Bible Media News (BMN)* had the privilege to do an interview with Rev. Dr. theol. habil. Benjamin Simon from the World Council of Churches. Rev. Benjamin Simon is also the Programme Executive for Church Relations, professor at the Ecumenical Institute Bossey and Managing Editor of the International Review of Mission.
In the interview we speak with The World Council of Churches about their relation to South Africa, goals and so much more!
BMN: How many churches from accross the world does the World Council of Churches represent?
Rev. Dr. theol. habil. Benjamin Simon: Since our last Central Committee meeting in February 2022, we do have 352 member churches, in more than 150 countries representing over 600 million Christians. It is wonderful to see that even more churches are lining up to become members of WCC in the next few years.
Amongst the member churches we do have Orthodoxe churches, as well as Protestants like Methodists, Lutherans and reformed, we do have churches from the Anglican Communion, and even some charismatic-pentecostal as well as African Instituted Churches.
BMN: What is your relation to the churches in South Africa, where Bible Media News are based?
Rev. Dr. theol. habil. Benjamin Simon: In the Republic of South Africa (RSA) we do have 12 member churches. Just recently, the Apostolic Faith Mission was welcomed as a new member church of WCC.
WCC and its member churches in RSA are very closely tied with each other. Many programs are run together and deep corporations are ongoing. This is also the case with the South African Council of Churches.
During Apartheid, the South African churches experienced a strong support from WCC member churches from all over the world. Through the experiences in RSA, Racism became one of our most prominent programs at that time.
BMN: What is your perspective on churches working together (from all spheres) towards a common goal?
Rev. Dr. theol. habil. Benjamin Simon: WCC is mainly working on three issues: Justice, Reconciliation and Unity. Those three pillars of our work are guiding us. The main focus is to realize the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 17,21 “that they all may be one” – hereby, we do not see ourselves in becoming one in uniformity. It is rather about becoming one in diversity.
Even that our member churches are coming from very diverse contexts and traditions, the Gospel of Jesus Christ unites us. Fully aware that interpretations can sometimes differ, we need to sit together and learn from each other. A lot of empathy and patience is necessary. WCC also has an academic institute, The Ecumenical Institute Bossey where I do have the joy of being a faculty member too. Every year we welcome around 40 postgraduate students for either 6 or 12 month.
They all represent the diversity of WCC-member churches and even some non-member churches. They study and live under one roof. This is a life-changing experience for them. The orthodox monk is suddenly in a class together with a South African Pentecostal student and both are asked to prepare prayers…This requests empathy, the will to learn and to be humble. A wonderful preparation for more ecumenical cooperation.
BMN: What is your vision and the change your organization wants to make (the impact) on the world?
Rev. Dr. theol. habil. Benjamin Simon: The challenges in the world are too big, for ecclesial individualism. WCC brings the churches together. WCC offers a platform to cooperate and to get to know each other, to eradicate prejudices, to learn from each other and to act and pray together.
Christians and actually people of good faith need to talk with one voice, need to address injustices and exploitations and to speak up with one voice to share the good message of the Gospel. Actually, this voice needs to be a prophetic voice, speaking into the societies in which we are living as Christians. It is not enough if churches are only observers. We need to speak up, to raise our voice.
I think personally that WCC is able to be that voice. A voice, which is heard by governments and representatives of other religions, which can make a change.
BMN: How do you think a Christian can make a positive change in the community?
Rev. Dr. theol. habil. Benjamin Simon: Taking up the idea from above that Churches should speak up with a prophetic voice, I would say, that this concerns every single Christian. We are all called to be “Salt and Light” (Mt. 5) to or rather in the World. We are part of this world. Hence, it is important that Christians contribute to a change in community, transforming societies to become a better and safer place. We are all called to be that prophetic voice.
More about The World Council of Churches:
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, “so that the world may believe.” (John 17:21)
The World Council of Churches (WCC) is the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity.
Follow their website here: https://www.oikoumene.org/
- Bible Media News (BMN)* is an independent faith-based media organization.
- This is the first installment of a series of short interviews with faith leaders.