Tradition dictates that an issue of The Ecumenical Review lacking one, dominant theme is headlined "An Ecumenical Miscellany". Miscellany, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), is a descendent of the Latin word miscellancus, meaning "a hash of broken meat". The dictionary also demonstrates that use of the term in editorial introductions is not necessarily inspiring. In 1671, an English physician named Salmon prefaced his collected medical observations with this salutation: "Wonder not, Courteous Reader, at the Appearance of this early, or untimely fruit: a Miscelany only intended for our own private use." More appealing is one of the OED's definitions: "Miscellany ... A book, volume or literary production containing miscellaneous pieces on various subjects". This is what we intend to present, Courteous Reader: a compilation of intriguing articles, reports and book reviews devoid of overdone meat or unripe fruit.
At the beginning of this year, The Ecumenical Review offered a "theme issue" on the final report of the special commission on Orthodox participation in the World Council of Churches. In the article "A Remarkable Document" (Jan. 2003, pp. 56-66), Heinz Joachim Held analyzed the commission's report. In the process, he challenged his fellow Protestant ecumenists with this question (pp. 61-62): "Are we prepared to offer a constructive place in our own confessional house to the historic path and experiences and theological convictions of the Orthodox that we might find foreign, and do this in such a way that we can in some respect accept them for ourselves and allow ourselves to be touched--and changed--by them?" Held, a former moderator of the WCC's central committee, contributes to such an outcome by providing in our lead article a reminder of the vital role played by Orthodox churches from the Council's genesis to the present day. This review serves as testimony that there never has been, nor should there ever be, a "world council" of churches without the participation of Orthodox Christians.
This issue also features two pairs of articles written from the context of contemporary South Africa. Maake Masango and Ben de Klerk address issues of leadership in church and state. Gerald West and J.M. Vorster write on ramifications of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. Masango's interest in leadership has been enhanced through a responsibility bestowed by the WCC's central committee: from August 2002 through August 2003 he chaired the search committee for a new general secretary. In a reflective essay on leaders, de Klerk makes the case that Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have become "living icons of reconciliation" in a divided world. On the subject of HIV/AIDS, West describes African programmes of Bible study that seek the meaning of disease and suffering within the providence of God. Vorster contrasts the HIV-infected patient's right to privacy with others' rights to health and essential information.
Yet another pairing of articles speaks to ecumenical efforts on behalf of social justice and sustainable community. Daniel McFee, a scholar whose expertise lies in the field of environmental ethics, revisits discussions of the 1990s--many of them in the pages of this journal--on the place of the WCC within the ranks of "civil society" institutions. His reappraisal suggests that the WCC and its ecumenical partners, through their unconventional approaches to global issues, may be redefining the meaning of civil society. On a more practical plane of discourse, Dennis Frado and Gail Lerner provide an eye-witness description of how ecumenical teams have been involved in world summits and other conferences convened under the auspices of the United Nations.
The WCC's central committee met in Geneva at the end of August and beginning of September 2003. As always, The Ecumenical Review preserves key documents from the meeting, including reports of the moderator, general secretary and public issues committee. Media coverage has highlighted aspects of these pronouncements: expressions of hope for renewed inter-religious dialogue and the reconfiguration of Christian ecumenical encounter; obstacles to communion with Catholic, evangelical and pentecostal churches that underline the significance of many Orthodox questions rehearsed in H.J. Held's earlier article; pleas for the resolution of international confrontations. In addition, the central committee is sending to the churches for their review and comment a document on the need for "a church of and for all", fully accessible to able and disabled people alike. In a final document from the central committee meeting, The Ecumenical Review records the acceptance speech of the Rey. Dr Samuel Kobia of Kenya following his election as the sixth general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
Konrad Raiser will retire at the end of this calendar year, and Samuel Kobia will succeed him in an office once graced by Willem A. Visser 't Hooft, Eugene Carson Blake, Philip Potter and Emilio Castro. Of importance to a select few, Sam also will succeed Konrad as the editor of The Ecumenical Review. As 2003 draws to its close and 2004 begins, occasions will present themselves to honour Dr Raiser's unique contribution to the ecumenical movement--and to welcome Dr Kobia to this new dimension of his ministry.
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|Publication:||The Ecumenical Review|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2003|
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