Seven Chinese church delegates participated in the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) held in Karlsruhe, Germany, from 31 August to 8 September 2022, under the theme “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”. More than 4,000 delegates from all over the world attended the assembly.
The delegation was led by Rev. Wu Wei, president of China Christian Council (CCC), and members were Rev. Kan Baoping, vice chairman of National Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), Rev. Shen Xuebin, vice president of CCC, Rev. Dr. Lin Manhong, associate general secretary of CCC and academic dean of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary (NJUTS), Rev. Dr. Wen Ge, associate general secretary of CCC and interim chief of the office of academic affairs of NJUTS, Ms. Gu Jingqin, interim chief of the overseas relationship department of CCC&TSPM, and Ms. Shi Meiying, secretary of the overseas relationship department, CCC&TSPM said.
According to CCC&TSPM, Ms. Gu Jingqin and Rev. Dr. Lin Manhong were elected as members of the WCC Central Committee, the chief governing body of WCC between assemblies. Rev. Dr. Lin Manhong was elected as one of the 25-member executive committee.
CCC joined the WCC under the leadership of Bishop K. H. Ting in 1991. Since then, the Chinese registered churches have participated in the assemblies, and some representatives have been elected as members of the WCC central committee and the executive committee.
In the 11th assembly, the Chinese delegation took part in various activities of the conference.
Rev. Dr. Wen Ge was invited to participate in the business committee held every morning. In addition, he was also invited to serve as the rapporteur for the sixth ecumenical conversation — “Broadening the Dialogue on the Church”.
Ms. Gu Jingqin was invited to read the Bible in Chinese at a morning prayer meeting. On the evening of September 6, she was invited to attend the essay collection launch of the International Missionary Council Centenary Conference and shared her views on the impact of the conference on the Chinese church and how the Chinese church will continue to cooperate with overseas churches in the future.
On the evening of September 1, Rev. Dr. Lin Manhong and Rev. Dr. Wen Ge attended the "United and Uniting Churches" meeting of the WCC, giving a brief introduction of Chinese churches.
On the evening of September 2, Rev. Wu Wei and other members of the delegation attended the meeting of churches in the Asian region. Rev. Dr. Wen Ge gave a greeting at the meeting, pointing out that the ecumenical spirit had already existed in Asia, and the union of churches in southern India in the 1940s was a good example. Asian churches that embrace a large number of Christians have their own unique multi-religious cultural and social situation. Therefore, Asian churches should strive to build their own contextualized theology to guide the development and unity of the church and jointly respond to issues like poverty and ecological problems in Asia. Rev. Dr. Lin Manhong gave the closing prayer, and she prayed for Asia, the unity of the church, and the love of Christ coming to those affected by war and natural disasters.
On the afternoon of September 7, the Chinese delegation held a workshop on the theme of "A Journey Towards Unity in a Chinese Context". The workshop was presided over by Rev. Shen Xuebin. The four speakers Rev. Dr. Wen Ge, Rev. Dr. Lin Manhong, Mr. Liu Siyuan, Director of Amity Africa Office, and Rev. Kan Baoping introduced to the delegates the work and achievements of the Chinese church in the aspects of “theology of unity”, “unity in practices”, “unity with people in need”, and “unity of China” respectively.
The audience raised questions that they would like to know more about, including how CCC&TSPM advances the Sinicization of Christianity while respecting and accepting the characteristics of ethnic minorities, whether there is room for multiculturalism in theological education, how to accommodate and reflect the characteristics and cultures of ethnic minorities, what are the main contents and basic characteristics of unity with Chinese characteristics, whether Chinese churches carry out cross-religious cooperation in social service, etc.
At this assembly, the Chinese church delegation renewed their friendship with many old friends and made some new friends. During the assembly, members of the delegation communicated with the heads and staff of several churches and church organizations, including the United Church of Canada, the United Methodist Church in the USA, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia, the United Bible Societies, the Foundation for Theological Education in Southeast Asia, the Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China, Christian Action in Hong Kong, the Evangelical Church in Germany, the Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in Germany, Bread for the World (Brot für die Welt), the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe, the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church in America, the Church in Wales, Christian in Action in the Netherlands, the Church of Scotland, the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, the Church of Pakistan, the Church of the Province of Myanmar, the Church of Bangladesh, etc. They shared the current situation of the Chinese church after the outbreak of the pandemic and laid the foundation for resuming communication after the opening of travel.
On September 1st, Rev. Wu Wei, Rev. Kan Baoping, Rev. Shen Xuebin, and two staff of the overseas relationship department had dinner with the heads of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in Germany.
On September 5th, Rev. Wu Wei and Ms. Shi Meiying had lunch with Olav Fykse Tveit, the former general secretary of the WCC. Rev. Dr. Tveit has visited Chinese churches many times, knowing Chinese churches well and being willing to strengthen the connection and cooperation between WCC and Chinese churches. After stepping down as general secretary in 2020, he has served as the presiding bishop of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway. He expressed to Rev. Wu Wei the willingness to continue the friendly exchanges of visits between churches in Norway and China. The Norwegian Church hopes to strengthen its connection with the Chinese Church. When international travel is no longer affected by the pandemic, the Norwegian Church hopes to organize a group visit as soon as possible. Rev. Dr. Tveit was also concerned about the Chinese church's pandemic prevention, pastoral work, and social services for pandemic prevention.
On September 7, Rev. Wu Wei was invited to talk with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and his wife. Rev. Shen Xuebin and Ms. Gu Jingqin also attended the talks. After the talks, both sides expressed that they will continue to strengthen the exchanges between the churches of the two countries and conduct more dialogues in the future.
After the assembly, the delegation went to Frankfurt, during which they participated in a video conference to communicate with the local believers in Germany. They held talks with ministry leaders there, including the secretary of the Hesse State Church Ecumenical Relationship Department, Father Willing of the German "China Center", the director for East Asia of the Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in Germany, the secretary for Asia-Pacific of Mission EineWelt, visited the social service ministry of the Church in Frankfurt, and exchanged views on topics such as church contextualization and religious dialogue.