by Roddy MacKenzie
Now that the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches here in Busan Korea is well underway, I thought it timely to give more detail on three important cornerstones of the programme — daily Morning Prayers, daily Bible Study, and distinguished Greetings. In addition, Sunday afternoon my sister-in-law Dr. Shin Jisan (Ka Hyun’s sister) came here from Ka Hyun’s and Jisan’s hometown Gwangju in south west Korea to pay us a visit. After Ka Hyun and I returned from the Eucharist Service and lunch at Busan Anglican Cathedral we greeted Jisan’s arrival at our hotel. Then the three of us decided to pay our respects to those who saved Korea 60 years ago by spending our Sunday afternoon at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea. It is located here in Busan. That visit also warrants the more detailed mention you’ll find below.
Again, headings enable you to zero in on whatever interests you most. This particularly applies to those who have not before received any of my previous eight WCC messages. I’m sending this one to them because of their connection with me through my being Communications Officer of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada or a member of the Naval Officers’ Association of the Royal Canadian Navy. The final part of this email regarding the UN Memorial Cemetery and its moving photographs should be of considerable interest to them.
WCC Daily Morning Prayers
Daily Morning Prayers convene at 8:30 am each morning in the Worship Hall. This morning about 3,000 of us attended. The Service features prayers, inspiring music and a Bible Reading dramatized by about 20 youth. Today’s reading was of Philip encountering the Ethiopian Finance Minister on his chariot ride home, and converting this high dignitary into becoming a follower of Christ [Acts 8:27b – 39]. Prior to the official commencement of the Prayer Service, we practice singing the selected music in English, German and Korean. Then the Order of Service consists of the Opening Prayer, a hymn (“Peace Like a River“), Prayer of Confession, Words of Assurance, a Hymn [“O Give Thanks to the Lord” — Psalms 135 & 136], the Bible Reading from Acts mentioned above, a Hymn (“When You, O Lord, Were Baptised” sung in German), Prayer, Sung Kyrie Eleison, A Agua (sung in Portuguese), The Lord’s Prayer (in everyone’s language simultaneously), and to conclude, the Sending and Blessing. It is spiritually powerful praying with 3,000 people, many of whom through Ordination or otherwise have devoted their lives to Christ. The Korean Choir leading our singing is magnificent and its Anthem was moving. I could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s an awesome way to start each day.
WCC Daily Bible Study
Bible Study for an hour commences 15 minutes after Morning Prayers in 23 separate rooms. Nothing is said about who participates where, or who leads which session. Signs on each door disclose only the language of the Bible Study behind that door. There are a whole series of doors saying English Bible Study. So you arbitrarily pick a door and enter having no idea who or what you’ll encounter. The Leader welcomes you and assigns you to a group of about seven. Six of those in my group were incredible Christians, the seventh was a Jew. The Leader who welcomed me into the room I’d selected turned out to be Metropolitan Kykotis Seraphim, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Zimbabwe & Angola. He directed me to the group he chose for me. The leader of my group turned out to be its youngest member, The Reverend Paulo Kounthapanya. Paulo is the International Relations Specialist of the Lao Evangelical Church. Paulo was delighted to learn that I’d visited Laos with my son Ruaridh MacKenzie in June. The other members of our group were The Right Reverend Peter Forster, Anglican Bishop of Chester, England; Archbishop Makarios (picture below), now Primate of Kenya; Msg. Joel Rumi, Spiritual Senior of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB); Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, Orthodox Primate of the Armenian Prelacy of Tehran, Iran; and Dr. Deborah Weissman, a Jewish woman living in Jerusalem who is the President of the International Council of Christians and Jews. Protestant Christians from Canada, The Czech Republic and Laos; Anglican Bishop from England; Orthodox Christian Primates from Iran and Kenya; and a Jew from Jerusalem. That was our Bible Study Group for an hour. At its conclusion, our leader, Paulo, made a superb presentation on our behalf to the full gathering of all the other groups in our room. And similar Bible Study on the same text was going on in 22 other rooms, some of which were considerably bigger than ours. And. best of all, everyone in every group in every room was studying the same text — the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8:27b-39. Being with six such devout and informed people of faith in my group made today the most interesting, informative and spiritually powerful Bible Study of my life.
