Conciliar process

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“Conciliar process” is the name given to the Christian churches' common path of learning about justice, peace and the integrity of creation .

This movement began on the VI. Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Vancouver, Canada in 1983, where the deployment of weapons of mass destruction was discussed and identified as a crime against humanity. To be able to make a difference, the churches should work together for peace.

The roots

At an international church conference in the early thirties of the 20th century, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer called for a peace council for all Christian churches.

At the meeting of the Ecumenical Council for Practical Christianity and the ecumenical youth conference in Fanø / Denmark in 1934, five years before the Second World War, he stated in a morning devotion to Ps 85  LUT that later became famous :

“Who calls for peace, so that the world hears it, is compelled to hear that all peoples must be happy about it? Only the one great ecumenical council of the Holy Church of Christ from all over the world can say that the world must grind its teeth to hear the word of peace. "

Bonhoeffer called for an all-Christian peace council for the first time and at the same time awarded this mandate to the representatives of the ecumenical community that had been assembled. His idea followed on from the tradition of the early church councils.

The Catholic priest Max Joseph Metzger expressed the idea of ​​a Christian union council for the sake of peace a little later.

Basically new possibilities for the conciliar thought on the part of the Roman Catholic Church created Pope John XXIII. The Second Vatican Council as a reform council in the Roman Catholic Church also had an impact on the ecumenical movement and made the prospect appear possible that Christians could come together in an ecumenical council.

But the idea of ​​the Council also moved others. The brotherhood of Taizé , near the mother monastery of the medieval reform movement of Cluny, pursued the idea of ​​a council of youth some time later in order to let the unity of Christians for justice and peace grow from the younger generation. In particular, the spirituality of Taizé with its songs, prayers and forms of worship had an impact.

The ecumenical learning movements that were set in motion took place from a global perspective - due to different contexts in each case - at different times: in Western Europe, different questions were posed than in Eastern Europe or in Africa or the other regions of the world. That only changed again through the gradual recognition of common questions of faith, life and survival. The resistance to the stationing of nuclear missiles in Europe (in particular as a result of the “retrofitting decision”) with a high risk of their use provided significant impetus. More were added.

At the end of the sixties and the beginning of the seventies, a debate about the connection between peace, development and the environment had developed in science and the media.

The beginning of 1983 in Vancouver

At the full assembly of the World Council of Churches in Vancouver in 1983, the GDR delegation then proposed an all-Christian peace council. It must “be checked whether the time is ripe for a general Christian peace council, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer thought necessary fifty years ago in view of the impending Second World War.” But a council was not possible. This resulted in an agreement on a “conciliar process of mutual commitment to justice, peace and the integrity of creation.” This conciliar process was about a Christian covenant against racism, sexism, militarism, oppression of the castes and class rule.

Consultations in Germany

The concern of the “conciliar process” received a broad public impact in German-speaking countries in 1985 at the German Evangelical Church Congress in Düsseldorf through the appeal of the well-known physicist and cultural philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker to the church leadership to convene an all-Christian peace council for the sake of endangering survival. In May 1987, the general assembly of the Working Group of Christian Churches in the Federal Republic of Germany and Berlin (West) took up the request made to them to invite the churches of the Federal Republic to a forum for justice, peace and the integrity of creation for the first time in their 40-year history. The aim of this forum should be to develop the biblical-theological, spiritual and ethical aspects of the topic. The forum met in two parts in 1988 in Königstein and Stuttgart. In the GDR, the Solidarity Church working group and the Church from Below initiative were formed in the second half of the 1980s , which want to work reformistically within the official church and invoke the conciliar process.

The ecumenical declaration of God's gifts, passed in Stuttgart in 1988 - our task , the creation of which theologians from all major churches helped to create , is thematically dedicated to the responsibility of human beings for the protection of life and the global living space as its precondition. The Christian obligation to protect species and animals is derived from it theologically and ethically (item 4.35 of the declaration). In essence, however, the text deals with the resource and energy issue, which requires not only economic and political measures, but also a reform of lifestyles : The general consumption of raw materials must be reduced urgently, but " nuclear energy [...] in a human race, which did not overcome the war cannot be the basis of the world's energy supply ”. The social, technical, ecological and military risks associated with its operation are decisive for the detailed rejection of the nuclear industry (item 4.41). The churches, according to the declaration, are called upon as “advocates of the speechless creation” to stand up for an “ecologically compatible economy and a comprehensive ecological orientation in politics” (Zf. 4.6.5.).

