“God of Life, Restore the Creation by your Love” (Psalm 104:30, John 6:39 Revelation 21:5)

Sisters and Brothers in Christ, participants in the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches in Korea, I am honoured to present this greeting from Abuja, Nigeria – where the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches has been meeting.

I start by offering my congratulations to Rev. Kim Jong-seng on his recent appointment to the office of NCCK General Secretary, and my solidarity and support as he leads this Assembly for the first time in this capacity. 

The theme chosen for your Assembly – “God of Life, Restore the Creation by your Love” – is profound and timely. As we are all acutely aware, we live in a time of converging crises of proliferating conflicts, renewed risks of nuclear war, growing social polarization and division, spiralling economic inequality, the persistent impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and accelerating loss of the Earth’s biodiversity, all compounded by the global climate emergency that is already upon us. The life in abundance envisaged by God for all God’s people, and indeed the very future of the living planet created by God, are imperilled by this unprecedented constellation of existential challenges. All Christians, together with all people of good will are called urgently to respond to these threats, from the perspective of justice and shared responsibility for the future of our children and all future generations.

Your Assembly anticipates and looks forward to the NCCK’s centenary next year. Indeed, over its long history, NCCK has a distinguished heritage of ecumenical witness and action against dictatorship and militarism, for peace, for care for creation, and for human rights for all. That heritage remains an inspiration for the wider global ecumenical movement, and a resource upon which to draw for the challenges ahead.

The theme of your Assembly this year especially focuses our minds on how we as Christians respond to the accelerating climate crisis. Humanity’s catastrophic stewardship of God’s unique intricate creation, the increasingly obvious impacts on our climate, communities and ecosystems, and the sobering assessments of climate scientists, demand this focus from all of us. The evident inadequacy of political will and of human leadership to address the gravity and urgency of this crisis impels us to pray: “God of life, restore the creation by your love”.

The elements of this prayer closely reflect the focuses of the WCC’s 11th Assembly in September 2022, held under the theme “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”, and the strong priority given to climate change and environmental concerns, expressed in the Assembly Statement on “The Living Planet: Seeking a Just and Sustainable Global Community”.

In this time of conflict, division, injustice and environmental crisis, I join you in affirming that the love of Christ is the transformative force for reconciliation, unity, justice and restoration.

In addition to the NCCK’s centenary, 2024 will also mark the 40th anniversary of the Tozanso consultation, the pivotal event in the history of ecumenical efforts for peace, reconciliation and reunification on the Korean Peninsula. Despite – or because of – the current re-escalation of confrontation and tensions in the region, the WCC remains deeply committed to that vision, and to supporting inter-Korean leadership for peace and reunification of the divided Korean people. As we approach this 40th anniversary year, we must recall and re-capture the spirit of Tozanso to help break through the current deadlock on the Korean Peninsula, and bring an end to the cyclical escalations of tensions and the concomitant risks of nuclear conflict in the region. 

In this regard, we pray that it will become possible during this emblematic anniversary year to re-engage with our sisters and brothers in the Korean Christian Federation (KCF), from whom we have been separated since the collapse of the Hanoi Summit between the DPRK and the USA in 2019 and the emergence of the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Even during this period of separation and renewed confrontation, WCC has supported – and will continue to promote – the ‘Korean Peace Appeal’ campaign. And I very much hope that next year, an ecumenical gathering can be organized by the WCC jointly with NCCK and KCF, under the auspices of the Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reunification and Development on the Korean Peninsula (EFK). God willing, I also look forward to an opportunity to lead an ecumenical delegation visit to the DPRK next year.

Within South Korea itself, NCCK continues its historic witness for justice, human rights and democracy, in circumstances that present fresh challenges to those values. WCC will continue to pray and act together with NCCK in confronting these challenges.

In a reaffirmation of our partnership, WCC will be honoured to take part in the NCCK’s 100th anniversary gathering in September 2024. 

In the meantime, may the love and peace of our compassionate Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be upon you, and continue to guide and empower you.