Korean churches are already experiencing the positive impact of the decision that they will host the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Busan in 2013, say those involved with advance preparations.
Daniel Dong-Sung Kim from Korea writes: The prospect of the WCC Assembly coming to Korea is already providing churches in the country with an opportunity to strengthen interdenominational cooperation, as was evidenced in a thanksgiving service held in Seoul on 16 September 2009.
The service, which was hosted by the Preparatory Committee for Korea’s Bid to Host the WCC Assembly, and the time of celebration which followed, were attended by more than 1000 participants from nearly all Christian confessions.
Representatives of the government, including the chairman of the Korean Congress, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister attended the event. They added their own words of encouragement to the many congratulatory messages presented throughout the day.
In his message, the Korean President, Lee Myung-bak, said that in preparing for the Assembly "the church in Korea will exemplify maturity through its cooperation and unity".
Many voices expressed joy and the conviction that the Assembly is a divinely given opportunity for furthering the visible unity of the church.
The Rt Rev Dr Kim Sam-whan, the president of the National Council of Churches in Korea, commented: "It is a gift from God to strengthen the Korean ecumenical movement, while at the same time it is a call from God to serve in humility the wider ecumenical movement worldwide."
The Rev Park Jong-soon, who preached during the service, emphasized the call to be one as he quoted from Jesus' prayer for his disciples, that "they may all be one" (John 17.21).
Meanwhile, the Rev Dr Cho Yong-ki, of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, stated that "this is an opportunity for the Korean churches to serve the world churches". He expressed hope that it will also be a catalyst "for the Korean churches to work for the glory of God’s Kingdom, transcending denominational and confessional boundaries".
Archbishop Kim Hee-joong, chairman of the Committee on Church Unity of the Korean Bishop’s Conference, said the Catholic Church in Korea will "contribute its prayers and support so that the fruits of the Assembly can contribute to fostering world peace and greater unity among churches around the world."
The mayor of Busan stated that the city "stands ready to welcome with open hearts the participants of the WCC Assembly". He ensured the city's support for the Assembly "to be successful in all respects”. Busan, on the south-eastern coast of the Korean peninsula, is the second largest city in South Korea with a population of more than 4 million.
The Prime Minister, Han Seung-soo, said that "the coming of the WCC to Korea symbolizes the significant standing of the Korean churches in the world and as such the Korean government will lend its full support in making the forthcoming Assembly a resounding success".
In a videotaped message the outgoing WCC general secretary, the Rev Dr Sam Kobia, told the audience that he wanted to thank them "wholeheartedly" for issuing their invitation.
"The Busan Assembly will be a unique opportunity for churches around the world to encounter the vitality of the churches in Korea, to experience a new horizon of ecumenical cooperation and to join the deep, abiding witness of the Korean churches for peace and reconciliation", Kobia declared in an earlier letter of congratulation.
The National Council of Churches in Korea will form the Korean WCC 10th Assembly Planning Committee in October 2009.