WCRC global - Executive committee meeting in Dodowa, Ghana, 6-16 May 2013.
The excom gathering in Ghana began with two days immersion programme, of which the most profound challenge was our presence at the former colonial slave-dungeon castle atElmina. WCRC members present included those from the Caribbean (to where these slaves were shipped), Ghanaians and Dutch and British. It was painful but also hopeful to be present together mourning the historic abuses of humanity, whilst thinking of ongoing practices ofHuman Trafficking. Most sickening was the presence of the Church worship in the castle without challenging or opposing slavery.
President’s report contained a very full and interesting history of the values relating to ecumenical engagement, and the presence of reformed churches and a reformed worldview at the heart of the commitment to co-operation and unity between different Christian groups.
Regional councils. Following from the Strategic plan of 2011, there is an increasing emphasis on creating and empowering regional councils. The encounter between regions is enriching for the whole.
In particular, we heard from excom member Najla Kassab, based in Lebanon, who spoke simply and movingly about the current situation in neighbouring Syria, where churches, schools, homes and hospitals have been bombed and destroyed. Excom took time to pray for our brothers and sisters in the middle east – and especially for all the ordinary people whose lives are being destroyed. The WCRC executive committee is planning to meet in Beirut in 2015, and we hope that it will be possible to bring a sign of global solidarity to the very marginalised churches in the region.
Following the executive’s 2012 meeting in Berastagi, North Sumatra, Indonesia, the multiple different reformed churches in the thousands of islands that make up a single country with a population of 240m have congregated to form a regional council, with Batak Indonesia as the official language. It is hoped that this will enable tiny churches to remain connected to the wider reformed world, often in the face of marginalisation and persecution.
WCRC Global: Justice and Partnership: Rev Dora Arce Valentin, WCRC executive officer for Justice and Partnership, organised a Global Consultation on Human Trafficking in Cuba, 16-23 March 2013. Attendance was patchy, with Europe and particularly Asian regions severely underrepresented. The encounters permitted a realisation that Human Trafficking and modern-day slavery are truly ubiquitous issues, and proposals are underway to generate a focussed campaign of shared resources and local awareness-raising between and among WCRC members worldwide, hopefully in 2015.
WCRC Global: Theology, Mission, Communion: Of particular interest - Coming out of conversations among European representatives at excom in Dodowa, Ghana in May 2013, plans are afoot to generate ecumenical thinking amongst a younger generation of European theologians, in addition to the work of Douwe Visser in the Global Institute of Theology.
Relocation and Staffing: Relocation to Hanover took place in December 2013, with a core staff of Douwe Visser and Dora Arce Valentin to be supplemented by a new General Secretary. Rev Dr Setri Nyomi continues to serve until September 2014 latest, as he is committed to a new position in Ghana at that point. (Congratulations to Setri on that appointment.) Administrative staff have been recruited locally in Hanover. A new executive officer for Communication, Mr Phil Tanis, has been appointed, coincidentally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil plans to move to Hanover with his family in July and is currently operative from an office in Grand Rapids. He was present for the consultations in Grand Rapids in February, and will be attending excom in Hanover in May. Meanwhile he is asking for participants at regional councils to send him information and photographs that may assist in his coverage of these events.
Finance: Situation is not yet abundance, but considerably stabilised, and on the way to establishing a responsible level of reserves.
Constitution and Membership: - WCRC faces significant challenges in addressing member church divisions with wisdom and using its resources for the health and wellbeing of its members. In addition, the poverty and remoteness of many members poses a challenge for communication as well as communion. (This has an important impact on finances, motivation and the future shape and significance of the organisation) – In 2012 and 2013excom affirmed that it would actively apply the constitutional provision that those member churches neither making their contribution nor communicating the reason after three years would cease to be active members. In Dodowa, excom members undertook to contact those churches to whom this is due to apply in 2013, so that contact may be made and relationships renewed with as many of these as possible. In Europe this applies to our Latvian contact. To date, it has not been possible to re-establish communication with the Reformed BrethrenEvangelical -Lutheran church of Latvia.