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Ecumenism should recapture frontier spirit, says Woong

28 July 2004

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"The United States of America now being the sole superpower" and other drastic changes in world politics make it necessary "to redefine the ecumenical movement beyond the context of East and West," Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) general secretary and Presbyterian pastor from Korea Rev. Dr Ahn Jae Woong told the members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order plenary commission.

Among the geopolitical changes mentioned by Woong was the fact that cold war ideologies no longer exist, and that religious fundamentalism is being used as a source for terrorist acts. He made these comments today during a welcome speech to the commission members, who are meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 28 July to 6 August, 2004.

Referring to three types of "East" - geographical, political and ecclesiastical - as described by Japanese professor and renowned ecumenist Masao Takenaka, Woong noted that Christians living in this region are still separated by cultural and geographical differences. Nevertheless, their close relationships with nature and the people around them allow Christians from the "Easts" to "contribute a unique theological understanding different to that of the West," he affirmed.

The search for "alternative ways of sustaining humanity together with God’s creation (…) is the immediate task for all of us," Woong suggested. Among other main tasks, the CCA general secretary pointed to the search for "the true meaning of ecumenism in the context of non-Christian or non-ecumenical realities in our world today".

"The ecumenical movement," he said, "should recapture the frontier spirit in exploring God’s plans in the whole of God’s creation, where people and environment mutually suffer due to no faith in God, or disorder caused by human desires".

"One of the weaknesses of the ecumenical movement is that it is moving away from the people or the people’s movement," he said, and suggested that "In order to revitalize people-centered ecumenism," Asian churches should work alongside all peace-loving people to establish an "Asian People’s Pax Asiana".

To do that, there is a need to gather the "wisdom, traditions, customs and experiences" of all Asian people - part of Asia’s "rich tradition of respect for life and the search for a communitarian and egalitarian way of life," Woong emphasized.

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