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Together towards life in the Korean context: missiological implications for the Korean Church.


This paper examines the implications of Together towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes (TTL,) the Korean context. TTL presents a renewed understanding of mission and challenges the mission activity of the Korean church and mission community. The paper explores some missiological implications of TTL, for the once marginalised Korean church, which has become the centre of global Christianity. The world church has begun to recognise the rise of the non-Western churches and the emerging roles of the Korean church. TTL, with a study guide, and Ecumenical Missiology should serve as helpful resources for teaching and training theology students and field missionaries. (1)

Carey's Proposal (1806)

In May 1806, William Carey (1761-1834), a Baptist missionary to India, proposed a decennial interdenominational or ecumenical (as we would call it today) mission conference in Cape Town by 1810, or 1812 at the latest.
The Cape of Good Hope is now in the hands of the English...would
it not be possible to have a general association or all denominations
of Christians from the four quarters of the world...once in about
ten years? I earnestly recommend this plan...We could understand
one another better; and more entirely enter into one another's views
by two hours' conversation, than bv two or three years' epistolary
correspondence. (2)

After serving 13 years as a missionary in India, Carey deeply felt the need for such an interdenominational world missionary conference. He believed that the task of world evangelization could not be done by a single mission society or one denomination. He suggested that missionaries of all denominations cooperate in order to facilitate the work of the world mission. Therefore, Carey proposed that a general gathering of missionaries from all Christian denominational traditions convene every 10 years at Cape Town, South Africa, starting in 1810. However, the idea was dismissed by Andrew Fuller, the secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society, as "one of the pleasing dreams." (3)

When the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference was held in 1910, the "pleasing dream" of William Carev had been realized. Thus, the Edinburgh 1910 World Missionary Conference became the precursor to the ecumenical era of the 20th century. The Edinburgh Conference was held because of the active interdenominational cooperation between missionaries from various denominations and mission societies.

Ecumenical Engagement of the Presbyterian Church of Korea

Many pastors of the local church, seminary professors and students, and field missionaries of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) participated in the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) (in Busan, Korea, in 2013. In fact, they were strongly encouraged and motivated to attend the assembly by the PCK to communicate and interact with church leaders from various denominational affiliations.

I was privileged to participate in the third congress on world evangelization of the Lausanne Movement (Cape Town) in October 2010. I attended the WCC Busan Assembly in 2013 as well. Also, I had the opportunity to participate in the subsequent WCC-CWME (Commission on World Mission and Evangelism) gathering held in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, in October 2014 to explore the in-depth application of Together towards Life: Mission and Hvangelism in (.hanging landscapes (TTL) in the diverse context of member churches and the mission community. Furthermore, I attended the second CWME consultation in Matanzas, Cuba, from 11-15 September 2016 to share the means and methodologies for the practical application of TTL in the Korean context.

The GETI and KETI Programs

During the WCC Busan general assembly session, the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI) (4) was offered to 150 young theology seminary students of the global churches. The GETI program included approximately 20 slots for Korean theology' students to widen the ecumenical understanding of the younger generations. In addition to the international GETI program, the Korean Ecumenical Theological Institute (KETI), a Korean equivalent of the GETI, was offered to 160 Korean theology students to broaden the global understanding of the future ecumenical movement of the Korean church.

While the GETI was prepared and supported by the WCC's Programme on Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE) in cooperation with the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland, the KETI was planned and organized by the Korean Host Committee for the WCC Busan assembly in cooperation with the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK). The GETI was offered to international theology-students from diverse denominational traditions from both Korea and all regions of the world. The GETI project aimed to provide the opportunity for "intense theological learning, mutual understanding, and inter-generational dialogue with important leaders of the ecumenical and evangelical movement." (5)

The GFTI program was offered in English; the KETI was held in Korean. Thus, there was only one joint session during the general assembly. Under the auspices of the 25 theological seminary- professors, the KETI was planned to foster future ecumenical leaders and to enhance the ecumenical spirit of the Korean participants from different denominational backgrounds. The GETI and KETI programs should not be considered as one-time events, but should be developed into an ongoing program of the Korean church as well as in churches in other regions of the world.

Missiological Implications of TTL: Challenges and Tasks

TTL is a comprehensive mission document. It is composed of 112 mission affirmations, some of which are especially relevant to the Korean context. This presentation will focus on those affirmations more relevant to the Korean mission, as I would like to reflect on TTL in the Korean context. I will explore the missiological implications to the local churches, the missionary community, and theological education before offering some final remarks on TTL.

