The United Church of Christ's general minister and president has been staying pretty busy this week during a working visit to Greece.
The Rev. Geoffrey Black, along with the UCC's ecumenical officer, the Rev. Karen Georgia A. Thompson, is attending the World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting. He is one of 115 delegates of the WCC committee, gathering in Crete over a nine-day span, planning for next year's WCC World Assembly in Busan, South Korea.
"The World Council of Churches Central Committee has a full agenda, as this is its final meeting prior to the Assembly in Korea," said Thompson, the UCC's minister for ecumenical and interfaith relations. "The [Central Committee] is faced with decision-making around governance, which is a primary issue and will come before the assembly delegates for further action."
The Central Committee acts as the governing body for the WCC between assemblies, meeting every 18 months to discuss future work of the council. Among the talking points for the week: addressing a wide range of themes for future WCC activities, and plenty of preparation for the WCC's next assembly, scheduled for November 2013.
The Central Committee on Monday, Sept. 3, began exploring issues of gender equality and human rights that mitigate discrimination and violence against women.
The Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, a former UCC collegium officer and the WCC president for North America, said while "we talk about gender justice issues for women of today's world and the future world, it is important to say that these are not just questions of equality in the church or even not just questions of equality in the world.
"These are life and death issues. They cannot be pigeon-holed into one area. And it is important to say that these cannot just be the work of women," Jackson said.
The WCC committee also released a statement on Thursday, Aug. 30, that advocates a new understanding of mission that ensures people from all theologies are embraced in a diverse world. The statement, developed by the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, will be presented to delegates at the World Assembly next year. The CWME is also developing training curriculum and other publications to share at the WCC gathering.
The Central Committee meeting began Tuesday, Aug. 28 with an opening prayer service, and continues until Wednesday, Sept. 5. The meeting is hosted in Kolympari, Greece by the Orthodox Academy of Crete.
On Thursday, WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit updated the committee on the council's support for churches in Syria, Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and the Papua islands in Indonesia.
He mentioned ecumenical initiatives related to human rights situations in these countries. "Christians in the Middle East and North Africa should not feel that they are alone within the fellowship of churches, particularly in times when they -- and we as a council -- find that the Christian presence in that region is in danger for several reasons," he said.
Tveit also urged churches to address issues stemming from Europe's financial crisis, which has hit Greece particularly hard. He said it is significant that the Central Committee meeting is in Greece, a country which has directly faced the brunt of the crisis.