Sustainable Development - Volos Assembly 2003


A paper by the moderator of the coalition, the Rev. Ilkka Sipilainen, Secretary for Social Responsibility, Church Council, Ev.Luth. Church of Finland.

Sustainable Development is one of the two main themes at the Fourth ECEN Assembly in Volos.

In the Enabling Team meeting in Vienna (March 2002) it was decided that the Economy/Ecology coalition would be transformed into a working group on sustainable development. This group will get input from all other coalitions in Volos on the WSSD assessment, and will draft a final text or statement for the Assembly. The group should also decide how it will continue its work after the Assembly. It is possible that the CSC Working Group on Economy, Ecology and Social Issues will probably cease to exist after the CEC Assembly (Trondheim 2003). This means that the ECEN Sustainable Development group could continue, defining long-term implications of the challenges of SD for the churches. Ilkka Sipilainen will lead the SD group in Volos in consultation with Peter Pavlovic.


Sustainable development has become the key concept in the follow-up process after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit leading up to the WSSD.Since the term “sustainable development” is often misused in order to legitimise current economic approaches, the ecumenical movement (i.e. the WCC) has started to speak increasingly of “sustainable community”. This concept continues to carry the long-term perspective of sustainability and implies the strive for justice within the whole of God’s creation.

CEC Church and Society Commission's working groups on Sustainable development The Church and Society Commission has had three working groups on sustainable development, the third one published its report "Sustainable Development and the European Union; The need to Develop New Strategies and New Lifestyles" in May 2002. The main point has been to ask if unlimited economic growth and sustainable development are compatible at all.

Ecumenical Consultations on Globalisation: Budapest 2001 and Soesterberg 2002 Important conference with regard of sustainable development and churches were the Budapest and Soesterberg consultations on globalisation. The Budapest consultation "Serve God, Not Mammon: The Joint Consultation on Globalisation in Central and Eastern Europe: Responses to The Ecological, Economic And social Consequences was held in June 2001 in Budapest, Hungary and the Sosterberg conference on the Economy in the Service of Life that took place in June 2002 in Soesterberg (The Netherlands). Both conferences were part of an ongoing process of churches evaluating and responding to urgent challenges raised by economic globalisation, as it affects the lives of people and the rest of creation around the world.

Previous Documents of the Coalition Economy/ecology:

  • Suggestions for Activities, 1999-2001
  • Dossier on Economics and Environment for Vilemov Consultation 1998

Questions to be discussed in Volos:

  • Sufficiency: What do we mean with it?
  • Consumerism
  • Commercialisation of Sundays
  • Sustainable development vs. Sustainable Communities
  • Corporate Social responsibility and the Churches
  • How do our churches deal with their own money, their pension funds, investments and real estate?
  • Are banks, to which our churches are related, involved in tax evasion, in ethically unacceptable investment and speculation practices and other activities undermining the capacity of the state to strive for the common good (Soesterberg letter)?
  • As far as we as churches with our social and health services are involved in competitive markets, do we realise our potential to shape market conditions in the interest of the public good as well as in the interests of our churches?
  • How do we respond to the increasing privatisation of public and social goods and services essential for life such as water, health care, education etc. ((Soesterberg letter))?
  • What kind of consumption and life-style do we practice and promote? How can we as churches and individual church members raise awareness of climate change and work for environmental protection, using, for example, energy more carefully in church buildings, housing, transport etc.?
  • How do we engage in the public discourse on economic policies and with institutions promoting and implementing neo-liberal economic practices? How do we build alliances with social movements, which are calling on governments to strive for the common good and for restoration of a just and sustainable political and social framework for economic activities?
  • Click here to read the full report (Word 620KB)