From October 30 to November 8, over 8000 persons gathered to celebrate the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, Korea. Formed in 1948, the World Council of Churches (WCC) is the world’s largest ecumenical body and represents over 500 million Christians in 350 denominations across various Christian communions including Anglicans, Baptists, Independents, Methodists, Reformed, Orthodox, Pentecostals and several other traditions. The Assembly is convened every seven to ten years with the last Assembly taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2006. The General Secretary (chief executive) of the WCC is the Rev. Dr. Olav Tveit of the Church of Norway. The WCC Assembly moderator is Dr Agnes Abuom of the Anglican Church of Kenya.
With the theme “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”, the 8000 delegates, observers and participants engaged in ten days of prayer, dialogue and reflection. Additionally, the assembly delegates revisited WCC policy, crafted statements and positions, and elected members to the Central Committee—the body which governs the WCC in the interim of its assembly. A typical day began with Morning Prayer, followed by bible study and then a plenary session around a specific them (e.g. Justice, Peace and Unity). After lunch, business sessions were conducted. On several days there were “ecumenical conversations”—structured small group discussions oriented around one of twenty-one (21) themes ranging from “marginalized persons” to “sexuality” to “evangelism”. Days would close with an evening prayer service drawn from one of the various Christian communions.
Members of the Methodist/Wesleyan family have historically held visible and key roles within the WCC and the global ecumenical movement as a whole. Three of the seven General Secretaries have come from our family (Emilio Castro—Methodist Church in Uruguay; Phillip Potter—Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas; Samuel Kobia—Methodist Church in Kenya). Additionally, several WCC Assembly Presidents and Commission moderators have been selected from Methodist/Wesleyan denominations.
The Methodist presence was felt throughout the life of the 10th Assembly in a variety of ways. Of the six daily Bible studies, two were authored by Methodists. The Rev. Connie Semi Mella of the United Methodist Church (Philippines) witnessed powerfully during the Asia Plenary. The Rev. Dr. Jennifer Leath of the AME Church (USA) delivered one of the evening prayer messages. The Korean Methodist Church hosted the Methodist/Wesleyan superbly through a shared welcome meal on November 1 and many persons were able to worship with Korean Methodists on Sunday November 3. Two opportunities were incorporated into the assembly for Confessional meetings. In the absence of General Secretary Ivan Abrahams, the Methodist Confessional meetings were chaired by Bishop John White of the AME Church (Lesotho). WMC Youth and Young Adult Coordinator John Thomas III sponsored a dinner for the Methodist/Wesleyan Youth and Young Adults in attendance at the WCC Assembly on November 7. Many Wesleyan/Methodist church members participated In the Assembly as Staff, Co-opted staff or Stewards.
Several persons from World Methodist Council member churches were elected to serve on the Central Committee which governs the WCC in the interim of Assembly gatherings:
Bishop John F. White, (African Methodist Episcopal Church, Lesotho)
Rev. Staccato Powell, (African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, USA)
Rev. Daniel Angel Favaro (Evangelical Methodist Church in Argentina)
Mrs. Conforte Hounoue Bonou (Protestant Methodist Church in Benin)
Ms. Emily Evans (Uniting Church in Australia)
Ms. Miriam Spies (United Church of Canada)
Bishop Taranath Sugnanam Sagar (Methodist Church in India)
Rev. Kee Sing Wong (Methodist Church in Malaysia)
Bishop Chibuzo Raphael Opoko (Methodist Church of Nigeria)
Rt. Rev. Arnold C Temple (Methodist Church of Sierra Leone)
Rev. Martine Zinsou-Lawson (Methodist Church of Togo)
Bishop Sally Dyck (United Methodist Church, USA)
Mrs. Cynthia Kent, (UMC, USA)
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson (UMC, USA)
Additionally, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson was elected to serve as Vice-Moderator of the WCC Central Committee and Bishops John White and Chibuzo Opoko were elected to serve as members of the Central Committee’s Executive Committee.
The Rev. Dr. Mele’ana Puloka, (Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga) will serve as the WCC Pacific Region President .