Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Busan and Beyond: Taking Forward the New WCC Mission Affirmation Together towards Life

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Busan and Beyond: Taking Forward the New WCC Mission Affirmation Together towards Life

Article excerpt

God of life, lead us to justice and peace

The 10th World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly held in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 30 October to 8 November 2013 will be remembered for many things. Among them will be the experience of sharing the pain of Koreans over the unresolved division of their country, hearing first-hand from Christians whose communities are exposed to the violence and turmoil of the Middle East today, meeting ecumenical challenges by building relationships with Christians from constituencies outside the membership of the WCC, recognizing the imperative to build healthy relationships with people of other faiths, and praying with passion and in unity: "God of life, lead us to justice and peace." The affirmation of "God of life" in the assembly came through words and sounds, in the print and electronic media. This common focus on journeying "together towards life" affected all areas of the experience in Busan. Yet possibly what will be remembered most about Busan is that it was an assembly at which the missional mandate of the church took centre stage.

For the first time in 21 years, a plenary session of the assembly was devoted to mission. Its focus was the new WCC affirmation: Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes (TTL). (1) As the official assembly newspaper reported: "Participants at yesterday's mission plenary were stirred to commit afresh to a renewed statement on mission in light of global political, economic and social changes." (2) Additionally, an "Ecumenical Conversation," extending over four days, examined TTL in greater depth and made recommendations regarding further work to be done that would enhance its appeal to the churches. Another ecumenical conversation concentrated specifically on evangelism. While mission and evangelism belong together, the Busan assembly, for the sake of special focus and emphasis, gave participants space to embrace the common task through two separate routes.

Furthermore, many other moments in the assembly resonated with TTL, either directly or indirectly. It is not difficult to hear the echo of TTL in the official message of the assembly: "By the flame of the Spirit in our hearts, we pray to Christ to brighten the world: for his light to turn our whole beings to caring for the whole of creation and to affirm that all people are created in God's image. Listening to voices that often come from the margins, let us all share lessons of hope and perseverance." (3) In this article we offer reflections on the assembly's reception of the new affirmation and turn our attention to the next steps in its dissemination and implementation.

Mission from the margins

At the Busan assembly the ground was prepared for an emphasis on mission from the margins when Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Sri Lanka expounded a "victim theology" in the Theme Plenary. In a powerful address he pointed out that Jesus always sought out people on the margins and that therefore the churches must always be sensitive to, and take sides with, the plight of the marginalized victims in their societies who are seeking fullness of life. In this way, he argued, we locate ourselves alongside the NO-people to whom Jesus says, "YES." It is our sustained pastoral presence among the victims that gives us authority to call the aggressors to account. In this context, Bishop de Chickera described the assembly theme "God of life, lead us to justice and peace" as a "timely prophetic petition." (4)

When Metropolitan Dr Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, Moderator of the Commission for World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), addressed the assembly in the Mission Plenary he described "mission from the margins" as the defining concept of TTL, the "heartbeat" of the document. (5) He invoked the common call of Edinburgh 2010: "We are called to find practical ways to live as members of One Body in full awareness that God resists the proud, Christ welcomes and empowers the poor and afflicted, and the power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in our vulnerability. …

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