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WCC 70th anniversary celebration in Monrovia, Liberia

Address by Rev. D. Jensen Seyenkulo, Ph.D, Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia, and 1st VP of the Liberian Council of Churches.

21 September 2018

Address by Rev. D. Jensen Seyenkulo, Ph.D.
Bishop, Lutheran Church in Liberia; 1st VP, Liberian Council of Churches

The World Council of Churches turns 70 this year, 2018. As institutions were being created in the West to deal with the aftermath of the Second World War, a small body of protestant church leaders gathered in Amsterdam in 1948. They gathered around the theme: “Man’s Disorder and God’s Design.”

They reflected on the chaos caused by human beings, realizing that when the churches were most needed, that is when they were most divided. But to remain focused on humans and the harm they caused meant leaving Christians just as depressed and hopeless as the rest of the world. They therefore concluded that it is only in the light of God’s design that with His help we can tackle the world’s disorder and the church’s disorder. It was important, therefore, to bind together and seek to address social injustice, human rights abuses, destruction of the world’s natural resources, and interfaith conflict.

Visser ‘t Hooft, the first general secretary of the WCC, in defining the purpose of the Council said and I quote:

What then is the function of our Council? Our name gives us a clue to an answer. We are a Council of Churches, not the Council of the one undivided Church. Our name indicates our weakness and our shame before God, for there can be and there is only one Church of Christ on earth. Our plurality is a deep anomaly. But our name indicates also that we are aware of that situation, that we do not accept it passively, that we would move forward to the manifestation of the One Holy Church. Our Council represents an emergency solution – a stage on the road – a body living between the time of complete isolation of the churches from each other and the time – on earth or in heaven – when it will be visibly true that there is one Shepherd and one flock.

Visser ‘t Hooft agreed with Rome that there can only be one church. He disagreed, however, that that one church already exists: the Church of Rome with its one earthly shepherd, the Pope.

What was the Council called to do? The Constitution in Amsterdam set forth six functions:

1. To carry on the work of Faith and Order and Life and Work to facilitate common action by the churches,

2. To promote co-operation in study,

3. To promote the growth of ecumenical consciousness in the members of all the churches,

4. To establish relations with denominational federations and other ecumenical movements,

5. To call world conferences on specific subjects as occasion may require, and

6. To support the churches in their work of evangelism.

After 10 Assemblies, the WCC officially has a membership of 550 million members, from 348 member churches and 110 nations. I say officially because at its meeting in Geneva early this year, the Central Committee approved the requests of two churches for membership in the Council. It was also at that meeting that Pope Francis joined his ecumenical family in celebrating the 70th anniversary of this important organization called the World Council of Churches.

While we are not there yet, we are on a pilgrimage, taking it one step at a time.

I close in the words of the tenth Assembly theme held in Busan, Korea in 2013: “God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace!” Amen!