75 years of ecumenical witness shape prophetic role of churches in international affairs

Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary addressed the participants of the webinar during the WCC-CCIA 58th meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

During the 58th meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) in Johannesburg, a webinar celebrating the 75th anniversary of the commission offered historical conversations between former and present CCIA moderators and commissioners.

Celebrating the commission’s achievements and reflecting on its present role in the current state of international affairs, participants tried to envision future ecumenical endeavours in international affairs.“Ecumenical family has acted and positioned itself in international affairs over these past 75 years, and our task now is to envision how the voice of our Christian family can shape and address current and future international challenges—such as the climate emergency and racial justice,” said Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary.The webinar included as panellists five CCIA women commissioners from different regions, different ages and different denominations: Rev. Shirley DeWolf (Zimbabwe), Rev. Dr Cornelia Fullkrug-Weitzel (Germany), Tsovinar Ghazaryan (Armenia), Rev. Dr Bernice Powell-Jackson (USA) and Monica Vincent (India). “But there is something you all have in common: you all have social justice issues at the core of your heart,” said Phiri.Former CCIA moderators Dr Janice Love (USA) and H. E. Kjell Magne Bondevik (Norway) participated in the webinar along with the current CCIA moderator Rev. Dr Frank Chikane (South Africa).
“The world of the church leaders is patriarchal and very male dominated, as well as the worlds of international affairs and diplomacy,” said Dr Janice Love, Mary Lee Hardin Willard dean and professor of Christianity and world politics at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Love represented The United Methodist Church at the World Council of Churches (WCC) from 1975 to 2006, leading the WCC delegation to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. She has been the only woman to serve as CCIA moderator so far.“The ecumenical movement should make sure it is well aware of women church leaders – one has to look beyond the surface to search for the extraordinary talents and leadership women have in this male dominated world,” said Love. “WCC has an extra duty to look for those smart and committed women – but you have to go find them.

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