World churches body looks towards Korea in 2013

By staff writers
September 4, 2009

The election of a new General Secretary and choosing the venue for its 10th assembly in 2013 were key moments for the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee meeting which ended on Wednesday 2 September.

Founded in 1948, the WCC today brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches comprising more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Central Committee, the main governing body of the WCC between assemblies, also issued a series of statements and minutes on wide-ranging religious, political and social matters important to the Council's member churches.

These included Pakistan's blasphemy law, sexual violence in the Congo, Israel's settlements in Palestinian territory, caste-based discrimination, "just finance and the economy of life", Darfur, Sudan, eco-justice, anti-Christian violence, seeking a nuclear weapons-free world, conscientious objection to military service and church-government dialogue in Fiji.

The Rev Dr Walter Altmann, Moderator of the Central Committee, said at a closing press conference that despite the heavy agenda he was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting. "It strengthened the witness of the churches and the expression of the fellowship of churches."

The outgoing WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, added: "There was a very observable way of living out the fellowship of the WCC beyond business, in worship, interaction and the way Central Committee members upheld each other."

The Norwegian theologian and pastor, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, aged 48, was elected 7th General Secretary of the WCC. He succeeds Dr Kobia, who completes his tenure at the end of 2009.

Tveit will be the youngest General Secretary since Willem A. Visser 't Hooft who led the WCC while it was in the process of formation and in the aftermath of its founding assembly 61 years ago.

The city of Busan, in the Republic of Korea, was chosen as the venue for the WCC 10th Assembly in 2013. The host region is eager to welcome the event.

"It is a really great joy to be able to invite the WCC Assembly to Korea," said the Rev Dr Park Jong-wha, chair of the international committee of the National Council of Churches in South Korea.

He expressed hope that the WCC's presence could "contribute greatly toward peaceful reconciliation and reunification for the divided peninsula."

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