“Not constantly celebrating our history”

If you want to get to the World Council of Churches, you can take bus line 5, for example – get off between Geneva Airport and "Place of Nations". In the shadow of the Palace of the League of Nations lies the headquarters of the World Council of Churches (WCC). A stone sculpture with the ecumenical logo, the cross on a ship, points the way. The 60s building radiates a working atmosphere rather than a claim to representation – in contrast to the UN buildings in the neighborhood.

The League of Nations, which was founded after World War I, served as a model for the WCC, which was finally founded on June 23, 1947. Founded in Amsterdam on August 1948. As early as 1920, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople had called on all Christian churches to create a "League of Churches". Mistrust and bitterness should be put aside and common paths should be walked despite doctrinal differences, the appeal goes. In 60. In its 60th year, the World Council of Churches speaks for some 350 member churches from more than 110 countries. It says it represents more than 500 million Christians. The Catholic Church is not a member, but has been in close contact with the WCC since a joint working group was established in 1965. The most important date since its founding was the accession of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1961. The North Atlantic Federation of Churches has thus become a global network. East-West ties gave the WCC an internationally respected mediating role during the Cold War period. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa also attracted attention. Assemblies, held about every seven years, became political mouthpieces. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, these political ies fell away. A phase of reorientation began in the WCC. The Council continues to comment on political crises, such as those currently taking place in Kenya and Iraq. "We don't have to be a small UN," cautions Martin Hein, a German member of the WCC's central committee, in reference to its diverse involvement. The bishop of the Evangelical Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck sees cooperation in the Council as an important task alongside political engagement. Tensions arose between the Orthodox and Protestant churches in the 1990s: With the majority voting system of the time, the Orthodox felt disadvantaged in many decisions, since Protestant churches were represented in the majority. Since 2006, the consensus system has prevailed, eliminating this point of contention. Hein sees further areas of conflict in sexual ethics, the understanding of ministry and the ordination of women. He sees the confrontation with the Pentecostal churches and charismatic movements, which are growing worldwide, as a further major challenge. The central committee member considers it just as unrealistic to include them in the WCC as it is to expect the Catholics to join in the near future. However, Martin Robra, director of the program unit "WCC and ecumenical movement in the 21st century", says that the 1982 Lima Joint Declaration has already achieved a lot with the Catholic Church. Century". "If we have a crisis, it is one of success". However, the churches are still far from implementing everything that has moved the ecumenical movement in the past 60 years. Perhaps that is why this year's anniversary is being celebrated on a smaller scale. "We have so much to do at the moment, and we can't keep celebrating our grandiose history," says Robra.

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Christina Cherry
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