Friday, November 01, 2013

Newsline: November 1, 2013


On the way to Busan: The Brethren delegation share their hopes and dreams for the WCC Assembly

The Brethren delegation to the WCC Assembly in Busan, South Korea
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The Brethren delegation to the WCC Assembly in Busan, South Korea, includes (from left) Nathan Hosler of the Office of Public Witness, elected delegate Michael Hostetter who pastors Salem Church of the Brethren in Southern Ohio District, Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger, and Samuel Dali, president of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
It is not unusual that this size of a delegation from the Church of the Brethren would be present at a World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly, says general secretary Stan Noffsinger. What has changed is the number of delegates “and our involvement in the deliberations,” he adds.

The Church of the Brethren typically sends one delegate elected by the Standing Committee of Annual Conference to the assemblies of the WCC, which are held only every seven years. The Brethren delegation arrived today in Busan, a city on the south coast of the Republic of Korea, to prepare for the assembly that begins tomorrow, Oct. 30, through Nov. 8.

This year the elected delegate from the Church of the Brethren is Michael Hostetter, pastor of Salem Church of the Brethren in Southern Ohio District. An alternate delegate is named as well, and this year alternate R. Jan Thompson is attending the assembly as an observer. He is a retired denominational staff member who lives in Bridgewater, Va.

Representing Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigerian (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is president Samuel Dali, who will serve as the EYN delegate.

Both Noffsinger and Nathan Hosler, of the Office of Public Witness, have been selected by the WCC Central Committee to serve as special delegates. Hosler was selected as a young adult actively involved in advocacy work in Washington, D.C. Noffsinger was asked by Central Committee to serve as a leader of a Historic Peace Church.

“We just have not had that type of special recognition in many, many years,” Noffsinger emphasizes. It marks a new opportunity for the Brethren voice to be heard in ecumenical circles, he says, and for the denomination to learn from the worldwide Christian fellowship.

Today, over lunch, the Brethren delegation shared some of their hopes and dreams for the assembly:

Stan Noffsinger: “This is really a remarkable experience, where the work of the Decade to Overcome Violence, and the statement Ecumenical Call to a Just Peace, have been accepted as a guiding ethos for the WCC. The ethos of the ecumenical call is going to be woven throughout the fiber of this event. We’ll see how it takes. There is a sense among church leaders that this is a unique time where there is virtually a unanimous voice that there must be a different way of approaching violence and conflict in the world. The stance of the Historic Peace Churches has really risen to the top, nonviolence, nonparticipation in war, reconciliation, restorative justice. We’re going to try to live into that as an assembly this week. My hope is we really see the manifestation of the Ecumenical Call to Just Peace.

“There are other issues as well, one is the issue of statelessness.... There will be conversation about the internal civil unrest in the Middle East in places like Syria.... The third one is the noticeable shift in the center of the global church--where it has been historically a northern hemisphere, Euro-centric institution and Orthodox, we’re seeing the increase of the church in the southern hemisphere and that center is moving.... There is a paper on the church facing into the experience of people living with disabilities. And there is a major paper coming from the Korean context for a nuclear-free world, that I think will be fairly significant. They’re not just talking about nuclear weapons, they’re talking about nuclear power plants, the use of nuclear energy, period.”

Nate Hosler: “It will be interesting to be on the Public Issues Committee, to see what that process looks like and to get in on those discussions. It’s also exciting to see what relationships come out of that, to continue working with some of the people I know at the WCC already, but much more broadly. I guess on the practical end it will be a good opportunity to get to know people and to find ways to work together globally as a church. The workshop I’ve organized and that Stan will be part of, will be the US churches’ response to just peace. The second portion of the workshop will be discussion about how that relates to the global church. How do other churches feel about any number of things, kind of seeking their wisdom and guidance. It will be an intentional process of learning. And it will give a lot more weight in working forward, to have a strong response from the global church.”

R. Jan Thompson: “My hope for this is to better understand the ecumenical partnership around the world. It’s my understanding that the Church of the Brethren has been instrumental since 1948 when the first assembly met in Amsterdam. Some of the Brethren in attendance began to talk in terms of peace church and the whole concept of peace, particularly following so close to World War II. And now we’re coming to a point where the WCC has a paper called the Ecumenical Call to Just Peace. I’m excited and I want to hear the discussion on that. I’m also hopeful that I’ll be able to go with the Peace Train to Seoul to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to pray for peace. I think that will make a witness to both South Korea and North Korea that there are persons around the world who are praying for a peaceful solution.”

Mike Hostetter: “Two things that I’ve been thinking about recently. One is having been to Indonesia for the Global Christian Forum, I’m really eager to compare and contrast these two experiences. That was a much smaller group than this will be. It was not at all centered on doing business, it was more centered on building relationships. And over 50 percent of the participants were evangelicals and Pentecostals from around the world, which also gives a different flavor but a very interesting one.

