The Assembly Message

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". We have gathered together as the seventh assembly of the World Council of Churches. Meeting in Canberra, Australia, from 7 to 20 February 1991, we send greetings to all churches, Christians and peoples. We were welcomed by the Aboriginal people of the land. Their understanding of land as being integral to their very life has had an impact on our thinking. We were also welcomed by the churches, the government and the people of Australia. We express our deep gratitude to all of them for their hospitality, and for the assistance they extended to us in a great variety of ways. The theme of this assembly is the invocation "Come, Holy Spirit - Renew the Whole Creation". In worship, reflection and life together, we sought to understand t he hopes and challenges of our times through the four related prayers:

Giver of Life - Sustain your Creation!

Spirit of Truth - Set us Free!

Spirit of Unity - Reconcile your People!

Holy Spirit - Transform and Sanctify Us!

We rejoice in the diversity of cultures, races and traditions represented at the assembly, and we give thanks to God for the many expressions of the Christian faith and for the growing sense of unity amidst this diversity. We praise God for the many local developments in ecumenism.

At this assembly we have been stirred by the manifold forms of prayer, spirituality, theology and Christian commitment to which we have been exposed; we wish to share this enrichment with our churches and with people everywhere. The participation of women has been a reality at the assembly, and we commend once again the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women. We recognize the crucial importance of the ecumenical youth movement and look forward to the global ecumenical gathering of youth and students in 1992. We are grateful for the witness made by differently-abled persons and urge the churches to provide for their full and active participation in the churches' life and mission.

The presence of representatives of other world religions as guests at the assembly reminds us of the need to respect the image of God in all people, to accept one another as neighbours and to affirm our common responsibility with them for all of God's creation, including humanity.

We meet at a time of growing threats to creation and human life. At this time when our fragile environment is in crisis, we recognize anew that human beings are not the lords of creation but part of an integrated and interdependent whole, and we resolve once again to work for the sustainability of all creation. Amid the oppression to which many indigenous peoples, minorities and peoples of colour are subjected, we pledge support for and solidarity with marginalized people everywhere. In the face of the growing gap between rich and poor, we commit ourselves to work for justice for all.

At a time of conflicts in various parts of the world, and particularly in the Gulf, we appeal for an immediate end to hostilities, and for a just resolution of conflicts in all countries of the world.

Many divisions still prevail in our world. Some are economic and political. People, particularly many women, children, youth and the differently-abled, experience brokenness of relationships and are subjected to various kinds of injustices. The Holy Spirit draws churches into relationships of love and commitment. The Holy Spirit calls the churches to an increased commitment to the search for visible unity and more effective mission. We urge the churches to heed the call of the Spirit, to seek new and reconciled relationships between peoples, and to use the gifts of all their members.

We ourselves, the churches in council, still experience brokenness. Reconciliation between churches remains incomplete. However, in the ecumenical movement, we have been enabled to come out of isolation into a committed fellowship: we experience a growing responsibility for each other, in joy and in pain, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we seek ways to be more accountable to one another and to our Lord who prayed that we "may be one" (John 17:20). But we also recognize that the fullness of reconciliation is a gift of God and that we can appropriate it only insofar as the Holy Spirit transforms and sanctifies us.

God and humankind are reconciled by the costly sacrifice we see in the cross of Christ. Our appropriation of reconciliation and our acceptance of the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) are also costly. Through our acceptance of the ministry of reconciliation, we become a missionary people, not in that sense of dominating over peoples and nations which has all too often characterized missionary work, but in the sense of sharing God's own mission of bringing all humanity into communion with God through Christ in the power of the Spirit, sharing our faith and our resources with all people.

We pray that the Spirit of God may lead Christians to a renewed vision of God's rule, so that we may be empowered to assume the stewardship of "the mystery of the gospel" (Eph. 6:19). We pray that we may be enabled to bear the "fruit of the Spirit" and thus witness to God's rule of love and truth, righteousness and justice and freedom, reconciliation and peace.

We are convinced that to repent, to be forgiven by God and to forgive one another are essential elements in such a renewed vision of God's rule on earth as in heaven. Responding to the rapid and radical changes taking place in many parts of the world, we commit ourselves to sustained action that will express the new perspectives which we have gained in our ecumenical journey and during our time together, on issues such as world debt, militarism, the ecosystem and racism.

We believe that the Holy Spirit brings hope even amidst all that seems to militate against hope, and gives strength to resolve the conflicts which divide human communities. Repentance must begin with ourselves, for even in this assembly we have become aware of our own failures in understanding, sensitivity and love. As we commit ourselves to continuing repentance, so we call all people to share in that commitment and to pray for the renewing power of the Holy Spirit to renew in us, personally and corporately, the image of God.

As we continue on our journey to the unity of the church and of humankind under God's rule, we pray, with people around the world:

Come, Holy Spirit, Come, teacher of the humble, judge of the arrogant.
Come, hope of the poor, refreshment of the weary...
rescuer of the shipwrecked.
Come, most splendid adornment of all living beings,
the sole salvation of all who are mortal.
Come, Holy Spirit, have mercy on us,
imbue our lowliness with your power.
Meet our weakness with the fullness of your grace.
Come, Holy Spirit - Renew the Whole Creation.

© 2001 by Ulrich Schmitthenner • Bildschirm-Version