Assembly of the World Council of Churches concludes with worship service
EKD Council chair Praeses Annette Kurschus expresses the wish that strong inputs and signs of hope will reach Christians worldwide
The 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) ended today with a joint closing service. From 31 August to 8 September 2022, the assembly brought together around 2000 international participants from 352 WCC member churches in Karlsruhe. In the light of the theme “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”, they deliberated together about the contribution the churches can make to a peaceful and united society, and how they contribute to enhancing relations in society. The issues dominating the assembly included worldwide climate change and the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Voices were also raised to support women in positions of church leadership.
Praeses Annette Kurschus, chair of the Council of the Evanglische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD − Protestant Church in Germany) highlights the ecumenical character of the assembly: “We were able to feel and experience the diversity and spiritual ties of worldwide Christianity with all our senses. It was a feast for the eyes alone: there were clerical collars, cassocks, Luther coats, Orthodox headwear, not to mention a literally brilliant range of spiritual insignia from over 350 churches − a wonderfully colourful picture of worldwide Christianity. The City of Karlsruhe and the Protestant Church in Baden were magnificent hosts. In the heart of Europe and in the ‘capital of law’ this place also had symbolic power.” According to Kurschus, a particularly important learning curve was to realise that people look at one and the same phenomenon completely differently depending on their history, culture, denominational background and tradition, and hear the same words with entirely different ears. “Particularly the voice of those directly affected has a special weight,” she adds. “That applies to the war in Ukraine and to the conflicts in the Middle East; it applies to climate change and many other current topics. In many cases my own viewpoint is a view from outside – we must never forget that.” For the future, the EKD Council chair wishes “that strong inputs and signs of hope from this assembly will reach Christians worldwide, for the work of the WCC and into the midst of a world full of conflicts and deep-seated crises.”
Heike Springhart, bishop of the hosting Protestant Church in Baden, looks back at the past days with satisfaction. “The assembly was a moving testimony to the bonds between the Christian churches − despite all differences of opinion − through their orientation to Jesus Christ as the head and heart of the churches. This was tangible in the worship services and prayers, and radiated out into the region and the city. As bishop of the host church, I am very grateful that the assembly brought the exciting breadth of worldwide Christianity to our region and to Karlsruhe. We have been richly blessed and I hope that, guided by Christ’s gift of reconciliation, we will continue to focus on the major issues of our time. This spirit reached out into the city, for whose support we are very grateful.” She particularly stressed the aspect of reconciliation: “We shared stories of reconciliation and the passion for justice and righteousness. Recalling how the international ecumenical fellowship stretched out its hands after the Second World War, in a reconciliation that was also visible in the ‘emergency churches’, we remember that reconciliation can only succeed if wounds and guilt are not glossed over. The assembly sends a clear signal against racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.”
For Petra Bosse-Huber, EKD bishop for ecumenical relations, the ecumenical gathering was very fruitful: “We have had a marvellous international festival of faith in Karlsruhe − with touching encounters, and inspiring worship and prayer times. In the last few days I have felt particularly strongly that there is a new enthusiasm for the ecumenical network of churches worldwide. Perhaps this new seriousness of ecumenical engagement has come about due to the clear recognition by many churches that we can only meet the global crises - the climate crisis, racism or escalating private and public violence at so many places - if we respond to them together.”
The names of the EKD’s 13-person delegation can be found at https://www.ekd.de/deutsche-delegation-bei-der-vollversammlung-des-oerk-2022-74749.htm. Elected to the WCC’s central committee from this delegation were Ecumenical Relations Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber (Hanover), Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm (Munich), Lydia Mirjam Fellmann from the Evanglical Church of Central Germany, as well as Megan Louis Schuster and Lubina Mahling, both from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony. The central committee consists of 150 members and forms the WCC‘s highest governing body between the assemblies, which take place approximately every eight years. It implements the policies adopted by the assembly, examines and monitors the programmes and decides on the WCC budget.
Hanover/Karlsruhe, 8 September 2022
EKD Press Office