First, the so-called conservative or the non-member churches of the NCCK and WCC paid little attention to TTL. It should be noted that it is hard to find coverage of TTL in academic journals of the conservative or non-ecumenical theological institutions in Korea. On the other hand, many academic journals of the theological institutions of ecumenical or WCC member churches (6) in Korea dealt with TTL as a major topic.

The conservative churches in Korea paid little attention to TTL because they were afraid it did not reflect the evangelical perspective of mission. (7) This new mission document, however, undoubtedly proclaims that the core of mission is anchored in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thankfully, some conservative mission scholars and theological institutions are being more open and are attempting to find common ground between TTL and The Cape Town Commitment (CTC) of the Lausanne Movement. (8) Thus, additional effort should be made to explore and disseminate the mission spirit of TTL among conservative and evangelical Christians to produce great synergy among the Korean church.

Second, TTL reconfirms the roles of the local church in ecumenical activities. In Korea, the ecumenical circle has received the criticism that it brought about a weakening of ecclesiologv while emphasizing the expansion of the scope of mission centred only on the church. As a result, most ecumenical activities of the WCC were carried out in the area of united organizations outside the local churches. And in turn, most of the churches were excluded from the ecumenical venue. However, this new mission statement confirms that the local church is the fundamental unit of mission and ecumenism, thus emphasizing the role of the local church in mission.

A renewed emphasis on the local church as an ecumenical agent has provided a much-needed corrective to institution-centred understanding and practices of ecumenical mission over the past several decades. As such, TTL contributes to the revitalization and strong buildup of the local churches. The new mission affirmation, TTL, paved the way for ecumenical values to be easily accessible by local churches and not just to a few ecumenical experts.

Third, TTL pays attention to the new mission paradigm, which has changed from mission to the margins to mission from the margins. ([section]6) As the Scottish mission historian Andrew F. Walls attested, the centre of gravity of world Christianity has shifted from the Western church to the global South (Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands). (9) ([section]5) The Western church is not a major agent of the global mission any longer. In the history of the missionary movement, mission was done by the powerful to the powerless, by the rich Western church to the poor non-Western church, by the privileged to the marginalized. ([section]38)

Those on the margins of societies were regarded "as recipients and not as active agents of missionary activity." An attitude of paternalism, superiority, and triumphalism had motivated mission from the centre. And often Christianity was equated with Western culture. ([section]41) However, this new mission statement rejects the age-old mission paradigm and suggests the marginalized as active agents of mission. Presently, the global church has witnessed the rise of non-Western churches, such as the Korean church. The peripheral church of Christianity at the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910 has become the centre. Christianity is observing a new tide in the missionary movement of the world church: the emergence of the margins.

Fourth, TTL reaffirms the traditional concept of mission. As a result, this new mission statement makes the evangelicals within the ecumenical circle feel comfortable. It declares that evangelism is a confident but humble sharing of our faith and convictions with other people. ([section]8) It reminds us of David Bosch's "bold humility or humble boldness" mission spirit. (10)

TTL argues that our missionary activities should be carried out not only with words but also in deeds. "Authentic Christian witness is not only what we do in mission but how we live out our mission." ([section]29) While living out our mission is no easy task for anyone, this affirmation is especially relevant, true, and needed for Korean Christians.

Fifth, TTL reaffirms the intimate relationship between church and mission. It highlights the missionary nature of the church: the church exists to fulfill God's missionary purposes. It proclaims that "the church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning." (11) ([section]57) It bears witness that the church exists because of its mission. TTL proclaims that "the source of all mission and evangelism" is situated in "the Triune God's overflowing sharing of love." ([section]55) TTL rightly asserts that "God indwells the church, revealing God's missionary purposes for the world and empowering and enabling its members to participate in the realization of these purposes." ([section]56)

Likewise, God invites us to engage in missio Dei (God's mission). TTL claims that "The church in history has existed...for the sake of mission." ([section]57) Furthermore, the document goes on to say that "If the church does not engage in mission, it ceases to be church." ([section]57) Thus, "the churches mainly and foremost need to be missionary churches." ([section]58) The church is missionary by its nature. Given the large number of Korean missionaries, this argument is very encouraging to the Korean church and the world church. But the mission of the Korean church has been so engrossed with church-centred theology, not God-centred theology, that it needs to listen attentively to the missio Dei theology.

