News of the world
David Tatem reports his experience of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, South Korea
Perhaps the first question one asks oneself at a gathering such as the World Council of Churches Assembly is: “What can I compare it with?” The second is: “What use is it?”
The answer to the first question comes from one’s own experience, so my answer is that it feels like a cross between a United Reformed Church General Assembly (or Methodist Conference) and the German Kirchentag. The second question is more complicated.
There were numerous strands to the event, which drew 5,000 people to Busan, in South Korea, from 29 October to 8 November. Official delegates were in the minority; most came as observers, delegates from non-member churches, or to talk about themes that made up the wider agenda of the Assembly. Some came simply as enthusiasts paying for themselves.
The theme was: “God of Life: Lead us to justice and peace”. Each day began with worship led from within one tradition or another, in the huge worship hall of the Bexco Conference Centre, followed by Bible study in different language groups.
Each day then had a themed plenary which included powerful and moving stories of people from different traditions and parts of the world that we are more used to hearing about through the media. There is something compelling in being physically part of the world church in microcosm, hearing the stories of so many fellow members of that church speaking of their pains or their joys. This is by far the most meaningful aspect of this gathering which is unique in the net that it draws across the world church, not only in geography but in theology, history, context and spirituality.
This is an extract from the February 2014 edition of Reform.