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Possible Assembly Sites - Feasibility Assessment

02 September 2002

World Council of Churches
Geneva, Switzerland
26 August - 3 September 2002

Possible Assembly Sites - Feasibility Assessment

After visiting with sincere and committed people in Cyprus, Great Britain, Korea and Brazil, I report to you first and foremost on the depth of their affirmation of the World Council of Churches. All the people I met are inspired by the ecumenical vision. They all have a heartfelt desire to be a part of ecumenical history and its unfolding story; they are very serious about offering to host an assembly. In light of all their sincere ecumenical support and their hosting invitations, each offered with eager hope, it is unfortunate that only one offer can be accepted. What must be appreciated by the WCC is the high regard which each has of the WCC.

I am convinced that the host churches in Nicosia, in Glasgow, in Seoul or in Porto Alegre would provide tireless, selfless and creative service to the Ninth Assembly and its gathering of the global ecumenical family. Each wants to share the important stories of both their country’s faith journey and its present interface with culture and context. Each intends to extend gracious and obliging hospitality to the WCC. This widespread willingness is worthy of our most prayerful gratitude. While the ecumenical journey may be partially marked by the signposts which locate it meetings, in truth, its strength is known by the ecumenical witness which shines the light of Christ in all the corners of the world - including the four places of this report.

Principles and Directions for Assessment

The Executive Committee principles (February 2002) and consultations with staff (April 2002) gave clarity to such important matters as: size and duration, need for good local support, financial considerations, contextual/regional factors and feasibility of proposed facilities.

I visited each site with all of this in mind. My task was to visit so as to assess the potential. It was not to begin to plan nor to prepare a budget for an assembly. Therefore, my reports offer my best objective assessment of how an assembly could work in each of these places. I offer this on what I have seen and heard in each location and on my experience with some previous assemblies. Note: my assessment is 4 years before the fact and is based primarily on my thoughtful consideration in regard to many logistical maters. In light of my discussions with local church leaders, I have also provided an assessment of the ecumenical and contextual matters related to hosting in each location.

In relation to financial considerations, I have focused on only the four most costly assembly expenditures: venue rental, accommodation, meals and travel. I have not attempted to assign these costs to any organization (e.g. WCC or member churches or accredited visitors). Rather, I have simply estimated what the expenditure would be for each of these items, regardless of who pays for them.

Although there are some significant challenges in most possible sites which would need to be overcome by good planning and increased expenditures, I have concluded from my visits that it would be feasible to have an assembly in every one of these locations. Therefore, to help with decision making, I am also providing a means by which to compare assessments. This provides a rationale for understanding the extent to which each possible site meets various criteria.

There is one outstanding and important factor in comparing all of these possible sites to the sites of the three most recent assemblies: Harare, Canberra and Vancouver. The Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Assemblies were each held in a university venue where accommodations (student residences) were available for and used by the vast majority of participants. For various reasons, this is not the case with any of the sites under consideration for the Ninth Assembly. Only in Seoul (where there are some student residences available) and in Glasgow (where there are many university residence accommodations near but not at the meeting venue) is this a possibility. Hotels would be used for accommodation for all participants in Cyprus, in Brazil, and for most participants in Seoul.

Longer, detailed reports regarding my visits (meetings with local church leaders, sites inspected, logistic components reviewed, local support, church and society factors assessed and possible dates considered) are on file. A brief summary of each follows.

Visits and Observations

Nicosia, Cyprus. (11-14 June) Host: Bishop Vassilios of Trimithus. I viewed all possible facilities in Nicosia and concluded that the Cyprus State Fair Authority has more than sufficient exhibition and conference space to provide a good venue for an assembly. It would require equipping and fitting for our uses but the facility staff has had similar experience. The campus of buildings is on the edge of the city. There would be good local support drawn especially from the community. The Church of Cyprus is the only member church in Cyprus. The primary challenge would be the fact that 2/3 of the participants would need to be accommodated in Larnaca, about 40 minutes away (coaches, excellent highway).

