Seoul — 2016


Greetings to IALC from Seoul, Korea, where the first of the two Asian Anglican Liturgical Conferences has just wrapped up. It is a wonderful representation of this gathering that as I sit in my room at the Convent of the Holy Cross (on the grounds of the Anglican Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Nicholas), the funeral bell is tolling – not for a funeral here, but at the Roman Catholic Cathedral. The funeral bells toll for each other – a lesson in how much we have to learn from each other and how we live as the body of Christ in different cultures and cities.

The conference began yesterday (Friday, 4 November), with a hospitable series of greetings and meals and tours by our host Nak-Hyon Joo. Last evening we gathered (a very large group) at St. Francis Hall in the Cathedral for two talks, each with a formal response. After general greetings and an opening prayer, John Kater spoke on “What Makes a Liturgy ‘Anglican'”? John teaches part of the year at Ming Hua Seminary in Hong Kong, and although officially retired from CDSP, still teaches in the intensive MDiv summer program there. His presentation was followed by a response from Tomas Madella – who holds multiple positions, including teaching at St. Andrew’s Seminary in Manila. The second presentation was by Lizette Larson-Miller on baptism and ecclesiology (“The Future of Baptism: Ecclesiology and Eschatology”), which was followed by a response from Shintaro Ichihara of the NSKK (The Anglican church of Japan). A lively question and answer series followed, after which a generous reception allowed for more conversation and reunions between old and new friends.

The conference reconvened on Saturday morning (5 November) at the Convent of the Holy Cross. This morning we heard three presentations on Asian prayer book revision – first from Tomas Maddela on the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, then from Chang-Kyung Jang on the Anglican Church of Korea, and finally from Shintaro Ichihara of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai. The conference was arranged to allow for an extended morning of questions and conversation (in addition to the skilled simultaneous translating of Nak-Hyon from English to Korean and Korean to English.

Some of the extended conversations circled around a type of double inculturation – the inculturation into local cultures and the second inculturation to shape and retain Anglican identity. The situation in the Philippines was striking because it is so many different cultures – what is Filipino cultural identity? (the beginning of the answer is that it is many cultures, with the most common language being English). Tomas made a plea for shared music resources – hoping that eventually copyright and other restrictions may allow for sharing resources among Asian Anglicans as prayer book and hymnal revisions continue. In the Korean Anglican situation, the issue of inculturation is a tricky one – Korea is a very westernized culture, much of the past cultural heritage is not the focus or desire to raise up in the liturgy, and much of the past is also a colonial and politically charged past. Together with the challenges of the tension between the particularlity of Anglicanism and the liturgical movements application to Korean Anglicanism there are many pressures on the current prayer book work, as well as many “histories” from various expressions of Anglicanism over the decades. Chang-Kyung Jang expressed a hope for the possibility of an Asian Eucharistic Prayer (shared among many Anglican groups in the far east), as has been attempted for various collects on days of commemoration important throughout Asia. Finally, Shitaro Ichihara’s presentation on liturgical reform in Japan explained the complications brought by the many sources of missionary activity that brought different liturgies to Japan. The 2014 beginnings of prayer book revision have particularly focused on new translations of scripture, ecumenical translations of standard liturgical texts, and recent conversations and expansions within liturgical theology. Many of the conversations on Saturday morning mentioned the helpful resource of the 1995 IALC gathering in Dublin that focused on liturgical principles centered on the eucharist.

The Asian Anglican Liturgical Conference reconvenes on Tuesday in Hong Kong – for which another report will follow. The photos are of the banner announcing the liturgical conference (listed with the other celebrations of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Cathedral), the changing of the guard at Deoksugung Palace and other palace images (right next door to the cathedral), and various presentations from Saturday morning and the interior of the Cathedral.