Sixth, TTL clearly states that proselytism is not an appropriate or legitimate manner of evangelism. ([section]82) Proselytism has been a major factor dividing the churches of the Lord and a threat to the ecumenical movement per se. (12) Many conservatives who opposed the Busan WCC Assembly were very sensitive to this issue. The WCC-CWME document opposes so-called sheep stealing from the same Christian flock, but does not oppose witnessing to the devotees of other faiths. TTL denounces the "forced conversion" or "aggressive tactics" used in trying to persuade our fellow Christians who already belong to a church (Orthodox Church and/or Roman Catholic Church) to change denominational allegiance and confession. ([section]62)

This affirmation should cause the Korean church and her missionaries to be alert when working in Roman Catholic or Orthodox regions. Many Korean missionaries working in these areas sometimes try to snatch believers through economic incentives or subsidies. This is contrary to the gospel message and is not "authentic evangelism." ([section]110)

Seventh, TTL pursues a common confession through collaboration with Evangelicals. (13) The WCC tries to "identify and practice ways of common witness in a spirit of partnership and cooperation, including through respectful and responsible forms of evangelism." ([section]63) The WCC collaborates with evangelicals, especially the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) and the World Evangelical Alliance (WE A), which also abundantly contributed to the enrichment of ecumenical mission theology. (14) ([section]65)

For example, The Cape Town Commitment (15)of the Lausanne Movement deals with very similar mission agendas or common issues like witnessing, peace making, humility, partnership, and missio Dei. ([section]65) However, The Cape Town Commitment gives more emphasis to proclamation than to the social justice of TTL. (16)The collaboration of TTL with the CWME strongly advises us to find more similarities or common ground with the conservatives in Korea.

Eighth, the already translated Together towards Life (Hamgye Saengmyungeul Hyanghayeo) and the soon-to-be-translated Ecumenical Missiology (17)(Ek.ynmenikul Misiologi) should be used for missiological education purposes by the Korean church. The two textbooks should be adeptly used by proficient seminary- professors, mission workers, and church leaders according to the respective training purpose.

These textbooks may accelerate the ongoing missiological discussion and training for continuing education at diverse education levels. That is, the Korean translation materials will make possible the wide dissemination of the ecumenical mission vision among Korean Christians. Otherwise, it would be almost impossible to share ecumenical ideas among congregations. The translated reference books could be used for the specific purposes of the parties concerned: seminary students, local congregations, and field missionaries.

Ninth, there has been a tendency to think that the cause of the ecumenical movement had been limited to a small group of ecumenists in the Korean church. As a result, the missional agendas of the ecumenical movement were monopolized by particular elite leaders. The ecumenical movement should "not be carried out in administrative spheres in a bureaucratic way." (18) It is essential to seek congregational ecumenism or local initiatives to induce more in-depth and active participation at the grassroots level. There should be support for opportunity and development of ecumenical movement in the local churches.

Lastly, TTL challenges us to have more ongoing dialogue with conservative and non-member churches of the WCC in Korea. The Korean Host Committee for the Busan WCC Assembly encountered opposition by anti-WCC campaigns from certain conservative Christian groups. However, not all conservative groups opposed the Busan Assembly. For example, some conservative leaders from the Assemblies of God of Korea (Korean Pentecostal Church, the world's largest Pentecostal denomination) actively participated in the Busan Assembly from the outset. Other leaders of conservative churches even argued that they needed to learn from ecumenical mission concepts such as social action or transformation of the holistic mission. (19)

Final Remarks

Since the WCC Busan General Assembly, the Korean church and Korean missionaries have started to seriously consider the new mission statement, TTL, as a stepping stone to grow, mature, and lead the world mission to establish new cooperative relationships with the world church. The new mission document has presented lessons to be learned by the Korean church, as well as future tasks. This document has provided opportunities for the Korean church not only to rethink its missiological practices, but also to expose several challenges for its future mission work.

The GETI and KETI programs during the 10th WCC Assembly in Busan were the first attempt at such a program in the long history of the WCC. The programs played a pivotal role in providing an ecumenical theological education for young seminarians in Korea and around the world. Through the GETI and KETI projects, the Korean church was able to foster future leaders with a global ecumenical perspective. Such ecumenical projects make it possible to build bridges between the world churches and the Korean churches. The Korean church can aid in developing other ecumenical theological education programs similar to the GETI and KETI programs for the non-Western world.

TTL aptly emphasized the paradigm shift of mission to the margins to mission from the margins. The Korean church, which was marginalized at the 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, exemplifies this and has become the centre of global Christianity. It is evident that the centre of world Christianity has moved south over the past 30 years. The world church has begun to recognize the rise of the non-Western churches and the emerging roles of the Korean church.

TTL was translated into Korean and published in May 2016. Therefore, Korean Christians now have easier access to TTL and can refer to it as a quick and easy handbook. A Korean translation of Ecumenical Missiology will be available in September 2017. The translated TTL and Ecumenical Missiology will serve as mission studies resources for the practical application of missiological education in Korea. The core of the TTL mission affirmations suggests some challenges and opportunities that could be applied to local congregations, advanced theology students, and field missionaries.

