“We do hope that the WCC will make a great open forum to bring people together from North and South,” the Rev. Jong-Wha Park, chairperson of the international committee of the National Council of Churches in Korea told journalists in Geneva today (Sept. 1). Park was speaking the day after the WCC’s main governing body voted to hold the church grouping’s once-every-seven-years assembly in Busan, South Korea’s second city.
He noted that the WCC has a long-standing commitment to promoting “reconciliation and the peaceful unification of the two Koreas”. Park said he hoped some committee meetings before the assembly would take place in North Korea, and that Christian representatives from the North would be able to take part in the WCC gathering.
Park is also the NCCK’s chairperson of the Korean steering committee for the WCC assembly in Busan. He noted that the invitation had come from Evangelical and Pentecostal churches as well as WCC member churches, and said he hoped the gathering would show how a “wider ecumenism” might be possible.
“We are really building a Korean Christianity beyond the ecumenical/evangelical distinction,” said Park. “We’re really coming together at local level and regional level.”
The WCC represents more than 560 million Christians and has 349 members, principally Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant churches. The Catholic Church does not belong to the WCC, but it has members on some of its committees.
Many of the world’s fast-growing Pentecostal and Evangelical churches do not belong to the WCC.
Still, Douglas Chial, the WCC’s program executive for church and ecumenical relations, noted that the grouping has five Pentecostal and many Evangelical churches in its membership.
Park said that holding the assembly in South Korea was welcomed by the Catholic Church locally as an opportunity for dialogue.
In addition, “There are no religious conflicts, politically or ethnically-motivated,” said Park, noting that followers of Buddhism and Confucianism were also looking forward to the WCC holding its assembly in Korea.
South Korea is one of the Asian countries with the largest number of Christians who make up more than 26 percent of the 49.5 million people in the country. Protestants make up almost 20 percent of the South Korean total population, Catholics slightly less than 7 percent and Buddhists more than 23 percent.