Churches in Pacific strengthen ecumenical collaboration
Qualities of the Pacific region ΓÇô communal life, unbroken tradition of faith, work to combat injustice, deep scriptural grounding ΓÇô are valuable contributions toward fulfilling the World Council of Churches (WCC) call for a ΓÇ£pilgrimage of justice and peaceΓÇ¥, said Rev. Dr MeleΓÇÖana Puloka, WCC president for the Pacific.
Qualities of the Pacific region – communal life, unbroken tradition of faith, work to combat injustice, deep scriptural grounding – are valuable contributions toward fulfilling the World Council of Churches (WCC) call for a “pilgrimage of justice and peace”, said Rev. Dr Mele’ana Puloka, WCC president for the Pacific.
Puloka was responding to a presentation by Natasha Klukach, the WCC’s programme executive for relations with the WCC member churches, regional and national ecumenical organizations. In her presentation, Klukach invited reflections from the Pacific churches on how they may participate in the “pilgrimage of justice and peace” – a vision promoted by the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea in 2013.
These conversations took place at the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) Executive Committee, meeting from 2 to 7 November in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand.
The PCC represents 34 member churches and national councils of churches across the Pacific region from a range of confessional backgrounds including Anglican, Congregationalist, Lutheran, United and Uniting, Free Protestant, Free Wesleyan and Methodist. The WCC has some 17 member churches in the region.
“A significant aspect of conversations at the PCC Executive Committee meeting was how relationships between churches can be strengthened to enhance their ecumenical commitment,” said Rev. Francois Pihaatae, the PCC general secretary.
“There is a wide range of issues facing the Pacific, and it is only through ecumenical fellowship and cooperation we can address these issues as churches.”
“I am very hopeful for the future. There are many ways the WCC and the PCC can work together on issues and challenges of common concern – locally and globally. We are grateful for how the WCC has shown support to the PCC,” Pihaatae added.
The work of the PCC was reviewed at the meeting. While financial resources remain a challenge for the PCC, outreach of its programmes and ecumenical engagement was seen to be offering a number of possibilities for collaboration with the WCC. The areas for such collaboration included the WCC’s programmes on Faith and Order, diakonia, climate justice, women in church and society and church relations.
The PCC Executive Committee also welcomed participants from the Greja Kristen Injili Di Tanah Papua (GKI) in West Papua. Dr Fransina Yoteni, WCC Central Committee member and Jan Bastian Rumbrar, secretary of the department of Partnership and Ecumenical Relations, were also present at the meeting.
The discussions revolved around partnerships among churches in the Pacific and how they can address issues faced by the churches. The WCC statement on the Way of Just Peace from the WCC 10th Assembly was referenced by representatives of the churches present in Auckland as “a sign of hope and solidarity”.
“It is a sign of hope,” said Temaia Mackenzie of the newly named Kiribati Uniting Church, previously known as the Kiribati Protestant Church, a WCC member church. The church has recently welcomed other denominational families, including Congregationalists, Evangelicals, Anglicans and Presbyterians. The Kiribati Uniting Church now represents approximately one-third of the population of Kiribati. As Mackenzie explained, “the church wants to see itself as a dynamic, growing and developing entity”. The “ecumenical witness of change in Kiribati” was celebrated by the PCC.
The meeting also signified a time of transition. John Doom, former WCC staff member and former WCC president for the Pacific, completed his term with the PCC Executive Committee. He welcomed Puloka in her new role as the WCC president for the Pacific. He offered a gift of an oikoumene pendant made of pearl shell to wear as she carries out her responsibilities with the WCC. Doom was honoured by the PCC for his “years of wisdom, service and unfailing vision and commitment for ecumenism in the region”.