Facing Towards a New Missionary Future
Given by The Most Reverend Francis Kyong-jo Park - Bishop of Seoul and Primate of the Anglican Church of Korea
In the passage we have read from Exodus today the situation of the oppressed people of Israel in Egypt crying out in agony and suffering becomes a symbol of the absence of God. Also in the Gospel of John the troubled circumstances of the disciples in darkness, facing the strong wind and large waves while rowing their boat on the rough lake becomes a symbol of the absence of God for the early church in its time of persecution.
In the reality of our own lives we also often face the experience of the absence of God. Not only in our own personal lives but also within the community of the church and furthermore in the whole world with its wars and terrorist attacks, poverty and violence we cannot help but feel powerless and experience the absence of God. Especially when I look at this world Anglican Communion which I love so much and which I have served all my life long facing division I too painfully experience the absence of God.
At present Korean society is undergoing incredible changes and as each new day passes every element in society becomes increasingly captivated by the lure of material things. Because of this the different elements in society become engaged in heightened levels of competition and the division between rich and poor becomes even more extreme. The whole of society is proceeding in a different direction to that of the Gospel. From within this situation I regularly feel a sense of powerlessness and experience the absence of God.
However today's scripture readings open up a new range of vision for us. Even at the time when the people of God experience great difficulties and feel the absence of God right to their bones, at the very same time they encounter the outstretched hand of God's salvation and are told to turn their footsteps toward a new direction for the future.
Compared to other Christian Churches in Korea the Anglican Church is very small in numbers. However, despite experiencing the most difficult and troubled period of modern Korean history with the Korean War and the division of Korea into north and south, the Korean Church has remained consistently faithful. Further in the 1970s and 1980s the Korean Anglican Church dedicated itself to the democratization of Korean society and to active participation in the ecumenical movement and dialogue with other religions. Especially through the houses of sharing on behalf of the poor, the Church has been led into a deeper participation in the mission of God and has planted a deep impression in church and society in Korea. Even now the majority of Korean Anglican clergy lives in poverty and makes special efforts to witness to the Gospel.
Already the 2008 Lambeth Conference has begun. Perhaps we too attending this Lambeth Conference are undergoing troubles and difficulties and may even be shaken to the extent that we too experience the absence of God. It is like the moment when the disciples encountered difficulties after they had gone out in the darkness facing the strong winds and rough waves and experienced the absence of the Lord. However, at that moment the Lord appeared and said: ' It is I, do not be afraid.'
At that precise time we are able to dream a new dream and move forward. This world is able to strike out with new hope and courage from the midst of poverty, violence, struggle and division. Through this Lambeth Conference I dearly hope that we all row out our boat facing towards a new missionary future together.