CTBI not to proceed with bid to host the 2021 WCC General Assembly
The annual general meeting of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), held last week at Luther King House in Manchester, a residential conference and study centre, decided not to proceed with a bid to host the 2021 World Council of Churches’ General Assembly in Glasgow.
The meeting heard of concerns regarding finance issues, some dissatisfaction in certain quarters regarding the general approach of the WCC in its work, and the fact that the World Methodist Conference is scheduled for 2021, along with the next Lambeth Conference due in 2020.
There was disappointment at the decision expressed by some Scottish representatives at the Manchester meeting.
Also, writing on his blog last January, the Church of England’s Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd David Hamid, stated that at a meeting of the CTBI Trustees, then just concluded in Leeds, the matter had been discussed, adding: “We hope that the WCC Central Committee will find our proposal to be an attractive one when it comes to decide the venue at its next meeting.”
CHURCHES TOGETHER IN BRITAIN AND IRELAND
Introducing the latest annual report of the Trustees of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), the organisation’s General Secretary, Scottish Episcopalian Canon Bob Fyffe, commented to the effect that sometimes organisations may feel pushed into making decisions that are good from a management point of view but do not actually tally with how the role and future of the organisation has been discerned. It is perhaps a case of ‘nuts and bolts’ taking precedence, however unintentionally, over vision. Relating this to the Churches’ experience, Canon Fyffe wrote: “In the ecumenical movement we need to regain more of that discerning what we are now, remembering where we have come from, but especially giving attention to what it is we are called to become.”
Last week’s annual general meeting of CTBI (report, page 1) was an occasion that did indeed come as a reminder of the ecumenical journey in these islands so far, but it also very definitely looked to the future. Any individual is surely shaped to a considerable extent by his or her past, is situated in the present with all its demands for decisions and a working through of problems, and looks to the future – hopefully, with hope. The same is true for the Churches, both ecumenically and individually.
The CTBI annual general meeting looked back to the general secretaryship of David Goodbourn, an ecumenical leader who embodied an exemplary mix of genuine humility and great ability. It is, in truth, a very refreshing combination. David Goodbourn is remembered for his gentle and yet powerful presence – a quiet man of true discernment. His memory was marked at last week’s CTBI meeting by the inaugural David Goodbourn memorial lecture, delivered by Father Augusto Zampini, theological adviser to the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), on the occasion of the launch of the new Centre for Theology and Justice, and addressing that theme.
The fact that the annual general meeting decided not to proceed with a bid to host the next World Council of Churches’ Assembly, in 2021, was reached after serious
and thorough deliberation but with a somewhat heavy heart. An Assembly has not been held in Europe since the 4th Assembly, in Uppsala, in 1968.
The circumstances did not, in the end, render the proposal workable and the indication that there is some unease in certain quarters with the WCC’s way of working does mean that, as the meeting determined, work needs to be done to establish a better rapport. It would be useful if the WCC Central Committee might arrange to meet in these islands in the near future, or if the WCC General Secretary, Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, might undertake a visit to the four nations. It has been suggested that if the WCC did not exist, something like it would need to be put in place. There is no point in trying the reinvent that ‘wheel’ but, rather, every point in establishing better relations in those places where there is a degree of dissatisfaction.
The Church of Ireland was part of the former British Council of Churches, which became CTBI, with Roman Catholic participation, following the Swanwick Declaration of 1987, initially having been styled the Council of Churches in Britain and Ireland. It is good that the Churches in these islands have a common forum that is more than a ‘talking shop’ but actually is noticeably proactive and gets involved in imaginative new projects, such as the new Centre for Theology and Justice itself. Indeed, the change of name from ‘Council’ to ‘Churches Together’ signalled a more dynamic and proactive intention. By way of illustration of this, it is instructive to note the range of CTBI dedicated websites, including: Refugees (www.focusonrefugees.org), CTBI national elections (www.ctbielections.org.uk), A ‘Good Society’ (www. agoodsociety.org), the Dispossession Project on mission and justice (www.dispossessionproject.org), the China Online Study Centre (www.chinaonlinecentre.org), the Churches Together Directory (www.churchestogether.org) and now the Centre for Theology and Justice (www.theologyjustice.org). The Church of Ireland can rightly rejoice in its membership of such an organisation.
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