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Editor's Note: The following pre-trip story was released by the World Council of Churches.  The international ecumenical delegation will address the National Council of Churches' annual national General Assembly in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 13, then spend time with delegates before concluding their U.S. visit on Nov. 14.

For more about the delegation's overall mission, see the WCC's Web site ( and/or e-mail Phil Jenks at   Coverage of the delegation's Oakland stop will be posted to this (NCC) Web site.

Representatives of World Council of Churches member churches will travel to the United States November 8-14 as a "Living Letter" of compassion to the churches and people of the USA.

The WCC Executive Committee was meeting in Geneva September 11 when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Committee members, shocked by the news, spontaneously suggested the gesture.The purpose of the visit, which begins in New York, is "to express the solidarity and compassion of the worldwide ecumenical fellowship" to US churches and to "discern together what September 11 and subsequent events mean for the witness of the churches" in the US and elsewhere.

The delegation is also coming to reflect on "the long term consequences" of the attacks and the resulting allied military strikes against Taliban positions and terrorist camps in Afghanistan in the light of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence.

The Board of Directors of the US Conference for the World Council of Churches, meeting in New York October 2, welcomed the visit and affirmed its purpose. "The trip is seen as a pastoral visit by churches from around the world to the churches of the United States," said Jean S. Stromberg, executive director of the US Office of the WCC. "Many of the persons coming recognize that US people and churches are always quick to respond to need when disaster strikes other parts of the world. US church members have less often been on the receiving end of pastoral care and outreach by others, but receiving is as important for all members of the body of Christ as giving."

Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont, Reformed Church of France, a member of the delegation, expressed his appreciation for the leadership role of the US churches during the crisis. "During the past weeks, we in France listened carefully to what the US churches said," Clermont noted. Europe as well as the US needs to "look into the future and understand why people are led to terrorism and hate because we will have to face similar challenges in the coming years," Clermont said.

Many members of the delegation are from areas the world that are all too familiar with terrorism and religious and ethnic conflict. Leading the delegation will be Bishop Mvumelwano Dandala, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and Moderator of the WCC Advisory Group on Regional Relations.Other "Living Letters" team members are:

Metropolitan Elias Audi, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, from Beirut, Lebanon.

Bishop Samuel Azariah, former moderator of the Church of Pakistan and currently diocesan Bishop of the Raiwand Diocese.

Rev. Fr. Nicholas Balachov, secretary for Inter-Orthodox Relations at the Department for External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the French Protestant Federation, Reformed Church of France.

Rev. (Ms.) Septemmy Lakawa, teacher at the Jakarta Theological Seminary, Indonesia, and a member of the WCC Executive and Central Committees.

Ms. Jean Zaru, presiding clerk, Religious Society of Friends, Ramallah, Palestine.

Accompanying the team will be the Rev. Kathryn Bannister, a United Methodist clergywoman who is Moderator of the WCC US Conference and WCC President, who will be with the team through the conclusion of its meetings in Chicago on November 10. Also accompanying the team are Georges Lemopoulos, WCC acting general secretary, and Jean Stromberg, Director, US Office of the WCC.

The Rt. Rev. Frank Tracy Griswold III, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, has invited New York City church leaders to an ecumenical service in the Episcopal Center chapel at 11 a.m. on November 8. The service will be followed by lunch at the Center from noon to 2 p.m.  The delegation will meet with New York pastors whose congregations were affected by the WTC disaster from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on November 8.

The Most Rev. Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America will host a reception for the team Thursday evening, November 8, in the Antiochian Chancery, Englewood, N.J. Joining the reception will be members of the Standing Conference of Middle Eastern Christian and Muslim Religious Leaders, a group of Christian and Islamic leaders based in the U.S.

In Chicago on November 9 and 10, the delegation will meet with representatives of local ecumenical councils and WCC member churches at the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. On November 11, the team will bring greetings to Fourth Presbyterian Church and other Chicago churches.

The delegation will fly to Washington, D.C., on November 12, where it will meet with representatives of the US Catholic Conference/National Council of Bishops and with representatives from the American Muslim Council. The group will also attend worship Monday morning in Simpson Memorial Chapel of the United Methodist Building on Maryland Avenue.

The pilgrimage will conclude November 13 and 14 in Oakland, Calif., when the group meets with the US National Council of Churches general assembly.  For more information, please contact Philip E. Jenks, Communications Officer, US Office, World Council of Churches, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 915, New York, NY 10115, 212-870-3193,


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