by Roddy MacKenzie
This Friday afternoon, everyone who’s still here with gather in the Worship Hall for our Sending Prayer. Then the 7,000 of us who participated in one way or another in the WCC’s 10th Assembly here in Busan will return to the 100 countries from which we’ve come. May God bless everyone with safe travels home.
Ka Hyun and I will at that time board our train for Seoul. There we’ve agreed to remain for several days as the guests of The Most Reverend Archbishop Paul Kim, the Anglican Primate of Korea. Archbishop Kim very graciously said in his invitation: “I know your time is valuable. I intend to make the most of it while you’re my guests.” Sounds extremely interesting. The ideal way to conclude such an extraordinary pilgrimage to Korea. And as a special treat Ka Hyun’s parents, brother, sister, sister-in-law and nephew are coming north to Seoul from Gwangju (Ka Hyun’s hometown) for Saturday overnight to see us again before our departure for Canada.
The magnitude of this Assembly is so massive it’s impossible to capture most details. So I thought I’d start with official WCC Statements, Resolutions and Minutes emerging from this Assembly. Then I’ll conclude with mention a couple of events which particularly effected me these past few days because that’s all I have time to squeeze in right now. Each day here at WCC has been so long, and so intense, that finding time and energy to write these reports has been almost impossible. I will attempt to write Part Two in Seoul. Wish me luck on that one.
WCC Statements, Resolutions & Minutes
The title of each tells you what they’re about.
|PIC 02.1 Statement on the Politicization of Religion and Rights of Religious Minorities
|PIC 02.2 Statement on the Human Rights of Stateless People
|PIC 02.3 Statement on Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula
|PIC 02.4 Statement on the Way to Just Peace
|PIC 02.5 Minute on the Situation in Democratic Republic of Congo
|PIC 02.6 Statement Affirming the Christian Presence and Witness in the Middle East
|PIC 02.7 Minute on the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian GenocidePIC 02.8 Statement on the current critical situation of Abeyi in South Sudan
|PIC 02.9 Statement on moving towards a nuclear-free world
|PIC 02.10 Resolution on Urging Improved United States-Cuba relations and Lifting of EconomicSanctions
|PIC 02.11 Minute on Indigenous Peoples
|PIC 02.12 Minute on Climate Justice
All will be posted online as soon as their final versions are approved.
Hearing the Voices of the Marginalized: The Journey of Australian Aboriginal People
The Reverend Ken Sumner is a clear, concise, straight to the point Australian Aboriginal Delegate. I had the pleasure of getting to know Ken and hearing his views during the Indigenous People’s Pre-Assembly. His personality and background helped make this a most interesting workshop. And the topic is, as mentioned, so important.
Ken began by speaking of the Invasion in 1770 by the British and their concept of “Terra Nullius” (Empty Land). He showed us a map of Australia as it was at that time depicting the borders of the hundreds of nations of Aboriginal peoples. Australia was far from empty. He showed us where his family’s people were near Adelaide and where the people of The Reverend Roberta Stanley were in eastern Queensland. Pastor Stanley then told the sad story of her own people and of their great loss of identity. The pattern was that of settlers arriving who demanded land, the loss for Aboriginals of both their land and their water, the initially well intentioned missionization and institutionalization which ended up causing loss of culture, loss of language, loss of voice and, through all this, loss of self.
Roberta and Ken spoke of the genocide of their cultures, and the Stolen Generation which affected every Aboriginal Family. They said that now they have a very Angry Generation of young people. They also told us about today’s “The Intervention”. Through June 21, 2007 national legislation a Northern Territories Emergency Response was created with no consultation with Aboriginals. It was ostensibly created to rescue Aboriginal Children from sexual abuse but in fact appears motivated by baser things such as to enable non-Aboriginals access to minerals in Aboriginal lands. Parts of the Racial Discrimination Act’s human rights were suspended to accomplish this.
