In the Beginning Was the Word – Really? — from the editorial of Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland

Christian communication experts prepare for the 2013 WCC Assembly in South Korea

May 25, 2012

Skyline of Busan

What if, in the beginning, God had remained silent? To most of the 18 participants in the international consultation that took place the week before Pentecost in Busan, South Korea, this was obviously a rhetorical question. If God had not spoken in the beginning, there would have been no creation. “‘In the beginning was the Word’ – the first words of the Gospel According to John and of the Book of Genesis make clear that creation was and is a communication event,” said Samuel Wilson Meshack of India.  ” God’s word called the world into existence.”

Meshack is a member of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), which, together with the World Council of Churches (WCC), was invited to the four-day consultation in Busan. The WCC 10th Assembly to be held next year in this port city of the South Korean peninsula has as its theme “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” Participants in the consultation – communication experts, spokespersons and public relations officers – have come from all over the world to explore this theme from their professional perspective.

It quickly became clear: doing so with presumably unambiguous language is not easy. If communication is a creative act, then remaining silent would be the opposite, right? And God calls us to speak – or does He? That way of thinking is too one-sided, Young-Cheol Cheon objected. Communication does not always mean speaking. According to the Asian understanding, language is a very limited and anthropocentric form of communication. Every organism is composed of a multitude of cells, C  heo explained, that communicate with each other without words. Asiatic philosophy considers all creation to be an integrated whole, like a complex organism. From this perspective, successful communication within this organism is vital for all parts of creation. This sheds a different light on how we deal with nature and the need for sustainable development,” said the Korean theologian who is part of the WCC Assembly Preparations Committee.

Dinner afforded an opportunity to ask a Korean theologian the test question. Hyunju Bae teaches New Testament at the University of Busan. What if, in the beginning, God had remained silent? Hyunju Bae beamed when she heard this question. “God remaining silent? Wonderful – according to Asian thinking, silence signifies fulfillment and peace.” She is surprised when she hears that Europeans describe the feeling of alienation from God as God’s silence.

The understanding of communication therefore is various, just as are the languages that could be heard spoken around the table.  A Korean pastor converses with an American and a Brazilian in Spanish, while next to them English and German can be heard.”This is a genuine Pentecost experience,” joked a theologian from the Netherlands. They all agree about one thing, however. The task of passing on the good news of the grace of God or rather, transmission, is the central task of Christians.

But not only that. Christian communication experts are also challenged to militate for justice and peace with the means at their disposal . The consultation’s final message therefore emphasized the changed media landscape in the age of social networks and the role of professional communication in giving a voice to the disadvantaged and the marginalized for telling their story and in promoting understanding.

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Source: Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD)


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