NOTE: A photograph is available. For related coverage, see UMNS story #419
By Kathy Gilbert*
OSLO, Norway (UMNS) - Seoul, South Korea, has been chosen to host the 2006 World Methodist Council.
The decision came Sept. 18 after the World Methodist Council executive committee took two votes on potential sites for the next meeting. Brisbane, Australia, and Durban, South Africa, were the other two possibilities.
The council, representing 77 denominations with roots in the Methodism, meets every five years. It brings together the council's 500 members plus church delegates and other accredited visitors. The last gathering was held in Brighton, England, in July 2001.
At the Sept. 16-22 executive committee meeting, the South Koreans made an impassioned plea for their country to be chosen as the council's next site.
"We are a country of 10 million people belonging to a separated people by the division of Korea. Many are old and worrying about dying without meeting their families," said Jong Chun Park, Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul. The Korean Methodist Church pledged that its 1.5 million members would contribute to the higher cost of hosting the event in their country.
"This is the fourth time we have come and invited the World Methodist Council to come to Korea and help us," he said.
Bishop Mvume Dandala, Methodist Church in South Africa, told members of the committee the people of his country see visitors as "blessings sent by God."
"In the midst of darkness, the light of their faith has not dimmed," he said. "Methodists have played a large role in that.
"If you come to South Africa, you will arrive not as tourists, but as pilgrims," he said.
The representative from Australia admitted that hosting the event would be difficult for his country because the date would come on the heels of a large gathering of the Uniting Church.
Methodist Bishop Sunday Mbang of Nigeria, chairperson, gave executive committee members time for reflection and prayer before a vote was taken. In the first round, 127 votes were cast: South Korea received 58, South Africa received 52 and Australia received 17. Australia was eliminated from the second round of voting. With 122 votes cast, 64 went to South Korea and 58 went to South Africa.
After the vote, the members decided to hold the executive committee's next meeting in Durban, South Africa.
The Rev. George H. Freeman, top staff executive of the council, will visit South Korea in October. Afterward, the executive committee will make a formal announcement of the site selection, he said. # # # *Gilbert, a news writer for United Methodist News Service, is on assignment in Norway.