‘WHICH ONE OF THESE DOES NOT SPEAK WELSH?’
Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton
This 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, Korea was my second WCC Assembly as General Secretary of The Canadian Council of Churches, but my first as a major ‘tweeter’.
For those of you following my ‘tweets’, and I hope that was most of you, you’ll know that I ‘tweeted’ a particular picture of some of the global church colleagues in my Bible Study group. The picture shows four male colleagues, three of them in ‘western’ dress and one in the robes of a Metropolitan of the Syrian Orthodox Church. The caption read, “Which one of these does NOT speak Welsh?”
One might be tempted to think that three in ‘western dress’ were all Welsh speakers but that would be a temptation not the reality. The robed Metropolitan of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the Netherlands speaks Welsh while the Russian Orthodox brother in Christ and in a western-style suit does not.
The World Council of Churches Assembly is the global Church gathered in all its glorious and sometimes surprising diversity. Sisters and Brothers in Christ from over 100 countries gathered witnessing together to Jesus Christ and the imperative to follow him into the world. The languages, the voices, the diversity, the music, the traditional dress all witness to the unity in diversity that is the global body of Christ.
The days began and ended with worship, there were daily Bible Studies and four sessions of Ecumenical Conversations on twenty key issues before the Church. There were plenary sessions on Asia, Mission, Unity, Justice and Peace, many workshops, a display area and many, many inspiring conversations in the hallways.
It was my privilege as GS of the CCC to chair the North American regional meeting denominations of Canada and the U.S. who belong to the WCC plus related organizations. One of the items on the agenda of that meeting was the proposed Quebec Charter of Values, resulting, thanks to the initiative of Bruce Meyers, in the addition of Canada to the list of countries in the WCC document in which religious freedom is an issue.
It was also my privilege to be one of the moderators of the Ecumenical Conversation on ‘Just Peace’. Sisters and Brothers in Christ from all around the globe struggled with how the Church should and will, actively and concretely, bear witness to Christ’s calling to Justice and Peace in the world. My intervention on the Arms Trade Treaty was included in the final document.
There were some new developments in the Assembly process that are a particular joy to bring to our Canadian context. The Roman Catholic observer delegation of 27 members was its largest in the history of RC/WCC relations. Side by side with passionate concern for justice in the Middle East and a focus on Palestine, the Assembly was graced by a number of prominent and articulate Jewish speakers.
And not only was there representation from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada but a significant number of prominent, evangelical plenary speakers as well. Of course, the Salvation Army, in its observer status, was well represented!
Along with the invitation to meet and converse with the Archbishop of Canterbury, an event I employed both Facebook and Twitter to record, a particular joy for me in the WCC Assembly was the opportunity to connect again with the other eight regional general secretaries Asia, Africa, Latin America, Middle East etc. Together, cherishing our unity in diversity, we witness to Christ’s vibrant presence and calling in the world. Thanks be to God!
Yours in Christ,
General Secretary of the CCC,
Note 1: The CCC as a pre-dating, regional ecumenical organization does not belong to the WCC but some of our member denominations do. The CCC remains the broadest, most inclusive church council in the world.
Note 2: I hope that the denominations of the CCC will avail themselves of some of the Assembly resources available on the WCC website noting both the convergences of our CCC work with that of the WCC AND the significant differences of our priorities, structures and vision. The closing sermon by Father Michael Lapsley is both painful and inspiring.
Note 3: We celebrate the election of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Bishop Mark Macdonald as WCC President for North America AND that of our own Society of Friends Anne Mitchell to the Central Committee.