The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser invited people to propose possible themes for the Council's upcoming ninth assembly, to take place in Porto Alegre in February 2006.
Raiser issued the invitation towards the end of an 11-17 May visit to Brazil. "The theme of the assembly should be relevant for Latin America and for Brazilian churches," he said.
Suggested themes should be sent to the WCC general secretary in Geneva, Switzerland, by 10 August. Two weeks later, the WCC's central committee will take a final decision on this, and other questions related to the assembly.
At the end of his trip, Raiser had many positive things to say about his visit to Brazil. "The Brazilian churches are extremely willing to accompany the process of preparing the assembly, and there are expectations that these preparations will give the joint work of the churches new energy," he said.
After receiving a promise of support from the Brazilian Roman Catholic Church, Raiser said that he expects significant Catholic participation in the assembly. The promise was made by Bishop Dom Sinésio Bohn, representing the Brazilian National Bishops' Conference (CNBB).
While the Roman Catholic Church is a not a member of the WCC, the CNBB is a member of the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (CONIC), the body that invited the WCC to hold its assembly in Porto Alegre. Raiser emphasized that this fact - unique in Latin America - is what renders the Brazilian ecumenical situation particularly interesting.
On the question of whether the Pentecostal churches will be represented at the assembly, Raiser said that the WCC "leaves in the hands of the Holy Spirit whether the assembly brings us closer to the Pentecostal churches".
As of mid-2004, an executive secretary in Porto Alegre will coordinate the organization of the assembly. Brazilian church leaders also agreed that CONIC should act as an interim national organizing committee, while its representative in Rio Grande do Sul, Anglican bishop Naudal Alves Gomes, will convene a local committee.
The WCC assembly, held every seven years, brings together around 3,500 participants, including delegates from member churches, speakers, observers, guests, visitors and journalists. Gathering Christians from all over the world and from virtually every Christian tradition, its assemblies are major events in the life of the Council.
In Brazil, WCC members include the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession, the Christian Reformed Church of Brazil, the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, the Methodist Church in Brazil and the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil.