World Council of Churches calls for an ‘ecumenism of the heart’

12 September 2022

The highest governing body of the World Council of Churches has called on Christians everywhere to search for an “ecumenism of the heart”, described as “a Christlike love that moves us to walk honestly and wholeheartedly beside one another, to try to see the world through the eyes of others”.

The World Assembly, which met in Karlsruhe Germany from 31 August – 8 September, acknowledged the pain of the present times, when ill health, hunger, climate breakdown, discrimination, violent conflict and war are bringing suffering to every continent.

A unity statement flowing out of the gathering invites prayer that “we will never seek to divide or conquer, to exploit or humiliate, to overwhelm by violence or enforce unity; nor to collude any more with the inequalities of the world.” It warns against politics shaped by deepened individualism, dangerous nationalism or increasing militarism.

A separate statement on Ukraine, Peace and Justice in the European region denounces Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion and renews the call for an immediate ceasefire accompanied by dialogue and negotiations. It also reaffirms that war is incompatible with God’s very nature and will for humanity as well as being against fundamental Christian principles. Accordingly, the gathering confirmed its rejection of any misuse of religious language and authority to seek to justify armed aggression and hatred.

Following a suggestion proposed by Church & Peace the statement includes the call for: “a much greater investment by the governments of Europe and the entire international community in searching for and promoting peace, and in strengthening non-violent conflict resolution, civil conflict transformation and reconciliation processes.”

A third significant statement on The Living Planet urges an “end to wars and military drills, and divestment from fossil fuel, arms and other life-destroying sectors, coupled with a radical mobilization and redirection of resources towards the health and resilience of our communities and the protection and renewal of ecosystems that form the base of all our economies and societies.”

Although the Friends World Committee for Consultation is not a member of the World Council of Churches or its central committee, Friends are permitted to send observers and advisers to its meetings and have a say through the ‘confessional family’ of peace churches. Some Quaker groupings including Friends United Meeting and Friends General Conference are members.

The first World Council of Churches Assembly, which took place in 1948, declared “War is contrary to the will of God”. To prayerfully affirm the permanence of this message, a group of Christians including Quaker Gordon Matthews carried a banner 480 kilometres by foot to Karlsruhe ahead of the Assembly.

FWCC was represented at the Assembly by Davorka Lovrekovic, nominated by German Yearly Meeting.