Theodore Gill Co-opted Staff Writer (World Council of Churches)
Proposals for reconfiguration of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) were introduced to the CEC Assembly in Budapest on the afternoon of Thursday, July 4.
Discussion of the recommendations, and possible amendments, and amendments to the amendments, will occupy small group and full plenary sessions until action is taken at the Assembly’s conclusion on Monday, July 8.
The Uppsala Report on restructuring was introduced by CEC’s Revision Working Group (RWG).
Appointed following the last CEC Assembly at Lyon, France in 2009, the 15-member RWG consulted on possible changes with the member churches of CEC before completing its work at a meeting in Uppsala, Sweden in November 2012.
Among recommendations in The Uppsala Report is a streamlined structure eliminating separate commissions dealing with distinctive areas such as dialogue among churches and the lobbying of European institutions on issues of common concern.
The new principal governing body would be a smaller council meant to achieve greater efficiency and financial savings.
The goal of the report was explained to the Assembly by RWG co-moderators Mag. Katerina Karkala-Zorba, a theologian from the Church of Greece, and Mr. Colin Ride, Europe secretary in the Methodist Church of Great Britain.
They described the aim of their group’s recommendations as a renewed CEC characterised by both good governance and good management.
Karkala-Zorba reminded the Assembly, “The case for reform was made at Lyon, and ample opportunity for consultation was given to our member churches in the first half of 2012.”
Ride expressed the hope that a renewed CEC would “move beyond the silos of existing commission structures.” The question for this Assembly, he added, is whether the proposed organizational model is workable.
Clear and unambiguous statements of the organisation’s vision, mission and values are intended to suggest an approach to the churches’ fellowship that is holistic, coherent, simple, representative and collaborative.
In questioning from Assembly delegates, concerns were raised about the precise nature of future financing and budgets, the representation of women, laity, youth and minority churches in the context of a smaller governing council, as well as the effect of a new structure on CEC’s relations with the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, a body that has considered joining CEC.
The RWG report, unanswered questions that have been raised, and a series of proposed amendments from member churches will now be reviewed in small working groups before discussion returns to the plenary hall.
Ride warned the delegates to “beware assembly fever, and the law of unintended consequences” even as they seek solutions for the sake of CEC’s future.