Glasgow, United Kingdom. (17-18 June) Arranged by David Goodbourn, General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and hosted by the Rev. Marjory Macaskill, Chaplain, University of Strathclyde. CTBI prefers that if there were strong credible proposals coming from Korea, Brazil or Cyprus then they would refrain from submitting an invitation, however in the absence thereof, then their “Churches would regard it as an honour and a privilege to invite the Assembly”. I toured many city centre and university facilities as well as the Scottish Exhibition and Convention Centre, the only possible venue. There are many accommodation options available. Travel about the city - from accommodation to SECC - is economical and convenient using public transit. There is significant ecumenical local support available. The primary challenges are financial because compared to other possible sites, meals and meeting venue are high.

Seoul, Korea. (16-20 July). Hosted by Rev. Do-Woong Paik (General Secretary) and Rev. Sang-Youn Lee (Ecumenical Officer) of the National Council of Churches in Korea. I met with many ecumenically experienced church leaders and viewed two possible meeting venues. One, the Yonsei University has many attractive facilities and possibilities for an assembly, except that there is at this time no setting for a plenary hall. Two possible solutions were discussed but both are uncertain. The other, the Olympic Park, would provide three athletic buildings that would require extensive and costly equipping and fitting for all our required meeting, worship and office use. The challenges associated with possible meeting venues are serious and substantial though not impossible to address. There would be very good local support from many churches. The Pentecostal church in Korea is a full member of the NCC in Korea and its leadership is supportive of the WCC meeting in Seoul. Accommodation options are plentiful. Participants would experience a mega-city (20 million) environment and all it includes, including traffic congestion.

Porto Alegre, Brazil. (29 July-02 August). Hosted by Rev. Silvio Schneider, Director of the Lutheran Foundation of Diaconia, IELCB. I visited the university campus and its exhibition and convention centre and found an excellent meeting venue that would require very limited additional equipment. All space use requirements would be provided on the one site. At present, the purchasing power of other currencies in Brazil creates a very favourable benefit regarding venue, accommodation and food costs; there is no assurance, however, that these favourable conditions will continue to prevail at the time of an assembly. There would be very good local support from many churches. The Roman Catholic church is a full ecumenical partner in CONIC, the council of churches in Brazil and its leadership is very positive about the invitation from Porto Alegre, a state capital of 1.4 million.

Geneva Considerations. On behalf of the General Secretariat, Gerard Scarff conducted various investigations into Geneva as a possible site for an assembly as it has excellent meeting facilities at Palexpo and would not require costs for staff travel and accommodation. However, there are extremely high hotel costs in Geneva, especially during the summer months and these more than offset any saving from other cost components.

Comparisons of Important Factors

1. Venue and Other Site Components
Given the time and data available to me, and with as much objectivity as possible, I have ranked each of the five sites according to my assessment of what I learned through my visits. I have rated several components such as: meeting venue, local support, availability of volunteers, convenience of travel and in-city transit etc. The resulting ratings are:
Porto Alegre - 82%, Glasgow - 65%, Seoul-Yonsei - 63%,
Nicosia - 63%, Seoul - Olympic Park - 60%.

2. Ecumenical and Contextual Matters
While these maters are more subjective and therefore more difficult to rank than physical and cost factors, it is important to consider them. They include: local ecumenical activity, rotation of regional hosting, local participation, and potential benefit of an assembly on ecumenical understanding, regional ecumenical activity and regional issues. My assessment suggests certain advantage first for Porto Alegre and then with Seoul.

3. Comparison of Cost Estimates All funds in CHF

Expenditure Item




Porto Alegre







Venue Rental






for 3500 - 11 nights






Meals 2 per day, 11 days












Travel **






Total - 4 estimates






** Travel costs estimated on historic demographic distribution and average ticket costs from the regions.

Respectfully submitted,
Rev. Dr. Gordon How, Ninth Assembly site Advisor

PS. This has been the most rewarding assignment to undertake. I am sincerely grateful for and feel blessed by the welcome, the information and the sharing of ecumenical hope by those who hosted me during my visitations. GH