Mary Tanner commends cooperation between the WCC and CEC
At the close of the 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) in Budapest, Dame Mary Tanner hailed the emergence of a new constitution for the organization of 120 Anglican, Old Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches. She expressed the hope that this pattern of governance may provide “structures of grace” for churches and the world.
Tanner, a lay theologian from the Church of England, has served since 2006 as the European president of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The general secretary of the WCC, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, brought greetings to the CEC Assembly at its opening on 3 July, and Dr Tanner offered her remarks on the final morning, 8 July.
The principal business of the Budapest Assembly was the amendment and adoption of a newly redesigned legal basis for CEC.
Tanner observed that “structures are important. Get them wrong and they impede the work and make us turn inward and become fractious. Get them right and then, with generosity and trust, they can be structures of grace through which, even on the most divisive issues, we can reach the point of saying – It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” [Acts 15:28].
A key consequence of the new system is that the general secretariat will move “as soon as possible” from Geneva, Switzerland to Brussels, Belgium where it will be merged with other CEC offices. The secretariat has been located in Geneva since the Conference was founded in 1959.
Tanner said, “One hope I have for the years ahead is for a closer partnership between the Conference of European Churches and the World Council of Churches, even if CEC is no longer based in Geneva. We really do need to listen to one another more intentionally and to receive the insights from one another’s work.”
While conceding that constitutional renewal had been “a long and, at times, a strained process”, Tanner told the Assembly, “What has impressed me as you struggled to renew your constitution is the number of times you reminded one another of the need for right attitudes. You have so often said that you need to listen to one another more intently, to build trust, to act with generosity and love.”