Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

Report of the General Secretary

Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

Report of the General Secretary

Article excerpt


1. The year since our last meeting has been a fairly dramatic period in the life of the WCC. You will have heard echoes of this in the activity reports you have received. I am referring, of course, to the financial crisis which has come upon us and from which we are slowly emerging. Normally, the report of the general secretary does not address financial issues, leaving this to the moderator of the finance committee. However, this has not been a normal year, and I feel obliged my report to render an account of how we have sought to exercise our responsibilities in these past twelve months.

2. This is all the moire necessary since the meeting of the executive committee scheduled to take place in the Pacific in early March was cancelled decision of the officers. A number of apologies received at a very late date made it uncertain that the committee would be able to do its work effectively, and doubts were raised as to whether the expenditure involved could be justified at a time of financial pressure. The resulting disappointment felt by the churches in the Pacific, and especially in the Solomon Islands, was eased somewhat by an extended visit of the general secretary together with a team of staff

3. In the place of the executive committee, the finance sub-committee of the executive held an extraordinary meeting at the end of March, and the officers had an extended meeting in May together with the moderator of the finance committee. We have been grateful for their support and advice. However, the main burden of redressing the financial situation of the Council fell on the General Secretariat and the Staff Executive Group. We had to accept the management responsibility and you are entitled to receive an accounting of what we have done.

4. Through Ecumenical News International or other communication channels, you will have received information about the financial problems facing the Council. Some of you have written and expressed concern about the continued viability of the WCC and especially regarding plans for the assembly. Let me, therefore, say at the outset that the ability of the Council to respond to its basic mandate is not in jeopardy in spite of severe budgetary and staff reductions. Further adjustments will be needed over the next two years, and in the course of the assembly process the future shape of the WCC will become clearer. What has enabled us to carry on during these past difficult months is the conviction that there is a distinct role for the Council to fulfill and the hope that we shall emerge as a strengthened fellowship from the present period of transformation.

5. Before turning to that, however, I want to review briefly what has been -- in spite of the unfavourable circumstances -- an intensive year of work. The activity reports provide interpreted summaries of the work done in the four programmme units and the offices related to the General Secretariat; and the sessions of the unit committees will offer a chance to develop these further. Here I shall limit myself to recalling a few of the highlights.

6. The brief paragraph in the Unit I report referring to Faith and Order cannot do justice to the intensive work by both the staff and the Faith and Order board to prepare for the plenary commission meeting in Moshi, Tanzania, last month. This has significantly advanced the discussion of ecumenical perspectives on ecclesiology, a subject of decisive importance for the efforts to make visible our koinonia in Christ.

7. Faith and Order has also been a partner with Unit HI in the continuing reflection on ecclesiology and ethics. The consultation in Ronde, Denmark, three years ago and the two further meetings since then have pointed, I believe, to the far-reaching consequences which this significant study could have for the future of the WCC. As you decided last year, we shall devote a plenary session on Friday morning to the results of this important process. …

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