Of the four delegates representing the United Church of Christ at the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea, Haley Knapp is the youngest. But her ambition is to have an impact on the world on a global level. Her upbringing in the UCC and her participation at the WCC Assembly will likely help her chances of making that vision a reality.
As a member of Church of the Isles in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., Knapp has been active in mission work and justice issues. She became involved with the United Church of Christ at a young age, serving on the Florida Conference Board of Directors as a youth delegate while she was in high school. While a youth delegate, she formed a relationship with the Rev. Karen Georgia A. Thompson, the UCC minister for ecumenical and interfaith relations. That took her down the path to becoming a UCC delegate to the WCC 10th assembly.
This week in South Korea, Knapp, 20, will represent the denomination and the global youth perspective during the assembly, a role she is excited about and feels prepared for.
"I feel like the UCC is progressive and involved in justice issues," Knapp said. "I feel with my involvement in youth groups and justice, I'm a good representative. And this past summer I got to attend the Disciples of Christ Assembly and see the perspective of our global mission partners."
Knapp is now a student at the University South Florida, majoring in international relations and political science. In addition to learning about global ecumenism, Knapp is also hopeful she'll leave Korea with the knowledge of how to bring about justice.
"I wanted to leave here with an understanding of the church's role in striving for human rights, and working to help people and see our role in international affairs," Knapp said.
Prior to the beginning of the gathering on Wednesday, Oct. 30, Knapp took part in a pre-event in Busan for youth and young adults attending the WCC Assembly. She said during that event the group of young people got an opportunity to come together on topics such as economic justice and climate change, global immigration issues, and reconciliation of divided communities. More importantly, the pre-event was an opportunity to give a voice to youth and young adults who felt unwelcomed at previous WCC assemblies.
"At the last assembly the youth felt they didn't have a voice, and at this assembly, 600 of the 3,000 delegates and visitors here are youth, which is great," Knapp said. "The pre-event was a way to give us a unified voice and introduce us to the assembly and invite us to participate."
Knapp is joined at the WCC Assembly by three other UCC delegates. They are:
- The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president
- The Rev. Sarah Campbell, pastor of Mayflower UCC in Minneapolis
- Kelli Parrish Lucas, a member of Community Congregational Church in Pacific Beach, San Diego
The UCC is one of the 345 members of the WCC, with a team of almost two dozen representatives from across the life of the church at this gathering. The WCC assembly, which occurs once every seven years, takes place from Oct. 30 through Nov. 8 in Busan. The assembly is the highest governing body of the WCC, and is a moment when member churches come together for prayer, celebration and to set the future agenda for the council. There are more than 4,000 delegates, visitors, event staff and media members from more than 100 countries in South Korea for the assembly.