The World Council of Churches recently concluded their 10th Assembly. The Assembly met in Busan, Republic of Korea.
When I traveled to Korea this spring, I had the privilege to address the Busan WCC Preparatory Committee.
I did not return for the Assembly. Part of me wishes I had. A large group of Presbyterians attended, including colleagues and friends. Hearing of their experiences reminded me of my Korean connections.
In addition to the news accounts from the WCC and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), many of the participants wrote and blogged about the Assembly. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly, wrote several reflections.
For analysis of the Assembly through the lens of gender and racial justice, check out the blog of my friend Laura Mariko Cheifetz. Here are her current postings along with some teasers.
I know, I should really appreciate everyone’s voices being shared. I should make sure that any decision-making process allows for all voices. But consensus is just as complicated a process as is Robert’s Rules/parliamentary procedure, and the process combined with limited time allowed for discussion really can quash serious disagreement and discussion (unless you’re a dude, according to this meeting).
We have theological and Biblical reasons for our long-standing ecumenical activity. Succumbing to our desire to hoard our diminishing resources and the influence of the isolationist/conservative element in the PC(USA) would be a theological statement – that we believe we do not have enough. We believe in scarcity. We believe that our own institutional preservation is of greater theological value and import than our commitment to being part of the larger Christian family.
There is a line between tokenizing and fetishizing young people’s voices, and genuinely holding up their leadership. Let’s be clear, the church is usually behind other social institutions in giving young people real responsibilities and taking them seriously.
And a highlight of my day, besides the mens’ statement, was going to the steps outside the convention center with hundreds of other participants in the pre-assembly for a group picture, with women from all over the world singing “We Shall Overcome.” This, from women who had just been discussing trafficking of women and children, and sexual violence. There is plenty of hope here. I can’t wait for tomorrow, for the beginning of the assembly.
A woman selling food by the beach gave me a look when I said I was American. I took that to mean that she didn’t quite believe me because of my looks (this is a frequent problem I have when traveling in other countries – I don’t look white, don’t have blond hair or blue eyes, and I like spicy food, so I do not seem very American to some). I said my mother’s family was Japanese, and she walked away. I know that just because my family wasn’t in Japan, and spent a few years locked up in concentration camps in the U.S. for being Japanese, does not make much of a difference to a people who were systematically terrorized by a brutal and dehumanizing regime.
Like many with privilege, I want to squeeze myself into a corner and not take up too much space out of an awareness of that privilege. Of course, as an under-40 woman of color, there is another part of me that knows disappearing is not the answer. Making myself small and withholding my contributions to the work is just another way to exercise privilege, or to allow those from my denomination and country with more personal privilege to dominate. So I will participate. In fact, I think I’ll be working my ass off, dancing between contributing the appropriate amount and making sure my contributions are not dominant over the contributions of others with less economic and social power in this religious world. At least I’m aware that I should not dominate the conversation.
Laura also posts a number of photo blogs:
If you want to learn more about the WCC General Assembly, check out Laura’s work. She says more will follow.
See you along the Trail.