The whole story is so similar to that of Indigenous Peoples worldwide including in Canada with our First Nations. Although then Australian Prime Minister Keven Rudd issued an Apology to Aboriginals in February 2008, we were told in fact nothing has changed and The Intervention continues. And as Father Michael (whose book I speak of next) so eloquently points out, the dominant race and culture also suffers while these injustices continue. Everyone loses. That is true in every country worldwide where Indigenous people continue to suffer.
The leadership of this valuable session was assisted by The Reverend Tara Curlewis, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia. She showed the videos that accompanied the presentations of Ken and Roberta. The Ken with his guitar sang for us a very sad ballad about the taking away of the children. The session concluded with the following words of Aunty Lila Waison, and Aboriginal Elder: “If you’re coming to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is wound up with mine, then let’s work together.” Amen to that.
Father Michael Lapsley’s Book REDEEMING THE PAST: My Journey From Freedom Fighter to Healer
I first had the considerable pleasure of meeting Father Michael at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s dinner last Friday — Father Michael and I were seated together with his able and amiable colleague Charles Manda who is also a joy to know. Father Michael later approached me to help promote his Nov 6, 2013 Book Launch at WCC of his book REDEEMING THE PAST: My Journey From Freedom Fighter to Healer. I was delighted to do. The opening speaker at the Book Launch was the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Right Reverend Thabo Makgoba. I’d had the pleasure of lunch sitting next to Archbishop Thabo at Busan Cathedral last Sunday. As well, yesterday Archbishop Thado was moderator at the extremely impressive WCC Peace Plenary in the Auditorium which several thousand of us packed to experience Thursday.
The first three testimonials for Father Michael’s book are from Nelson Mandela, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark. Father Michael was born and raised in New Zealand. Among the many others to write testimonials are The Reverend Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches and Nadine Gordimer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Forward to Father Michael’s book is written by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
When Father Michael was 17, he left his homeland to enter the Anglican Society of Sacred Mission in Australia, something he’d been trying to do since he was thirteen. His calling by God to service in this manner had been very powerful since he was very young. Ordained on June 29, 1973 in a special ceremony back in New Zealand to enable his whole family to attend, Father Michael was afterwards sent by SSM to mission in South Africa, a place he’d never dreamed of going to (my memory is he’d requested to be sent to Brazil). But God had other ideas so off to South Africa Father Michael went. There in due course he became an anti-apartheid freedom fighter, and so was expelled.
On April 28, 1990 while in exile in Zimbabwe, Father Michael received in the mail a large manila envelop from South Africa. Inside were two religious magazines wrapped in plastic, one in Afrikaans, the other in English. When Father Michael opened the English-language magazine, he completed the circuit and was bombed. In the blast, both of Father Michael’s hands were blown off, one eye was destroyed and his eardrums were shattered. A nightmare of long recovery and enormous pain ensued.
During the Question Period at Wednesday evening’s Book Launch here at WCC, I asked where Father Michael found the strength to endure, and to let go of the hatred he so justifiably could have for the people who tried to kill him. He replied that one source arose because by chance a week before the bombing he was visiting students in a school in North Bay, Ontario. When a week later the horrified young Canadian students were advised that Father Michael had been bombed, each of them drew a painting for him. These paintings covered all the walls of his hospital room. Every time he looked at them, and especially whenever he was wondering whether it was worth trying to keep living, these paintings by these young Canadian school children helped his spirit enormously.
The book is powerful. A must read. It was published in 2012 by Orbis Books, Box 302, Maryknoll, New York 10545-0302.
EXHAUSTION: TIMELY ADVICE
As mentioned, the days are so long and the sessions are so intense here at the WCC’s 10th Assembly that exhaustion is a major factor. That’s even moreso when also producing these reports and pictures. After a particularly demanding session on Christian-Muslim relations in Africa which I hope to report on to you in Part Two, I went for a stroll with my friend The Right Reverend Dr. Alex Malasusa of Tanzania (pictured below). Bishop Alex told me one way he copes with exhaustion at these events is to simply stop, and do something completely different for a while. I took his advice. That evening Ka Hyun, her sister Jisan (that being Jisan’s last night in Busan) and I had a most enjoyable time on one of Busan’s ocean waterfront beaches with its abundance of patio restaurants and coffee places. I think it’s called Gwangalli Beach. In any event, while we were there I got the picture below featuring lights of the city reflected on the waters of the ocean. The reflection disappeared through wave action moments after I’d pushed the shutter. Thank you Bishop Alex for your timely advice!