“The second thing, since I have a background in world religions, is inter-religious dialogue and conversation. Even to talk about inter-religious conversation, I’m not sure what it sounds like to other people in other places. I know what it sounds like in the United States, I know what it sounds like to me, but that is really a very open question. I want to listen and see what the challenges are. Because I do believe that for Church of the Brethren leaders in the United States, some broader understanding of other religious traditions should be required of everyone who is a pastor. Chances are they’re going to run into that and it would be useful for them to be able to help their congregations in that regard.”

Samuel Dali: “The Standing Committee of the church [Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria], when they heard about the WCC Assembly decided that I must come here because the church wants to be part of what is happening in the world.

“And I have my two personal interests also. The first one is about the peace issue. I am interested to hear what the global church is planning to do about peace, especially in the context of the global problem that is terrorism. But I don’t know how the church as Christ’s global body is actually trying to face this problem in terms of peace. What has been happening is at the local level, the denominational level, but I am interested in seeing what is the world church saying.

“And then when I heard about the Historic Peace Church meeting [which is happening as part of the assembly] I was also interested. Maybe this is an opportunity for the Historic Peace Churches to unite most strongly in order to face some of the problems that are happening in the world, and to propose a more peaceful way through so that we can work together instead of working country by country or local church by local church. I’m eager to learn more about peace, so I can add to what I have learned, and propose some way forward for my church.”

Find a photo album and more about the assembly including links to WCC publicity and live webcasts that start Oct. 30, at

Source: 11/1/2013 Newsline

First impressions: Words and images from the opening days of the WCC 10th Assembly

At the WCC 10th Assembly, general secretary Stan Noffsinger (left) greets Armenian Orthodox archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
At the WCC 10th Assembly, general secretary Stan Noffsinger (left) greets Armenian Orthodox archbishop Vicken Aykazian
The assembly in Busan, South Korea, from Oct. 30-Nov. 8 is the 10th for the World Council of Churches (WCC). Held only every 7 or 8 years, each WCC assembly represents the largest and diverse gathering of Christian denominations from around the world. The Church of the Brethren is a founding member and has had a significant presence at each assembly since the first in 1948. Then the world's Christians met in the aftermath of World War II to renew their commitments to each other as the body of Christ, despite political and national divides. Peace is on the agenda again now, which makes the 2013 gathering of particular interest to Brethren as both a Historic Peace Church and as a living peace church.

Here are sound bites from the assembly’s opening days:

“We pray for this assembly and for ourselves that in the coming weeks we may hear your word, and respond in faith; we may hear your voice, and be renewed; we may hear you calling us, and follow where you lead; we may hear the cries of your people, and respond in humble service. We have resigned ourselves too long to the division of the churches and the divisions within the human family. Let us pray that we may not passively sit and wait, as if visible unity would be bestowed on us from outside. Inspire us to become friends who trust each other, so that in unity we may grow and mature.”
-- A prayer from the opening worship service.

“The great problems of the world today are above all problems of human distance from God; often a wilful distance--a prideful resistance to the very idea of a loving and righteous Supreme Being. That resistance, that distance from God, is nothing less than a license to ignore the rights of one’s fellow man, and to consider any means of reaching a goal as intolerable. Christianity teaches us another way--leads us along a different road: the road to Emmaus. That miracle reminds us that even in our moments of apparent defeat, Christ is with us.”
-- His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, preaching on Luke 24:25-26.

BEXCO, a large convention center in the city of Busan, Republic of South Korea, is the venue for the WCC's 10th Assembly
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
BEXCO, a large convention center in the city of Busan, Republic of South Korea, is the venue for the WCC's 10th Assembly
“We are living in the midst of a world that is without hope for the future. The crisis which we are facing [military, economic, and cultural conflicts...wsidespread poverty...oppression] cannot be resolved through human efforts. We are not able to offer any paths that can lead us out of this crisis. The theme for the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches is, I believe, a response to the needs of our world today: ‘God of life, lead us to justice and peace.’ God can and will provide. The crisis we face today is because we have forgotten that we live and have our being in God.”
-- Rev. Dr. KIM Sam Whan, chairperson of the Korean Host Committee.

“I would like to extend my warm welcome to the distinguished leaders who traveled all the way here to participate and I would also like to give them credit for their commitment.”
-- Korean Prime Minister Jung Hong-won, giving greetings to the assembly. His brief visit opened the assembly’s plenary session on the second day of the gathering.

The worship hall at the WCC Assembly
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The worship hall at the WCC Assembly. The congregation numbers some 5,000 people.
“We must respect our environment...because our life is in it.”
-- A participant from Fiji, one of more than 100 young adult volunteers or “stewards” who are helping make the assembly happen. He was one of the young adults invited to address the opening plenary session.

“There is no comfortable way of sitting on the cross. We cannot stand by as idle spectators. The truth is that we are on a journey to justice and peace.”
-- An Orthodox leader bringing ecumenical greetings to the opening plenary.
“We don’t feel that concrete actions have been taken to preserve our status and our presence.”
-- A Syrian Orthodox leader voicing a concern in the opening business session about the erosion of the Christian community in the Middle East, a concern that has been repeated several times in different venues at the assembly. He reported that the percentage of Christians is now down to 2 percent in some Middle Eastern nations. Another Orthodox speaker later in the assembly noted that “every five minutes a Christian dies for his faith.... Our brothers and sisters are being killed, driven from their homes, and persecuted.”

