Anglicans prepare for WCC assembly in Busan

Every six to eight years, delegates representing 590 million people from 150 countries meet to discuss cooperation, mutual support, and unity. They meet again this month at the 10th assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Busan, South Korea.

Worshippers at the 2006 WCC assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil. IGOR SPEROTTO/WCC
Worshippers at the 2006 WCC assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil. IGOR SPEROTTO/WCC

The WCC was established in 1948—with the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) as one of its founders—as a continuation of the then nascent ecumenical movement. Now the WCC is the largest ecumenical organization in the world with almost 350 member churches.

“The WCC isn’t the entire ecumenical movement—the movement is much broader, but it’s the broadest forum that brings churches from practically every tradition of Christianity and every part of the world together,” says the Ven. Bruce Myers, General Synod’s coordinator for ecumenical relations.

“We’re together for 10 days to worship, to take a reading of where the quest for Christian unity is, and to see how we can continue to work together—sometimes in new ways—to heal some of the divisions of the church.”

Myers will accompany a delegation from the ACC to Busan, South Korea for the WCC’s 10th assembly from Oct 30 through Nov 8. Also part of that delegation are Melissa Green of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, the Rev. Nicholas Pang of the Diocese of Montreal, and the Rev. Canon John Alfred Steele of the Diocese of British Columbia.

Green, who will be attending her first WCC assembly and serving as both a youth delegate and a member of the assembly’s public issues committee, is excited about the opportunities she will have to connect with other delegates.

“I expect I will be doing a lot of listening and learning-a lot of networking, of hearing peoples’ stories and sharing the story of what’s happening in Canada. I’m really interested in seeing what’s happening around the world, in terms of how delegates are working with other local churches at home.”

Pang is also attending his first WCC assembly, and also as a youth (under 30) delegate. In Busan he will help moderate a pre-assembly event for youth, expecting roughly 400 people to attend.

Pang, who is also on the assembly’s business committee, is impressed by the WCC’s commitment to involving youth. “I think they’ve done a really good job of incorporating youth into the leadership aspects of the assembly. They’ve made sure that there’s a spot for youth in each of the committees. And everyone who’s working on the pre-assembly meeting—except for the staff liaison—is under 30.”

Balancing out the delegation is Steele, the ecumenical veteran. Steele attended the ninth WCC assembly in 2006 in Porto Allegre, Brazil. Since then he has been serving on the WCC’s central committee, which helps govern the organization between assemblies.

Like Pang and Green, Steele is taking direct part in the business of the assembly as well, sitting on the program committee that oversees the activities of the WCC between assemblies.

“There are lots of very important areas in which the WCC is engaged, but there are a lot of other Christians that work in those areas as well. When we get to Busan, the committee is going to talk about what the main program foci will be until the next assembly, and how we’re going to accomplish what the WCC has set for us to do with money and human resources we have.”

While Steele may be thinking of the business at hand, he’s also looking forward to a first for the WCC.

“The fact that the assembly is being held in [East] Asia is really exciting,” says Steele. “We’ve never had one in [East] Asia before. And to have that engagement with the Korean churches… they’re on the cutting edge of a lot of the issues which face the WCC in terms of living in a multi-faith society.”

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