20 July 2023: The WCC delegation was welcomed by the leadership and representatives of member churches of the National Council of Churches (USA), in Washington, D.C..


Dialogues focused on relationship strengthening as the general secretary called for reinforced joint witness with the UN and with other ecumenical partners. Pillay emphasized that the WCC and its member churches are committed to joining hands with the UN in peacebuilding.

 Pillay emphasized that peacebuilding is wrapped into a call for WCC member churches to renew their shared and lived life in Christ, their joint  witness of love in Christ, and their call to lead in the world following the  servant leadership of  Christ.

There was also a focus on advocacy at the UN and in Washington DC, including how to strengthen the churchesvoice in calling on the UN to continue promoting peace in a world dominated by a focus on winning wars. Pillay also affirmed the work of member churches and the National Council of Churches (USA) in conflict prevention.

Pillay reiterated that churches can and do call on the US government to commit to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. He also affirmed the role of churches in peacebuilding and in responding to the climate crisis. Pillay told White House staff, “We can go places most people can’t go because of our member churches.”

Christian unity

During a  roundtable on 20 July hosted by the National Council of Churches (USA) in Washington, DC, topics included: strengthening ecumenical relationships and cooperation in North America; exploring ways to address contemporary challenges and opportunities facing Christian communities; discussing the role of the church in promoting social justice, reconciliation, and peace; sharing experiences and best practices for engaging with interfaith dialogue and cooperation; and examining the role of the church in addressing issues of environmental stewardship and sustainability; and the WCC strategic plan and implications for US churches.

Bishop Teresa E. Snorton, National Council of Churches (USA) governing board chair, expressed joy for the presence and engagement of all the participants. This gathering is really intended to reinforce the concept of Christian unity across the globe,” she said.

Pillay said he appreciated the contribution of North America to the ecumenical movement and to the WCC in particular. One of the most important things is that we have to see our ecumenical partners working together with us and we with them,” he said. I think the world is too much of a challenge of suffering and struggle for us to work independently of one another.”

In reflecting further on Christian unity Pillay said,If theres anything that divides the church today, it is ethical issues,”  I think the WCC attempts to create a platform for diverse thinking and engagement, and we ask the questions, and, yes, we understand the great complexities of certain issues, but how do we create safe spaces for dialogue to foster unity and peace?

Turtle Island

WCC president from North America Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith expressed gratitude to the WCC member churches, National Council of the Churches (USA), Canadian Council of Churches, and WCC Ecumenical Office to the United Nations in New York for coordinating the visit to New York and Washington, DC.

One of the key general principles is: how do we rewrite the narrative of North America?” said Walker-Smith, noting that in fact North America was previously known by a different name: Turtle Island. In serving in my role, I see my role as finding ways of synergy with the wider agenda of the WCC.”

Members of the National Council of Churches (USA) and partners shared their concerns which, among others, included combatting racism, addressing climate change, the grave situation in Sudan, increasing youth participation, and hunger.

The subject of youth involvement in the Church and in the ecumenical movement prompted a lot of discussion. Pillay pointed out that youth are critical for the present and future of the ecumenical movement. He said, “we need to note and understand that youth do not have a faith-crisis in much as they have a church-crisis in that while their faith is still strong, they are disappointed with the church in many ways. He stressed that we need to integrate the youth in the life and work of the church and in the ecumenical movement.

Further discussions focused on the Ukraine war and what the WCC is doing to work for unity of churches there, for peace and an ending of the war.

Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, WCC programme director for Public Witness and Diakonia, offered an update on the WCCs Strategic Plan, first describing some of the key questions under consideration as the strategic plan was formed. What is it that we are called to be as churches?” he asked. In some parts of the world, churches no longer constitute the large sector of society, but in other parts of the world the church is growing and flourishing in numbers.”

WCC delegation at  St. Nicolas Greek Orthodox Church in New York City

On 19 July, the WCC delegation visited St. Nicolas Greek Orthodox Church in New York City. From left to right: Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith, WCC president from North America, Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, WCC general secretary, Fr. Nicolas Zakarian, WCC central committee member, Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, WCC programme director for Public Witness and Diakonia, and Ryan Smith, WCC programme executive for the Ecumenical Office to the United Nations in New York.


Praying together

The roundtable was followed by an ecumenical prayer service. I really think its just wonderful to end our time together with a service like this because it sets our hearts in the right space and place to tell us that we are the people of God,” Pillay said. We have responded to the call that God has placed upon our lives, and in response to that call, we know how important it is to work together.”

Pillay added that we live in a world of great complexities and challenges, immense sufferings, trouble, and pain. "We see all of these things, and we wonder to ourselves: how do we turn these things around? We look at everything and we realize that  we must become agents of hope?”

In an answer to how we change the world, Pillay emphasized that God becomes the source of hope. Its not about us changing the world,” he said. We nothing more than the  instruments of Gods doing.

"The visit to New York and Washington was a really fruitful and productive one which will continue to help us to redefine and shape the WCC's UN Office to create greater impact in moving the world to justice, peace, reconciliation and unity", concluded Pillay.

The general secretary was accompanied by the Rev. Dr Angelique Walker Smith, WCC President from North America, Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, WCC programme director for Public Witness and Diakonia, and Dr Ryan Smith, WCC programme executive for the Ecumenical Office to the United Nations in New York.

Photo gallery of the WCC visit to New York City and Washigton, DC

"As WCC delegation visits US, focus goes to prayer, reflection, and action" - WCC news release 20 July 2023

"WCC delegation will visit New York and Washington, D.C." - WCC news release 18 July 2023

"North American region of WCC challenges regional racism" - WCC feature story 6 July 2023