The World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee voted today to hold the 10th WCC Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea in 2013. The decision was taken by secret ballot and decided in one round.
A total of four member churches extended invitations to the WCC to hold its next assembly in their country. Three of the four invitations came from Orthodox churches; Damascus, Syria, Rhodes, Greece and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Rev. Dr Jong-wha Park of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea said that by celebrating the assembly in Korea the churches can be a firsthand witness to peace and justice on the divided peninsula. The churches in North and South Korea are also separated.
“The churches (in Korea) are divided, and we yearn to come together,” Park said, adding that churches in North Korea would be invited to the assembly.
The Central Committee members only voted between two locations, Damascus, Syria and Busan, Korea. The Ecumenical Patriarchate had withdrawn its invitation to Rhodes, Greece in benefit of Damascus. A discussion within the Policy Reference Committee, which is part of the Central Committee, led to forwarding only the Damascus and Busan proposals while recognizing the historical context of the churches in Ethiopia.
The fact that so many Orthodox member churches extended an invitation was unprecedented and did not go unnoticed by the Central Committee members who stated their appreciation during the deliberations. WCC moderator Rev. Dr Walter Altmann thanked the Orthodox churches for their generous hospitality and said the Central Committee would “very much like to go to Damascus” for one its future meetings.
“Selecting a venue for the next assembly is among the most important decisions that will be taken at this meeting of the Central Committee,” vice-moderator Rev. Dr Margaretha Hendriks-Ririmasse said in her introductory remarks on 27 August before representatives from each location made their presentations.
“We had two excellent choices on the table and it was very hard to decide”, said Bishop Martin Schindehütte, a Central Committee member from the Evangelical Church in Germany.
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had expressed interest to host the assembly in Rhodes, but withdrew the invitation as an act of solidarity with the churches in the Middle East who, he felt, needed the presence of the worldwide church fellowship by their side.
Patriarch Ignatius IV of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East had made the invitation to Damascus on behalf of a broad group of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches in Syria.
Abune Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and one of the WCC presidents, had issued the invitation to Addis Ababa, with the support of numerous other Ethiopian churches.
The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) had issued the invitation to Busan on behalf of all NCCK member churches, including four WCC members (Anglican Church of Korea, Korean Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church of Korea and Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea).
With the decision taken, an assembly committee will be formed and begin working on planning and implementation.