Friday, November 8, 2013

Time to Go Home: WCC Assembly Ends with Conviction and Some Mixed Feelings

Well, it's time to go home. The 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches came to a close today in Busan, Republic of Korea, with its prayer "God of life, lead us to justice and peace." The conviction of the participants and the churches seems genuine; let us pray for the action and vitality needed to bring the earth the justice and peace it needs.
At the closing prayer, the Rev. Michael Lapsley of South Africa, a member of the Society of the Sacred Mission (SSM), and a survivor of a bomb attempt on his life that rendered him handless and with only one eye, helped the Assembly recognize the value of listening and coming to a healing of memories, if the world is to experience justice and peace.
He said, "When the disciples were on the road to Emmaus and Jesus appeared, the first thing he did was to listen to their pain, grief, confusion and sadness before he began to help them make sense of their experience. Perhaps all of us, but especially those who are clergy, need to preach less and listen more. As the cliché goes, it is not accidental that God gave us two ears and one mouth. I have discovered as I am sure that many of you have, that pain is transcendent and that it can connect us to one another. Especially when we listen to one another."
That kind of listening requires great gifts of patience and respect as well as openness to ideas with which we may disagree. The unity that is ours in Christ should provide the bond that keeps us willing always to be reconciled to one another.
The Assembly was a great success in achieving the goals set out: to pursue justice and peace in unity. From the prayers in the morning and evening which focused on the themes of the days, yet encouraged by sign, symbol and presence the diversity of the Church; to the Bible Studies; to the Plenaries; to the Ecumenical Conversations and Madang Workshops, all went exceedingly well.
A major highlight of the Assembly was the Pilgrimage of Peace to the border with North Korea that attracted 800 participants.
Referring to justice and peace in Korea, the  Message of the Assembly said it well: "We share our experience of the search for unity in Korea as a sign of hope in the world. This is not the only land where people live divided, in poverty and richness, happiness and violence, welfare and war. We are not allowed to close our eyes to harsh realities or to rest our hands from God's transforming work. As a fellowship, the World Council of Churches stands in solidarity with the people and the churches in the Korean peninsula, and with all who strive for justice and peace."
The life and work agenda of the ecumenical movement was served exponentially well at this Assembly and the churches will hopefully be energized to work in common for justice and peace.
Notably, faith and order was left in the attic.
Yes, there were plenty of Ecumenical Conversations about the Faith and Order document, The Church:  Towards a Common Vision, the single most important work of Faith and Order since BEM, but nothing about it Assembly-wide, not even in any Plenary. This was disappointing.
Also disappointing was a lack of any treatment of the Ninth Report of the Joint Working Group between the WCC and the Catholic Church. This was a downgrading of Faith and Order at a time when the Church needs a strong theological foundation  in order to do the ministry of life and work as one.
That being said, it will be sad to leave Korea as many new friendships were formed, many good prayers were said and much grace filled the hearts of all believers attending.
Many thanks are owed to the Korean Host Committee for such hard work and good organization. Korea is a land where the Gospel is alive. May she be an inspiration to us all.

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