In 1987 the Working Group of Christian Churches in the GDR began preparing an ecumenical assembly for justice, peace and the integrity of creation in the GDR , which then took place in Dresden, Magdeburg and again in Dresden in 1988/89. With the appeal “A hope learns to walk” she turned to the congregations to participate with suggestions in the preparation of the meeting, whereupon around 10,000 congregation members as well as those who were distant from the church sent written proposals.

In the meantime, the ecumenical movement concentrated on all continents what agreement had emerged. This preparation took place on different levels:

  • through cooperation processes within Christian denominational families (Orthodox, Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed, Anglicans, historic peace churches, etc.)
  • through cross-denominational conferences on the various subject areas
  • through dialogue with representatives of other religions
  • through discussions with scientists
  • by working with secular movements for solidarity, disarmament and the environment
  • by contacting governments and international organizations
  • through intensive preparation in the different world regions with their different contexts.

First European Ecumenical Assembly 1989 in Basel

The first European Ecumenical Assembly “Peace in Justice” met in 1989 in Basel (Switzerland). For the first time in the history of the past thousand years, a representative all-Christian assembly came together. This was done at the invitation of the Conference of European Churches (CEC, based in Geneva, where the Orthodox, Anglicans, Old Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed, Free Churches and Peace Churches are represented) and the Council of Roman Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Europe (CCEE, based in St. Gallen ).

Their results are reflected both in symbolic actions and in a formulated document of agreement in questions of analysis, common hope and theology as well as perspectives for action. In the final declaration "Peace in Justice", the participants demand "an ecological world order" (Item 13 of the declaration) and, by reflecting on the principles of creation theology , arrive at a surprisingly open, self-critical assessment of Christianity:

“- We have failed because we have not given testimony of God's caring love for all and every creature and because we have not developed a lifestyle that corresponds to our understanding of ourselves as part of God's creation. […]
- We failed because we did not question the political and economic systems decisively enough […] which exploit the world's natural resources only for their own benefit and perpetuate poverty and marginalization. (Zf. 43) "

The declaration also sets a striking ecological accent in that it evaluates the natural environment as a legal entity and sets barriers to individualism at the latest where the “rights of all creatures” (item 45) are at risk.

World Assembly 1990 in Seoul

The global ecumenical world assembly finally met in 1990 in Seoul (South Korea) a year later with the participation of all Christian denominational families. The Vatican, as the representative of the Roman Catholic Church, also participated financially and in the preparatory staff and sent a delegation of observers.

The statements on the conciliar process mostly follow a common structure, namely the three-step “See - Judge - Act”: First, the life situation is subjected to an analysis. Then the biblically attested and recognized gospel is named as a criterion, this basically includes the readiness for one's own reorientation. Finally, conclusions are drawn for acting as Christians, congregations, churches and demands are made on decision-makers in society (e.g. governments, members of parliament, local councils).

The most important results of the World Assembly for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation were adopted in Seoul - in accordance with the "Ten Commandments" - as the "Ten Basic Convictions" of Christian churches. They summarize what Christians today can say together on questions of social ethics.

The ten core tenets of the Seoul Ecumenical World Assembly in 1990

(in a very shortened version)

Core Belief I

“We affirm that all exercise of power must be accounted for before God. The world belongs to God. Therefore, the manner in which human power and authority are exercised should serve God's purpose for this world and be accountable to the people on whose behalf this is done [...] We affirm that the manner in which human power and Authority to stand under the judgment of God and have to be accountable to people. It includes the right of people to fully participate. In Christ God made the meaning of power clear once and for all as compassionate love; it is stronger than the power of death [...] "

Basic belief II

“We affirm that God is on the side of the poor. Poverty is a scandal and a crime. It is blasphemy to say that it is God's will. Jesus came so that we might have 'life in all its fullness' (Jn 10:10). Through his death and resurrection, Christ exposed and therefore conquered the powers that deny the poor their right to life in its fullness (Luke 4: 16-21). God stands on the side of the poor [...] Those whom society treats as the 'least', Jesus calls his brothers and sisters (Matt. 25: 31-46). We recognize the need for diaconal services and urgent measures in emergency situations, but today we have to recognize that the needs of the 'least' can only be satisfied, that the structures of the world economy are being fundamentally changed [...] "

