Methodists from around world gather amid global tensions
July 20, 2006
|A UMNS Web-only photo by Joan LaBarr
Traditional Korean singer Hyung-Chul Kim of Seoul Arts College sings at the opening worship of the World Methodist Conference.
By Joan G. LaBarr*
SEOUL, South Korea (UMNS) — Concerns about tensions on the Korean Peninsula
and bombings in the Middle East were acknowledged as more than 2,500 Methodists
gathered in Seoul.
Drawing representatives from churches in 132 countries, the World Methodist
Council met July 18-19, followed by the July 20-24 World Methodist Conference.
“God in Christ Reconciling” (II Corinthians 5:18) is the theme for the 19th
conference, which is meeting at Seoul’s Kum Nan Church for worship, dialogue and
study. Conference participants come during a time of high tension following
North Korea’s recent missile tests.
Bishop Sunday C. Mbang of Nigeria, council chairman, expressed concern over
the situation. “It is through the special providence of God that all Methodists
from around the world are coming together in Seoul to pray for peace and
reconciliation on the Korean peninsula in such a time of heightened tension.”
Council delegates affirmed their support of Korean Methodist concerns by
unanimously approving a resolution for reconciliation and peaceful reunification
of the Korean Peninsula.
In the resolution, the council calls upon the 70 million Methodists of 132
countries to be mediators for peace and reconciliation as well as advocates for
the peaceful reunification of Korea. Church members are encouraged to
participate in the ecumenical efforts of the council and the National Council of
Churches in the United States to help reunite separated Korean families.
The resolution also asks the South Korean and North Korean governments to
support “wide levels” of cooperation and collaboration; continue exchange
programs; increase humanitarian programs; and “consider mutual understandings
and cooperation which would lead us toward peaceful unity.”
Further, the statement urges North Korea to honor the principles of
the United Nations’ guidelines and to find a resolution to the nuclear
issues through peaceful cooperation. It denounces the development of
nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and expresses the desire
for an immediate end to the development of such threats.
Some United Methodists had previously planned a visit to North Korea before
the conference with the intent of sharing interests and understandings
concerning peace, but the visit was cancelled at the urging of the U.S. State
Department following the North Korean missile launches.
Middle East message
Because of the fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah faction in Lebanon,
the Rev. Elias Chacour, recipient of the 1994 World Methodist Peace Award, was
unable to come to Seoul as a keynote speaker for the conference.
The Rev. Elias Chacour
Chacour, who is founder of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions at Ibillin,
Galilee, also was recently elected archbishop of Akka, Haifa, Nazareth and
Galilee in northern Israel.
He sent a message, dated July 17, to the conference. Part of the message
noted: “? Since I was elected Archbishop of Galilee for the Melkite Church,
which is the largest Christian Church in the Holy Land, my obligations are
completely different from what they were.
“Presently I am touring our parishes to encourage them and be present to them
mainly since the outbreak of new hostilities. We have never seen such danger and
such dependency on the Lord. ...
“No place is secure any more. Lebanon has been destroyed with the Israeli war
machines. Israel’s northern and central parts are daily exposed to the worst
bombing with rockets and Katioushas of the Hezbollah from Lebanon. The language
on both sides is one of vengeance, of hatred, of retaliation. No red line any
more. Everything is possible.
“Everyone is exposed to death. Yesterday while traveling to church at the
Cathedral in Haifa, the first rocket exploded one hundred meters away from my
car. Haifa, which is actually my residence, is daily bombed with horrible
rockets. Yesterday’s results were eight deaths and 20 persons injured. Everybody
calls on the bishop, on me: What to do? Where to go? People are frightened. They
“The Holy Eucharist which we were supposed to celebrate on the 20th of July
for the day of the Prophet Elias (Elijah) is cancelled by the security forces.
We were convinced that Galilee is the most secure place in the Middle East. No
more now. The destruction is almost in every town and every village is a kind of
apocalyptic reality. Nearby, in Lebanon, the destruction comprises whole
villages, towns, and even Beirut. It is simply scary, absurd and satanic.”
His full statement was presented July 18 to the council’s governing body and
received with prayer and a proposal that it be shared with the larger Methodist
The body also approved a statement on the latest violence in the Middle East,
calling upon the governments to comply with all United Nations resolutions
pertaining to the region and to cease violent acts and seek resolution of their
differences through peaceful means. The resolution requested that member
churches continue praying and working for a peaceful resolution of the issues
involving Palestinians and Israelis.
*LaBarr is manager of the World Methodist Conference newsroom in Seoul, South
Korea, and director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s North
Texas Annual Conference.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or
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