Christian Unity Plays Role in Developing Ecumenical Spirituality, says Kobia

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches has addressed Swiss church leaders on the hallmarks of ecumenical spirituality in a service to start the 2006 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which began Wednesday.

|TOP|Preaching at a service in the French-language church in the Swiss capital, Bern, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia said the marks of ecumenical spirituality are “readiness to rethink and to be converted”, as well as a willingness “to bear the otherness of the other, including refugees, people of another colour and other faiths, the old and the poor – all God’s people.”

The WCC general secretary has been in Bern for the last two days as part of his first official visit to the churches of the country that is also home to the WCC headquarters.

The bearing of the otherness “is not a simple matter”, Kobia said during the service, but something that requires Christians to “develop the spiritual capacity to hear and see the grace of God in the other, [...] the capacity to feel the pulse of the world around us to listen to the voice of those far and near.”

He said the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has a “very significant role” to play in such an endeavour. “As we meet, sing, pray and worship together here in Bern in the context of the universality of the world-wide Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, [...] we are one with our brothers and sisters in Bolivia, in Kiribati, in Botswana and, yes, with our Irish brothers and sisters who have prepared the liturgical materials we are using this week."

|QUOTE|Kobia also gave thanks to God for the “world-wide community” that each year comes “together in spirit to pray for God’s energy and guidance in search of unity.”

“Prayer remains at the heart of the unity that we seek,” he said, adding that it is a unity “not just for our sake, but also for the sake of the world.”

During his two-day visit to the Swiss capital, Kobia met with the leadership of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (SEK-FEPS) and its member churches.

In his discussion with SEK-FEPS, Kobia focussed on ecumenism in the 21st century, bringing out issues such as confessionalism in the face of emerging mega-churches, the declining influence of the churches in Europe, and such possible ecumenical models as Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI).

|AD|The Swiss church leaders indicated a keenness for SEK-FEPS to become more involved with the WCC’s 2001 – 2010 Decade to Overcome Violence, particularly in light of the 2007 focus for DOV on Europe.

The Protestant churches also expressed an interest in collaborating with the WCC on globalisation and, more particularly, on water.

Rev. Kobia also met with Moritz Leuenberger, the president of Switzerland’s seven-member Federal Council, and Micheline Calmy-Rey, federal councillor responsible for foreign affairs.

In his meeting with Leuenberger, Kobia was able to discuss the WCC’s role and work, as well as discuss with him the WCC’s views on the topic of access to water, an emerging issue in Switzerland and other parts of the world.

Rev. Kobia, in his meeting with Calmy-Rey, congratulated the Swiss government on being “at the forefront in the UN on security and human rights issues”, “but indicated that “there are more expectations in relation to the third pillar [of the EU], development”, particularly in regard to Switzerland’s overseas development assistance.