WCC General Secretary, with USA Churches, Explores How to Strengthen Relationships

20 July 2023: The WCC delegation was welcomed by the leadership and representatives of member churches of the National Council of Churches (USA), in Washington, D.C..
20 July 2023: The WCC delegation was welcomed by the leadership and representatives of member churches of the National Council of Churches (USA), in Washington, D.C.. (photo: WCC)
By World Council of ChurchesJuly 28th, 2023

Dialogues focused on relationship strengthening as the general secretary called for reinforced joint witness with the UN and with other ecumenical partners. Pillay emphasized that the WCC and its member churches are committed to joining hands with the UN in peacebuilding.

Pillay emphasized that peacebuilding is wrapped into a call for WCC member churches to renew their shared and lived life in Christ, their joint witness of love in Christ, and their call to lead in the world following the servant leadership of Christ.

There was also a focus on advocacy at the UN and in Washington, DC, including how to strengthen the churches’ voice in calling on the UN to continue promoting peace in a world dominated by a focus on winning wars. Pillay also affirmed the work of member churches and the National Council of Churches (USA) in conflict prevention.

Pillay reiterated that churches can and do call on the US government to commit to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. He also affirmed the role of churches in peacebuilding and responding to the climate crisis. Pillay told White House staff, “We can go places most people can’t go because of our member churches.”

Christian unity

During a roundtable on July 20 hosted by the National Council of Churches (USA) in Washington, DC, topics included: strengthening ecumenical relationships and cooperation in North America; exploring ways to address contemporary challenges and opportunities facing Christian communities; discussing the role of the church in promoting social justice, reconciliation, and peace; sharing experiences and best practices for engaging with interfaith dialogue and cooperation; examining the role of the church in addressing issues of environmental stewardship and sustainability; and the WCC strategic plan and implications for US churches.

Bishop Teresa E. Snorton, National Council of Churches (USA) governing board chair, expressed joy for the presence and engagement of all the participants. “This gathering is really intended to reinforce the concept of Christian unity across the globe,” she said.

Pillay said he appreciated the contribution of North America to the ecumenical movement and to the WCC in particular. “One of the most important things is that we have to see our ecumenical partners working together with us and we with them,” he said. “I think the world is too full of suffering and struggle for us to work independently of one another.”

In reflecting further on Christian unity, Pillay said, If there’s anything that divides the church today, it is ethical issues”, “I think the WCC attempts to create a platform for diverse thinking and engagement, and we ask the questions, and, yes, we understand the great complexities of certain issues, but how do we create safe spaces for dialogue to foster unity and peace?

Turtle Island

The WCC president from North America, Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, expressed gratitude to the WCC member churches, the National Council of the Churches (USA), the Canadian Council of Churches, and the WCC Ecumenical Office to the United Nations in New York for coordinating the visit to New York and Washington DC.

“One of the key general principles is: how do we rewrite the narrative of North America?” said Walker-Smith, noting that, in fact, North America was previously known by a different name: Turtle Island. “In serving in my role, I see my role as finding ways of synergy with the wider agenda of the WCC.”

Members of the National Council of Churches (USA) and partners shared their concerns, which, among others, included combating racism, addressing climate change, the grave situation in Sudan, increasing youth participation, and hunger.

The subject of youth involvement in the Church and in the ecumenical movement prompted a lot of discussion. Pillay pointed out that youth are critical for the present and future of the ecumenical movement. He said, “We need to note and understand that youth do not have a faith crisis as much as they have a church crisis in that while their faith is still strong, they are disappointed with the church in many ways. He stressed that we need to integrate the youth into the church's life and work and the ecumenical movement.

Further discussions focused on the Ukraine war and what the WCC is doing to work for the unity of churches there, for peace, and for an ending of the war.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Mtata, WCC program director for Public Witness and Diakonia, offered an update on the WCC’s Strategic Plan, first describing some of the key questions under consideration as the plan was formed. “What is it that we are called to be as churches?” he asked. “In some parts of the world, churches no longer constitute a large sector of society, but in other parts of the world, the church is growing and flourishing in numbers.”

Praying together

An ecumenical prayer service followed the roundtable. “I really think it’s just wonderful to end our time together with a service like this because it sets our hearts in the right space and place to tell us that we are the people of God,” Pillay said. “We have responded to the call that God has placed upon our lives, and in response to that call, we know how important it is to work together.”

Pillay added that we live in a world of great complexities and challenges, immense suffering, trouble, and pain. "We see all of these things, and we wonder how we turn these things around. We look at everything, and we realize that we must become agents of hope.”

In an answer to how we change the world, Pillay emphasized that God becomes the source of hope. “It’s not about us changing the world,” he said. “We are nothing more than the  instruments of God’s will.”

"The visit to New York and Washington was a really fruitful and productive one, which will continue to help us redefine and shape the WCC's UN Office to create greater impact in moving the world to justice, peace, reconciliation, and unity", concluded Pillay.

The Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker Smith, WCC President from North America, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Mtata, WCC program director for Public Witness and Diakonia, and Dr. Ryan Smith, WCC program executive for the Ecumenical Office to the United Nations in New York, were with the general secretary.

Originally from Webpage "The WCC"

CCD edited and reprinted with permission

related articles