A gathering of peace church participants includes German Mennonite Fernando Enns (right), shown here exchanging greetings with a Quaker delegate from Japan.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
A gathering of peace church participants includes German Mennonite Fernando Enns (right), shown here exchanging greetings with a Quaker delegate from Japan.
“I’m happy to be very free!”
-- German Mennonite delegate Fernando Enns at the microphone during the opening business session, questioning the WCC’s categorization of the peace churches--Brethren, Quaker, and Mennonite--as “free church.”

“Japan has suffered a great tragedy.”
-- A delegate from Japan speaking from the business floor to ask that the issue of nuclear energy be put on the agenda. His was voicing a concern about the safety of nuclear energy that is shared by many Koreans and others following the failure of safety measures at the Fukushima plant damaged by an earthquake and tsunami.

“Maybe in seven years the window will have closed to work on this problem.”
-- A delegate from Denmark at the microphone to share a sense of urgency about climate change, and noting that if it is not addressed at this meeting it will be another seven years until the next WCC assembly.

A Korean choir sings for the opening worship service of the WCC Assembly
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
A Korean choir sings for the opening worship service of the WCC Assembly
“The Bible summons us to be peacemakers among peoples and nations and never to withdraw from this task.”
-- Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Orthodox Church, in his remarks to the theme plenary, which he served as moderator

“By the end of 2015 we will be able to say to the world that the world is free of babies born with HIV.”
-- Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, and under secretary-general of the United Nations, in his reflection on the assembly theme.

“One of the biggest challenges in this period was to find a solution to the growing deficit in the Pension Fund of the WCC.”
-- The Central Committee moderator Walter Altmann, in his report to the business session of the assembly. Serving since the previous assembly, he reviewed the seven years and highlighted several financial challenges among other types of challenges that have faced the council, sparked by the international financial crisis among other factors including a decline in membership fees received. The transition to a private pension plan, and a project that aims to develop real estate available at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva, Switzerland, where the WCC is headquartered, offers the belief that a solution to th e problem can be reached, he told the delegates.
Dancers weave the image of three crosses into a narrative of the history of Korea, given in motion and music for the opening plenary of the assembly of the WCC
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Dancers weave the image of three crosses into a narrative of the history of Korea, given in motion and music for the opening plenary of the assembly of the WCC

“Any theologies disconnected from victims and supportive of war in a violent world...are a repudiation of the mind of Jesus.”
-- Bishop Duleep Kamil de Chikera, an Asian theologian who served as Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 2001-2010, in a theological reflection on the theme of the assembly.

“I am enjoying a sense of wonder at my small, my tiny place in God’s great church.”
-- The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican church, bringing greetings to the assembly. He added, toward the conclusion of his remarks, “We need a fresh confidence in the Good News as the best way for all the people on the planet.”

“The 21st century is widely considered to be the Asian century.”
 -- The general secretary of the Christian Council of Asia remarking on the location chosen for the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, in a plenary session focused on Asian churches and their concerns.

“Eight hundred billion dollars a year for weapons of mass destruction.”
-- A note about the imbalance of spending by the United States, in a theological reflection given by Connie Semy Mella. She is an ordained elder from the Philippines Central Conference of the United Methodist Church, and also noted that when thousands of children die every day from starvation worldwide, Americans spend millions on things like ice cream and dog food.
In the WCC's consensus model, an orange card signifies agreement while a blue card shows a delegate's disagreement
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
In the WCC's consensus model, an orange card signifies agreement while a blue card shows a delegate's disagreement. Shown here, the moderator uses a call for a show of cards to gain a sense of how the delegate body is feeling.

“This [human sexuality] is a tremendously important issue that we cannot afford to ignore.... There are deep disagreements both within the church and within the ecumenical movement on this issue.... We must be open to the spirit of dialogue.”
-- One of the comments at the microphones after the floor was opened for responses to controversial comments on sexuality from one speaker. The moderator agreed to give time at the microphones after a point of order was raised. The comments on sexuality were given during a time that was intended to be devoted to reflections on Christian unity. Several people came to the microphones to speak, while others raised orange cards to signal agreement or blue to signal disagreement using the WCC’s consensus model to express their feelings. Bursts of applause also occurred, despite the moderator’s plea for no applause.

“Where there is no freedom, where there is fear, there is no worship.”
-- A Reformed delegate from Nigeria, responding to a draft statement on “Politicization of Religion and Rights of Religious Minorities,” out of the experience of Nigerian Christians who are suffering from their nation’s crisis of terrorist violence. Several other statements are being prepared for the assembly’s consideration including one on Christian unity, “Human Rights of Stateless People,” “Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula,” “The Way of Just Peace,” “Christian Presence and Witness in the Middle East,” as well as statements on a critical situation in South Sudan and nuclear energy and maritime militarization in Asia and the Pacific. A resolution asking the US to dialogue with Cuba and three “minutes” on the Democratic Republic of Congo, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and the rights of indigenous people are also in the works. A request for a new paper on climate change is under discussion.

Source: 11/1/2013 Newsline