Thursday, October 31, 2013

What is a General Assembly?

What is a General Assembly?
  Well today was the opening of the tenth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), God of life, lead us to justice and peace.  But many of you may ask what is a General Assembly?  An assembly of the WCC is a gathering of the member churches to reaffirm their fellowship and to take counsel with one another.

Banner of the Assembly
Catholic delegation at the opening

  The first Assembly took place in Amsterdam in 1948 just after the war.  This assembly is known as the ‘founding assembly’ since it was at this meeting when the WCC officially came into being.  Since then every seven years there is a coming together to do the work of the council   The last one was held in Porto Alegre in Brazil in 2006.
  The way the assembly works is that Council’s member churches sent delegates as their official representatives.  These would be the voting members of the assembly.  However, other invited delegates come as well and participate in the sessions but do not take part in the voting decisions that are held.

Cardinal Kurt Koch delivers Pope Francis' message

 Every assembly has three main functions:
  • the assembly is an occasion to celebrate and reaffirm the mutual commitment that member churches and ecumenical partners have made through the WCC.  It is a celebrative moment to reaffirm their confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and to express the visible unity of the church.
  • it is the time to render an account of what has been done since the last assembly.  Many reports are given both in oral and written form to the delegates in the business plenary sessions.
  • since the assembly is the highest decision making body of the WCC, decisions and policies must be taken and made. In addition it needs to select 150 members of the central committee which assumes the responsibility for guiding the work of the Council for the next seven years.  These are elected from a slate of nominated persons from the churches.

The beginning
  Each assembly is different and Busan is no exception.  The gathering of so many people (5,000) and the re-connecting with old friends and the making of new lasting relationships is one of the joyful aspects of the Assembly. The colors and traditions of the Korean church added a lot to the opening ceremony.

  Since the theme of the assembly touches on the questions of peace and justice, the opening worship brought in the ideas of seeking forgiveness against nature and the against the rights of people.  At the beginning of the worship the Assembly asked for forgiveness in a dramatic way.

  In addition we experienced the history of the Protestant churches in Korea in the opening plenary session.  It was a spectacular of drama, music and history.

 Tomorrow the Assembly will go into full swing with a very full day.  The real work will begin tomorrow with the various committees starting their work.  By the way the meeting is being held in the very modern Conference Center in Busan.

Peace and all good.