The theme for the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) will be “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”. The Assembly is to be convened in October 2013 at Busan, South Korea.
The theme was determined by the WCC Central Committee on Tuesday 22 February 2011, following periods of discussion spread over several days.
A “theme” is not merely a slogan or motto for a WCC assembly but provides a focus for theological reflection, worship and meditation surrounding the assembly, as well as for planning of programmatic activities before, during and after the event.
The theme of the 9th Assembly, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in February 2006, was “God, in your grace, transform the world.” The theme for the 10th Assembly is also phrased in the form of a prayer.
The proposal of the 2013 theme was accompanied by the citation of a biblical text: Isaiah 42.1-4, depicting the servant of the Lord who neither breaks a bruised reed nor quenches a dimly burning wick (verse 3) and who will not be crushed “until he has established justice in the earth” (verse 4).
The 10th Assembly theme as adopted was one of two suggestions from the Assembly Planning Committee. The other possibility presented early in the meeting was: “In God’s world, called to be one”.
During the course of deliberations, several attempts were made by Central Committee members to combine the emphases of justice, peace and life, on the one hand, and of unity on the other hand.
The Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC, in the final moments before the decision, asserted that “seeking justice and peace is a call to unity – and may be clearly interpreted as such”.
Carmencita Karagdag from the Philippine Independent Church reminded the Central Committee that neither the word “justice” nor “peace” has appeared in any “theme” of the previous nine WCC assemblies since the council was founded in 1948.
In the end, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace” was adopted by consensus. The wording was adopted in its English-language formulation. Official translations of the theme into many languages, including Korean, will be coordinated by the WCC and announced in the coming days and weeks.
“We are addressing the whole world,” said Metropolitan Mor Eustathius Matta Roham in regard to the theme. A member of both the Central Committee and the Assembly Planning Committee, he represents the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, located near the other end of the Asian landmass from South Korea.
“This will be read in many different places, by Christians and non-Christians. We must be sure that the theme will be clearly stated in all languages.”