The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches has voted to hold its next General Assembly in Busan, South Korea, in 2013.
After hours of deliberation, the final vote was cast by more than a hundred members of the Central Committee in a secret ballot.
Busan came out on top with 70 votes, followed by Damascus in Syria with 59 votes in favor. There were no abstentions.
Two other contenders, Rhodes in Greece, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, fell out the race for the next venue earlier in the meeting of the Central Committee.
A report by the Policy Reference Committee was read out to Central Committee members prior to the vote. It noted that Syria offered "the opportunity to be present in the cradle of Christianity, a place of uninterrupted Christian witness since apostolic times, as an expression of solidarity with a threatened and dwindling Christian population."
It added, however, that the Korean church context "holds the possibility of the WCC's inter-relating with the dynamic spirituality of new and emerging churches of Evangelical and Pentecostal families, as well as for witnessing to the possibilities for reconciliation and the peaceful reunification of divided Korea."
Welcoming the vote, WCC Moderator the Rev. Dr. Walter Altmann expressed his gratitude on behalf of the WCC to the churches in Rhodes, Ethiopia and Damascus for extending the invitation to host the next General Assembly.
“We are looking forward to the hard work of preparation for Busan … and we are asking for God’s blessing on our Assembly when it takes place in 2013,” he said.
The vote will be seen as a great victory for South Korean churches in the WCC, after South Korean theologian the Rev. Dr. Park Seong-won failed in his bid to become the next General Secretary of the WCC.
Some 7,000 Christians from across the global ecumenical movement are expected to gather for the next General Assembly.
The last General Assembly was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2006.
The WCC is an ecumenical fellowship of 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries.