Opening prayer service Oct. 30
United Methodists will be among the 5,000 people joining in the Oct. 30 opening prayer service of the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea, which continues through Nov. 8.
“Each of the previous nine assemblies has proven to be, in one way or another, a pivotal event in the history of the ecumenical movement,” said the Rev. Stephen J. Sidorak Jr., top executive of the Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships, United Methodist Council of Bishops. “This tenth assembly promises to be no less significant or more momentous.”
Take a peek at past assemblies
A 15-minute video includes a short synopsis of each of the council’s nine previous assemblies, including historic footage of the first assembly in 1948 in “war-ravaged Amsterdam.”
A thousand official delegates, representing most of the council’s 345 denominations in 110 countries, will attend. Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, ecumenical officer for the Council of Bishops, is leading the official United Methodist delegation.
The delegation includes Antonia Jose Lucas, Angola; Jeannette Aneyé, Ivory Coast; Jonathan Ulanday, Philippines; Bishop Christian Alstead, Europe; and Bishop Sally Dyck, Cynthia Kent, the Rev. Youngsook Kang, the Rev. Ivelisse Quinones, the Rev. Matt Laferty and the Rev. John McCullough, United States. Other United Methodists, along with representatives of worldwide Methodist churches, are attending as visitors or in various capacities.
“This assembly is a very important one,” wrote Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president, Council of Bishops, in a letter to the delegation. “The world yearns for the Christian witness for peace, justice and care for the creation.
“In the near neighborhood of Busan there is a border that divides a nation. Families and churches are separated from each other and in one part of Korea people are suffering from hunger and oppression,” she continued. “This is one example of many, where you together with all delegates and participants will hopefully speak up in solidarity with those who are not able to make their voices heard.”
Assembly theme: God of life, lead us to justice and peace
The theme of the assembly, according to the WCC, was inspired by the diversity of Asian contexts and by a growing sense of urgency to care for life and seek justice.
The fact that the theme is a prayer “is a very hopeful sign that the member churches of the WCC are deeply committed to discerning the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their midst as we convene in Busan,” said Sidorak, who is serving as an adviser to the United Methodist delegation.
“There is a clear recognition of the need within the oikoumene, the whole inhabited earth, for justice and peace,” he added. “May it be so—that the very things we pray for together will come to pass and that the imperative for the churches to be actively engaged in helping to bring as much about will be very evident during and after Busan.”
How to follow the assembly
The WCC has posted a number of preparatory documents on the assembly website, including pre-assembly reflections, reports from commissions and working groups, policy documents and an introduction to the ecumenical conversations that will take place.
The WCC Assembly website will feature daily news stories and updates about the assembly.
For tablets and mobile phones, a downloadable free mobile application that will feature daily stories, photos and links to videos from the assembly is available through the iTunes Store and Google Market.
Each day a 15-minute video broadcast, Madang Live, will be available on You Tube and show highlights and feature stories from the assembly.
The WCC Assembly Facebook event is now a running space on social media, engaging some 600 people from around the world through sharing of information, articles and links about the assembly.
Information on the visitors’ program organized by the Korean Host Committee of the WCC has been made accessible through wcc2013.kr (in Korean).
Pre-assembly Korean protest
Although the assembly represents a worldwide body, Korean Christians are very involved in the event. Some 2,500 Koreans were expected to take part in the opening worship service.
The assembly’s Korean Host Committee, which represents both WCC member and non-member churches, has said Koreans want to offer a strong Christian witness to the council’s mission for peace and justice.
On Oct. 29, a group of about 2,000 Korean Christians gathered in front of the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center in protest of the assembly, claiming the WCC emphasizes dialogue instead of witnessing that Jesus is the only way to salvation.
One protester, who would only identify himself as Pastor Moon from the conservative Presbyterian church, told UMNS correspondent Gladys Mangiduyos that the WCC is too liberal.
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News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.