We sang together, prayed, celebrated in different liturgical and spiritual traditions. We have met friends and made new contacts. We have discussed and argued. Enriched and stimulated by the colorful diversity of our Christian faith and the challenging words of the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, the delegates, advisors, and guests are now on their way home again.
The last day of the Assembly was marked by the business plenaries of the delegates in the morning and the closing worship service. In the business plenaries, all the documents that had been prepared in the previous days in many meetings of the committees, the Ecumenical Conversations and after initial discussions in plenary sessions were put to a final vote. The adoption was done by consensus: with the orange card one signaled agreement and with the blue card one signaled concern or rejection. If there were only a few blue cards left, these delegates were given another opportunity to speak. If they did not take the floor, this was interpreted by the meeting management as an abstention and the document was accepted.
„A Call to Act Together“ – the Assembly Message
Each Assembly of the World Council of Churches has published a message to communicate the Assembly’s experience and the inspiring nature of its work. It is addressed to congregations in all member churches and to the public. All are called by the love of Christ to repentance, reconciliation, and justice in the face of war, inequality and sins against creation.
Public Statements of the General Assembly
During the Assembly, a committee develops position papers on various topics brought forward by member churches and considered as public issues, from which the tasks for the new Executive Committee are derived. On the last day of the session, the delegates decide on them in plenary session.
Controversial were the debates about the statement on Russia’s war against Ukraine and on the Middle East. The statement „War in Ukraine, Peace and Justice in the European Region“ clearly speaks of a Russian invasion and continues „This Assembly strongly affirms the position expressed by the central committee and denounces this illegal and unjustifiable war. … War is incompatible with God’s very nature and will for humanity and against our fundamental Christian and ecumenical principles, and accordingly reject any misuse of religious language and authority to justify armed aggression and hatred.“ At the same time, however, the Assembly stresses the need to provide platforms for dialogue. A possible exclusion of the Russian Orthodox Church from the WCC was not an issue.
Already in preparation for the assembly, WCC member churches from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North America had put the situation in the Middle East and especially in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem on the agenda. In addition, a motion from South Africa to declare Israel an apartheid state was presented to the plenary session. The wording in the final document was the subject of very controversial discussions in the plenary and editorial sessions during the Assembly. Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber, the head of the EKD delegation, had clear words to say about this in plenary: „But, I say this here in all clarity, as head of the EKD delegation: we will not speak of Israel as an apartheid state.“ This was reflected in the final document: „Within this Assembly, some churches and delegates strongly support the utilization of this term as accurately describing the reality of the people in Palestine/Israel and the position under international law, while others find it inappropriate, unhelpful and painful. We are not of one mind on this matter.“ At the same time, the statement recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state and its legitimate security interests. And it also “affirm the right of the Palestinians for self-determination and that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories since 1967, as well as settlement construction and expansion in the occupied territories, is illegal under international law and must be ended.“
Link to the document “Seeking Justice and Peace for All in the Middle East”
This double solidarity is also the basic idea of the document „Israel – Palestine. Guiding Thoughts and Explanatory Theses“ which 5 churches in Germany published in the run-up to the Assembly.
Link to the document of the 5 Churches:
Israel – Palestine – Januar 2022 – englisch-final
The following other statements were approved:
Unity Statement of the WCC 11th Assembly
The Living Planet: Seeking a Just and Sustainable Global Community
The Things That Make For Peace: Moving the World to Reconciliation and Unity
Other statements on overcoming racism, xenophobia and discrimination, and on reconciliation with indigenous peoples were adopted and will be released in the coming days.
Further minutes of the Assembly:
Minute on Syria-Aramaic genocide “SAYFO”
Minute on consequences of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war
Minute on ending the war and building peace on the Korean Peninsula
Minute on the situation in West Papua