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The two largest fellowships of Reformed churches worldwide moved one step closer to uniting under a common alliance, marking what some called a “momentous” event in ecumenical Christian history.
The executive committee of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) moved forward with a request by the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) to foster great cooperation and possibly start sharing projects and staff in the near future.
The WARC has 75 million members in 218 churches across 107 countries and the REC has 12 million members in 40 churches across 25 countries. The two groups have 27 common members churches and have been in bilateral talks since 1998.
The new relationship would deepen these discussions and change the nature of the two bodies’ relationships. Under the proposed agreement, which the REC General Council passed earlier this year, the REC would become a subsidiary organization within the WARC while still maintaining its autonomous identity. This would open doors to joint projects and joint staffing, cutting costs for both groups and fostering a stronger spirit of ecumenism among the world’s reformed churches.
“When the two organizations dare to journey together in God’s mission, our member churches will be served better and, in fact, our witness as Reformed churches will be stronger,” Setri Nyomi, general secretary of WARC, said in July when the REC initiated the invitation.
WARC Executive Council members applauded the closer partnership and greeted it with a singing of “Alleluia.”
“This is a very exciting proposal, one that will be of tremendous benefit to WARC and I hope, REC,” said Alexander Horsburgh of Scotland.
Susan Davies of the United States added, “We have just done something momentous.”
Talks between four members of each body will begin in early 2006. The WARC Executive Council meeting was held in Evian, France on Oct. 6-15.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches agreed Monday to unite with the Reformed Ecumenical Council to create a new global Reformed body representing more than 80 million Reformed Christians worldwide.
Leaders made the historic decision while attending the WARC’s executive committee meeting in Trinidad and Tobago after two days of in-depth discussions on the many aspects of the proposed merger.
“This is truly, truly [an] important moment,” said WARC president Clifton Kirkpatrick after the vote was taken, according to a WARC report. The global church head invited participants of the meeting to join together in singing the doxology after the vote.
His counterpart, REC president Douwe Visser, also recognized the significance of the time saying it was a “great moment.”
“I hope we can combine the efforts of these two organizations and have an even broader outreach than WARC and REC have at the moment,” Visser said.
“I have a feeling this new body will be the voice of the Reformed world,” he added.
In March, REC’s executive committee approved the idea of a new Reformed body tentatively called the World Reformed Communion. However, WARC on Monday requested more time to consider alternative names for the group.
WARC is a worldwide fellowship of 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches in 107 countries. REC represents 12 million Reformed Christians in 39 churches in 25 countries. Twenty-seven of REC’s churches are also WARC members.
“This is a historic moment. The Reformed family has demonstrated that we have the ability to engage together in a united fellowship and overcome division and for this we are thankful to God,” WARC general secretary Setri Nyomi said.
A WARC survey of member churches found that 41 churches supported the merger, while 6 churches raised some questions. None of the WARC churches who responded to the survey expressed opposition to the decision.
The new Reformed body intends to invite movements, agencies and theological institutions of the Reformed movement to become affiliates of the group.
The WARC executive committee meeting will conclude on Sunday.