The World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly will be held Oct. 30-Nov. 8 in Busan, South Korea, on the theme, “God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace.” The Church of the Brethren delegation has already begun preparing for the event. Delegates from each worldwide member communion of the WCC are expected to attend the assembly, which is held every seven years and is considered the largest international gathering of Christians.
Church of the Brethren congregations are invited to use WCC worship resources to connect with this important gathering. Resources and more information are at http://wcc2013.info/en .
Christian groups around the world are beginning to prepare for the gathering. Recently, delegations from American churches gathered for an orientation at the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the Chicago area.
The orientation included the Brethren who will be attending: elected delegate Michael Hostetter, elected alternate R. Jan Thompson, general secretary Stan Noffsinger and director of the Office of Public Witness Nathan Hosler who are both delegates by appointment by the WCC Executive Committee, and director of News Services Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.
At this year’s German Protestant Kirchentag more than 1,000 participants offered prayers for the Busan assembly. The service also featured reflections from WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit. “We are praying, working, and walking together on a pilgrimage to justice and peace,” Tveit said. “The image of a pilgrimage as the framework for our way to justice and peace offers a link between spirituality and work that is urgently needed.” He highlighted the significance of churches to “be together” in their journey toward peace. “We are on the way, with one another, with the God of life, with a clear purpose.”
“An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace,” which is a key document for the Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers) emerging from the Decade to Overcome Violence, will serve as a background document for the WCC Assembly. The WCC Central Committee adopted the document earlier this year and announced that it will be provided to the delegate body of the assembly.
So far, a brief and recently created paper on Christian unity is the only ecumenical statement that has been announced as coming for action at the assembly. However, delegates will be busy with a number of matters related to finance and governance, including proposed changes to the WCC constitution, a strategic plan for the work of WCC staff, elections, and reports from staff and committees including joint working groups with the Roman Catholics and Pentecostal Christians.
Delegates also will worship and fellowship with other Christians from around the world, do Bible study in small groups, take part in the many committees that meet during each assembly, and choose from a “marketplace” of workshop opportunities offered under the Korean name “madang.” Speakers at thematic plenaries will address the assembly theme as well as the subtopics of Asia, mission, unity, justice, and peace. Blocks of time are set aside for ecumenical conversations, regional meetings, and meetings of similar “confessions” of Christians.
Those not named to committees have the opportunity to go on weekend excursions that may include a public peace witness, and will worship with Korean churches.
Pre-assembly gatherings are planned for young adults, women, indigenous people, and the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network. There will be a Global Ecumenical Theological Institute for seminarians. Young adult “stewards” who serve as volunteer assembly staff also begin their training prior to the assembly.
At the orientation for US participants, the Brethren group had a chance to meet and begin thinking about how to share responsibilities and make the best of an important opportunity to represent the denomination and learn from other Christians. The orientation included a focus on WCC assemblies as key turning points for the worldwide church, times when the Holy Spirit has moved in unexpected ways to guide the Christian movement into new directions of discipleship and witness.
The WCC is an ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948. By the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, and other traditions in over 110 countries. Brethren bodies that are member communions include the US Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).