There are 23 representatives from across the life of the United Church of Christ traveling to the Republic of Korea for the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly. The intent for those representatives is to enhance UCC relationships with existing ecumenical partners, and forge new relationships, while living out the denomination's commitment to the unity of Christ's church — "That They May All Be One."
The WCC assembly takes place Oct. 30 to Nov. 8 in Busan, a city located along the southern coast of the Republic of Korea. It will bring together some 3,000 participants from Asia, the Pacific region, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, North America and the Caribbean. The UCC is one of 345 worldwide denominations that is part of the WCC, almost all of which will be present in South Korea.
"We strive to enhance our relationships with existing full communion partners like the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the reformed Church in American and the Evangelical Lutheran Church," said the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president of the UCC and one of the delegates to the WCC assembly.
"We are also actively engaged in forging new ecumenical relationships with other churches," Black added. "Right now we are working steadily toward a full communion relationship with the United Church of Canada and we have a growing relationship with our partner churches in Germany and Southern Africa. We hope to be with representatives from all of them and more while attending the WCC Assembly."
Those traveling to Busan from the UCC will work across a range of responsibilities – as delegates to the assembly, workshop presenters, activists involved in advocacy with global partners, and support staff providing web and communications updates.
The assembly is also an opportunity for the representatives from the UCC, and the wider church, to gain a better understanding of the denomination's ecumenical relationship from a global perspective, says the Rev. Karen Georgia A. Thompson, the UCC's ecumenical officer. For those traveling to Korea, Thompson said she hopes "the time in Busan will be a blessing to their life in the UCC."
The theme of the assembly is a prayer – "God of life, lead us to justice and peace." To that end, those gathered in Busan will explore the ways in which the Christian church is called to work for justice and peace throughout the world. Participants will share their reflections and expressions of peace and justice through celebration, Bible study, and prayer.
"The theme 'God of Life lead Us to Justice and Peace' captures the aspect of a 'journey' that churches and people of faith are on together to faithfully witness to our call to be peace-makers and people of justice," said the Rev. Mike Neuroth, UCC international policy advocate and part of the group traveling to Korea. "The assembly theme and the WCC Ecumenical Call to Just Peace both have inspired reflections and discernment on the call to be a witness to peace. As we gather as a global church, we do so collaboratively for a world that desperately needs a word of peace."
The assembly is the highest governing body of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and meets every seven years. It is a moment when the member churches come together as a whole in prayer and celebration. The assembly has the mandate to set the future agenda of the WCC, to elect governance officials and to speak with a public voice on behalf of its member churches.
"All of this activity is geared toward achieving greater unity within the Body of Christ," Black said. "We are essentially an ecumenical expression of the church (united) and we are on the path to being an even greater expression of that unity (uniting)."
The assembly is also a chance for global churches to express solidarity with Korean churches, and seek unity both in the church and the divided Korean peninsula, said the Rev. Olav Fykse Tviet, WCC general secretary.
The first assembly took place in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1948, Since then, assemblies have taken place in Evanston, Ill., in 1954, New Dehli, India in 1961, Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968, Nairobi, Kenya, in 1975, Vancouver, Canada, in 1983, Canberra, Australia, in 1991, Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998, and Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2006.