Monday, November 4, 2013

Down to Business at the WCC Assembly

New Presidents elected
   After the weekend of rest, the General Assembly picks up the pace.   The first elections took place in the business session this afternoon.  These will be ex officio members of the Central Committee.

The eight new WCC Presidents are:

Africa:  Rev. Dr Mary Anne Plaatjies van Huffel, Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa
Asia: Rev. Prof. Dr Sang Chan, Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea
Europe: Archbishop Anders Wejryd, Church of Sweden
Latin America and Caribbean:  Rev. Gloria Nohemy Ulloa Alvarado, Presbyterian Church in Colombia
North America: Bishop Mark MacDonald, Anglican Church of Canada
Pacific: Rev. Dr Mele’ana Puloka, Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga
Eastern Orthodox:  H.B. John X Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East
Oriental Orthodox: H.H. Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians

Water the source of life -- it purifies and liberates

     Today's worship used the symbol of water to re-link us to our baptism.  In baptism the water symbol has two valences:  it is a sign of life but also that of destruction.  The Christian is born "of water and the Spirit" (John 3:5). However, we know the consequences of water unleashed: floods, tsunami, polution -- all elements of destruction and death.
     Today millions of people die because of the lack of safe drinking water, yet multinationals like Coca-cola or NestlĂ© buy up the water rights in the same countries were people do not have access to their own water. They profit from selling water while the legitimate owners of the water die.

 Religious leaders from Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist faiths poured water into a common vessel.  In almost all religions and their sacred texts, water is a symbol of cleansing, justice, peace, and it is therefore profoundly relevant to the Assembly theme: God of life, lead us to justice and peace.

      The Scripture reading for the worship and Bible study came from Acts 8:27-39, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Not only did we consider the question of baptism but also that of mission since Philip was proclaiming and explaining the Word of God.  This led the eunuch to seek baptism.

We praise you God, for this font, for you breathe into the water to wash away sin and birth us anew into you peace and joy. We praise you, O God for water!
O God, you are the Ocean, the source of all life. 
  O God, you are the River, saving us from death. 
  O God, you are the Stream, restoring our community's strength. We praise you O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, today, tomorrow, forever. Amen and Amen!

     The theme of water was then further developed in the Bible study as we made the transition from worship to the plenary on mission.

Mission: a call to life-giving witness
     You will remember that the plenary sessions serve to develop one of the major sub-themes of the Assembly.  Today it was mission.  The Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) presented its work on a Practical Guide that accompanies the WCC's updated statement on mission approved by the Central Committee in Greece in 2012 under the title Together towards Life:  Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes.  
     Three presentations were made whose purpose was to focus attention on the new contexts within which mission and evangelism now take place.
     Fr. Stephen Bevans, a Divine Word missionary, painted a picture of the contexts of mission today.  In his dynamic presentation he underscored the role of the Spirit in mission and the implications it has for mission work in different contexts.

Rev. Cecilia Castillo NanjarĂ­, a Penecostal Pastor from Chile, spoke on "New Ways of doing Evangelism" in the contemporary context of the world.  She emphasized the fact that the churches are responsible for paying little or no attention to the major problems of women and indigenous populations at risk. She addressed new concrete ways of witnessing to the Gospel of Life in secular, post-modern contexts.

Bishop Dr. Geevarghese Mor Corillos, who is moderator of the CWME, speaking on the concepts of mission, including “mission from the margins”, derived from the new affirmations of the mission statement.  In his presentation he made mention of the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis who has set an example by calling for a church of the poor who minister to the poor.  This is the great challenge today for any kind of missionary work. He presented four points that he felt are essential for revitalizing mission today.  First it must be Trinitarian orientated, namely reflecting the inter-relationships of the Divine Trinity of love and respect for all of creation.  Secondo, it must be Spirit inspired and Spirit driven that will compel all toward the God of Creation.  Third it must be respectful of the contexts of the people and finally it must be mission to the margins.  Only in this way will missionary activities bear lasting fruit.

Baptism document: front and center!

One of the Madang Worshops today was the presentation of the recently published Faith and Order Commission text One Baptism:  Towards Mutual Recognition.

Following the BEM report of 1982, the Faith and Order Commission continued the study on baptism. When the Churches responded to BEM a number of questions came to the surface.  One question in particukar was concerning the mutual recognition of baptism and what this means practically for the churches.  The text picks up where BEM left off. One of the rich results from this 10 year study was the fact that the churches talk about baptism as part of a wider process of conversion which is life long. Questions about the mutual recognition of baptism and ecclesial recognition are considered in this text as well as the consequences of putting mutual recognition fully into practice.  A lively discussion  pursued after brief introductory remarks by some of the people who worked on the text or have been involved in Faith and Order projects.

Ecumenical conversations

The conversations continued.  I have been following the ecclesiological statement conversation.

We continued exploring the implications of this statement.  This time with input from two women: one from China and the other from Latin America.  Their perspectives were based on how their churches might receive this text.  One was a pastor in a Pentecostal church and the other in a "post-denominational" church. Difficulty was expressed in having access to some of the language of the text since it was not the type of vocabulary that their churches were used to. However, they found the text beneficial in allowing them to pose questions to their own churches. Both spoke about the new realities of non-denominational or new charismatic churches that are being born and the issues that these will pose to the understanding and discussion of the text.

Ms Cecelia Castillo Nanjari and Rev. Manhong Lin

Always new discoveries in Korean cuisine

    The Catholic delegation has been eating in one of the restaurants in the convention center.  Its name is Party & Play.  Almost every night there is something new or curious to be discovered and tried.  Tonight it was a new fruit that we discovered.  It is soft and sweet on the inside.  I understand it grows pretty much in the Philippines.  
Here is what it looks like:

Mangosteen fruit

Here is the reaction to a first encounter:

So from me to you:

Peace and all good!