Follow-up in Europe The first sub-regional meeting on the GCF in Europe took place on 28 – 30 September in Finland. It brought together participants from ten countries in the Nordic and Baltic sub-regions, stretching from Iceland to Russia. The Europe Consultation in 2006 recommended strongly that follow-up on the GCF in Europe be done at the level of sub-regions because of the differences in church contexts, e.g. between northern and southern Europe and central/eastern and western Europe. Due to the limited operational capacity of the GCF it took four years to hold the first such meeting. The Nordic-Baltic sub-region was choosen because there have been some remarkable developments reflecting the spirit of the Forum in the Nordic countries, notably in Norway and also in Finland and Sweden. Another feature of the sub-region is the presence in most of the countries of a majority church – either Lutheran, Orthodox or Catholic – and several smaller churches of different traditions. Over forty participants representing a wide range of churches, councils of churches and evangelical alliances spent three intensive days together at a Lutheran centre near the city of Lahti. Immigrant churches, which are spreading and growing throughout the region, were also present. A few countries were not well represented because the churches had either not responded to the invitation or declined to come. Yet it was noted in the meeting that this was the most representative Nordic-Baltic church gathering ever held. Two highlights were the sharing of the individual faith stories and the reports from the countries on the status of inter-church relationships, especially between churches that are committed ecumenically and evangelical and pentecostal churches. There were striking contrasts. In Norway all these churches have come together in one Christian Council, since 2006. In Belarus on the contrary there is virtually no relationship between the majority Orthodox Church and the Baptist and Pentecostal churches. The discussions in groups and plenary stressed the need to work intentionally and patiently on relationships, to deal with divisive theological and ethical issues, to educate, to use language that reflects the mind of Christ, to avoid using opposition to other churches as building bricks for the own identity. A document summarizing the findings of the meeting was approved and is available on request at [email protected]
Third Meeting on GCF in Asia Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea was the host of the third Asian meeting on the Global Christian Forum which took place from the 12th to the 16th of November. It was the first time that all the local arrangements of a GCF meeting were taken care of by a Pentecostal Church. The meeting brought together some seventy participants from 19 Asian countries representing national councils of churches, evangelical and pentecostal fellowships, national bishops’ conferences, and churches. The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences FABC), the Asia Evangelical Alliance (AEA) and the Asia Pentecostal Society (APS) were also represented. For most of the participants this was their first experience of the Global Christian Forum. Only a few had attended the first consultation in Asia in 2004 in Hong Kong or the follow-up meeting in Bangkok in 2006. Sharing their faith stories and reflecting on Christian unity in Asia the participants identified three issues which they addressed in a document that was approved at the end of the meeting: 1) the need to clarify the meaning of ecumenism, 2) interreligious dialogue and cooperation, and 3) the role of the GCF in Asia nationally and regionally. There was consensus that ecumenism should be understood as an intra-Christian, inter-church movement towards unity, and that being ecumenical is to be on a journey with other churches recognizing that all are not at the same stage. Opinions differed on dialogue and cooperation with other religions, but participants were able to affirm together that Christian unity enhances the ability to exchange and join hands with others in responding to the concerns of Asian societies. Having listened to reports on efforts to build relations between churches involved in the ecumenical movement and evangelical and pentecostal churches, in India, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines, the participants said the specific task of the GCF is to foster such developments and pledged themselves to similar actions in their respective countries. They welcomed the inclusion of the Asia Evangelical Alliance in the Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU) that was started in 1996 by the CCA and the FABC and recommended that the Asia Pentecostal Society also be invited to join AMCU.The meeting took place at the Choi Jasil Prayer Mountain of the Yoido Full Gospel Church. Participants had the opportunity to join one of the seven Sunday worship services celebrated at the sanctuary of Yoido, each time packed with twelve thousand faithful. The Revd. Dr. Young-hoon Lee who succeeded in 2008 the founder Revd. Dr. David Yonggi Cho as Senior Pastor addressed the meeting on the theme of The Holy Spirit Movement and the Ministry of the Yoido Full Gospel Church. The full text of the document that resulted from the meeting is available on request at [email protected]
Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU) Less than three weeks after the Asia Regional Meeting on the GCF in Korea one of its recommendations was already implemented. The Revd. Dr. Joseph Suico, President of the Asia Pentecostal Society was among the thirty participants who attended the fifth gathering of the Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU) in Bangkok, Thailand on 2 to 4 December.His presence was the result of the recommendation of the Korea meeting that Pentecostals of Asia be included in AMCU. The Asia Pentecostal Society (APS) is a body that promotes study and encounters among Asian Pentecostal scholars. As such it differs in nature from the other AMCU members, CCA, FABC and AEA, but it is the only Pentecostal organization at the regional level of Asia. It is hoped that by inviting APS suitable ways will be found to associate the Pentecostal movement with AMCU in the future. The theme of AMCU V in Bangkok was "One in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer” (cf. Acts 2:42), which is the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2011. The gathering made a number of proposals to deepen ecumenism in Asia and strengthen theological reflection. The statement issued at the meeting is available on request at [email protected]
Second Meeting of GCF in Latin American region Around 40 Latin American and Caribbean representatives from Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, groups and councils, from 21 nations, met in San Jose, Costa Rica from 23rdto 25th November 2010 under the theme ‘United in Jesus Christ so that Latin America may believe’. Building on an earlier meeting in Santiago, Chile, in 2007, the three-day program included time for sharing personal faith journeys, but also of community journeys in the face of social problems and justice issues. Each day began with a scriptural meditation and singing. Participants followed a ‘consensus method’ for recording the conclusions from group discussion, and plenary sessions heard these reports each day. Questions for discussion included ‘What are the main factors or variables which can encourage ecumenical dialogue in the region?’, ‘What are the realities of current ecumenical dialogue or cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean?’, ‘What lessons have we learned from the past?, ’What can we commit ourselves to for the future?’ A major review by a Chilean scholar in sociology, Oscar Corvalan V., Pentecostalism, ecumenism and Christianity in the first half of the XXI century was provided as background material. ‘Secularisation’ is less significant in Latin America than in Europe, he said. The growing Pentecostal churches offer certainty of salvation, and are heard by the poor and the less-educated. They give dignity to those who have none. Many Pentecostals may not wish to participate in ecumenical encounter, but many others may not know how to. Harold Segura, a Baptist pastor who coordinates World Vision (Costa Rica) gave a paper on Ecumenism in Latin America Today (or the art of imagining the future of the Kingdom). He encouraged ‘informal ecumenism’, not to exclude more formal dialogue, but to move away from institutional forms and to cross borders of communication. From such informal meetings (like the Forum) much can grow. ‘Spiritual ecumenism’ is also important: we learn from other Christians. We need to begin to listen to others, not in a spirit of rivalry and suspicion, but to discover what is common. We need to be honest with each other as Latin American Christians together. A final panel allowed the Secretary of the GCF to give an up-to-date account of the work of the Forum. A number of participants were already familiar with the Forum; in fact, this may mean more work is needed in this region to involve those who are yet uncertain of their welcome or remain critical of ecumenism in all its forms.This was the first GCF meeting that was entirely prepared by a team from the region. They will provide a report for the wider Forum family which will become available in February 2010. Significant leadership was given by facilitators who are part of Viva Network Latin America based in Costa Rica, a Christian NGO working with those who care for the children of the region, in the face of poverty, child labour, sexual exploitation, violence in the family, drugs, migration etc. (by Robert Gribben, member of GCF Committee).