The World Council of Churches is meeting in Vancouver, Canada, until mid-August. Fr Michael Munnelly, the new Secretary of the Westminster Diocese Ecumenical Commission and an official observer, reflects on its significance.
MY HEAD is reeling. In a ninety minute conversation I have just been confronted with an Italian Baptist, an Indian Methodist, an Egyptian Copt and an Icelandic Lutheran.
Before I left London for Vancouver someone suggested that the international experience of attending the World Council of Churches would be comparable to a global Church council or synod.
But the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches now convened in Vancouver brings together not just a range of 'nationalities representing all continents of the world — it also demonstrates the A to Z of Christian Church life.
Everyone, from American Baptists to Armenian Apostolics, are here; a free Wesleyan from Tonga sits next to a Slovak Evangelical.
All have gathered to focus on the theme for the Assembly ".Jesus Christ, the life of the world" — including 20 or so official Catholic observers who attend under the auspices of the Vatican.
Though Our own Church is not a full member of the WCC it does participate in various ways, particularly fully in the Faith and Order Commission within which it has full voting membership.
It is this Commission which has produced the WCC statements on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry which will he considered at this assembly.
There are about 900 voting delegates present from more than 300 WCC member Churches — adding other representatives, guests, observers, staff and Press there are more then 3,000 on the beautiful campus of the University of British Columbia. Some are staying on the campus, others like myself are based close by.
Each day provides opportunities for worship, fullscale plenary sessions, discussion groups, addresses, talks and an unending list of fringe activities
More striking is the mass of committed Christians who, though varied in colour, language, culture and theology are united in the connection that Christ is the light and life of the world; a connection which sees Christ as the life of our world today, with all its problems The WCC is not perfect, nor would it claim to be. It is, after all, a council of Churches, not sonic kind of global institution.
It has received its share of praise and criticism for its decisions and actions — but through it all is expressed the deep desire of Christians to find ways and means of reconciliation.