The World Council of Churches central committee has taken steps to substantially cut its programs, while the ecumenical organization’s general secretary, Konrad Raiser, has blamed global economic conditions for massive revenue shortfalls, reports Ecumenical News International (Aug. 28).
It has also called for reforms in the way churches work together to ensure that church bodies remain viable in the 21st century. A recent increase in financial pressure and difficulty in attracting younger people to the ecumenical movement are signs that church organizations need to change their structures, suggested Raiser.
According to a report from the Swiss Telegraphic Agency (Aug. 26), competition from a growing number of secular NGOs in different fields is partly to blame for the depletion in funding.But there are also theological concerns for the WCC.
The need to bridge differences between Protestant and Orthodox Churches in the ecumenical body has led to recommendations for changes in voting and worship practices. A commission entrusted with that task in 1998 has now recommended to drop the term “ecumenical worship” and to call gatherings for prayer just “common prayer.”
This proposal has led to heated debates and criticisms from a number of Protestant participants, who see it as a step back. Regarding decision-making, major issues should be reached by consensus, and no longer by majority vote, according to the Associated Press (Aug. 30).
At stake is the long-term participation of the Orthodox Churches in the WCC.
— By Jean-François Mayer