Thursday, October 31, 2013

Assembly Theme Rules the Day

"God of Life, lead us to justice and peace," the theme of the 10th world-wide Assembly of the World Council of Churches, influenced much of the proceedings of the second day of the Assembly held in Busan, South Korea. Morning prayer found the participants greeted once again by traditional Korean musicians and with the sounding of a gong. Bible study in different language groupings focused on God's justice and the morning plenary was devoted exclusively to the theme.
That plenary began with a visit to the Assembly by Prime Minister Jung Hon-won of the Republic of Korea who brought greetings from President Park and the government of the Republic of Korea to all who made the journey to the Assembly.
Those attending the plenary then heard presentations on peace and justice from three perspectives. One was a presentation on how HIV/AIDS is still an issue of justice as well as one of medicine and how although much progress has been made in its control, so much more must be done to ensure the defeat of the virus as well as the defeat of the stigmas attached to it.
The second perspective was a realistic appraisal of how Christians suffer persecution in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt where Christians churches have been firebombed and priests and parishioners killed. It is to be remembered that many Muslims in Egypt help their Christian neighbors, but terrorists still commit terrible acts of violence against the Christians. This has had one good outcome: the strengthening of ecumenism among the Christian population.
A third view was offered on "Victim Theology" based on the "victim centered decisiveness of God." Here, those who are on the margins are brought in and included in the life of the Church. In fact, they become the center of the Church's activity in the world. They are the victims of powerful political regimes, victims of economic struggle, victims of rape and war. They call out for "Torah justice": widows and orphans, etc. 
To this  was added a conversation between a young German theologian, Melisande Schifter, and the presenters on what young Christians can do to move the aspirations of the Assembly forward in concrete terms.
All this served to kick off a full afternoon of "Ecumenical Conversations", 21 of which were scheduled, to offer space for dialogue on questions and issues that affect the unity, mission and witness of the Church. These questions and issues require a common ecumenical response. They ranged in topics from theology to witness such as one on the convergence statement "The Church: Toward a Common  Vision" to Community of Men and Women in the Church: Mutual Recognition and Transformative Justice.
Another full day in Busan.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Assembly Underway

The 10th world-wide Assembly of the World Council of Churches is well underway in Busan, Republic of Korea, with its theme of "God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace." At an opening prayer service attended by many of the over 5,000 participants, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians delivered a spirited sermon on the Gospel of Luke 24:28-35 in which the disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Christ is apparent in the works of justice and peace. The opening prayer, initiated by a procession led by traditional Korean music, was followed by an equally energetic opening plenary. The opening prayer allowed expressions of lamentation to be heard from every area of the globe: from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and the Pacific. Perhaps one of the more poignant and poetic was from the Pacific. "We are facing, Lord, facing mountains of despair as our cultures erode and engulf us in greed and power. We are trembling Lord, trembling under earthquakes of changes and their effect on our lives. We are despairing Lord, despairing at the hurricanes of problems we face and the anguish they cause." And yet it is hopeful: "And yet, Lord, we believe, we believe in your mercy; we hope, we hope in your love; we trust, we trust in your strength; we love, we love in your grace; for in your mercy, love, strength and grace we live." What a sobering yet hopeful way to start an Assembly that is already proving to be fulfilling and energetic.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Getting Underway Soon

5,000 people from across the spectrum of Christianity have gathered in Busan, Republic of Korea, for the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. We'll be getting underway soon with the Gathering Worship. BEXCO Convention Center here in Busan is enormous, allowing all kinds of space for worship, exhibitions and plenaries. The legions of Korean volunteers have been wonderful in helping all of us find our way. The city of Busan is bustling and beautiful with blocks of skyscrapers tucked in between scenic green hills, along the southern coast. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

One Week Away

Getting ready for a trip to the Republic of Korea is exciting, as I read the documentation sent to me by the World Council of Churches. The theme is justice and I hope it is received well in that part of our world. The Christian community in South Korea is very diverse, with Presbyterians, Catholics and Methodists forming the majority of believers. Let's pray that everyone from the four corners of the earth arrives safely.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Getting ready for the WCC Assembly in Busan. Most exciting time as we all prepare to meet as one under Christ. Please check back once the Assembly starts. I'll be blogging and tweeting. @EcumenicalTrend

Friday, October 11, 2013

World Council of Churches Tenth World Assembly

The World Council of Churches will gather at the Tenth World Assembly in Busan, South Korea, from October 30 through November 8, 2013.  The theme of this meeting is "God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace." 

As the editor of Ecumenical Trends, I will be blogging as a member of the press.  You also can follow me on, tweeting with the hashtag #WCC from the Assembly.  Learn more about this upcoming event .

Ecumenical Trends is a journal published by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute (GEII) since 1972. This publication touches on essential issues in the ecumenical movement as it relates to Catholics, Anglicans, Protestant, Evangelicals and Orthodox, as well as Jews, Muslims and other global faiths. Contributing writers are scholars and theologians of all religions.

In 2013, Ecumenical Trends was a winner of a Catholic Press Association Award, as "a serious and thoughtful publication for intellectual reflection..."  The writing appeals to academics, scholars and informed laypersons or observers.

This blog will highlight current topics that impact interfaith dialogue and the ecumenical movement, and give an opportunity to expand upon the newsletter which is published eleven times a year. It will also provide commentary on breaking news, conferences and other occasions for insight. We hope you will find this blog another way to keep the ecumenical conversations flowing.  We ask that God brings about the Unity that Christ wills, when He wills it, and as He wills it.

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