Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

Writing for the August issue of the Clarion

This is the editorial I wrote for The Clarion, the monthly newsletter of Romsey Uniting Church.

The photos were included, so Bossey people have now been seen by at least one of my congregations in Australia.

Actually, Bossey photos have also featured in a couple of children’s addresses – they’re great for demonstrating the international, multicultural nature of the church.

Unity: The World Council of ChurchesThe 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.

(From the Constitution and Rules of the World Council of Churches.)

Avril at the World Council of Churches office in Geneva

The theme of this month’s issue of the Clarion is unity, which makes it the perfect time for me to share some of what I learned during my time at the World Council of Church’s Ecumenical Institute at Bossey. Not that I ever need any excuse for that; my time a Bossey was incredibly enriching and I’m happy to talk about it for hours on end at any time at all.

This month we celebrate the 59th birthday of the World Council of Churches, which officially came into existence on the 23rd of August, 1948. The WCC was the result of decades of activity by the modern ecumenical movement, beginning with the creation of the World Student Christian Federation in 1895 and followed by a number of international, ecumenical conferences: the World Mission Conference in Edinburgh in 1910; the Universal Christian Conference on Life and Work in Stockholm in 1925; and the World Conference on Faith and Order in Lausanne in 1927. At each of these conferences members of different denominations met each other, worshipped together, and discovered the incredible excitement and privilege of gathering together with Christians from all around the world – the joy of being part of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church.

After several of these conferences it was decided to link the Life and Work and the Faith and Order streams of the ecumenical movement in one Council of Churches. In 1937, a meeting was held in London and the ‘World Council of Churches in the Process of Formation’ was created. Sadly, before the World Council could be convened, World War Two broke out.

The World Council of Churches in the Process of Formation had an office in Geneva with W. A. Visser ‘t Hooft acting as its general secretary. Visser ‘t Hooft worked in Geneva to assist refugees from Nazi Germany and maintain liaison between churches in occupied territories and the outside world. In his report to the 1946 meeting of the Provisional Committee of the World Council in Geneva Visser ‘t Hooft said that ‘For those who have had the privilege to be intimately associated with the Council in war-time, those years will always stand out as the time when the ecumenical task was spiritually easy and simple because, in spite of the enormous technical difficulties, the marching orders were so very clear and the basic unity of the defenders of the faith was so deeply felt’.

The World Council of Churches was finally formally established by the official representatives of 57 churches from the Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox traditions at the First General Assembly in Amsterdam in 1948, and Visser ‘t Hooft became the first General Secretary. The three denominations that would later form the Uniting Church were among the 57.

Today, the WCC has more than 340 member churches in over 100 countries, representing some 550 million Christians. The work it has done to resource and encourage these churches and Christians over the past 59 years has been phenomenal. The website gives information about what the WCC is doing today: from fighting AIDS through the Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa to supporting peace-building in the Middle East through the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.

Most importantly, the WCC continues to unite Christians from around the world and reminds us that although we speak different languages, live in different countries, and worship God in different ways, we are united by our confession of the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour. We are part of the global Christian family.

Bossey students from all around the world


July 29, 2007 - Posted by | Life, etc., Ministry


  1. Thanks Av, I enjoyed reading that.

    In its HIV work in Africa you mention, does the WCC promote condom use, by any chance?

    Comment by Olivia | July 30, 2007 | Reply

  2. The 2005 Document “Partnerships between churches and people living with HIV/AIDS organizations” does discuss condom use. The following is the definition given in the glossary to the document:

    Condoms: used consistently and correctly male latex condoms provide a high level of protection against HIV infection and also stop the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections. Male condoms are usually made out of latex, they should be stored carefully avoiding prolonged exposure to heat, and should be used with a water-based lubricant. A female condom is available, which is used by a woman and fits inside the vagina.

    The various documents discuss condom use and the differences between different churches in promoting them. The WCC seems to promote condom use but it’s not the Vatican – it can’t tell all member churches what to do. So there are some churches that don’t promote them. And many churches seem to focus more on the A and B of ABC (Abstain and Be faithful) than on the C (Condom use). Apparently there have been cases of HIV-AIDS organisations working in Africa refusing to have anything to do with churches because they assume all of them are against condom use. It’s all very interesting.

    Comment by avrilhj | August 2, 2007 | Reply

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