Upon returning from the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea, President of the Uniting Church in Australia Rev Dr Andrew Dutney reflects on the Uniting Church’s relationship with the global church.
Church in Australia that went to Busan, in South Korea, to participate in the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The Assembly has been described as one of the most diverse gatherings of Christians in history and I can believe it, too.
Participating in ecumenical bodies such as the WCC is an important part of who we are as the Uniting Church. I’ve studied the ecumenical movement for over 30 years, trying to properly understand its contribution to the Uniting Church’s history, theology and ethos, and this was a great opportunity to see it up close.
The Korean churches were our hosts. This year is the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice, and the Korean churches shared the unrelenting pain of the division of the Korean people into North and South—a division which has suited the great powers of the world but brought misery to so many on the Korean peninsula.
Korean congregations and ministers are now also a significant part of the Uniting Church in Australia. It’s important for all of us to try to understand these sisters and brothers of ours—their joy and their sorrow—and being at the WCC Assembly brought that home.
All our other partner churches were in Busan—from Asia, Africa and the Pacifi c. All our Australian neighbours were there too—Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Pentecostal. It was a level playing fi eld for us to reconnect, to renew our fellowship, and to hear each other’s concerns and insights in a setting where we weren’t guest and host, but just friends.
The majority-world church was represented in Busan in proportion to its actual strength. Largely poor and frequently persecuted, the suffering churches of the global South are vibrant and growing. It is crucial for churches like ours to hear their witness—to learn and to be encouraged. And the united and uniting churches were all there too. From the United Church of Canada (founded in 1925) to the Uniting Church in Sweden (founded in 2011) we took time to get together and share what we have learned and are learning from all the different stages of daring to be one.
I haven’t even mentioned the important decisions made and statements issued by the 10th Assembly. These will inform and guide the church around the world for years to come. They matter. But the personal, human, body-of-Christ work done in Busan goes right to the heart of who we are in the Uniting Church.
I’m so glad I was there!
For more information about the World Council of Churches,visit oikoumene.org and wcc2013.info