WCC Distinguished Greetings
Last Friday was dominated by the august presence of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury. Both pictures of him below were taken, not by us, but rather by the Official Photographer of the Anglican Church of Korea, The Reverend John Namho Ri at Friday evening’s Eucharist and Dinner hosted by the Anglican Primate of Korea, Archbishop Paul Kim. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader of the 80 million members of the Anglican Communion. He and his wife Caroline departed Busan for Seoul after dinner Friday evening, and then left Korea Sunday.
Now I feel called to feature four other major dignitaries who also came here to address the WCC with their Greetings. They are South Korean Prime Minister Jung Hong-won, the President of the Lutheran World Federation, a leader of the World Evangelical Alliance; and Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, Director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Sholom of Chicago and of the International Jewish Committee of Inter-Religious Consultations. Here’s a brief note of what each said:
1. Prime Minister Jung Hong-won of South Korea welcomed us, and praised the work of Korean Churches towards peace, justice and helping the poor. He said the WCC’s 10th Assembly Theme [God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace] is especially important to Koreans. He told us his government is committed to peace on the Korean Peninsula, and to world peace. He extended his best wishes for success in our Assembly, and expressed his hope that this Assembly will create a path for Churches that gives rise to hope for humanity.
2. The President of the Lutheran World Federation Bishop Nunn spoke of his hope that the Holy Spirit will lead our Assembly, and that Christianity’s Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit will bless the ongoing witness of the World Council of Churches.3. The World Evangelical Alliance leader pointed out the WEA was established in 1846 for four purposes — Church Unity, Human Rights, World Evangelism and Religious Freedom for Everyone. He expressed pleased amazement that the World Evangelical Alliance, The Vatican, and the World Council of Churches have agreed upon and issued a joint statement on unethical evangelical activity. He said his being from Germany helps him especially empathize with the current division of Korea into North and South. He concluded by saying mission belongs to the very meaning of the Church, and that the holiest evangelism must features both words and actions for the integrity of the message.4. Rabbi David Fox Sundmel tolds he’s here as the representative of all three strands of Judaism: Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. In addition, he told us he represents at WCC several Jewish Organizations worldwide including the Jewish World Council. He spoke of the deep enmity starting in the womb between Isaac’s twin sons Jakob and Esau that continues today. However, he pointed out that Biblically these twin brothers finally reconciled [Genesis 33] and so together were able to conduct funeral arrangements for their father [Genesis 35]. He told us how deeply grateful Jewish people are that the 1948 Founding Assembly of the World Council of Churches declared that anti-semetism is a Sin Against God. He said Jews he represents pray for a Palestinian State alongside Israel so that Jews, Christians and Muslims can worship without fear at their Holy Sites. Strong applause ensued. He said peace can come only when the perspectives of justice of all sides to the peace agreement are recognised. He concluded by citing Clarke Williamson as saying: ” Whether we’re waiting for the Messiah to come (Jews) or for the Messiah to come again (Christians) we are Partners in Waiting.” The Rabbi’s remarks were greeted by prolonged enthusiastic applause. WCC News: Action in the Hallways
Having concluded the foregoing on the happy note of Rabbi David Fox Sundmel’s most welcome remarks above, I must make mention of the magic in WCC Hallways. You never know who you’ll run into and connect with. For example, en route from Bible Study to this morning’s Plenary for the greetings of three of the four speakers listed above, I connected with the remarkable African Christian couple pictured below. They are His Grace The Most Reverend Emmanuel Josiah Udofia and his wife Ene Udofia. Archbishop Emmanuel carries the heavy burdens of President of the Christian Council of Nigeria and the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa. As if this weren’t enough in a region that has so many difficulties, Bishop Emmanuel is also the Primate of the African Church Worldwide. In keeping with the worldwide nature of his high office, his wife Ene wisely suggested the WCC banner as the backdrop to our picture below instead of the clutter elsewhere in the crowded hallway. Bishop Emmanuel carries heavy burdens with all these huge offices, but as our picture discloses he’s a man with broad shoulders blessed with a loving spouse. As well, he and his wife Ene radiate joy, a commodity that’s becoming increasingly scare in the affluent secular west. The Holy Spirit is carrying out awesome work in Africa. Speaking with such strong Christians is for me inspiring. I feel blessed to have connected with them.
