During an unprecedented meeting between head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, South Korea's president, and other top Korean Anglican leaders in Seoul over the past few days, the reunification of Korea was the spotlight.
Accompanied by Korea's Anglican Archbishop Matthew Chung and Seoul Bishop-elect Francis Park, ECUSA Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and his delegation from the United States were warmly welcomed on Tuesday by South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun at the president's official residence, according to the Episcopal News Service (ENS).
"As a U.S. ally, we are doing our best to support polices of the U.S. government," Roh was quoted by ENS as saying.
The South Korean president said he appreciated the U.S. Episcopal Church's position on the reunification issue, saying that it would assist in "instilling courage in the Korean people and moderating the U.S. position," ENS reported.
In response, Griswold emphasized the Episcopal Church's commitment to reunification.
"I will urge my own government to reject the policy of preemption that heightens tensions and threatens the well being of peoples both in the north and south," he said.
According to the full text of Griswolds speech published by ENS, the Episcopal Church has listed a set of recommendations to the U.S. government, which promotes "a nonaggression pact that will move all parties toward a comprehensive peace formally ending the 'state of war' that has existed since 1953."
Holding onto the promise of peace and reunification, the Church urged the United States not to "preemptively attack the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) in exchange for the DPRK's abandonment of its nuclear weapons program" and not to "demonize the DPRK," as a primary step to rebuild relationship between the north and south.
While acknowledging the suffering of North Koreans, the Church suggested that the United States embrace the DPRK into the international community as a full member so that the country can "develop and pursue internationally recognized norms and standards for its people."
Specifically, the Church asked the United States to "provide humanitarian relief and development assistance to the DPRK including poverty alleviation, food aid, energy development and transportation."
On Monday, Griswold and his delegation visited Korea's Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the border between north and South Korea, under the guide of the top officials of the United Nations Command peacekeeping force, according to ENS.
"We ask that your reconciling love will heal divisions and bring peace," said Griswold as he offered a prayer at the DMZ's wooden "Bridge of No Return," across which prisoners of war have passed under heavily guarded conditions. Among those who accompanied the ECUSA head were Korean Anglicans including Bishop Andrew Shin of the Diocese of Daejeon and his wife.
According to a written message to the Church in Korea obtained by ENS, Griswold has learnt the hopeful peace dialogue between the governments of the north and south.
"I note that both sides have made a commitment to reunification, called the Sunshine Policy, and a number of exchange visits have now taken place allowing families to make contacts and build positive relations for the future," Griswold wrote. "Plans for rail and road links to increase communication are also hopeful signs. But I know much hard work remains to be done."
Apart from highlighting the Korean peninsulas reunification issue, Griswold and his wife, Phoebe, and his delegation made of four senior staff members from the Episcopal Church Center spent time with different ministries of the Korean Anglican Church.
Exchanges for theological education, peace and justice ministries, Anglican companion relationships, and provincial communication strategy were among the topics addressed in conversations shared by local church leaders and Margaret Larom, the Episcopal Church's director of Anglican and Global Relations, and the Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, the Episcopal Church's director of peace and justice ministries, ENS reported.
In the midst of the tension between the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion worldwide over the debate on human sexuality, the Presiding Bishop emphasized that "though we in the Episcopal Church live with strains and tensions, as do other provinces in the Communion as well..., the mission of the church, as described in the American Book of Common Prayer is the restoration of all people to unity with God and one another in Christ."
Differences of cultural contexts and theological understandings were also addressed.
Griswold is currently continuing a 14-day visit to Asia at the invitation of Anglican and other Christian leaders in Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei, according to ENS.