WCC Central Committee 2023: sharing from North America group

26 June 2023, Geneva, Switzerland: WCC president Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith of the National Baptist Convention USA shares from the North American region as the World Council of Churches central committee gathers in Geneva on 21-27 June 2023, for its first full meeting following the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe in 2022.


Members of the North American region of the WCC's central committee, its highest governing body between assemblies, met during its 21-27 June meeting in Geneva.

"North America or Turtle Island, which is the Indigenous name for North America, is one of three continents that make up 'The New World.The continent was new to 15th-century European explorers but old to the Indigenous peoples already living there," said Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith, WCC president from North America.

"Indeed, North America Turtle Island had been populated for at least 15,000 years before Europe colonized Turtle Island and named it after an Italian explorer.”

1,000 languages

She said there were at least 1,000 languages amongst the Indigenous population when Italian explorer Christopher Colombus arrived in North America.

"During the decline, and systematic assault of the Indigenous people population, many of these languages went extinct, and sadly, relatively few now survive.," said Walker-Smith.

"But even today, hundreds of languages are still spoken in North America Turtle Island—primarily due to immigrant populations and communities."

Walker-Smith said the WCC's North America is looking forward to the visit of the WCC's general secretary, Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, after mid-July this year "with member churches and at the United Nations, which happens to be in North America Turtle Island."

Rev. Jennifer Leath, a member of the WCC's Joint Consultative Group with the Pentecostals and ECHOS, the WCC commission of youth and a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the USA, spoke about religious freedom.

"A pretence on which European settlers colonized Turtle Island was religious freedom. The freedom of those colonizers came at high costs," she said at the meeting.

"Over 12 million of the Indigenous people were massacred and their land stolen. Among the burgeoning colonizing communities, the obsessive and overwhelming pursuit of capitalist enterprise dwarfs all pretence of religious freedom narratives."

Leath noted the transatlantic slave trade, under which 10 million Africans were enslaved, was "justified by an anti-Black, white supremacist, biblical hermeneutic.”

Haunting history

"This history haunts our home and its inhabitants. For this reason, it is no surprise that racism was identified as the greatest challenge facing our region," said Leath.

"Racism is most painfully reflected in the anti-Black culture of the United States and the anti-Indigenous culture of Canada," she said.

She asked, How can we be the church?" as American Christians "wrestle with the dissonance of a maturing Christian militaristic nationalism that polarizes us and stands out hopes for a truer democracy.

We as a region are the tragically paralyzed on and beneath the cross of Calvary.”

Photo gallery of the WCC Central committee meeting

WCC Central committee meeting, June 2023