Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon pens an preview here of the 2013 World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, South Korea this month, in which three members of the school community are participating--including Kinnamon who is presenting. The Council gathers together faith leaders from every part of the globe. "The first World Council of Churches assembly that I attended was in Vancouver in 1983. At one point during the assembly, my brother, Richard, came to visit. Richard has not been involved in the church since he was a kid, but he agreed to attend a worship service in the great striped tent that served as the assembly’s worship space. In the course of the service, prayers were said in a half dozen languages and hymns were sung in twice that many. Leaders of the service came from Orthodox and Protestant communions on six continents. Even the processional, with its array of vestments, was memorable. As we were leaving the tent, Richard turned to me and said, 'That’s not how I remember church to be!' He got it right. A World Council of Churches assembly, at its best, is an anticipation of the church for which many of us long. It is a gathering of representatives from the more than 350 churches that are members of the Council—Protestants and Orthodox from every part of the globe. In addition, there are advisors and visitors from a host of churches that are not Council members, including Pentecostals and official delegations of Roman Catholics. At such a meeting, the diversity of the body of Christ is on full display, especially during those parts of the agenda devoted to Bible study, worship, and cultural celebration. Of course, since assemblies also review the results of painstaking dialogue, make public statements of issues of the day, and chart the course for the Council in the coming years, they can also be contentious. After all, as one of the documents for the upcoming assembly puts it, 'the church is both a divine and a human reality.' The 2013 assembly, the tenth since the World Council of Churches was founded in 1948, will be in Busan, South Korea from October 30 to November 8, with the theme: 'God of life, lead us to justice and peace.' Participants will consider major documents, prepared over the last few years, on such things as the nature of the church, the meaning and practice of mission and evangelism in this era, the church’s peacemaking witness, and economic justice in an age of global disparity. All of the background materials, including Bible studies, can easily be downloaded from the assembly website. Three members of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry community will be taking part in the assembly. I will be lecturing in what is called the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute, a gathering of nearly 200 seminary students from around the world that is integrated with the assembly. My presentation on 'New Contours of Ecumenism in the 21st Century' is available here. Maggie Breen, who graduated from the school with a Master of Divinity degree last spring, and is now the Executive Director of the Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches, is one of the students in this program. Also attending is Dr. Mark Taylor. He will be representing the school through the generous support of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation grant to strengthen the worship life of this school and its curricular offerings in worship and preaching. With this in mind, he will be immersing himself in the assembly’s life of worship and prayer and seeking to network with colleagues from other places. All three of us will be eager to share our experience of the assembly with friends and churches in the Seattle area when we return." ~ Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
Spehar-Halligan Visiting Professor of Ecumenical Collaboration in Interreligious Dialogue Seattle University, School of Theology and Ministry Photo by Justin Klein
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