Each year the secretaries and secretaries-general of the main church families and alliances (Baptist, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Anglican, Orthodox, etc.) and global ecumenical organisations (including the World Council of Churches in Geneva, the Roman Catholic Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Global Christian Forum) hold a one-week conference to share information and views. The 2011 meeting took place in October in Silver Spring, USA, at the headquarters of the Seventh-Day Adventists, the fastest-growing free church in the United States. As the secretary of the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I have represented the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht at the CWC meeting since 2009.
CWC stands for “Christian World Communion. Conference of Secretaries”. Set up about 20 years ago, the conference has not assumed an institutional form and does not pass resolutions or issue press releases. Instead, its primary aim is to foster friendly relations and enable the participants to share their experiences and opinions. Each meeting has a topical theme that affects all of the members. This year’s theme was freedom to travel in the age of globalisation. All of the churches report that not all of their delegates are able to attend international meetings in the US and Europe; delegates from Africa, Asia and South America who are male, single and under 30 are liable to have their visas refused on suspicion of being migrants. The conference participants discussed this issue at a meeting with US government representatives. In addition, they visited the seat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (145 dioceses) in Washington, DC and the headquarters of the Baptist World Alliance. The next meeting, in 2012, will be held in Lebanon and will focus on dialogue between Muslims and Christians, with particular reference to proselytising and individuals’ freedom to choose which religion to belong to.
Visit to the Anglican Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia
When I was ordained bishop in Zurich in 2009, Bishop Michie Klusmeyer from the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia invited me to visit him. The conference was a perfect opportunity to combine the WCW meeting with a visit to our sister church.
As the Anglican and Old Catholic Churches are in full communion, each one invites representatives of the other to be permanent observers at its conferences. Bishop Klusmeyer is therefore a permanent guest at the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference along with Bishop Jonathan Gledhill from the Church of England.
In West Virginia it became clear to me why the American Episcopal Church chose Bishop Klusmeyer as its delegate. The state of West Virginia is slightly larger than Switzerland, with 1 million inhabitants and around 10,000 Anglicans spread over 30 church communities. Bishop Klusmeyer can therefore empathise with our diaspora situation. Most of the Anglican dioceses in the USA have far more members and financial resources than we do. I was made to feel very welcome at the churches we visited, and would like to thank Bishop Klusmeyer, his wife and his diocesan team for their warm kindness and hospitality.
+ Harald Rein