Ka Hyun and I are now here in Seoul. Korea’s greatest city. Indeed, Seoul is become one of the great cities of the world, bustling with ultra modern everything and 20 million inhabitants. We are here in Seoul for several days as the guests of His Grace, The Most Reverend Archbishop Paul Kim, Anglican Primate of Korea. Archbishop Kim very graciously said in his invitation: “I know your time is valuable. I intend to make the most of it while you’re my guests.” Now that we see his detailed daily schedule, commencing each morning with Euharist at 7 am, we can attest the Archbishop means what he said. This is the ideal way to conclude such an extraordinary pilgrimage to Korea. And as a special treat Ka Hyun’s parents, brother, sister, sister-in-law and nephew came north to Seoul from Gwangju (Ka Hyun’s hometown) for Saturday overnight to see us again before our departure for Canada later this week.
WCC’s First Female and First African Moderator, Dr. Agnes Abuom of Kenya
The WCC’s newly installed 150-member Central Committee made history Friday Nov 8, 2013 by electing Dr Agnes Abuom of Nairobi, from the Anglican Church of Kenya, as the moderator of the highest WCC governing body. She is the first woman, and the first African, to be the Moderator of the WCC. “My open prayer is that we shall move forward together, in the next years, despite our diversities that have the potential to divide us,” Abuom said shortly after her election, “…and that the WCC will continue to remain an instrument for providing a safe space for all who can come and share their hopes, aspirations and visions, and prophetic voice.”Dr. Aboum said the prophetic voice is vital for “ecumenism in the 21st century and the church in our world today.” As WCC’s first female moderator, Dr. Aboum says the model of consensus discernment “resonates very well with feminine decision-making processes,” consultative and careful listening and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective. May it be so, and may God bless Dr. Aboum as she faces the enormous challenges in the 21st century as Moderator of the World Council of Churches.
Hearing the Voices of the Marginalized: The Journey of Australian Aboriginal People — An Addendum
The Reverend Roberta Stanley’s story of her Aboriginal People had a crucial component in my haste I omitted — the role of her Grandmother. I’m amazed at myself I would omit this, given the huge role my MacKenzie grandmother played in my life, and the Christian Grace Grandma modelled. It was the same for Roberta.
Roberta’s Aboriginal Grandmother’s strong Christian faith over-rode the nightmares her Aboriginal People had to endure, and all they suffered. Jesus is indeed the voice of the underdog, the oppressed, the marginalized, the persecuted. Her Grandmother convinced Roberta that no matter what happens: “God will be with us and with God we will get through“. Roberta referred to two hymns of great power to her: “My God Loves Me and All The Wonders I See” and “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know“.
Queen Elizabeth II devoted a recent Christmas Day message to the extraordinary importance of the Grandparent-Grandchild relationship to both parties. Roberta’s relationship with her Aboriginal Grandmother and mine to my MacKenzie Grandmother certainly attest to the truth of this.
Father Michael Lapsley’s Book REDEEMING THE PAST: My Journey From Freedom Fighter to Healer — An Addendum
I should add that nowadays Father Michael is the Director of the Institute for the Healing of Memories at 5 Eastry Street, Claremont, 7708, Cape Town, South Africa. The website is: www.healing-memories.org. Until we’ve healed our own memories, we can do precious little for anyone else. Father Michael’s work is so important. He does so much good for so many. God has given rise to so much creative good fruit from the ashes of Father Michael having been bombed.
