Some experiences and lessons from the World Council of Churches General Assembly


Known as the "Olympics" of the ecumenical world, it would be a pity to underestimate the importance of the World Council of Churches (WCC) General Assembly. Delegates from 352 member churches - representing more than 280 million Christians - are meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany, in early September 2022. It is the largest ecumenical event of this kind in the world.

A stand

Together with Katharina Dang, JC2033 ambassador in Germany, Olivier Fleury and I set up a stand to present the initiative. We tried to make it user-friendly by putting inflatable chairs and offering coffee...and Swiss chocolate. All in all, we were able to welcome or contact about a hundred people from all ecclesial and cultural backgrounds.  

A big thank you to Katharina, a faithful member of the JC2033 family, for her commitment during this week! She also wrote about her experiences of the meeting.

We got to know our immediate neighbours, namely a stand run by the World Communion of Reformed Churches and an Indian stand promoting justice for the "Dalits". Not far from us were also the stands of our friends from the Global Christian Forum and the Focolare, with whom we had several interactions. 

We had prayed for beautiful encounters. It seems to me that we were granted more than we could have dreamed. Some encounters were indeed surprising and even exciting! We are very grateful for this.

A Christ-centered encounter 

"Christ's love leads the world to reconciliation and unity" was the theme of this meeting. We liked the fact that Christ was at the heart of the meeting. Isn't that what we want to live with JC2033: to put the risen Christ at the center to walk together towards 2033? And to give him all the space! It seems to me that in Karlsruhe we have experienced a great spiritual unity... in a great diversity. It is above all his work; he has acted among us!

After the God-centered themes of the last three assemblies, the assembly focused on the heart of the Christian faith: Christ who loves us and calls us to be artisans of reconciliation and unity. The time has come to "give an account of the hope that is in us" (1 Peter 3:15): if we want to meet all without exclusion, it is because Christ died and rose for all.  

I was also impressed by the fact that posters were displayed all over the city presenting this theme and inviting the inhabitants of the city to more than a hundred meetings. In the squares, platforms with orchestras and testimonies shared the love of Christ. I thought that this could be a small taste of what Easter celebrations in 2033 could be like! 


Martin Hoegger next to friend of the JC2033 project Archbishop Job Getcha, and with Brother Alois of the Taizé Community

Unity and witness

While participating in this assembly, I also realised how relevant the values of JC2033 are: 'unity, witness and celebration'.  Here are two interventions that confirmed this. First, Pope Francis asked in his message to the Assembly: "How can we credibly proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without also committing ourselves as Christians to promote reconciliation among ourselves? Reconciliation among Christians is the fundamental condition for a credible mission of the Church. Ecumenism and mission go hand in hand and are interdependent. 

This is really the heart of the JC2033 process: to witness together to the risen Christ to all in unity. May each person in 2033 hear in his or her own mother tongue the Easter greeting: "Christ is risen! He is truly risen”. And there are now more than 7,500 languages!

Relationships are essential for getting to know each other and for deepening communion between churches and Christians. This is the conviction of Fr Ioan Sauca, the general secretary of the WCC. It is also ours, formed through so many visits to such diverse churches that we also try to bring together in the ecumenical gatherings we organize.

I. Sauca stressed in particular the importance of the Global Christian Forum, a platform between the WCC, the Catholic Church, the World Evangelical Alliance and the Pentecostal churches to broaden the experience of Christian unity. 

We have very good relations with this movement, in which we participate in French-speaking Switzerland, and with Casely Essamuah, his General Secretary, who has become a true friend who loves the JC2033 approach.

Through all the visits we have made so far, we too are making a small contribution to the communion between Churches. While participating in an "Ecumenical Conversation" on the theme of the unity of the Church, this statement gives me pause for thought: "World Christianity is growing faster than the ecumenical movement". And it is extremely fragmented with thousands of independent churches in the world. How do we reach out to these new churches and invite them to join a pilgrimage of reconciliation and unity? This is the question that many people in the WCC are asking.

Well, it seems to us that JC2033 is modestly contributing by seeking to bring small and large churches, movements, and communities into the fold. 


It is impossible to give an account of all the meetings we have been able to make. I think we were able to meet with the various leaders of the World Council and several Church authorities. Some who already knew us were happy to see us again. They all remembered us. This is the strength of this project, which is centered on the symbolic year 2033. They have not forgotten our visit! 

 However, I would like to mention some meetings with youth leaders from various churches. Fr Joseph Matusiak, from the Polish Orthodox Church, is president of Syndesmos, a network of Orthodox youth movements. He was very interested in the walk along the road to Emmaus that we want to propose every year and would like to invite young people to it. 