Core Belief III

“We affirm that all races and peoples are equal. In Jesus Christ all people, regardless of their race, caste or ethnic origin, are reconciled to God and one another [...] We affirm that people of every race, caste and ethnic group are equal [...] "

Belief IV

“We affirm that men and women are made in the image of God. God created men and women in his own image (Genesis 1:27). This likeness of man is the basis for a living relationship between women and men and for the transformation of society [...] Women and men are together the new creation in Christ '(2 Cor 5:17) [...] We become every patriarchal structure resist, which justifies violence against women and defines their role in a society in which labor and their sexuality are exploited [...] "

Basic belief V

“We affirm that truth belongs to the foundation of a community of free people. Jesus lived a life of truthfulness. Because he lived God's truth, he came into conflict with the values ​​and powers of his society [...] We affirm that access to truth and to education, information and means of communication is a fundamental human right [...] We undertake to create opportunities through which the marginalized and the underprivileged can learn. Those who have been silenced should be able to make their voice heard. "

Core Belief VI

“We affirm the peace of Jesus Christ. The only possible basis for lasting peace is righteousness (Isaiah 32:17) […] Jesus said: 'Blessed are those who make peace' and 'Love your enemies'. As the community of the crucified and risen Christ, the church is called to stand up for reconciliation in the world [...] In Jesus Christ, God overcame enmity between nations and peoples and now wants to give us peace in righteousness [...] according to the biblical Faith means true peace that every person is in a safe and secure relationship with God, with one's neighbor, with nature and with oneself. God's righteousness protects the 'least of all' (Matthew 25: 31-46), those who are most vulnerable (Deuteronomy 24). God is the advocate of the poor (Amos 5) […] Peace cannot be achieved or maintained through a doctrine of national security […] We affirm God's peace in all its meaning. We will use all possibilities to create justice and peace and to resolve conflicts through active nonviolence. We will resist any understanding and system of security that provides for the use of weapons of mass destruction [...] We undertake to make our personal relationships non-violent. We will work towards renouncing war as a legal means of resolving conflicts [...] "

Core Belief VII

“We affirm that God loves creation. God, the Creator, is the origin and sustainer of the whole cosmos. God loves creation [...] Since creation is from God and his goodness pervades all creation, we should keep all life sacred [...] We affirm that the world as God's work has its own wholeness and that land, water, air , Forests, mountains and all creatures, including humans, are 'good' in God's eyes [...] "

Belief VIII

“We affirm that the earth belongs to God. The land and the waters mean life to the people [...] We therefore affirm that the land belongs to God. Humans should use soil and water in such a way that the earth can regularly restore its life-giving power, that its integrity is protected and that animals and living beings have the space they need to live. We will resist any policy that treats land as a mere commodity [...] We commit ourselves to solidarity with indigenous peoples who fight for their culture, their spirituality and their rights to land and water. We commit ourselves to solidarity with farm workers and poor farmers who campaign for land reform, as well as with seasonal farm workers. We also undertake to respect the ecologically necessary habitat of other living beings. "

Core Belief IX

“We reaffirm the dignity and commitment of the younger generation. [...] Jesus showed a special appreciation for the younger generation. He said that whoever was not like a child would not come into the kingdom of God ( Lk 18.17  EU ), and Paul told Timothy not to allow anyone to disparage him because of his youth ( 1 Tim 4:12  EU ) […] We reaffirm the children's claim to dignity, which results from their particular vulnerability and their need for attention and love […] We reaffirm the fact that young people bring creativity and willingness to sacrifice to build a new society [...] We will resist any policy or authority that disregards, abuses and exploits the rights of the young generation [...] "

Core Belief X

“We affirm that human rights are given by God. Justice and human rights are inextricably linked. The source of human rights is the justice of God, who frees his enslaved and impoverished people from oppression ( Ex 3.7-10  EU ) [...] The concept of human rights refers not only to individual rights, but also to collective social, economic rights and human cultural rights […] In order to protect and defend human rights, an independent judiciary is necessary. We will resist all structures and systems that violate human rights and deprive individuals and peoples of the opportunity to fully develop; in particular, we oppose torture , enforced disappearances , no trial executions and the death penalty . We commit ourselves to show solidarity with organizations and movements that work for the promotion and protection of human rights [...] "

In Seoul, Christianity spoke together. All denominations took part, including the largest, the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelicals as well.