Complexities of Christians & Muslims Relations in Africa
This workshop was for me the best of the Assembly. The speaker was Johnson Mbillah of Ghana. Johnson is General Advisor to PROCMURA in Nairobi. Johnson began by saying: “The complexities of Christian Muslim relations are too many, so today we will only discuss a few key ones.” First, to set the historical context, he reminded us Africa was traditionally a place of safe haven. The Baby Jesus sought refuge from King Herod’s wrath in Egypt. To use today’s terminology, the Holy Family were refugees. When Mohammad was not being accepted in Mecca, he instructed his persecuted followers to seek refuge in Africa. Today every African country has both Christians and Muslims. Christians dominate the southern half of the continent while Muslims dominate the northern half. Several countries are almost equally Christian and Muslim. These include Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
A key problem nowadays is that political parties in many African countries prey on religions to get votes. At worst, this involves demonization the one religion to maximize votes from the other. Then there’s the escalating violence. Al-Shabab is a youth Muslim group from Somalia which seeks to overthrow governments of other countries and replace them with Shariah (Islamic law). Christianity has such nightmares as the Lord’s Resistance Army of Uganda which seeks to overthrow the government and rule by the Ten Commandments.
Violence is escalating. In some countries to enter Mosques or Churches people must first pass through metal detectors just as in airports. It is becoming increasingly dangerous to be a Christian Bishop because of the possibility of being blown up in one of the varoius Churches they visit.
Johnson told us the much touted “Arab Spring” has turned into an Arab Disaster of instability and escalating conflict of rival groups. And ne told us much more, some of which is very encouraging, but regretfully time constraints prevent me from including in this message.
In the question period, I complimented Johnson on his superb presentation and then requested that he comment on internal conflict in Africa of Christians fighting Christians and Muslims fighting Muslims. That too is increasing he replied, and the violence of it. A primary problem both internally for Muslims and between Muslims and Christians in Africa is a militant sect of Muslims who, while a minority, are heavily funded by Saudi Arabian oil money coming from, you guessed it, us in the wealthy western world. The western world’s deep demand for oil being washed through Saudi Arabia to finance dreadful developments throughout the African continent. That is an aspect of the global reality which much seriously sadden God, especially as He hears our sanctimonious speeches about helping those in the strife we’re indirectly financing on the African continent. It’s all so sad.
Naming it: WCC’s Dark Side
At this Assembly, I’ve been focused on trying to discern the work of the Holy Spirit in devout Christians at WCC and so have turned a blind eye to the dark side. Not saying anything negative has been a feature of “nice” middle class people in the affluent west but it works greatly to the disadvantage of those Christ loves most — the disadvantaged, the marginalized. At WCC I’m being told time and again it is important to recognize things that are wrong, and to name them. My reports might give the erroneous impression WCC is some form of loved-filled Disneyland. So, to balance my commentary, I’m adding mention of the dark side. Here goes.
Every Convention includes hypocrisy and WCC Assemblies are no exception. Not everyone at WCC Assemblies is a devout Christian on a holy pilgrimage. Like every other convention I’ve ever attended, this one too has lots of professional conference goers — people who know how to work the system for free trips everywhere, people who can tell you all about their luggage mix-ups at airports but not a single sentence regarding why the conference was of value or even why the country being visited is of interest.
Also, as so often happens at conventions, lots of money has been blown in Busan on flash instead of substance. And there have been lots of annoyances. The tiny print on name badges rendered them useless. Some WCC staff were unhelpful, but I hasten to add most were hard-working and dedicated to the aspirations of the WCC. And of course WCC Assemblies attract lots of religious politicians jockeying for position, people trying to feed their own egos. Some WCC speeches were politically correct nonsense or, as I know from my four years at Theological School, arrogant, intellectual hogwash. But again I hasten to add most speeches I heard were magnificent, deeply moving, Christianity at its finest.
But my focus has been instead on what World Student Christian Federation General Secretary Christine Housel calls those who “engage with authenticity” and “Follow Jesus in ways that are real“. Fortunately, there’s much of this at WCC Assemblies, and we are all blessed by it. I feel however two dark sides that arose for me at WCC that I need to name.
