The World Council of Churches is hoping that its next General Assembly in Busan, South Korea, will be a little different from its meetings in the past.
At the Central Committee meeting of the WCC in Geneva Friday, WCC Vice Moderator Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima spoke of his desire to see things done newly at the WCC’s tenth General Assembly in 2013.
“This Assembly must be new. New in ethos, new in style, new in ideas,” he told committee members.
Busan was chosen as the host city during the last Central Committee meeting of the World Council of Churches in 2009. Since then, an Assembly Planning Committee has been appointed to coordinate preparations with the Korean churches.
The Central Committee heard a message from the moderator of the APC, the Rev. Dr. Sam-whan Kim, in which he described the forthcoming Assembly as the “kairotic momentum” for Korea’s “deeply divided” churches to come together in serving Christ.
“One of the most important and persistent actions that we have undertaken was to have intentionally engaged in an extensive period of conversation with the wide spectrum of Korean Christianity,” the message read.
“The ecumenical movement itself was one of the church dividing factors in Korea. Therefore, we have utilized the occasions of opposition expressed by certain quarters of Korean Christianity as an opportunity for dialogue.”
At its first meeting at the Orthodox Academy of Crete, Greece, last November, the APC narrowed down suggestions for an assembly theme to two. The final theme will be decided upon during the current meeting of the Central Committee.
The themes being considered are “God of Life, Lead us to Justice and Peace” and “In God’s World, Called to be One.”
Delegates indicated their strong support for a theme reflecting the WCC’s commitment to justice, although there were also several suggestions that the themes be merged into one.
Metropolitan Mor Eustathius Matta Roham, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All East, said: “It is important that we show solidarity with each other, and justice and peace is for the whole world.”
Metropolitan Gennadios said that the theme must be “prophetic and visionary” and “touch people in their own languages.”
Deliberating preparations for the Assembly, delegates expressed their concern that the WCC remember churches in North Korea, which remain confined behind the communist country’s borders.
Metropolitan Gennadios assured delegates that the WCC was already taking the North Korean churches into consideration.
“To go to them [the North Korean churches] is more significant and a visit to North Korea is already in our minds,” he said.
The APC’s report to the Central Committee said that the next assembly would be guided by the prayer of Jesus for unity in John 17 and shaped by a shifting ecclesial landscape, the need for intensified religious dialogue, the availability of new means of communication, and the desire for new partnerships.