As an essential result it can be stated that more than before in all parts of the world common reflection and common action of Christians in questions of the future have been linked.

After the World Ecumenical Assembly in Seoul, a new situation arose with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was over. The question of the abolition of weapons of mass destruction took a back seat. But the ecumenical learning movement for justice, peace and the integrity of creation (conciliar process) found its confirmation again at the general assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1991 in Canberra (Australia).

The same topic took up in 1992 the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. She stated that justice, peace and the environment are inseparable.

The German Ecumenical Assembly 1996 in Erfurt asked a little later "local churches and congregations to join forces and come to joint events on the occasion of the turn of the millennium, be it in the local and national area or at the level of world Christianity."

Second European Ecumenical Assembly 1997 in Graz

The common path of learning for justice, peace and the preservation of creation was continued with the Second European Ecumenical Assembly in Graz in 1997. A major result was the development of peace services in the churches of Europe.

Concretized at the 1998 WCC assembly in Harare

At the end of its Harare assembly in 1998, the WCC decided to prepare and proclaim a decade to overcome violence from 2001 to 2010. “Decade” denotes a period of ten, here ten years. The conciliar process thus finds concrete form, especially in the area of ​​peace. The Decade To Overcome Violence: Churches for Peace and Reconciliation 2001–2010 (“Decade To Overcome Violence” / DOV) tries to strengthen existing peace networks and encourage the creation of new networks. It invites you to work on the problem of violence and promotes creative projects in the field of overcoming violence. It calls for people to work together for peace, justice and reconciliation at the local, regional and global level and to work together with local communities, secular movements and members of other religions and to work together towards a culture of peace. Its aim is to empower people who are systematically oppressed by violence and to practice solidarity with all who work for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Finally, she wants to repent together for the complicity of the churches in the violence and think theologically about how the spirit, logic and practice of violence can be overcome. In their implementation, churches are strengthening training programs in non-violent and constructive conflict management, training and deploying peace workers and in continuing work on a theology of peace. One result is the common statement that there can be no theological justification of violence based on Christian faith.

Further specification through the “AGAPE” process

The AGAPE process (Alternative Globalization Addressing People and Earth / Alternative Globalization in the service of people and earth) expresses itself on questions of social and economic justice in a global context. During its course, more than a dozen consultations took place in different regions of the world. Human development within viable communities is the vision of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in its attitude to economic globalization. The summarizing term is "economics for life". The WCC thus strives for economic, financial and ecological justice holistically and with democratic participation at all levels. However, he believes it cannot be realized as long as the material abundance of a few continues to grow at the expense of the majority of the people in this world. The unlimited striving of a few individuals, social groups or corporations for more power, more profit and more property is untenable. It deprives many communities of the opportunity to meet their needs in harmony with the environment. Today globalization is one of the main causes of the growing gap between rich and poor, between north and south.

Third European Ecumenical Assembly 2007 in Sibiu (Hermannstadt)

The Third European Ecumenical Assembly took up the previous agreements. She designed the preparation as an ecumenical pilgrimage in 2006 and 2007 for Christians across Europe. A meeting in Sibiu (Hermannstadt) in Romania was the climax of the Ecumenical Assembly with 2500 delegates. The Ecumenical Assembly was supposed to make the contributions of the churches for the growing together of Europe publicly perceptible.

Precipitation of the conciliar process

The conciliar process with its summary of the terms “Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation” has found expression in the ecclesiastical as well as in the secular area. The preamble to the constitution of the Free State of Saxony, laws on the school system and the common hymnbook for the German-speaking Protestant churches should be mentioned. Numerous church offices and task descriptions take up this term summary.


