By Beckie Supiano, DisciplesWorld contributing writer
WASHINGTON (1/24/06) —
Next month, 25-year-old Sara Critchfield will pack her bags and head to Brazil, one of three delegates representing the Disciples of Christ at the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches
when it meets in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Held Feb. 14-23, the assembly's theme is "God, in your grace, transform the world."
The assembly meets every seven years to determine the policies of the WCC and select a committee to lead the Council until the next assembly. Critchfield and over 700 other delegates will carry out this business, and also take part in Bible studies, prayer, and themed plenary sessions.
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of over 340 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, and united and other churches in over 100 countries representing more than 550 million Christians.
“The ecumenical movement is important to me because I firmly believe that our unity as the Body of Christ can and does overcome human boundaries such as language, culture, money or country,” said Critchfield, a native of Wadsworth, Ohio who lives now in Washington, D.C.
Critchfield is well qualified to serve as a delegate. In 2004, she was a steward for the National Council of Churches Assembly. She served on the planning team for the 2005 Young Adult Ecumenical Forum on Globalization. Critchfield went to Chile as part of the Ohio Delegation to the Pentecostal Church there in 2005. In addition, she was a Disciples Peace Fellowship Intern, began an interfaith peace organization at Drexel University as a student, and has attended several ecumenical conferences.
Critchfield was first told of the Assembly by Freddy Knutsen, the former WCC Youth Programme Executive Director, who explained to her that the WCC had asked that each of its member churches aim for 15% of their 2006 delegation to be between ages 18-30. Knutsen encouraged Critchfield to pursue this opportunity.
Nearly a year ago, Critchfield contacted Disciples ecumenical officer Robert Welsh to ask if he had selected a young adult delegate. The member churches of the WCC bring numbers of delegates proportional to their size, so the Disciples of Christ were limited to three, two of whom would automatically be church officials.
“Obviously, by Robert intentionally filling this one last slot with a young adult shows his commitment to encouraging young adult participation in ecumenical life,” Critchfield said.
While the 15% suggestion is not enforced by the WCC, Critchfield is part of a listserv with around 100 young delegates. Critchfield notes that this is approximately 15% of the 700 or so delegates, so it seems that churches are taking the call for participation by younger delegates seriously.
Younger participants will attend a pre-event designed to build community among them.
“This community will be an essential source of support and sense of 'home' when all the other delegates and participants arrive at the start of the assembly,” said Critchfield.
Once the assembly begins, Critchfield will be on a busy schedule. She is responsible for representing her home church and denomination, and also hopes to represent young people and women. One of Critchfield's main obligations will be serving on the Public Issues Committee, which drafts the policies to be voted on by the assembly.
“I'm not planning on getting much sleep,” she said. “I want to see and do as much as I can! But mostly, I will be focusing on developing some great friendships.”
Critchfield said she is excited to be a part of such a diverse group of Christians. “After the assembly meeting, I will be responsible for bringing this experience home- speaking in my local church and region and of course, continuing in the ecumenical movement,” Critchfield said.