German Lutherans and Jews: This arose for me at WCC when a German asked me how Canada deals with our racially mixed marriage. I said magnificently. His own story is so different. Born and raised German, he was ordained Lutheran clergy. But then he married a Jew. That ended any chance of advancement of his German Lutheran clergy career. He slipped across the border into Switzerland and is now a Calvinist Minister.
Shocked, I asked other Germans about this and learnt it’s not unusual in some Lutheran denominations in Germany to prevent ordination or freeze clergy careers of anyone who marries out of the faith. One particularly nice German woman said to me that does however sound “insensitive” when the spouse is Jewish. Insensitive? To me it sounds obscene!
My maternal Great Grandparents emigrated from Germany to Canada in 1885. From them our family learnt important issues swept under the rug fester if not named. So I’ll name this one. Much of the German Lutheran Church brought shame to worldwide Christianity with its adulation of Adolph Hitler and his “Positive Christianity”. Worse, the Nazi driven hatred of Jews comes straight from the mouth of Martin Luther. The Nazis thought they were the world’s greatest Christians. German Lutheran clergy eagerly fed that lie to them.
These things need to be named, the WCC tells me, so I’ve named them. The WCC also repeatedly says Church unity must not only exist, its unity must be visible. The visual of some German Lutheran Churches in the 21st century freezing careers of their clergy for marrying Jews is the worst imaginable visual. Was nothing learnt by some German Lutheran denominations from WWII?
Are We Devout Christians, or Social Christians? The second is more personal. It concerns lay officials of the Congregation of which I’m a member in the United Church of Canada in Metro Vancouver. Our WCC messages are being sent to about 700 people. Many have expressed appreciation. A half dozen Bishops on three continents tell me they’re posting these messages on their Diocese websites. Many clergy tell me they’re doing the same on their Church websites. They say they find value in these messages and they find helpful the clarity of my phraseology and the uniqueness of my insights.
Of our 700 recipients, I’m both amazed and gratified that only five have emailed telling me to remove their names because they do not want to hear any of this. What disturbs me is that three of these five are lay officials in my Church. This causes me to ask what kind of Church I’m presently a member of — if my Church’s lay leaders are either indifferent or hostile to Christianity, are we just a social club?
The other two ordering me to remove their names are also interesting. One is a Professor at the Theological College Ka Hyun and I graduated from in 2012. The other is a very angry Church of England Canon who soundly told me off.
Still, only five of 700 is pretty impressive. There is a deep emptiness and longing in the spiritual part of many people’s lives in our secular, materialistic western society. Ka Hyun and I hope our eleven email peeks into Global Christianity give you some Christian spiritual value.
Korea and Japan: On point of naming wrongs, and given we’re in Korea, I should mention Korea’s first female President, Park Guen-Hye. She’s on her first State Visits to Europe. They commenced with France and the United Kingdom. She’s being received with great honour and courtesy. In fact, President Park was the houseguest of Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace for the duration of her UK State Visit and paraded through the streets of London with the Queen in the horse-drawn Gold State Carriage. Much is being said of Korean friendship, and the rise of Korean importance to the world.
But what has really caught the attention of the western press is that Park Guen-Hye has now been President over eight months, and yet still flatly refuses to speak with the Japanese. When asked about this time and again in European capitals, President Park says until Japan properly acknowledges its Korean Occupation and WWII atrocities, including conscripting Korean comfort women, she as Korea’s President has nothing to say to any representative of Japan.
Modern diplomacy has not encountered anything quite like this — a principled politician who puts forward the clearest possible ethical position, and refuses to bend to the endless compromises and gray areas of traditional diplomacy even though today Korea and Japan are major trading partners and military allies. And, in so doing, President Park is focusing the world’s attention on an obscene situation a succession of Japanese governments, and especially Japan’s current government, all fervently wish would be quietly forgotten in a haze of diplomatic politeness.
Time to Stop — It’s a Wrap! — Part Two
And so Ka Hyun and I conclude Part Two of “It’s a Wrap” 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