  • Action Reconciliation / Peace Services (ASF) / Pax Christi (ed.): Ecumenical Assembly for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation ; Dresden-Magdeburg-Dresden; Göttingen 1990; ISBN 3-89246-019-1
  • Stephen Brown: From dissatisfaction to contradiction. The conciliar process for justice, peace and the integrity of creation as a pioneer of the peaceful revolution in the GDR . Verlag Otto Lembeck, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-87476-619-7
  • Lothar Coenen (ed.): On the way in matters of the future: The pocket book on the conciliar process. Stuttgart / Munich (Calwer Verlag) 1990. ISBN 9783466360789
  • Conference of European Churches (ed.): Peace in Justice. The official documents of the European Ecumenical Assembly 1989 in Basel ; Basel 1989; ISBN 3-7245-0681-3 ; Zurich 1989; ISBN 3-545-24074-6
  • Walter Müller-Römheld: Report from Vancouver 1983. Official report of the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches ; Frankfurt 1983; ISBN 3-87476-212-2
  • Peter Neuner: Ecumenical Theology: The Search for the Unity of the Christian Churches. Darmstadt (Scientific Book Society) 1997. ISBN 9783534189601 .
  • Ecumenical Society (ed.): Ecumenical Assembly from June 13-16, 1996 in Erfurt ; in: Oekumenischer Informationsdienst Aktuell 1996/2; Frankfurt am Main 1996; ISSN  0179-9959
  • Ecumenical meeting in Erfurt “Seek reconciliation - win life”. Official documentation ; Frankfurt 1996; ISBN 3-87476-321-8
  • Thorsten Philipp: Green zones of a learning community: Environmental protection as a place of action, effect and experience of the church. Munich (oekom) Munich 2009. ISBN 9783865811776
  • Michael Rosenberger, What Serves Life: Setting the Course in Creation Ethics in the Conciliar Process of 1987-89. Stuttgart (Kohlhammer) 2001. ISBN 9783170166974
  • Christian Sachse (ed.): “Coming of age to use freedom”. Political letters to the Ecumenical Assembly 1987-89 [in the GDR] ; Dictatorship and resistance 9; Münster 2004; ISBN 3-8258-7844-9
  • Ulrich Schmitthenner: The conciliar process. For justice, peace and the integrity of creation. A compendium. Series of publications Problems of Peace 1–2 / 98 edited by Pax Christi ; Meinhardt-Verlag: Idstein 1998; ISBN 3-933325-02-1
  • Ulrich Schmitthenner (ed.): Workbook for justice, peace and preservation of creation. With texts from Seoul ; Essen 1990; ISBN 3-924379-09-2
  • Ulrich Schmitthenner (ed.): Agreement and suggestion. Study Book for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation ; Essen 1993; ISBN 3-924379-33-5 ; Frankfurt 1993; ISBN 3-9803029-0-3
  • Katharina Seifert: Faith and Politics. The Ecumenical Assembly in the GDR 1988/89 ; Leipzig 2000; ISBN 3-7462-1362-2
  • Stylianos Tsompanidis: Orthodoxy and Ecumenism. Together on the way to justice, peace and the integrity of creation ; Münster 1999, ISBN 3-8258-4378-5

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Klein: "Peace and Justice." The politicization of the independent peace movement in East Berlin during the 1980s, Cologne, Weimar, Vienna: Böhlau Verlag 2007, p. 283.
  2. ^ Federation of Evangelical Churches in the GDR (ed.): Traveling together. Documents from the work of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in the GDR 1980-1987 , Berlin, 1989, p. 268.
  3. Thomas Klein: "Peace and Justice." The politicization of the independent peace movement in East Berlin during the 1980s, Cologne, Weimar, Vienna: Böhlau Verlag 2007, p. 284.
  4. ^ DBK German Bishops' Conference (ed.), (Written by Miriam Karen Niskowski) God's gifts - our task. The Stuttgart Declaration . Bonn 1988. Available at
  5. ^ Thorsten Philipp, Green Zones of a Learning Community: Environmental Protection as a Place of Action, Effect and Experience of the Church. Munich (oekom) Munich 2009. ISBN 978-3865811776 , pp. 142-143.
  6. ^ Thorsten Philipp, Green Zones of a Learning Community: Environmental Protection as a Place of Action, Effect and Experience of the Church. Munich (oekom) Munich 2009. ISBN 978-3865811776 , p. 144.
  7. quoted from: Ulrich Schmitthenner (ed.): Ecumenical World Assembly in Seoul 1990. Workbook for Justice, Peace and the Preservation of Creation ; Frankfurt / Essen 1990, p. 153f [Part II, basic convictions]