8-13 November 2002

Visions of Christian Unity

The third annual meeting of the Joint Consultative Group, a discussion between members of the World Council of Churches and the global Pentecostal Movement was held in Kwang Lim Seminar House outside of Seoul, Korea, November 8-13, 2002. The group, established in Harare at the Eighth Assembly of the WCC, had met previously in France and in Ecuador. The theme for the week was the "Unity of the Church" and it was rooted in daily bible studies based upon the New Testament book of Ephesians. Two papers were presented that explored the different understandings of unity existing among the churches, one from each team. Discussions were marked by candor and generosity toward one another though each team pressed the other in a mutual exploration of issues they believe are important for the unity of the church. In representing their various constituencies it is clear that there are many places where they agree, but they also see that further exploration is necessary before they come to any final conclusion. A meeting such as this is fairly new for many Pentecostals. At the same time, many WCC members have had little exposure to Pentecostals. The group continues to discover the need to educate and understand each other as well as address the misconceptions and concerns each has traditionally held about the other.

The Korean Methodist Church served as host for the meeting. Korea is home to some of the largest congregations in the world, including the largest Pentecostal and the largest Methodist congregation.

One of the commitments among the members is to connect to the local situation, to participate in local worship services and to interact with local congregations represented by these groups. This time the group attended the Yoido Full Gospel Church pastored by the Rev. Dr. David Yonggi Cho, which is the largest congregation in the world. Dr. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., co-moderator for the Pentecostal team, was invited to preach at the Full Gospel Incheon Church on the theme of Christian unity. The next day the members participated in a theological symposium held at the Tae Jo Dong Full Gospel Church in Seoul. Dr. Sam Hwan Kim, Director of the International Theological Institute, (an educational program of the Yoido Full Gospel Church) served as host of the conference, that included the General Secretary of the Korean National Council of Churches as well as three past Presidents of the Korean Assemblies of God. The conference, called "Mission in the Age of Globalization," was historic because of the public participation of Pentecostal and ecumenical theologians in the Full Gospel Church. While the Korean Assemblies of God was not in the position to host the World Council of Churches per se in such a meeting, it was, nevertheless, willing to host a meeting in which their ecumenical concerns could be voiced in the name of "Ecumenicals and Pentecostals".

The new conversation between Pentecostals and members of the World Council of Churches challenged the participants throughout their dialogue. Pentecostals raised concerns about the World Council of Churches such as its apparent overemphasis of a social agenda at the expense of evangelism. At the same time, WCC members sought to understand the theme of unity in light of the dramatic growth of Pentecostals, sometimes at the expense of the more traditional churches. The group plans to continue to meet and present a report to the World Council of Churches and to denominations of the participants in 2006. Future meetings are scheduled for Cleveland, Tennessee (USA), and in South Africa.

Pentecostal participants included:

The Rev. Miguel Alvarez, Honduras;
Rev. Sheri R. Benvenuti, USA;
Rev. Harold Hunter, USA;
Rev. Velli-Matti Karkkainen, Finland;
Rev. Japie Lapoorta, South Africa;
Rev. Paulson Pulikottil, India; and
Rev. Stephen Safwali, Zambia.

WCC participants included:

The Rev. Leslie G. Anderson, Panama;
Rev. Cecilia Castillo Nanjari, Chile/Brazil;
Brother Grigori Dovgyuallo, Belarus;
Rev. Yo-Han Lee, Korea;
Ms. Yueh-Wen Lu, Taiwan;
Rev. Hector Osvaldo Petrecca, Argentina; and
Rev. Bas Plaisier, The Netherlands.

The Rev. Bruce W. Robbins (United Methodist Church) and the Rev. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. (Assemblies of God) from the USA served as co-moderators. Mr Hubert van Beek from the World Council of Churches served as staff.