Seeking church unity for the sake of the world
LWF President Bishop Younan visits South Korea, challenges growing inequality between nations
Churches must use their global voices and moral authority to challenge systems perpetuating inequality, Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) said in South Korea.
Addressing the General Assembly of the Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK), Younan said churches must be prophetic in the face of growing inequality between and within nations, including between urban and agricultural communities.
“The churches are called to rise to this challenge. We must ask hard questions as we seek to call things what they are,” said Younan, who is also the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).
LCK President Rev. Dr Chul Hwan Kim (left) said the visit by LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan was important as Korean people struggle with “living in the pain of division.” Eun-hae Kwon (right), LWF Vice-President for Asia, accompanied the Lutheran leaders. Photo: LWF/LCK
The LWF president preached at the Daejodong Lutheran Church, visited the border dividing North and South Korea at Panmunjeom and met church leaders and government officials during the 1-6 October visit.
In his keynote address at the LCK assembly, Younan emphasized the unity of the church as essential, and its relevance in serving the world. “Our unity is not focused on ourselves alone. It is not a goal for the benefit of our churches. It is not even a goal we seek to honor and bless God. The unity we seek as followers of Christ is for the sake of the world,” he said.
On the notion that religion and politics do not mix, he challenged the church to address inequality in society. “Our world is dying for fresh streams of water that will transform inequality to equality, injustice to justice, egocentric economies to economies of equal opportunity.”
Turning to the refugee crisis in Europe as thousands displaced by conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa that the international community has not solved, the LWF president spoke as a church leader who is also a refugee.
“Both my faith and my history oblige me to speak up for these women, men and children who are washing up on beaches, are found decomposing in trucks on the highway, are crossing borders of barbed wire, and are barely surviving in makeshift camps,” he said.
In his sermon at the Daejodong Lutheran Church, Younan underscored the importance of honoring diversity as the church seeks unity. He added that the mission of the church is oneness in Christ in order to share God’s love with a broken world, something the LWF attempts.
The LCK president Rev. Dr Chul Hwan Kim thanked the LWF president for his visit, saying he had brought solace to the church members. “Born as a Palestine refugee, President Younan is one who can relate to the pain from division and anxiety over war. We are grateful for his visit in Korea. He is a comforter sent by our Lord to the Korean people living in the pain of division.”
The LCK has 5,000 members in 50 congregations. As the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 approaches, its planned programs include visiting Reformation sites, establishing a new church as well as holding academic seminars and publishing related books.
LWF vice-president for Asia, Eun-Hae Kwon, expressed deep appreciation for Younan’s visit and for reminding church leaders of the importance of unity in ecumenical work and in social responsibility today.
“The church is called to be always reformed and so we reaffirm our call to be a communion that is always reforming itself and always preparing to be reformed by God’s response to the world,” Kwon noted.