It was a privilege for Asia Evangelical Alliance and its national member bodies to participate in the Global Christian Forum Asia Regional Meetings in Korea.
Global Christian Forum
Asia Regional Meeting
12 – 16 November 2010
From the 12th to the 16th November 2010 some sixty participants from nineteen countries in Asia gathered at Choi Jasil Memorial near Seoul, Korea for the Asia Regional Meeting on the Global Christian Forum. They represented national Councils of Churches and Christian Councils, national Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, National Evangelical and Pentecostal alliances and fellowships, regional Ecumenical, Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal bodies, and churches from several Asian countries. The meeting was held on the premises of the Fasting Prayer Mountain of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, which graciously and generously offered hospitality to all participants for the duration of the meeting and took care of all local arrangements. This was the first time that a meeting of the Global Christian Forum was received by a Pentecostal church. The Revd. Dr. Young-hoon Lee who succeeded in 2009 the founder of Yoido Full Gospel Church, the Revd. Dr. David Yonggi Cho, as Senior Pastor addressed the Asia Regional Meeting on the theme of The Holy Spirit Movement and the Ministry of the Yoido Full Gospel Church.
From the beginning of the Global Christian Forum, the Committee has recognized that we live in times which call the churches to act urgently. The world has changed dramatically as we have watched the rise of poverty, terrorism, political, economic, and ecological upheaval, and the increase of religious intolerance. It has been the desire of the GCF to facilitate stronger relationships between churches of all Christian traditions throughout the world so that together we might address ourselves to the critical needs where they exist. As a result, this third Asian regional meeting of the Global Christian Forum (Hong Kong 2004; Bangkok, Thailand, 2006) was convened in Seoul, Korea. Its purpose was:
· To foster relationships and mutual understanding between the churches of different Christian traditions in Asia;
· To learn from the experiences in some Asian countries where churches from a wide range of traditions have been able to come closer to one another;
· To contribute to the progress of the vision of the Global Christian Forum in Asia;
· To provide input from Asia into the Second Global Forum Gathering of October 2011.
As in all Global Christian Forum (GCF) meetings, the Asia Regional Meeting began with an introduction to the GCF : how it was initiated, its purpose, and how the process developed. This was followed by the sharing of the individual faith stories or faith journeys. Each participant was invited to speak about his/her encounter and journey with Christ and the meaning of God’s call in his/her life. As only two or three had been to earlier Forum meetings in Asia or elsewhere this was a new, rich, and enriching experience for all. It helped participants to realize that beyond denominational and theological differences and labels like ‘ecumenical’ and ‘evangelical’ there is a profound commonality rooted in the Christian faith that binds us together and makes it possible to engage one another in mutual trust.
The morning and evening prayers celebrated by participants according to various traditions represented among them were also moments of shared spirituality and belonging to one another.
The representatives of four countries : Indonesia, Nepal, India and the Philippines presented reports on the evolving relationships and cooperation between the churches in their respective national situations, especially with regard to the divide between the churches involved in the ecumenical movement and those belonging to the evangelical and pentecostal movements. In Indonesia the four national church bodies, ecumenical, catholic, evangelical and pentecostal are coming closer to one another and have recently decided to form an Indonesian Christian Forum. In the particular situation of Nepal with its history of independent local churches eight national Christian bodies representing churches, church groups and denominations established the United Christian Alliance of Nepal in June 2010. In India the National United Christian Forum composed of the National Council of Churches, the Catholic Bishops’Conference and the Evangelical Fellowship was able to adopt in 2009 a Memorandum of Understanding spelling out the shared commitment to unity and common witness in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. In the Philippines it has been the political situation, the struggle for democracy and peace, and interfaith relations that have brought the churches together for common action, in a variety of ways.
In a first round of group discussions the participants shared and confronted their views on inter-church relationships in Asia, identified and discussed some of the issues at stake and the obstacles to unity and cooperation, and sought to lift up positive developments in their national situations. From the reporting on these discussions in plenary three main issues emerged which the participants agreed to reflect on more in depth. These issues were :
1. Ecumenism :
· the need to clarify or redefine what is understood by ecumenism
· the theological and doctrinal issues versus joint action in the socio-political field (i.e. Faith and Order versus Life and Work)
· the fact that the churches coming together in the GCF are at different stages in their ecumenical journey
2. Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation.
3. The Global Christian Forum :
· the role of the Global Christian Forum in the national situations of the countries in Asia and at the level of the continent.
After a second round of discussions in groups and plenary the participants agreed on what follows :
1. Ecumenism is understood as an intra-Christian, inter-church movement towards unity in obedience to the prayer of Jesus "that they may be one … so that the world may believe" (John 17 :21).
2. The foundational identity of the church grounded in Scripture and as expressed in the ancient creeds (Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds) which confess the Triune God and Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is the basis of ecumenism.
3. Being ecumenical is to be on a journey with other churches and to recognize that all are not at the same stage. It asks for patience and tolerance. Those who are on the ecumenical journey should invite and welcome others who wish to join provided they confess the basics of the Christian faith. Newcomers should accept and respect the ecumenical experience and insights that churches which have already traveled a longer time have acquired on their journey.
4. Being together on the ecumenical journey is to grow together in mutual learning and understanding of what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
5. Christian unity enhances our ability to dialogue with others and join hands in response to the concerns of the society. In this regard the churches in Asia have much to offer to churches in other parts of the world because of their experience of living in multi-religious societies, working together, and sharing their faith together in dialogue with those around them.
6. The specific task of the Global Christian Forum in Asia and elsewhere is to foster relationships between churches of all Christian traditions, especially those that have had little or no conversation with one another.
7. As participants in this meeting we affirm the Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU) started in 1996 by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), and welcome the inclusion of the Asian Evangelical Alliance as was recommended by the Asia Consultation on the GCF in Hong Kong in 2004 and the follow-up meeting in Bangkok in 2006.
8. We recommend to the regional bodies involved in AMCU to seek ways of including also the Pentecostals of Asia in the movement.
9. We welcome the steps taken in India and Indonesia and the creation of the United Christian Alliance of Nepal which are consistent with the vision of the Global Christian Forum
10. We recommend similar actions and follow-up at national and local levels in our respective countries in Asia and commit ourselves to promote such actions.
11. We recommend to the GCF Committee to include young people and women in its meetings and to organize meetings aiming at youth. The responsibility of encouraging participation of youth and women should be taken by our own churches.
12. We recommend to the GCF to promote the vision of the GCF through formation in seminaries and other training centers and to enhance the visibility of the Global Christian Forum.
13. The progress of the GCF will be enhanced by ensuring a certain measure of continuity between regional and global meetings in terms of participants and representation.
As participants in the Asia Regional Meeting on the Global Christian Forum we address this report to the Churches, National Councils of Churches and Christian Councils, National Evangelical and Pentecostal Alliances and Fellowships and the Regional Ecumenical, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Catholic bodies we represent, and to the GCF Committee.
We express our thanks and gratitude to the Yoido Full Gospel Church for receiving us and to the team of volunteers led by the Revd. Ildoo Kwon and Revd. Michelle Kang for their hard work in facilitating our stay at the Prayer Mountain and the love with which they took care of us during these days. We wish to thank also the GCF Committee for making this meeting possible. Above all, we give thanks to God for granting us this time together as sisters and brothers in Christ from such a wide range of faith traditions.
Choi Jasil Memorial Fasting and Prayer Mountain, Kyunggi Do, Paju Shi.
16 November 2010.
Rev. Dr. Richard Howell
Asia Evangelical Alliance
New Delhi, India