Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), urgently called upon the churches of Asia to carry a heavier cross in expanding the global ecumenical movement, August 23, 2004. Kobia’s keynote address was made at the Ecumenical Center in Seoul, Korea, as he and other executive members of the WCC completed a series of meetings with Korean churches, prior to the WCC’s August 24-27 executive gathering in the same city.
During his address, Kobia stressed that the “fundamental shift in the center of gravity of Christianity” from the global North to the global South calls for a greater involvement of “Southern” countries (Asia, Latin America, Africa) in the ecumenical movement.
However, Kobia warned the leaders of the emergence of “superficial Christianity” that does not address the authentic spiritual dimension and needs of today’s people. In place of this “superficial Christianity,” Kobia called on the churches to bring about an “ecumenical spirituality” that “rejoices in the continuity of things of the spirit with action for justice and peace".
This ecumenical spirituality is not a human invention, said Kobia, but rather a "gift of the Holy Spirit". Above all else, Kobia reminded the 200 South Korean leaders that ecumenism must be rooted in “the concrete local situation of churches” as opposed to pre-meditated programs or structures. In working on this ecumenical expansion, Kobia challenged the churches to discover the “Asianness” of their faith and to offer their distinctive contribution to the worldwide church.
Kobia was accompanied by WCC staff members Mathews George, William Temu and Sabine Udodesku during his 3-day visit to Korea. The delegation met with the leaders of WCC member churches: the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Orthodox Church of Korea (Ecumenical Patriarchate), the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea, and the Korean Methodist Church during their pre-executive committee meeting visit, and decided to hold the WCC’s upcoming ninth assembly (2006) in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
One of the highlights of Kobia’s trip was his visit to the Yoido Full Gospel Church. The Church, led by Rev. Dr Yonggi Cho, is the largest Christian congregation in the world with some 800,000 members. According to a recent report, more than half of the world’s top ten largest congregations are in South Korea.