World Council of Churches Elects New Presidents; Inter-Religious Ceremony Marks Importance of Water

The World Council of Churches (WCC) elected eight new presidents during its 10th Assembly on Monday in Busan, South Korea, while religious leaders talked about the importance of water in Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist faiths during a ceremony on the same day.

The eight newly elected presidents are strategically positioned to represent the different continents in regions of the world, including one for Africa, Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, North America, Pacific, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox. Bishop Mark MacDonald of the Anglican Church of Canada was elected as North America's WCC president.

The highest governing body of the WCC meets every seven years to promote prayer and celebration, and to elect new presidents. The 1st Assembly was held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1948, while the last one took place in Brazil in 2006.

The events on Monday also featured a symbolic act of pouring water into a common vessel which was carried out by Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist religious leaders, which highlighted the importance of water in the world's biggest religious traditions.

"The religious leaders, sharing examples from their own traditions, noted there is a great need to raise awareness concerning the preservation of water in all communities. A natural resource, still scarce in many parts of the world and serving as a root cause for conflicts, water is at the center of social and political issues and causes to which they pledged their commitment, vowing to work together for water justice," a press release from WCC noted.

"In almost all religions and their sacred texts, water is a symbol of cleansing, justice, peace, and it is therefore profoundly relevant to the WCC assembly theme."

The religious leaders declared in a statement that the lack of accessibility to water can pose threats to justice and peace, and reminded the audience of the spiritual, cultural and healing value of water.

The 10th WCC Assembly also featured the presentation of an action-oriented mission statement: "Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes," which was unanimously approved by the Central Committee.

"Mission is finding out where the Spirit is at work, and joining in." said Rev. Dr. Stephan Bevans, a priest in the Catholic missionary congregation of the Society of Divine Word (SVD) United States, who recalled the words of retired Anglican leader Rowan Williams. "It is with the same conviction and same faith in the Holy Spirit that this document proposes a fresh, dynamic approach to engaging in the work of mission and evangelism in today's changing landscapes."

The WCC website features further information on the Assembly, including a video package detailing progress of evangelism and social justice in South Korea.

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