We had some beautiful sharing with Brothers Alois and Richard, from the Taizé Community. They invited us to come to Taizé for a meeting with young people from various Churches and movements, to prepare an ecumenical prayer that will take place in Rome, for the end of the "synodal journey", in October 2023. A meeting desired by Pope Francis!

Ande Sati Musa is a youth leader in a Lutheran church in Nigeria. He organizes congresses with thousands of young people and will speak about 2033.

Coming from a Protestant church in Berlin, a young man is responsible for a large youth movement in Germany. He has already spoken about JC2033 to his authorities... who have refused to discuss it! Ah...those "Neinsager"!

Father Mihály Kránitz is a professor of Catholic theology in Budapest. He is very happy with this initiative and will tell his students about it at the beginning of the new academic year...and invites us to visit the Churches in Hungary.

A "pilgrimage" to 2033

The theme of "pilgrimage" has been central to the work of the WCC since its 10th Assembly in Busan, Korea, in 2013. The image of pilgrimage refers to our identity. The risen Lord met his first disciples on a road as they walked on the morning of his resurrection. And the first Christians were called "people of the way" (Acts 9:2). 

The WCC emphasizes the importance of the journey or pilgrimage for Christian unity. Indeed, unity is built in the journey. And it is the Holy Spirit who makes it through our encounters, our commitment, and our fidelity. In this sense, the walk along the Road to Emmaus that we want to organize every year during the Easter season has met with a great response.  

I was very interested that William Wilson, president of the Pentecostal World Fellowship, believes that unity must first be lived out in our relationships with one another, and then in our mission to witness to reconciliation in Christ. 

And I was pleased that he invited the assembly to keep in mind the horizon of 2033. This is what he told the assembly in a plenary session: "In that year we will celebrate 2000 years since the Resurrection of Christ. Can we share the love of Christ together? Let us make the next ten years a decade of reconciliation, where we meet each other as never before!” After his speech, we had an influx of visitors to our stand.

Martin Hoegger - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

WCC Assembly: an Ambassador's Perspective

As an Ambassador for JC2033 in Germany, I had the opportunity to look after our presentation stand in the entrance to the congress center together with Olivier Fleury and Martin Hoegger and to talk to people from Karlsruhe and, of course, delegates and guests of the WCC 11th World Assembly. During quieter times I had the most beautiful view and the most wonderful summer temperatures.


JC2033 Ambassador Dr. Katharina Dang

I felt like I was in heaven because the people came from all corners of the world and exuded confidence in a friendly way. They were dressed in their national dress, a very colorful sight. A great diversity of young and old, women and men. What particularly struck me was how naturally accommodated the disabled were. Some in wheelchairs, others blind and guided by others.  There was a small African woman with a hunchback. There were also sign language interpreters for the deaf. All were cheerful and smartly dressed enjoying the Assembly included together. 

As on the last day our stands were already dismantled, I had time to attend the final plenary session. This was led by Dr. Agnes Abuom, a Kenyan development aid specialist and the first woman to chair the WCC Executive Committee since 2013. I enjoyed her calm manner of leading the discussion and voting on World Assembly resolutions on conflictual issues: the war in Ukraine, the relationship between Israel and Palestine, the commemoration of the Aramean genocide and the situation of Christians in Indonesia. The working groups had wrestled with each other over the wording until late into the night. The cooperation was respectful, other opinions and suggestions could also be brought forward. In the end we were able to go to the closing service with a good feeling, in which, like at the opening service, Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well was the focus of attention - and thus a woman who others looked down on became a witness to the risen Jesus.

Critical meeting of representatives of the Churches of Ukraine and Russia  at the initiative of the WCC | Orthodox Times (en)

Critical meeting of representatives of the Churches of Ukraine and Russia at the initiative of the WCC

As I shared about this time back home and in the church, I really came away feeling like there were moments where I touched heaven. Certainly, there were also very human moments, like a man who was verbally displeased when he saw the book of Olivier's vision in Russian on our table!  But overall, it was a very peaceful gathering, even while waiting in long lines for lunch, because that also offered us an opportunity to talk to each other. And with over 4000 believers from 120 countries there was so much to talk about.

Can you imagine what it will be like in  heaven!

Dr. Katharina Dang


Some more articles of Martin Hoegger on the Assembly

If you would like to read more about some aspects of the assembly, here are some other articles: 

- Karlsruhe. An ecumenism of the heart: 

A unity to be consolidated and widened:

- A Pilgrimage through the dark valleys :

- (French Article) Two young theologians from Western Switzerland in Karlsruhe: 

- World Council of Churches: Climate, ecology and theology: all connected! 

- World Assembly of the World Council of Churches: What expectations? 

Prinicpal Image Picture: Paul Jeffrey/WCC