The World Council of Churches, since it was formed in 1948, had held an Assembly of all its (now 350) member churches every eight years or so. The 11th Assembly now meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany, is a year late. Like many other things, it was postponed in the wake of Covid-19. Now it is in session and addressing the theme, “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and peace.”
Located in the south-west corner of Germany, Karlsruhe was deliberately chosen as the site for the Assembly since it has a good story to tell about reconciliation and peace. Bloody conflicts between Germany and France have punctuated its history but today there is reconciliation and peace between the peoples of the area.
When the site of the conference was chosen to showcase war giving way to peace, few were imagining that by the time the event took place, Europe would once again be witnessing a devastating conflict, with whole cities being destroyed and thousands upon thousands of lives being lost.
Attention, of course, has had to turn to Ukraine and the Assembly has been greatly moved by the testimony of the Ukrainians who have spoken of their suffering but also of their resolve. Can we believe that Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and peace? Stuttgart, the nearby state capital, was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War but has been rebuilt and today is a thriving city. Can we believe that the same will happen with the Ukrainian cities that are being destroyed as we speak? Can we believe that, sooner rather than later, there will be peace and reconciliation between the Russians and Ukrainians who have been turned into enemies by the current conflict?
My very small part in the Assembly is to help run one of the “ecumenical conversations” that help to shape the work of the WCC. It puts the focus on the call to transforming discipleship. It is through those who choose to follow him that Christ’s love moves the world. An inward transformation creates the agents who can change the world. Our conversation explores what this will mean for those who take the path of discipleship.