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Welby tells of longing for church unity

08 November 2013

peter williams/wcc

Korean style: the Korean presentation at the Opening Plenary of the WCC Assembly

Korean style: the Korean presentation at the Opening Plenary of the WCC Assembly

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has called on the international Church to renew its "commitment to the ecumenical journey" at the tenth Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) at Busan, in South Korea.

Archbishop Welby spoke of his "tiny place among God's great Church", but said that his presence at the assembly in Busan was a sign of how important the fellowship was to Anglicans.

"We cannot be satisfied while there is a lack of visible unity," he said. "If we are satisfied, we defy the great high-priestly prayer of Christ himself."

Christians must seek peace and reconciliation, Archbishop Welby said - first between themselves and God, and then in unity with each other.

"We are to be one because we are more effective together than apart," he said. "We are to be one - one people worshipping one God, eating and drinking round the one table of the Lord; for that is Jesus's prayer for his disciples, then and for us now."

Archbishop Welby spoke at the assembly as part of a five-day tour of South Korea which included a pilgrimage to the Imjingak Peace Park, close to the border with North Korea, where the Archbishop and others prayed for peace in the Korean Peninsula.

In an interview with Vatican Radio while he was in Busan, Archbishop Welby said that a longing to unite the worldwide Church was the work of the Holy Spirit. "No sacrifice is too great to be obedient to the call of Christ that we may be one," he said; but there were many doctrinal differences between the Churches which still needed to be worked on.

The theme of the WCC assembly was "God of life, lead us to justice and peace". Dr Wedad Abbas Tawfik of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in Egypt asked delegates to pray for peace in her nation, but said that the Coptic Church had continued to be a witness to God despite violent persecution.

In a session on mission, the Revd Dr Stephen Bevans, a Roman Catholic priest from the US congregation of the Society of the Divine Word, quoted the former Archbishop of Caterbury Lord Williams: "Mission is finding out where the Spirit at work, and joining in."

Busan puts on an impressive show

Cally Hammond enjoys her WCC committee work

THE WCC as a life-experience almost defies description. There are thousands of us, meeting and mingling everywhere - in various hotels, in the huge conference centre, in worship, and over meals.

The daily Bible studies and ecumenical conversations give delegates a chance to talk about their beliefs, and to listen to the wisdom of other traditions. The call to "get into small groups for discussion" was worth it to hear how different the Bible seems, depending on how we read it.

For me, there are three highlights so far: the evening meeting of Anglicans, hosted by the Bishop of Busan, the Rt Revd Onesimus Dongsin Park, at a hotel. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached at a eucharist for All Saints'; and the large congregation were all seated around circular tables throughout the room. As we began to filter up for communion, at a nod from the head waiter, the staff began doing the rounds of our tables, weaving in and out between the lines of communicants to set out glasses, and fill them with wine. This was both hilarious and rather wonderful, as it tied together the two kinds of meal in which we were sharing. Surely Jesus would have appreciated that.


Second, the worship at the Anglican Cathedral in Busan. With an excellent choir to lead us (pictured, below), we belted out old High Church Anglican favourites such as "Faith of our fathers" in English and Korean. The service depended on faultless team-work from Bishop Park (as celebrant), and the Bishop of Connor, in Northern Ireland, the Rt Revd Alan Aberneth, who preached; both were assisted by a translator.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, gave the blessing. In one respect, it was rather like a wedding - the photos seemed to take longer than the service.

And, last, my third highlight is the committee work. I have never said this about a committee before. I will probably never do so again. But the one on which I served was something special, and, in the end, gloriously positive. The 25 committee members (all from different nations and denominations) had a horrible task: to whittle down a long list of names and choose 150 people for the central committee that would begin to plan the next WCC (to take place in eight years' time).

The objective - to get the perfect result for every country, every Church, and every interest group - was impossible. Yet four days of meetings eventually bore fruit. When we finally reached our goal there was an outburst of joy - and (inevitably) more photos.

Dr Hammond is a C of E representative at the WCC.


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