Some progress in using TTL in the spheres of theological education and missionary training has been made. In the academic setting of missiological education at theological institutions of the WCC member churches, TTL has been widely used as a core curriculum in the introductory and more advanced courses of the mission theology and ecumenical movement. However, the Korean church still has a long way to go in educating the grassroots and local congregations who have little to no knowledge of ecumenism.

We, as Korean Christians, are challenged to develop greater strategies that will nurture the ecumenical spirit of the local churches and Korean missionaries. The new mission statement of WCC-CWME challenges the Korean church and missionaries to engage in God's mission in humility, respect, and trust between people of our neighbouring faiths in changing landscapes. ([section]110)

Chang Uk Byun

Rev. Prof. Chang Uk Byun is dean of the Graduate School of World Mission and director of the Center for World Mission at Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary (PUTS), Seoul, South Korea. He also serves as a member of the Mission Research Committee of the World Mission Department of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Korea.

(1) A short version of this paper was presented at the 2nd WCC-CVCMF. Consultation on Missiological Formation, "Together towards Life. Implications for Mission Studies Curriculum," held at Matanzas Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cuba, September 2016.

(2) Fustacc Carey, Memoir of William Carey, D.D.: Late Missionary to Bengal; Professor of Oriental Languages in the College of Fort William, Calcutta (Boston: Gould. Kendall and Lincoln, 1836), 323.

(3) Ruth Rouse, "William Carey's 'Pleasing Dream,"' International Review of Mission 38 (1949), 181-92; Kenneth Scott Latourette, "Ecumenical Bearings of the Missionary Movement and the International Missionary Council," in Ruth Rouse and Stephen Charles Neill, eds., A History of the Ecumenical Movement, 1517-1948 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), 355.

(4) The theme of the GETI was "The Future of Ecumenism and the Transformation of World Christianity in the 21st Century."

(5) Chang Sang and Young-cheol Cheon, eds., World Council of Churches 10th Assembly Report: God of life, lead us to justice and peace (Seoul: Korean Host Committee for the WCC 10th Assembly, 2015), 120.

(6) The member churches of the NCCK (National Council of Churches in Korea) are the Korean Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, the Anglican Church of Korea, and the Presbyterian Church of Korea.

(7) An evangelical scholar pointed out that while TTL emphasizes the word "life," it does not give us "a true Christological and soteriological interpretation of life." He argues that TTL does not make a clear distinction between bios and zoe. (Yung Han Kim, "A Theological Reflection on Busan lllth Assembly of WCC," Journal of Systematic Theology 21 [20I4], 40-41.)

(8) At my university, PUTS, several courses on mission and ecumenics require the reading of TTL. and CTC.

(9) Andrew Walls, "The Mission of the Church Today in the Light of Global History," in Paul Varo Martinson, ed., Mission at the Dawn ofthc 21st Centuy: A Vision for the Churnh (Minneapolis, MN: Kirk House Publishers, 1999), 384.

(10) David lacobus Bosch, Transformirg Mission. Pardigm Shifts in Theolgy of Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Ohis, 1991), 488-89.

(11) Originally quoted from Emil Brunner, The Word and tbe World (London: Student Christian Movement, 1931), 108.

(12) WCC central committee. Towards Common Witness: A Call to Adopt Responsible Relationships in Mission and to Renounce Proselyt-(1997).

(13) Chang-uk Byun et al., "The Meaning of the WCC 10th Assembly and Its Mission Affirmation in Mission Studies Perspective," in World Council of Churches 10th Assembly Report, 365.

(14) The 1982 mission document. Mission and Evangelism: An Ecumenical. Affirmation was formulated based on the insights from evangelical mission theology. See Jooseop Keum, "Beyond Dichotomy: Towards a Convergence between the Ecumenical and Evangelical Understanding of Mission in Changing Landscapes," 392, 396, in Margunn S. Dahle et al., eds., The Lausanne Movement: A Range of Perspectives (Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2014).

(15) Chris Wright, ed., The Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2011).

(16) For more details, see Kirsteen Kim, """Together towards Life and the Mission Studies Curriculum," International Review of Mission 104 (2015): 103-5.

(17) Kenneth R. Ross, Jooseop Keum, Kyriaki Avtzi, and Roderick R. Hewitt, eds., Ecumenical Missiology: Changing Landscapes and New Conceptions of Mission (Oxford: Regnum and Geneva: WCC, 2016).

(18) Seong-won Park and kvung-seo Park, "A Comprehensive Evaluation of the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan: 'God of Life, Lead us to Justice and Peace,'" in World Council of Chnrcbes 10th Assembly Report, 281.

(19) Ibid.
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Author:Byun, Chang Uk
Publication:International Review of Mission
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2017
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