Busan bound: delegates prepare for WCC Assembly

It will be a large, diverse, global gathering—some 825 Christian delegates from more than 300 churches—including the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Rev. Canon Dr. John Gibaut (back left) and Archdeacon Bruce Myers (back centre) with WCC Assembly delegates the Rev. Canon John Alfred Steele (back right), Nicholas Pang, and Melissa Green in Toronto.
The Rev. Canon Dr. John Gibaut (back left) and Archdeacon Bruce Myers (back centre) with WCC Assembly delegates the Rev. Canon John Alfred Steele (back right), Nicholas Pang, and Melissa Green in Toronto.

Melissa Green, Nicholas Pang, and the Rev. Canon John Alfred Steele are official Canadian Anglican delegates to the tenth World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly Oct. 30 to Nov. 8 in Busan, Republic of Korea.

This assembly, the WCC’s highest governing body, meets every seven years. Working under the theme “God of life, lead us to justice and peace,” the assembly aims to deepen churches’ commitment to visible unity and common witness.

On April 11 and 12, the three Canadian delegates participated in an ecumenical orientation in Toronto, where they learned about the assembly and the WCC, which connects Canadian Anglicans with some 500 million Christians—Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, and others—in more than 110 countries.

“I’m really excited and a little scared. This is big,” said Ms. Green, program director at Sorrento Retreat and Conference Centre in Sorrento, B.C. She expects to be reading a lot about WCC work between now and the assembly.

Each day of the Busan meeting will be grounded in common prayer and Bible study. Delegates review WCC work and have time to meet by regions and confessions. Four days feature “madang” segments for exploring more specific topics in workshops, exhibitions, and side events.

Canon Steele, a priest in Victoria, B.C., said he is looking forward to the assembly receiving a “very exciting” theological document—The Church: Towards a Common Vision. This document reveals what WCC member churches can say together about the church. It is the first of these “convergence” documents since a 1982 agreement on baptism, Eucharist, and ministry.

The Busan assembly will also adopt a unity statement, a tradition at past assemblies.

Canon Steele is the veteran of the delegation. He attended the last WCC Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and has served on the WCC’s central committee since then.

“Unity is important because division among churches detracts from our witness,” he said.

Ms. Green and Mr. Steele were elected by the Council of General Synod and Mr. Pang, an ordinand in the Diocese of Montreal, was chosen later to fulfill balances mandated by the WCC.

In Busan, the Korean Christian context will be an important theme. For two days, delegates will learn more about ecumenical life in Korea, where Christians make up one quarter of the population.

At the ecumenical orientation in Toronto, organizers said that Korean leaders in Busan appear unphased by recent threats of violence from North Korea. Assembly work is proceeding as planned.

In addition to the 825 delegates, the assembly will welcome hundreds of volunteers, workshop leaders, and guests.

Archdeacon Bruce Myers, General Synod’s coordinator for ecumenical relations, will attend as advisor to the delegation. National Indigneous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald will be present as consensus candidate for the WCC North American regional presidency.

Two Canadian Anglicans serve as WCC staff and will attend the assembly: the Rev. Canon Dr. John Gibaut, Director of Faith and Order, and Natasha Klukach, WCC program executive for Church and Ecumenical Relations / North American Regional Relations

The Rev. Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, another Canadian Anglican, will attend as the Anglican Communion’s director for Unity, Faith, and Order.

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