A local pastor who recently returned from a global gathering of church leaders called the experience “wonderful.”
The Rev. Dr Cynthia Walton-Leavitt of the Oneonta First United Presbyterian Church (the “Red Door” Church) was one of nearly 5,000 delegates who traveled to Busan, South Korea, in late October to attend the most diverse Christian gathering of its size in the world, the Assembly of the World Council of Churches.
“I’ve been wanting to go for a long time,” Walton-Leavitt said of the Assembly, which meets every seven years. After saving up, and with the help of her church supporting a portion of the expenses, Walton-Leavitt was able to attend this year’s assembly, the tenth of its kind.
According to its website, The World Council of Churches is a partnership of churches that brings together Christians of different denominations from around the world in order to fulfill together their common calling. The inaugural Assembly was held in Amsterdam in 1948.
Walton-Leavitt said the 2013 Assembly featured more than 300 denominations and 100 countries, including members from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, the Pacific and Asia. About half those in attendance were Korean, she estimated.
“I met some people from countries I had never even heard of,” Walton-Leavitt said, adding that she has always loved geography and getting to know different parts of the world, so this was particularly intriguing to her.
The Assembly of the World Council of Churches is the highest governing body of the WCC. The gathersing feature prayer and celebration, reviews of the WCC’s work around the world, and elections of leaders.The theme of this year’s assembly was “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.”
Walton-Leavitt said the assembly featured powerful daily worship, workshops, meetings, prayer and a huge exhibit hall, where she and a team of four other women from the International Association of Women Ministers organized and ran an exhibit called “God Calls Women to Ministry.” At their booth, any women in ministry or female theology students could have their picture taken and posted, along with their name, country, and denomination, on the brightly colored tapestries in the booth.