Varied agendas, heated emotions at WCC assembly

2013-11-05 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Uproar and enthusiasm. Tears and smiles. Applause and protests. As participants at the World Council Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea, delve deeper into the controversial issues that divide the many churches and Christian communities around the globe, heated emotions have begun to surface.

Listen to the report from Busan by Philippa Hitchen:

Among the highlights on the media agenda on Friday was a speech by Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church, who spoke out strongly against what he called aggressive secularism and radical Islamisation.

Denouncing the destruction of traditional family values and the rise of same-sex relationships, he accused some churches of compromising core Christian beliefs to make moral teaching more attractive to modern secular tendencies. His use of terms like a mother’s “time-honoured role as guardian of the domestic hearth” (while a father’s task is to teach children social responsibility) raised heated responses, even among those who share many of his concerns.

Both Hilarion and another Orthodox representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate also urged the WCC to focus its energy and resources on combating the persecution of Christians in countries across Africa, Asia or the Middle East.

In completely contrasting style and tone was a slide presentation from a soft-spoken doctor at a Lutheran hospital in the remote highlands of central India. She moved many in the audience close to tears as she talked of the dedication, love and care shown by staff for their patients, including a pair of conjoined twin girls, only one of whom survived the difficult separation procedure. Girls in India, she and other speakers recalled, lack basic rights and are too often victims of infanticide, rape, slavery and oppression.

And these are just two of the many, vastly varying agendas and issues that have begun to take centre stage here in Busan. From gender justice to interfaith relations, from climate change to peace on the Korean peninsula, delegates hurry from one hall to another to follow the latest on who’s doing what and where.

Another key speaker, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, remarked the Assembly really reflects the depth and breadth of God’s great Church. While we must be a poor Church for the poor, he added, we must also recommit ourselves to the task of restoring full, visible, sacramental unity to the Body of Christ. We must be one, he said to resounding applause, so that the gospel we preach is not denied by the way we live our separate lives.