by Roddy Mackenzie
Greetings from Korea, the Land of the Morning Calm. My wife The Reverend Ka Hyun MacKenzie Shin of St. Stephen The Martyr Anglican Church in Burnaby and I have arrived here from Canada to prepare for the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches.
Ka Hyun and I are here as Accredited Media of the Anglican Church of Canada. This will be the WCC’s first Assembly in Asia. Korea was chosen for this singular honour because of the extraordinary witness Korea’s Christian Churches offer the worldwide Christian Ecumenical Movement. The WCC’s first Assembly was in Amsterdam in 1948 and its most recent (being its 9th) was in Brazil in 2006. You may remember the WCC’s Assembly in Vancouver in 1983 because Canadian media gave it saturation coverage. Now the Christian world is coming to Korea! The WCC theme here will be “God of Life: Lead Us to Justice and Peace“. This promises to be the WCC’s best Assembly ever. Why? Read on!
What is the World Council of Churches?
The WCC brings together most Protestant Christians, most Orthodox Christians, and the world’s 80 million Anglican Christians. The WCC represents 560 million Christians in 110 countries. Roman Catholic Christians do not belong but The Vatican is sending Official Observers and His Holiness Pope Francis is showing awesome interest in Ecumenical Christianity, just as did Pope John XXII a half century ago. The total membership of the WCC is 560 million Christians in 110 countries. The WCC’s purpose since its founding in 1948 has been to draw all Christians together — the Body of Christ interconnected throughout the world in diverse contexts as the Global Church. The WCC’s mission is to unite all Christians in our one faith and fellowship in Christ. And worldwide ecumenicalism for all Christians has never been more promising that now, so Korea is hosting something truly extraordinary. Ka Hyun and I are here to report as best we can on the happenings of what looks to be the greatest ever gathering of representatives of worldwide Christianity.
WCC Korea 2013: The Largest & Most Diverse Gathering of Christians Ever
What will happen here in Korea will be a unique moment in the worldwide Christian ecumenical movement. Those coming to Korea for this extraordinary gathering of the world’s Christians include:
1,000 Official Delegates from 90% of the WCC’s 345 Christian Denominations in 110 countries
575 Representatives of non-WCC members Christian Churches and other guests
1,000 Korean Host Volunteers
1,000 International Assembly Participants including hundreds of young people
150 Stewards — worldwide young people between 18 and 30 who will give their time and energy to assist the Assembly in its work!
300 Staff and “Co-opted Staff” invited to assist WCC staff with various tasks at the Assembly
130 International Accredited Media including Ka Hyun and me and, in addition, several hundred Korean Media
180 Students and faculty from the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute plus students and faculty of the Korean Ecumenical Theological Institute
WCC Korea 2013: “The Praying Assembly“
This 10th Assembly is becoming known as the Praying Assembly. Events in which everyone present at this Assembly will be praying together include:
Gathering Prayer on the first day
Daily Morning Prayers for 30 minutes to commence each day at 8:30 am followed by 30 minutes of Bible Study
Daily Evening Prayers for 30 minutes to conclude each 12-hour fully packed day from 8 to 8:30 pm followed by Confessional Evening Prayers and Vesper Services of the various member denominations
Worship with local congregations
Taize Prayer under the leadership of the Taize Community in France
Korean Protestant and Ecumenical Common Prayer
Closing Prayer on the final day to send everyone into the world filled with the Holy Spirit of our common faith as Christians
WCC Korea 2013: What do WCC Assemblies Do?
WCC Assemblies have three purposes:
1. To gather Christian member churches worldwide together to reaffirm and celebrate our common confession of Jesus Christ and to pray together for one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church just as we pray in our universal Christian creeds;
2. To receive an accounting of the work of the WCC with its members and its partners in the seven years since the preceding Assembly;
3. As the highest decision-making body of the WCC, to set the WCC Policy and Program Guidelines for the years to come.
The WCC’s 10th Assembly will have:
7 Thematic Plenaries — Opening, Theme [God of Life: Lead Us to Justice and Peace], Asia, Mission, Unity, Justice and Peace
21 Ecumentical Conversations
6 Assembly Committees
21 Bible Study Groups
The scale of this is overwhelming. Even with both Ka Hyun and me working as hard as we possibly can, it is sadly impossible for us to grasp much more than a fraction of this massive wealth of worldwide Christianity in which we’ll be immersed here in Korea.
WCC Korea 2013: A Tale of Two Trains
Those of you who know me well know of my deep love of trains, including of course the various trains I’ve now taken and will continue to take here in Korea. The WCC Korea 2013 begins with a Tale of Two Trains. They Are:
The Metaphor Train stops at the following Six Stations on Christianity’s worldwide Pilgrimage to Busan here in Korea:
Station One: Christian Unity
Station Two: Called to Witness
Station Three: Living With People of Other Faiths
Station Four: Working for God’s Justice
Station Five: Praying for God’s Peace
Station Six: Transformative Spirituality for Discipleship
The Real Train is the Berlin to Busan Peace Train. This train is compliments of the National Council of Churches in Korea and the Korean Host Committee for the WCC Assembly. Aboard are 130 people representing church and civil society worldwide. The train’s route took it first through eastern Germany and then north to Moscow where on October 11, 2013 the Russian Orthodox Church organzied with it a celebration of “Religious Communities for Peace and Justice. Then it headed east into Siberia to Irkutsk, then on to Beijing. Its Grand Finale is Korea. First, the capital city of North Korea Pyongyang, then the capital city of South Korea Seoul, and finally its destination, the 10th Assembly of the WCC in South Korea’s second largest city, Busan. The Berlin to Busan Peace Train highlights the worldwide importance of acheiving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. May all aboard be filled with the Holy Spirit on this most holy of train trips.
2013: An Auspicious Year for Korea and Canada
It’s auspicious that the 10th Assembly convenes in 2013 because this year is of particular importance for Korea and Canada. Canada’s Government has made 2013 the Year of Korea. Korea’s Government has made 2013 the Year of Canada. 50 years ago in 1963 Canada and Korea commenced diplomatic relations. 60 years ago in 1953 was the ceasefire in the Korean War. Canada sent the third largest Allied UN Army to fight to save Koreans, and the fighting was so prolonged and so intense 25% of Canada’s troops became casualties (wounded or killed). These events are of great importance to Koreans, and Canadian soldiers dying to save Korea has cemented our friendship in battlefield blood.
Of enormous additional importance are the 184 Canadian Missionaries who went to Korea commencing 150 years ago. Of these, seven are called by Koreans the Seven Angels [one of whom is my clansman William MacKenzie of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia]. Koreans credit Canada with bringing the greatest of gifts, Christianity, to Korea. Koreans also credit Canadian Missionaries with laying the groundwork for what has now become Korea’s world class education and medical systems. The Big Three — Christianity, Education, Medical. And Canada’s Army at enormous cost helping keep South Korea free of the nightmare in which North Korea is still immersed. All this is being celebrated in Canada and Korea in 2013 — the Year of Each Country in the Other.
Must Stop — Mountains of WCC Paperwork to READ and UNDERSTAND
Must stop. The WCC is burying Ka Hyun and me in paperwork to read and understand. I feel a bit like Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Fortunately our Air Canada nonstop Vancouver to Seoul flight offered 12 hours of study and research time. As well, we did all we could before departing Canada, but more keeps arriving. Time to get back at it. Hopefully the foregoing sets the stage to enable you to more fully appreciate the remarkable events that await the world in these next weeks here in Korea!
Yours faithfully, Roddy