The executive committee, on behalf of the central committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), has decided, in close consultation with the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and other host churches and local partners, to postpone the 11th assembly, originally planned for September 2021 in Karlsruhe, Germany, until 2022.
The decision, announced on 3 June, was made because of the gravity and uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is hoped that an assembly in 2022 will provide a better opportunity to secure the full participation of the ecumenical fellowship. The location in Karlsruhe will remain the same. The EKD, Evangelical Church in Baden, Council of Churches in Germany, and other churches of various confessions in Germany, France, and Switzerland jointly invited the assembly to Karlsruhe, in a European region located between the borders of the three countries. They have reaffirmed their invitation for 2022, which has been warmly accepted by the WCC.
The assembly will bring together 800 official delegates from the WCC’s 350 member churches, and many other participants and visitors, all of whom will gather in prayer, and celebrate their fellowship under the theme “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” The assembly theme will be reflected upon in the light of the dramatic global situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic will also have a significant impact on assembly planning in terms of programme, logistics, and finances. New dates for the assembly in the second half of 2022 are currently being discussed and will be decided upon together with the Karlsruhe exhibition centre, Messe Karlsruhe. The plans, which are already well advanced, will be revised and restructured for 2022.
A WCC assembly normally take place once every eight years and is the highest decision-making body of the WCC. It has the task of determining the overall policies of the WCC and electing the WCC central committee, the main governing body between assemblies. The WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom said, “We hope that, by 2022, we will have more certainty and knowledge about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we hope that waiting to convene the assembly will mean fuller participation by all who want to walk, work, and pray together. This was a very difficult decision to make but we trust that it will be offset by the joy we will feel about being able to gather, together at last, in 2022.”
Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima, vice-moderator of the WCC and moderator of the WCC Assembly Planning Committee said that the priority of the WCC is the safety, inclusivity and love of the fellowship as a whole. “We make this decision with the feeling of care and love and dignity of the one human family. May God help us reach the assurance of safety and equality that we need to hold an assembly that is able to welcome all with joy and love.” Emphasizing the opportunity that postponing the assembly opens for churches, vice-moderator Bishop Mary Ann Swenson said, “I believe that working, walking and praying together in the midst of COVID-19 will enable our fellowship, our staff, and all our churches to more deeply appreciate and incarnate in our lives and work the very theme we have chosen for the assembly itself: ‘Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.’ “
Bishop Prof. Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the EKD Council, said “Karlsruhe remains in many ways an ideal place for a cross-border ecumenical assembly with a European dimension. He reiterated that “the most important reason why we are inviting the assembly to Europe is that we hope to receive something. Given the challenges we will have to face in the coming years, this major ecumenical event can be a visible sign of one world in solidarity, peace, and justice.” Bishop Prof. Dr Jochen Cornelius-Bundschuh of the Evangelical Church in Baden said he is looking forward to using the time gained to work with all the churches in the region. ”Let us continue to move and be inspired by the wonderful theme.”