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10th WCC Assembly Held in Korea in 2013
Akiyama Toru

Representatives of Christian denominations from around the world gathered for ten days, Oct. 30-Nov. 8, 2013 at the BEXCO event site in Busan, Korea for the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. The theme was "God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace."

The assembly was held in a grand venue in Busan, which is at the center of a region that has seen remarkable development. The hall was filled with the faces, multicolored dresses, and song and dance performances of delegates from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, South America, the Middle East, North America, and the Pacific. They presented quite a different image of the church from that of the past, which was centered on the European and American Protestant denominations. Notably, because this was the first assembly to be held in East Asia, the effort put into hosting it by the nation of Korea and the Korean churches was quite evident. However, Korea's evangelical churches opposed holding the assembly in the Republic of Korea, and as many as 10,000 people convened a counter-gathering before the opening of the wee assembly.

In attendance from the Kyodan were Vice-moderator Ito Mizuo as an official delegate, Executive Secretary Kato Makoto as an adviser, and myself as an official observer. Other official delegates from Japan were Rev. Nishihara Renta of the Anglican-Episcopal Church in Japan, Rev. Heo Baekki of the Korean Christian Church in Japan, and a priest of the Orthodox Church in Japan. In addition, other Japanese participants included members of Tohoku HELP (an ecumenical endeavor in which the Kyodan participates) and members of various ecumenical committees.

It goes without saying that the wee is an organization that aspires to realize the visible oneness of the promise and purpose of the Word expressed in Ephesians 1: 10: " ... to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." Prior to the 10th assembly, the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) presented an ecumenical mission statement entitled "Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes." Discussions were held on each theme in the statement.

The first statement was, "We believe in the Triune God who is the creator, redeemer and sustainer of all life. God created the whole oikoumene in God's image and constantly works in the world to affirm and safeguard life. We believe in Jesus Christ, the Life of the world, the incarnation of God's love for the world (John 3: 16). Affirming life in all its fullness is Jesus Christ's ultimate concern and mission (John 10: 10). We believe in God, the Holy Spirit, the Life-giver, who sustains and empowers life and renews the whole creation (Genesis 2:7; John 3:8). A denial of life is a rejection of the God of life. God invites us into the life-giving mission of the Triune God and empowers us to bear witness to the vision of abundant life for all in the new heaven and earth. How and where do we discern God's life-giving work that enables us to participate in God's mission today?"

Mission that is led by the Spirit is not a movement taking place from the center to the periphery or from the privileged to the marginalized of society. It is a shift of the mission concept from "mission to the margins" to "mission from the margins," arising from the situation of the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized who now must be heard. The major theological progress that came out of this assembly was its emphasis on the point that mission is not furthered through empathy based on a benevolent spirit and humanism but through the Triune God, in particular through the activity of the Holy Spirit.

Concern over the Great East Japan Earthquake and the radioactive contamination in Fukushima is high among churches in the world, and in advance of a Kyodan-sponsored international conference to be held from March 11-14, 2014 at Tohoku Gakuin in Sendai, we approached the WCC to release a statement on the issue, and its adoption was referred to the central committee.

Each morning at the general assembly, representatives from Islam, Judaism, Palestinian churches, the evangelical alliance, and Roman Catholic cardinals greeted the delegates. Instead of merely extending words of courtesy, each made a passionate appeal for world unity through true justice and peace. Today, even in the midst of the debate over a decline in ecumenism, it was confirmed that the wee occupies a prominent position in the promotion of the mission and testimony of contemporary Christians all over the world. Our Kyodan aspires to be "a Kyodan with a passion for mission" and looks ahead to the reality, task, and direction of mission that shoulders the responsibility for the Christian church in the world. I hope that we will bear the burden of this task with a cooperative spirit as one member of the body of Christ. (Tr. DB)

Akiyama Toru ist Pastor der Ageo Godo Church, und Moderator des Kanto Districts sowie Vorsitzender der Kyodan Commission on Ecumenical Ministries


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