It is my great honour and privilege this morning to introduce this first thematic plenary of the assembly. As a missionary, mission theologian, and vice-moderator of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), it is also a source of pride to moderate this session where mission will be the focus of attention. And as the wife of Sebastian C. H. Kim from Korea, as one who has lived here and has family here, it is a particular pleasure to welcome you all in Busan.
Mission is integral to the ecumenical story, and one of the four core goals of the World Council of Churches (WCC) is to promote the common witness of the churches, so it is that we devote this first thematic plenary to the topic. It is especially appropriate that we consider the theme of mission here in Korea. The Korean churches are known worldwide for their efforts to evangelize the Peninsula in terms of spreading the good news and growing churches and Korean Christians are also known as martyrs for the faith and advocates of freedom and justice. Today there is a vibrant overseas missionary movement from Korea, and Korean churches give generously to enable gospel proclamation, social service, and unity around the world.
Today's plenary on mission is informed by the new WCC statement on mission and evangelism, Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes. You have all received a copy of this statement together with a study guide. In keeping with the theme of this assembly, the new statement declares, “The church is commissioned to celebrate life, and to resist and transform all life-destroying forces, in the power of the Holy Spirit.” In order to bring about justice and peace, it calls the church “to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ with persuasion, inspiration and conviction.”
This plenary has two objectives. The first is to highlight common challenges and new opportunities in mission in light of new global developments. The second objective is to inspire renewed commitment to the call for common witness. To address these we have planned an action-oriented reflection that is intended to enhance ecumenical cooperation in future mission work. The plenary will comprise three presentations from the platform interspersed with two short videos and a cultural performance.
The presentations will reflect on, first, mission as participation in the work of the life-giving Spirit. Rev. Professor Stephen Bevans will take a theological approach giving the big picture of the changing landscapes of world mission today and emphasize the dynamic, transformative nature of mission in the Spirit. In the second presentation, Rev. Cecilia Castillo Nanjari will explore new ways of witnessing together to the gospel of life. In response to the needs of our time, she will point to concrete action points for doing evangelism among youth in contemporary contexts. Third, Bishop Dr Geevarghese Mor Coorilos will introduce the new mission statement as a holistic view of mission towards fullness of life in justice and peace. He will illustrate some of the concrete life-affirming changes that this kind of mission has made in multi-religious contexts.
The first of the two videos will be a production of the CWME that focuses on mission in changing landscapes. The second short video will come from CWME partners and share inspiring contextual examples of mission work in line with the new mission statement. The cultural performance will illustrate dramatically the meaning of Together Towards Life. It is by the same Filipino group that so enriched the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Manila last year. The plenary will conclude with a call to churches and partners to strengthen our ecumenical cooperation in mission.
In keeping with the ethos and working practice of the CWME, the presentations come from among ecumenical partners, the CWME commission, and the wider constituency, representing the diversity we so much value in mission.
During and after the plenary, we invite feedback on your thoughts and experience. You can send your comments directly to the organizers in any of the ways suggested on the screen. In addition, you are welcome to interact through the two related “ecumenical conversations” on mission and on evangelism, to participate in the workshops on mission, and to view the mission exhibits.
So without further comment from me, we offer our reflection and call to action in mission.