In light of concerns about and implications of the current international spread of COVID 19, the coronavirus, the leadership of the World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee has decided to postpone the upcoming full WCC central committee meeting, currently slated for 18-24 March, along with the executive committee meeting that was to precede it.
The new date for the central committee meeting will be 18-25 August, and the new date for the executive committee will be 15-22 June. The executive committee will also meet 17-18 August, prior to the central committee meeting.
“The decision is a prudential one, taking into account all relevant information and assessing the total risks for the participants, the WCC as an organization, the integrity of a meeting of the governing bodies under these circumstances, and for the health of all involved in such a gathering, directly or indirectly,” said WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom.
The central committee leadership has been assessing the situation with regard to the scheduled meetings in March, also consulting closely with World Health Organization staff, monitoring the global health situation in light of the epidemic. The virus is already having a wide-reaching effect on international travel, necessitating extensive precautions in large international meetings and contingency plans for international organizations of all kinds.
Postponing the meetings incurs its own costs, both institutional and financial. The executive committee must appoint an acting general secretary to fill the vacant position as of 1 April, for the time after the departure of the present general secretary.
The leadership of the central committee decided to appoint WCC deputy general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca as acting general secretary for the period from 1 April until the Executive Committee meets in June.
In her letter announcing the decision Abuom wrote: “Arriving at this decision of postponement of the meetings, we will continue to work closely with you, staff, and relevant authorities to monitor the situation, manage its consequences for our fellowship, for the other plans for meetings and activities for staff and other groups in the organizations, and keep you informed of all related developments.”
Leadership of the central committee consists of Abuom, vice-moderator Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima, vice-moderator Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, and general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.