lieu of the mixed crowd, the WCC Moderator Aram I, stressed that a fellowship among all the groups can be formed only when the gospel is at the center.

"People are tired of institutional ecumenism. They are challenging the ecumenical movement to liberate itself from the narrow confines of institutions and to reaffirm itself as a future-oriented movement," said Aram I. “An ecumenical vision for the 21st century must be Gospel-centered and mission-oriented."

Samuel Kobia, the general secretary of the WCC, agreed that the future ecumenical movement should not be centered on one organization – namely, the WCC.

"WCC is willing to change", underlined Kobia, "but this process is not primarily about the WCC. It's about a new configuration of the whole ecumenical movement. I am pleased to see the willingness of all the participants at this consultation to change."

At that light, the participants lauded one another to strengthen the connection between individual ecumenical groups worldwide. Christian World Communions (CWCs) such as the Lutheran World Federation and the Anglican Communion, should enhance collaboration with the WCC, the participants said. And the WCC must clarify its relationship with Regional Ecumenical Organizations (REOs) and the National Council of Churches (NCCs) to achieve greater ecumenical coherence. Participants agreed that closer organizational cooperation would also enhance financial stability within the groups while clarifying their roles within the larger ecumenical movement.

By the consultation’s end, the participants agreed to establish a “continuation group for the reconfiguration process and to carry out a mapping study of the existing programmatic work of ecumenical and denominational bodies in 2005,” according to the WCC. The continuation group will have 15 members from WCC-related churches, the Catholic Church, Pentecostal churches, youth organizations, REOs, CWCs, NCCs, and agencies from the non-institutional part of the ecumenical movement.

Bishop Mvume Dandala, general secretary of the All African Conference of Churches (AACC), said he was “"greatly inspired by the constant call that we have to go beyond the institutions, driven by clear visions of what the world can be,” following the consultation.

“While challenge does not address any single institution," Dandala added, "the pivotal role of the WCC as the catalyst that makes the ecumenical movement vibrant again."

To view the final statement of the consultation or to view keynote speeches delivered by Aram and Kobia, visit: