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WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES STEWARDS PROGRAMME 2012

60th WCC Central Committee Meeting: Crete, Greece This report simply tries to portray the events and life of the WCC Stewards’ Programme, hosted by the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC), in Greece. It will outline the work of the WCC since its formation, and gloss over the “ecumenical movement” and the direction it has come from, and heading to.

Filo Tu 57 Compton Crescent, Taita Lower Hutt, 5011 021 027 98043 tufilo@myvuw.ac.nz


Contents Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 2 World Council of Churches ..................................................................................................................... 3 Background Information ..................................................................................................................... 3 The World Council of Churches is: ...................................................................................................... 3 Work.................................................................................................................................................... 4 Stewards Programme.............................................................................................................................. 5 Crete 2012 Programme....................................................................................................................... 5 Bible Studies & Regional Prayers .................................................................................................... 6 Workshops ...................................................................................................................................... 8 Activities ........................................................................................................................................ 10 Cultural Evening ............................................................................................................................ 11 “Spartan Stewards” ........................................................................................................................... 11 Personal Summary & Reflection ........................................................................................................... 13 Acknowledgements............................................................................................................................... 14


Introduction Talofa Lava!

Over the last number of weeks, I have been challenged with the theme: “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”. Both a prayer and statement of faith, this is the preparation of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) as it concludes its final work. The belief in a living God, is an essential part of being Christians in today’s society – but our interpretations of justice and peace are what sets us apart, and makes us unique. However, no matter how much intellect or knowledge we attain – individually or collectively – if we work and live without God, justice does not prevail and peace remains to be a dream that we yearn for.

This report simply tries to portray the events and life of the WCC Stewards’ Programme, hosted by the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC), in Greece. It will outline the work of the WCC since its formation, and gloss over the “ecumenical movement” and the direction it has come from, and heading to. In addition, this report will focus on the Stewards’ Programme, and the many benefits that this programme has awarded me with over its duration – from August 24th to September 8th, 2012. I will also share and outline the discussion topics that the Central Committee of the WCC faced before its preparations for the General Assembly in Busan, Korea in 2013. Finally, I will share some of the quality time that I spent in Athens, Greece, at the conclusion of the Stewards Programme, giving light to the “Greek Context” and the numerous rewards of this trip. In conclusion, I will give my own personal reflection and summary, together with a letter from the organiser of the event.

It is not without a doubt that in our given context of New Zealand, that we require God to lead us to justice and peace, in many areas of our lives.


World Council of Churches Background Information The World Council of Churches is: 

A fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ.

It is the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement

The World Council of Churches (WCC) brings together a total of 349 church, denominations and church fellowships from 110 countries and territories through the world. It represents branches of the Orthodox, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, United and Independent churches. In the early formation of the WCC, the founding churches were European and North American, today of the more than 560 million Christians, most member church are located in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific.

The WCC is a unique space: one in which they can reflect, speak, act, worship and work together, challenge and support each other, share and debate with each other. As members of this fellowship, WCC member churches: 

are called to the goal of visible unity in one faith and one Eucharistic fellowship;

promote their common witness in work for mission and evangelism;

engage in Christian service by serving human need, breaking down barriers between people, seeking justice and peace, and upholding the integrity of creation; and

foster renewal in unity, worship, mission and service.

The WCC and the Ecumenical Movement 

The modern ecumenical movement began in the late 19th and early 20th century, when Christians began to pray and work together across denominational boundaries.

The historical roots of the World Council of Churches are found in student and lay movements of the 19th century. Leaders representing more than 100 churches voted in


1937-38 to found a World Council of Churches, but its inauguration was delayed following the outbreak of the Second World War. August 1948, saw representatives of 147 churches assembled in Amsterdam to constitute the WCC. 

The ecumenical movement encourages cooperation and sharing, and common witness and action by churches. It seeks to renew the church through activities and networks among clergy and lay people, especially women and youth. It seeks visible unity, not as an end in itself, but to give credible witness "so that the world may believe", and to serve the healing of the human community and the wholeness of God's entire creation.

Work Some of the ecumenical movement's major achievements have been: 1. Shared convictions on faith, life and witness are increasingly enriching theological reflection undertaken from strictly confessional perspectives. For example, theologians from different church traditions working together in the WCC's Faith and Order Commission produced a statement on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry that has led to new worship patterns within churches, and to a greater understanding and changed relationships between churches of different confessional traditions. 2. Since its creation, the WCC has supported and inspired church participation in struggles for justice, peace and creation. One example is the support to efforts to bring about reunification of North and South Korea 3. The WCC shares the legacy of the one ecumenical movement and the responsibility to keep it alive. As the most comprehensive body among the many organized expressions of the ecumenical movement, the Council's role is to address global ecumenical issues and act as a trustee for the inner coherence of the movement. 4. The goal of the World Council of Churches is not to build a global "super-church", nor to standardize styles of worship, but rather to deepen the fellowship of Christian churches and communities so they may see in one another authentic expressions of the "one holy, catholic and apostolic church".


Stewards Programme WCC Stewards Programmes are unique events providing opportunities for participants to deepen their knowledge of the ecumenical movement, renew their ecumenical commitment and find inspiration for further work towards the unity of the Church. The Stewards Programme is composed of three phases: 

Ecumenical Learning Programme

Assisting in an international ecumenical event

Ecumenical Project planning

The programme brings together young people from all over the world and gives them the opportunity to contribute with their work to the operations of the Central Committee meeting. It will also provide a space for ecumenical learning, encounters and discussions. The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches meets every 18 months to monitor and set directions to the Council’s work. About 150 church representatives, advisors and observers gathered in Crete, Greece for the last Central Committee meeting before the 10th General Assembly in Busan, Korea in 2013.

Crete 2012 Programme Being a steward means hard work. The work done is often exhausting, intense and under pressure of short deadlines. The main areas of steward’s work are: Worship, Conference Room, Documentation, Press Office, Sound and other tasks such as general administration, sorting mail, delivering messages etc. Before the meetings, stewards participated in an Ecumenical Learning Programme which exposed us to the key issues of concern for the ecumenical movement worldwide. We formed a community of young people from different churches, countries and culture, bringing together our faith, backgrounds and visions to an ecumenical experience of togetherness and friendship. Being a steward was a challenge, fostering involvement and participation, and most definitely a life-changing experience. The Stewards Programme is only the beginning of a long process. It encourages young people to continue the journey of ecumenism. The last element of the programme focused on designing ecumenical projects which individual stewards will implement upon their return. Present stewards were between 18 and 30 years


of age, and the working language of the programme was predominantly English. Stewards needed to be prepared to endure an intensive programme of activities and long tiring work days. Patience, an ability to work with people from other countries and cultures, and a willing ness to work together as a team was vitally essential.

This year the Stewards Programme began prior to the meeting of the Central Committee, held at the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC). It was a programme that collaborated with the Central Committee meeting running from the 23rd August until the 7th September, 2012. The programme saw a total of 27 Stewards led by Fa’autu Talapusi with the support of Su Hyun Lim, Nikos Kosmidis, and Katerina Pekridou. This team engaged, taught, prodded, probed, encouraged, and guided the programme to ensure that Stewards were well-equipped to engage in discussions of the Central Committee meeting, together with an understanding of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and its work within the global Christian family.

Bible Studies & Regional Prayers In being accepted as a Steward, there were areas and tasks that we were to prepare for, prior to being present in Greece. A Goole Group was set up to be the foundation of communication for what exactly was required of us as Stewards, as well as to provide a forum for introductions, debate and sharing on issues and topics that would be discussed during the Central Committee meeting. In addition to this, were numerous deliberations on Bible Studies and Reflections from different figureheads on the theme: “God of Life, lead us to justice and peace”

This was an uplifting area of spiritual growth – a time of learning about the deeper theologies of the ecumenical movement, together with healthy debates on understandings and interpretations of scripture. We were given a number of different preparations for Bible Studies, and their interpretations of the theme for the up-coming General Assembly: others divided the theme to look at what it meant by the terms “God of life”, “justice” or “peace”; others took an ecological perspective focusing on how we are called to be stewards of God’s creation; and still others interpreted the theme around social inequalities and injustices. An example was the preparation by Jorgen Thomsen of DanChurchAid who instilled within me the following:


“When we pray ‘God of life, lead us to justice and peace’ it reflects what we know, that peace is not only absence of war. There is much more to it. Peace is life in dignity; life in relationships that are fair, equal and just. And if peace is not only absence of war, then that also means, that the opposite of peace is not only war, but injustice…Let us heed the affirmation of the risen Christ to all fearful behind closed doors: “Peace be with you!” “Fear not!” “For I will be with you – always, to the end of the age”

It was interesting to note the differences that we had individually or even collectively, it was also important to be aware that our different confessions also meant that we viewed each Bible Study with a different view, but above all, our contexts were a vital reflection of how we came to engage within each material of study, as it determined our approaches and wording explicitly.

We learned the spirit of ecumenism very quickly through our various, numerous and creative interpretations of biblical scripture. We engaged with each other in small groups, before sharing to the wider group our ideas, thoughts and conclusions to certain questions and frameworks that we were given. We were also able to encourage and guide each other in and throughout the programme reflecting back on the Bible Studies that we endured, and gave reference to a number of the values, morals and characteristics we discussed.

In addition to Bible Studies, we were divided into our regional groups to prepare devotions that was specifically unique to our given location or context. I was placed within the Asia & Pacific group, making a total of seven. We formulated a devotion based on the theme “Peace”. Our devotion consisted of hymns with familiar tunes but sung in our individual mother tongues, a video clip, information and statistics on the Asia-Pacific region, a responsive Psalm, and concluding with the Lord’s Prayer in Tuvaluan. We were fortunate to have heard the angelic vocals of Fa’autu during our prayers, and I was granted the opportunity to play a few notes on the piano. The devotions from each region was different,


each uniquely sharing the beauty of their countries, lands and cultures, each distinctively portraying the traditions of various denominations, and melded into source of inspiration for that particular day. Each group was well-prepared, allowing for creativity and theology to work hand in hand.

Workshops As a part of the Ecumenical Learning Programme, we were well equipped with workshops prepared by members of the Organising Committee. We were fortunate to cover the following areas:        

Introduction to the Ecumenical Movement and the WCC Church Unity Faith & Order Greek Context Stewardship of Creation Eco-justice Communications Assembly 2013

Without going into too much detail, I will focus on the workshops undertaken by Nikos Kosmidis (Greek Context) and Katerina Pekridou (Faith & Order). In learning about the beginnings of the World Council of Churches (WCC), we had to grasp the different movements and workings that were present and on-going on a global scale. One of the major streams was the commission on Faith & Order. It was made up of 120 members (including representatives of the Roman Catholic Church), and is a forum for bilateral and multilateral dialogues. Their focus was to assist church to make decisions around issues and concerns – moral discernment with an aim that has always been “to proclaim the oneness of the church of Jesus Christ and to all the churches to the goal of visible unity”. In its work to achieve such a goal, the Commission organises the “Week of Prayer for World Unity” in amongst study programmes dealing with theological questions that have divided the churches, denominations and confessions in the past. Its chief method of approaching and studying questions related to Christian division is through consultations organized around the world. Members of the Faith and Order Commission – together with other invited church members – meet in groups to continue the dialogue process and produce texts and study documents which, while having no authority of their own over any church, are


of significance and use by virtue of having been composed by a widely representative group of people from various Christian traditions. Most of these texts are sent to the churches for study and comment. The work of the commission is characterized by the strong commitment of each member to his or her own tradition, together with a deep enthusiasm and dedication to the vision and task of the unity of the church. John 17: 20-23 states: 20

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me 21 through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in 22 me and I am in you… I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they 23 may be one as we are one— …so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

This outlines the “higher purpose” to Church Unity: to be witnesses of God’s love. Therefore, participants not only seek to work out the many problems that they face in trying to overcome Christian divisions but they also uncover the many opportunities that exist to further Christian unity.

In contrast to this, the workshop on the Greek Context was not what one would expect. My initial reaction was excitement, assuming that the picture to be painted by the facilitator would be about Greek History and Mythology, the rise of empires and falling of ancient civilizations. Unfortunately it was quite the opposite the opening sentence was “Every being is a political being, even if one doesn’t know it”. The workshop had somewhat of a focus on An Open Letter on the Truth about Greece by Miki Theodorakis (February 2012) which speaks again the systems that are currently in place for the people of Greece; outlines the cries of the people or the nation; glosses over the relationships with European Banks and “Europeans” in general; and concludes with: “I am today 87 years old and it is very possible that I will not live to see the salvation of my beloved country. But I will die with a clear conscience, because I will continue doing my Duty towards the ideals of Freedom and Justice until the end.”

From here the workshop continues down a dreary path, continuing to portray the Greek Context in a dark light, and I shudder to think that things could get any worse, until the statistics were read out:    

48% Unemployment Rate Increases in Suicide Rate 64% of Youth thinking of moving “Dead Generations” – reference to the next four generations


Stewards were faced with statements such as “…foreigners bring polygamy, diseases, faiths and more immigrants”, “alternatives and solutions would have been found in Russia or China”, “reliance on donors such as banks, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund” – but the question on our minds was: “What can we do?” The workshop, though gloomy, shed light on what was real, what was relevant, and what it truly meant to live in a crisis. We were challenged with the question: “What does it mean to act as a young person in the time of a crisis?” In reflection of how many tragedies affect our individual and collective lives, it is inspiring to see the work of our faith communities within such areas of poverty, economic crisis, war and so forth. But what is more challenging, is what we as Christians do, in addition to our denominational organisations and missions!

Activities To maintain the spirit and energies of any group, there is a need to provide interactive activities that are both creative and fun for all participants. In this instance, the Stewards Programme provided many additional activities to sustain the interactive nature of young people. We had “Community Building” activities that were introductory, informative and expressive – engaging in songs, chants and the odd game of BINGO. The most interesting activity had to be the periods of “silence” we had during the programme – a time of individual reflection, In addition to this, we worked in Home Groups after each day to reflect and share on how the day had panned out, what was positive and what we had learnt, together with what was challenging and what solutions there were to overcoming these. Home Groups were also a chance to share about the different confessions we came from, the countries that we resided in, and the visions that we had since being a part of the ecumenical movement through this programme. A main activity for us was lunch in Chania, Crete, one of the four major cities of the island. The architecture and history of the city was blended together with restaurants and cafés, businesses and retail stores, all interwoven amongst the effects of the economic crisis. Parts of the activity allowed for orienteering and exploration, other parts allowed for fellowship and food, and finally concluded with a tour of the countryside. We got another opportunity to explore Chania as well when the Central Committee meeting went out for Sunday Service to the various options that were available. A group of us attended the Roman Catholic Service in the city, and were welcomed by the Catholic Community with a service in English.


Cultural Evening This was an event hosted by the Stewards for any of the Central Committee Members, WCC Staff and OAC Staff. It was nerve-wracking to say the least, as preparations for the event had gone askew for many, where others were confident and well-prepared. I was fortunate to be the Master of Ceremony (MC) for the two-evening event, and a part of the Organising Committee for the entire event. It was an event filled with bright colours and talents from around the world. It was musical, poetic, dramatic and creative. We were fortunate to explore different parts of the globe, through the cultural items that each steward had prepared for the event, and the colourful costumes sported by numerous stewards. There was food tasting and laughter; there were moments to sit and moments to stand; there were times for listening and times for partaking. All in all, the event was well worth the worry, to give evidence of the talents and skills of those who were present.

“Spartan Stewards” As a tradition for Stewards who serve the Central Committee meetings, we were given the name of “Spartan Stewards” which defined our group. A definition of the term would be: “A Spartan is a person from the Greek city Sparta or the ancient Greek citystate of the same name. In the latter context, the term "Spartan" in its most technical sense refers to a member of the Spartiate caste and under some usages also encompasses the class of mothakes, residents of Sparta who were free but did not enjoy full political rights. The proper noun "Spartan" can also refer to…the soldiers of ancient Sparta, especially its renowned hoplite infantry. The adjective "spartan"…refers to the frugal and austere nature of the Spartans.”


Although we were not a military force, the reference to “Spartan� was more than just a reference to being within the Greek context; it was about family and connectivity, it was about flexibility and the ability to work as a unit; it was about communication and looking out for each other. The Spartan Stewards of 2012 were exceptional in the delivering of a service with a smile, and working the long hours in preparation for the new day. I wrote the following, not only in reflection, but also as a part of our final activity together during our evaluation process led by Tara: I see you and you are Representatives from near and far; Called for a life of service With smiles to challenge the dark Personalities coated with beauty Students of a movement, ecumenical we are Banded together under the banner of stewardship Moulded together into one star Learning of creation, communication, the unity of church Faith and Order and the rivers that have past Ecumenical as brothers and sisters With differences so deep, so vast Yet common believers who confess Him as Lord As God and Saviour according to the Word A unit, a band, a team are we Young and old, I think under 33? Full of energy, passion and dreams A vision compiled, bringing out the best in me Technically savvy, astute and profound Educating the world from here on out Party animals on a high from dusk until dawn Willing to share in dance, in laughter and song Nestled in the faith that a family is born Equipped with salvation and truth as our sword Spartans our motto, our mantra, our dance Not without fears but we must advance Laughing at the face from which many have turned Optimism our guide as challenges were burned With a workload so heavy, so tiring, so long We bathed in the glory and strengthened our bond So we have departed by land and by sea Each to their own with a new tune to sing Spartans our honour, our flag in the skies Divided only by where we reside Ecumenical Projects and Missions to start Spartans I see you and Spartans you are


Personal Summary & Reflection It seemed in preparation that this was a dream come true being accepted into the Stewards Programme, but being there was even more an awe-inspiring weekend. The opportunity granted to me couldn’t have been a more humbling experience for me personally. I found that I was in my element in many areas of the programme, but at the same time, I was challenged in my spiritual journey and in my knowledge of the ecumenical movement, as well as the World Council of Churches.

So I find myself yearning to do more for ecumenism, I find myself challenged to seek ways to share my experience on global issues, and most importantly to encourage other young people within the Methodist Church of New Zealand (MCNZ) to get active and be more involved. This not only will be a challenge, but a requirement of me as I bridge together my Ecumenical Mission/Project within New Zealand.

The time spent at the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC) is now a memory, but lifechanging. I am equipped much more than when I had departed, due to wealth and knowledge from the network of friends, Spartans and colleagues that I have established. It has come down also to human stewardship, service and camaraderie. Although the topics discussed and deliberated by the Central Committee was confusing and interesting at the same time, there was enough intrigue and interaction that gaged my interest. The deepening of my knowledge of the global structures of Christendom has truly opened my mind to wider issues that also require some of our time and energy. And so it stands as memento of the work that I was a part of, but more than that. It serves to be an encounter that is the beginning of something more.


Acknowledgements I take this humble opportunity to acknowledge the work and assistance of so many who helped to make this opportunity a reality. There are a number of people who have been supportive of me and my journey, and countless more who have remembered me in their prayers – and so if I do not mention anyone or any particular group in this part of my report, I put it down to one of many “senior moments”. Rev. Prince Devanandan: there has been no point of contact that has been most efficient that this man, who has phoned, emailed, mailed at almost every point of the application process. I am most grateful and most thankful for the work and persistence of Prince. My application wouldn’t have been as successful as it was without the love and support of Prince who has been both a reference along the process, and an ambassador for the ecumenical movement here in New Zealand. There was not a moment during the Central Committee meeting where Prince was not mentioned or people requesting whether I was aware of who Prince was – and with pride, I exclaimed that my journey to Crete was through the support and backing of Rev. Prince. All I can say is: Thank You. Mission & Ecumenical: I am thankful to the Committee for selecting me to represent the Methodist Church of New Zealand to the Steward Programme this year. It is without a doubt that there are many talented and skilled young people within our Connexional Family, and I pray that my representation of our Church and your Committee in particular, was anything but exceptional. And so I acknowledge the tedious process that you had to undertake, and thank you for the opportunity granted to me to partake in this programme. Travel & Study Committee: It is said that we can achieve all things through God who strengthens us, and it has been evident in the support that was shown through the kind donation in support of my travels. There are not enough words in any language to express my gratitude for the financial support given in assistance for me to attend the Stewards Programme. I continue to uphold my application in ensuring that this trip is more than a “one-off” educational adventure, but an opportunity to be shared to any who will listen. In addition, I acknowledge the support to our General Secretary, Rev. David Bush, whose contribution has not gone unnoticed. Your support David has been evident for me in numerous and various ways, and I question sometimes what I have done to deserve such support? But I am the person I am today, because of the support shown by people like you – I am forever grateful, thank you.


Wesley Multicultural Methodist Church, Samoan Fellowship: My church family has been very supportive and very proud of this opportunity, but they have provided financial assistance in addition to daily prayers and words of encouragement through emails and social networks. So I acknowledge the role of my faith community in and throughout this journey, your love and thoughts, have guided and comforted me whilst away from home. Thank you for everything you have done for me. My family: It has been hard for me to be so far away at such a length of time from my loving family. But I did it, and have survived! It was daunting to have left and experienced this trip without my family, but the love and care during the process has evidently been the foundation from which my being has been found. And so without a doubt, I acknowledge the love and support of my family: father, mother, brother and sisters, who have been there for me every step of the way, always ready to catch me when I fall, and always able to carry me through the good and the bad. I love you all, thank you.

Filo Tu Spartan Steward Methodist Church of New Zealand


WCC Stewards Programme 2012