Canadians forge international links at assembly

Published April 1, 2006

A significant Canadian Anglican contingent attended the general assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), held Feb.14-23 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, continuing a tradition of deep Canadian involvement with the international church group.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to network with Christians from around the globe. I ran into people that I’d met from virtually all of my travels in the last year and a half – Armenia, China, Cuba,” said Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, the Canadian primate.

Archbishop Hutchison attended as one of three Canadian Anglican delegates, accompanying Canon John Steele, from Victoria, and Jillian Harris, an indigenous representative from Vancouver Island, both from the diocese of British Columbia.

Held every seven years, it was the ninth general assembly. About 700 delegates representing the 348 member churches of the WCC attended along with 3,200 other participants. They attended plenary sessions, workshops, ecumenical conversations, youth events and Bible study at the Pontifical University of Rio Grande do Sul. Porto Alegre is the largest city in southern Brazil with a population of 1.5 million.

Rev. Maylanne Maybee, co-ordinator for mission and justice education for the Anglican national office in Toronto, also attended. On the first day, she wrote in a blog (Internet diary) that “coming to an event like this was like joining a mini society – a society not defined by nationality or denomination, but by a shared faith in Jesus Christ and in his message of love, hope, justice and possibility.”

Ms. Maybee led a workshop on the Gospel in the context of social justice and connected with international members of the Urban Rural Mission (URM), a WCC social and economic justice program. Ms. Maybee is the incoming moderator of URM Canada.

After a hectic, but inspiring two weeks, she wrote, “At its best, the council is far more than an organization or a bureaucracy – it has offered sanctuary to the displaced, pioneered social movements, and participated in transformative moments in history.”

Archbishop Hutchison noted that Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in ending apartheid in South Africa, “gave the world council a great deal of credit for the lifting of apartheid. When all the churches of the globe speak with one voice, they have to be taken into account.”

The Canadian primate was involved in an ecumenical conversation, attended by about 40 people, on sexuality. “There were a few theological presentations on interpretation of Scripture. Mostly we shared where we were at (on sexuality). My group included people from Norway, Iceland, Germany, Zimbabwe, the United States. The tone was very civil indeed. It was honest information seeking,” he commented.

A group from the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund included three young participants: Kendra Hastie, Matt Koovisk and Laura Marie Piotrowicz. They traveled to indigenous communities outside Porto Alegre. Archbishop Hutchison also noted that there was a gathering of all the Anglican youth at the assembly and they established a new youth network on the Internet.

Mr. Steele was elected to the WCC’s governing body, the 150-member central committee, following Alice Jean (A.J.) Finlay, who ended her seven-year term. Archbishop Hutchison noted that Canadian Anglicans have had a long history of significant involvement with the WCC. His predecessor, Archbishop Michael Peers, who had been on a special committee examining relations with Orthodox churches, attended the Brazil assembly and the late Archbishop Edward Scott, Archbishop Peers’ predecessor, was moderator of the WCC central committee in 1975.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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