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25 October 2013

Mary Tanner looks forward to the WCC assembly


Preparation: South Korean pastors and peace activists fast and pray in Busan this week, in protest against nuclear radiation. Campaigners are asking for the closure of South Korea's Kori nuclear power plant, which is 20 kilometres from the venue of the forthcoming WCC assembly. The plant is South Korea's oldest and reportedly its most incident-prone 

Preparation: South Korean pastors and peace activists fast and pray in Busan this week, in protest against nuclear radiation. Campaigners are asking...

"AN ASSEMBLY that will surely leave a mark on the ecumenical movement" - this is the prediction of the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, for its tenth Assembly in Busan, South Korea, from 30 October to 9 November. Already, delegates and hundreds of Christians from around the world are travelling to Busan, praying the Assembly's theme: "God of Life: lead us to justice and peace."

There could hardly be a more urgent theme in today's world. Issues will focus on justice for all: economic, gender, and eco-justice. On the theme of peace, the focus will surely be the Middle East - Syria, Egypt, and Israel/Palestine; the Democratic Republic of Congo; Pakistan; Nigeria. Also, because of the location of the assembly, North and South Korea will never be far from the delegates' minds.

We shall see the fellowship of Churches turned outwards, thinking of their service together in a world where injustice is rife, and peace is shattered daily by war and threats of war - even nuclear war.

The concern that lies at the heart of the fellowship of Churches is that the Churches should call one another to visible unity in one faith, eucharistic fellowship service, and mission. So there will be a concern for the inextricable relation of the unity of the Church, the unity of the human community, and the unity of all creation.

An assembly is a time when official delegates review the work of the past years, and plan for the years ahead. But it is so much more than that. Thematic plenaries will explore issues of justice and peace, the Korean context, and how we understand unity. Twenty-one ecumenical conversations will reflect on many aspects of the one ecumenical movement.

Above all, an assembly is a time to pray together. It is these times of prayer that, for most delegates, are the most transformative and lasting experience.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will greet the Assembly and speak in two of the ecumenical conversations. It will be a time when Anglicans from around the Communion can meet Archbishop Welby, can get to know one another and the concerns across our Anglican Communion, and can view our concerns in the perspective of the most representative Christian gathering.

Accompany us in prayer, and pray with us: "God of Life, lead us to justice and peace." When the Assembly is over, I wonder whether readers of the Church Times will see signs that the ecumenical winter is blossoming into an ecumenical spring.

Dame Mary Tanner is the WCC president for Europe.

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