WCC Assembly in Korea focuses on justice and peace
The 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC ) opened last week in Busan, Republic of Korea, under the theme ‘God of life, lead us to justice and peace’.
The opening service of common prayer on the first day of the Assembly honoured diverse faith traditions from around the world. The gathering prayer included deeply moving litanies of lamentations, cries and hopes from the Churches in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and the Pacific.
At the first plenary session of the Assembly, delegates and participants were welcomed to Busan. The Mayor of Busan, Hur Nam Sik, the Revd Dr Kim Sam Whan (the Moderator of the Korean Host Committee of the WCC Assembly) and the WCC General Secretary, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, welcomed all the Assembly participants.
THE ‘ADDED VALUE’ OF THE WCC
There is no doubt that the World Council of Churches, which includes 345 member-Churches, representing numerous Christian denominations and traditions, is a unique organization with its own key role in the unfolding global experience of Christianity. The Church of Ireland has been in membership since the WCC ’s formation in 1948. Moreover, across the subsequent decades, the Church of Ireland has engaged consistently with the priorities of the worldwide ecumenical movement and has participated in all the WCC Assemblies and in its Central Committee. The Church is both local and universal, and the universal aspect of being Christian is one that the WCC serves, and serves very well indeed.
Global encounter is not always a comfortable experience because one is challenged by the stories others tell and the particular insights that they bring. As is the case with all people, Christians in different parts of the world do things in different ways. Encountering different ways requires an openness to such difference and can be a real challenge; there may not always be agreement, but there can be a lot of learning. People have to be up for such challenges if they are to be truly alive.
Moreover, the WCC itself in turn does indeed possess what Dr Tveit, the General Secretary, described in his address last week at the Council’s 10th Assembly – held from 30th October to 8th November in Busan, Republic of Korea – as the “added value” that comes from the experience of Churches contributing in a host of ways to the life of a very diverse world. In Busan, the Bishop of Connor has been bringing our experience in the Church of Ireland into this great ‘mix’.
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, Chung Hong-won, addressed the Assembly and, as one would expect, referred to the divisions which the Korean people have experienced.
He saw the Churches as having made positive contributions to civic society in his homeland and recognized the importance of the Assembly’s theme, ‘God of life, lead us to justice and peace’. It is a theme that shows how much the WCC is concerned with bringing Christian perspectives to bear on issues that face humanity today and tomorrow, and with growing the seeds of the Gospel of peace.
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Focus on World Peace Christian fraternity and the unity of the world Address by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Richard Clarke, to a recent Sant’Egidio International Meeting for Peace, held in Rome
Letters to the Editor
Suicide among gay people
I attended the ‘Suicide Prevention and Pastoral Care’ seminar organised recently by the Irish Churches Peace Project in Londonderry. For the panel discussion, I asked how the Churches intended to prevent suicide among people who don’t feel accepted by Churches, like gay people.
My question wasn’t answered, so during coffee break I asked the keynote speaker, Professor Thomas Joiner. He told me that research shows a spike in deaths by suicide among young men in late teens to late twenties, who either ‘come out’ as gay and are rejected or decide that they can’t ‘come out’.
Earlier this year, the Irish College of Surgeons published research led by Professor Mary Cannon, which revealed that gay people are seven times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual people. There is clearly a very serious, life-threatening issue about the mental wellbeing of gay people which needs to be acknowledged and demands a life-giving response from the Churches.
I also attended the ‘Living with Difference’ event in Armagh. The more I learn about the issue of human sexuality, the more I realise, with humility and repentance, that the real issue is not ‘Living with Difference’, but ‘with Injustice’, and – worse than that – ‘with Indifference’, which leads some gay people to decide that their only hope is death through suicide.
Andrew Rawding (The Revd) Holy Trinity Rectory 82 Dungannon Road Coalisland Co. Tyrone
Woman Priests and Bishops
Those of us who are opposed to the ordination of women as bishops and priests remain so because in the Catholic Church, bishops and priests have always been men.
However, the General Synod in 1990 decided that, after 20 centuries, it knew better than the rest of the Catholic Church, and decided that women could be priests and bishops, and the canons were altered.
Like everyone else, I know several women who have had hands laid upon them, and admire them for their undoubted qualities, both spiritual and pastoral.
Some of them, who know my views, have graciously said that they understand my and others’ reasons for opposing their ordination. So, over the years since 1990, we have lived and worked together in dioceses such as Raphoe, and just got on with it in a spirit of tolerance.
I was appalled at the letter in the 18th October Gazette from Canon Michael Kennedy. How dare he suggest that those of us who justifiably feel the way we do should consider our position in the Church!
We are all members together of the Church of Ireland, and we should live together with differences in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance.
David W.T. Crooks (Canon) Taughboyne Rectory Churchtown Carrigans Co. Donegal
Bethany Home memorial plan
We, THE Bethany Survivors Group, are pleased to say to date we have raised €3,000 for our memorial to the children from the Bethany Home, who are in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.
We have been in contact with a gentleman who has designed a stone. He is also helping in other ways to bring down the price for this project to a more reachable level. This is now going to cost, all in, about €6,000.
The erection of this memorial will speak volumes for Christian people and will help lay down the cross for others. It will help to heal the scars of history, as well as helping to unite all people of all faiths.
Our target is to have this completed in the early part of the new year. Please help to make this happen.
Donations can be made to any branch of the Bank of Ireland: A/C No 91669681; Sort Code is 90 67 34. We would be very grateful to all who could help. Our thanks to all those who have already helped.
Derek Linster Chairperson, Bethany Survivors Group 42 Southey Road Rugby, Warwickshire CV22 6HF
Dublin and Glendalough ‘sectarianism’ controversy
I write in response to the Archbishop of Dublin’s address to his Diocesan Synod (15th October).
As one who has some experience in the pastoral care of those entering, or already in, a mixed marriage, I can report that there can be a superficial tolerance of such marriages in the Republic, but when land or property is involved, there is no difference between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
The obsession with land and property not ‘changing denomination’ is equally strong with all denominations on the island. None of this will change unless, like the Archbishop, we speak out and require such change.
Ken Dunn 54 Knightsbridge Park Belfast
Hospitality for students from abroad
HOST would love to hear from readers who would enjoy welcoming an international student at a UK university to their home this Christmas. Many students, from all over the world, will be stuck on an almost deserted campus if we cannot find more homes for them to go to.
This is an opportunity to make friends and do something positive towards increasing goodwill and mutual understanding in the world.
Students speak English and bring fun, interest and curiosity about our customs and culture.
Zhao from China has requested a visit, adding: “I do hope the family is Christian, because I want to know how real Christians celebrate Christmas!”
HOST was established in 1987 by the British Council and is a registered charity. Our regional organisers take care linking students with volunteer hosts. We also arrange visits at weekends all year round.
Readers can visit www. hostuk.org or call the Northern Ireland organiser, Betty Flanagan, on 028 2564 5633.
Margaret Stevens Publicity Officer, HOST HOST UK Unit 8 Water House 8 Orsman Road London N1 5QJ Hospitality
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