(Bonn Profiles News 35/2012 – No. 229) Since the 2013 annual meeting of the World Council of Churches and the 2014 General Assembly of the World Evangelical Alliance will take place in South Korea, Korea’s Christian Academy of Sciences invited these two global church affiliations to an official dialog on the topic “A New Horizon for World Christianity: The Convergence between the Ecumenical and Evangelical Understandings of Unity and Mission” before 300 theology professors.
Dr. Martin Robra (Geneva), a German theologian and Deputy General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, spoke for the WCC as did the Director of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), the Korean theologian Dr. Joo Seop Keum. German theologian and sociology professor Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, the Chairman of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, and the Korean theologian Prof. Sang Bok Kim, the Chairman of the WEA International Council, spoke for the World Evangelical Alliance.
In his address, Schirrmacher initially traced the history of the relationship between the two bodies and presented where the main differences lie. A portion of these differences have been largely set aside by the end of the Cold War and the shift of world Christianity to the Global South. This facilitates the cooperation and generates hope that the remaining differences will not only be taken seriously but also worked off in a self-critical manner.
Robra labeled the joint declaration “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World” as a major step forward. Additionally, global Christian bodies are less and less interested in expanding their own institutions or making more of themselves. Rather, they are out to promote actual cooperation between all Christians, also with those outside of these bodies. He additionally emphasized that the World Council of Churches does not see itself as a super-church nowadays but rather as a meeting place and a center of coordination for its member churches.
The lectures and contributions to discussion appeared bilingually during the session in the form of a book and were given to the participants at the conclusion of the event. The event received widespread media coverage – all the large daily newspapers in Korea reported on it.
The Director of the Christian Academy of Sciences (Academia Christiana), Prof. Dr. Jong Yun Lee drew positive results from the full-day discussion. The discussions were conducted in a respectful manner, and at the same time the different setting of priorities became clear. He seized upon Schirrmacher’s insistence on working towards greater unity within Christianity by there being a global Bible reading movement. “When we listen to God while studying the Bible together, the Spirit of God can change us.”
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