WCC News: Great Election Results This Evening
And a few minutes ago the WCC announced the results of its election results for WCC Presidents of the Regions. Great news! Canadian Anglican National Bishop for Indigenous Peoples Mark MacDonald (pictured below) was elected this evening Regional WCC President for NORTH AMERICA! Well done Bishop Mark!
WCC News: An International, Interdenominational Place For Spiritual Healing
Ka Hyun will be late again this evening. People can sense her strong Christian Spirituality. After tonight’s WCC Daily Closing Prayers, she has agreed to give pastoral care to a European Delegate who approached her today in considerable spiritual stress. May the Holy Spirit help the healing.
United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea
The United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea ab Busan consists of beautifully manicured graves of fallen soldiers organized by country, the flags of all participating nations, special including Canada’s, a Chapel (pictured below) Memorial Service Hall, two Memorabilia Halls, Unknown Soldier Pathways and a Wall of Remembrance with the names of UN troops killed fighting for Korea — 40,896 names are inscribed. South Korea set a world record for the number of nations that came to the rescue under the flag of the United Nations. Of the 67 nations who helped South Korea, 16 sent armies to fight and an additional five sent medical supplies. Of the countries sending armies to fight, Canada sent the third largest army — America and Britain having sent the larger two. In addition, the Royal Canadian Navy helped keep the Pacific Ocean supplies lines to North America open and safe.
This UN Memorial Cemetery is a sacred place, carefully controlled by Honour Guards in dress uniform of the Korean Army. No food or drink is allowed, so we had to discard our coffee. Dress must be suitably respectful, and likewise behaviour — no loudness, no rowdiness, nothing disrespectful. Reverent silence is encouraged. The Canadian Memorial of a Canadian soldier with two Korean children (pictured below) is so spiritually powerful and moving that it’s virtually become the universal symbol of the whole cemetery, and not just of the Canadian section. One of the Korean children in Canada’s monument is carrying maple leaves while the other child is carrying Roses of Sharon, Korea’s national flower.
You may recall a G20 summit meeting convened in Seoul a couple of years ago which spanned the Nov 11 Remembrance Day. On Nov 11 the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia left the G20 to fly to Busan to participate in a Remembrance Day Ceremony at this Cemetery which was televised live to all three nations.
We spent time at the Cemetery visiting with Leo Demay. Leo is the Director of International Affairs in the Office of the United Nations Memorial Cemetery. As it happens, Leo is also Canadian. He’s from Victoria, a close neighbour of Vancouver. Leo tells us this immaculately maintained, magnificently landscaped UN Memorial Cemetery so tightly, respectfully and reverently controlled by Korea’s Army, attracts over 300,000 visitors a year. I’m so glad the three of us are among this year’s visitors. It was crowded Sunday, but everyone was so nice and so respectful the three of us hardly noticed their presence as we paid our respects to the war dead. As the pictures below disclose, visiting this Cemetery is an important pilgrimage. May those who died saving South Korea from the nightmare still engulfing the North rest in peace, immersed in infinite love nestled safely in the Arms of God.
Time to Stop — I’m Exhausted!
And so we conclude by again extending Christian Greetings to you all, and particularly so by Ka Hyun to her beloved Congregation at St. Stephen The Martyr Anglican Church in Burnaby, Canada.
Yours faithfully, Roddy