Each year, the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions (CS/CWC) brings together the Secretaries/General Secretaries of world communions (including Baptist, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Reformed, Anglican and Orthodox) and ecumenical organisations such as the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Global Christian Forum. Including travel, preliminary meetings and follow-up sessions, the conference lasts around one week. In my capacity as the Secretary of the International Bishops’ Conference, I have represented the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht since 2009. The CS/CWC is hosted in turn by the “headquarters” of one of the members, such as Canterbury, Istanbul and Utrecht. This year we were invited to Rome, the seat of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which is led by Cardinal Kurt Koch from Switzerland but was represented at the conference by his deputy Bishop Brian Farrell and the Revd Dr Andrzej Choromanski. We stayed at the convent of the Sisters of Holy Child Mary in Vatican City.
Established around 20 years ago, the conference is not an official institution, does not pass resolutions and does not issue press releases. Its primary aim is to enable the members to inform each other about important events and current developments in their churches. Each meeting also has an overarching theme of current interest. This year, as in 2015, the conference focused on the compatibility of bilateral dialogues between two churches with respect to a third church, regardless of whether it is in full communion with the other two. The discussion centred on not only the right methods, but also the different aims, strategies and definitions of “unity” and “full communion”, of which not all of the attendees were fully aware. Other key themes this year were the persecution of Christians around the world and the refugee situation. These were also addressed in an audience with Pope Francis.
The Chair and Secretary of the CS/CWC generally hold their posts for two to four years by rotation. These positions are currently held by Dr Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, and Dr Ganoune Diop from the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists. Next year the conference meets in November in Bogota, Colombia, seat of the General Secretariat of the Mennonite World Conference. The venue for 2018 is the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy near Geneva, Switzerland. This meeting will be of particular significance because it includes the largest number of churches, namely:
The churches represented by the World Council of Churches in Geneva, which today account for only around one-third of the world’s Christians;
The Roman Catholic Church, which also accounts for around one-third;
The churches not in the World Council of Churches, especially the Pentecostal churches and the World Evangelical Alliance, accounting for the remaining one-third.
Bishop Dr. Harald Rein, Secretary of the International Bishops’ Conference
Photo: L’osservatore romano