Global Christian Forum News, June 2011

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P.O. Box 306, CH – 1290 Versoix, Switzerland

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Website: www.globalchristianforum.org


Appointment of New GCF Secretary
The GCF Committee is pleased to announce the appointment of a new Secretary of the Global Christian Forum.

The Committee has appointed the Rev. Dr. Larry Miller to replace Mr. Hubert van Beek as Secretary of the GCF as of January 1, 2012, after the global gathering that will take place in Manado, Indonesia, in October of this year.

Larry Miller has been involved for many years in efforts toward closer relations among Christians. He participated in the GCF international gathering in Limuru in 2007 and has been a long-term supporter of the Forum process. Miller is currently the General Secretary of the Mennonite World Conference. His appointment as GCF Secretary has been made possible thanks to an agreement between the Mennonite World Conference and the GCF on a secondment.

The GCF Committee is particularly happy that this arrangement respects the spirit of the GCF which is to provide the basic conditions for the process to continue in a provisional way, without creating heavy structures and financial liabilities. It is hoped that the global gathering will give orientation and direction to the GCF for two to three years as of 2012.

Manado Getting Set to Go: Second Global Gathering Update
Invitations have been sent, speakers organised. Manado, Indonesia is shaping up as a conference of global significance to world Christianity and the Global Christian Forum.

Hubert van Beek, secretary of the Global Christian Forum reports that, “To date, close to 320 invitations have been issued for the Second Global gathering of the Global Christian Forum. We have received about 100 registrations and confirmations, and another 70 positive responses. That means, a little more than 50% of the total. Six or seven have declined the invitation. Reminders will go out in the month of June.”

The conference, to be held in Manado, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, will convene around the theme, Life Together in Jesus Christ, Empowered by the Holy Spirit.

A panel of significant speakers will be in attendance at the gathering, including Dr. Dana Robert, Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission at Boston University School of Theology, Boston, USA. Dr. Robert will be one of the speakers at the plenary session on Major Trends and Changes in World Christianity. The other speaker will be Rev. Dr. Kim Sang-Bok David, President of the International Council of the World Evangelical Alliance and President of the Asia Evangelical Alliance.

Dr. Peter Crossing, from Australia, Data Analyst of the World Christian Database at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, also in Boston, USA, will make a presentation on the Atlas of Global Christianity, which was published in 2010 on the occasion of the centenary of the 1910 Edinburgh World Conference on Mission.

Rev. Dr. Opoku Onyinah, a well-known Pentecostal scholar and President of The Church of Pentecost in Ghana, who carries the title of Apostle, will be one of the speakers at the plenary on the theme of the gathering. The other two speakers on the theme will be an Orthodox, and a representative of a renewal movement, hopefully a Catholic woman.

Said Mr. van Beek, “This plenary, based around our overall theme, is shaping up to be a significant sharing of the richness of spirituality in the tradition of the church (Orthodox), in the newer churches (Pentecostal) and in the renewal movements of today (e.g. Focolare, or Chemin Neuf)."

Manado churches welcome global gathering
The four national church bodies in Indonesia: the Communion of Churches – the Pentecostal Churches Fellowship – the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches and Institutions – and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, have all warmly welcomed the Global Christian Forum to hold its second gathering in their country and have constituted a joint organizing committee. The local churches based in the Manado area have established a special local working team to help prepare for the event.

The meeting will take place at Arya Duta Hotel in Manado, Indonesia. Participants will be accommodated at Arya Duta and in hotels in the surroundings.

Manado is an important urban centre and harbour situated at the north-eastern tip of the island of Sulawesi. It has a population of 405,000 (2005) with some two million people in the North Sulawesi region. Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch traders have visited the area since the 15th century and the city continues to be an important trading and tourism hub.

Pentecostal Diversity and Unity
Pentecostalism has changed global Christianity. As the GCF prepares for its second global gathering theologian, Cecil Robeck, Jr., reports on Pentecostalism’s global diversity. Here we also look at the Latin American Pentecostal response to the GCF ahead of a special regional consultation of South American Pentecostal leaders.

One of the major changes in the life of the church across the planet since the early 1900s has been the Pentecostal movement. But that movement is itself diverse and “constantly evolving”, according to a leading theologian who is himself a Pentecostal Minister.

In a major paper presented at the Istanbul gathering of the GFC at the end of January, Cecil Robeck, Jr., examined the current status of ‘Global Pentecostalism’. “If I were to summarize the current status of Pentecostalism in a word, it would have to be the word ‘diversity’”. “For the last 35 years it has not been possible to speak of this movement as though it is represented by a singular noun, ‘Pentecostalism, with a singular definition,” Dr. Robeck said.

He suggests it is necessary today to “think of plurality of Pentecostalisms”. Or, it could be described with a singular noun, “Pentecostal’ only with a “series of adjectives” added; leading to such combinations as ‘Holiness Pentecostalism’, ‘Oneness Pentecostalism’, and ‘Classical Pentecostalism’ and so on. He said, he could add ‘Neo, Catholic, Progressive, or Global’ to the list of Pentecostalisms.

Such diversity - reflected in the movement's history, theology, ethnicity and geography – raised issues such as definition, legitimacy to the name and indeed, “What is it that makes one a Pentecostal?” In spite of such questions, he insisted “Pentecostals “are remarkably similar at their core.

He points out that according to the Atlas of Global Christianity, today some 614 million “renewalist” – or Pentecostals populate the planet, but of them “no more than 20 per cent looks or sounds exactly the same”. He says, “Pentecostals form a diverse movement perhaps better described in terms of a medley, a mosaic, or even a musical theme with variations.”

“There is a good deal of harmony between many of them. But there are substantial differences…which provide them with unique qualities or voices, emphases such as apostolicity, holiness, deliverance, healing, prosperity, ethnicity and the like.” Wherever it takes root, he says Pentecostalism “has found ways to permeate virtually all parts of the Christian family”.

Today he sees the Movement becoming “more politically active” and “more ecumenically aware”. As a movement, Dr. Robeck says it “needs leaders who are better equipped theologically” with many younger people being educated to a higher level than that of their pastors.

South American Pentecostalism and GCF Developments
One of the regions where Pentecostalism has flourished and where many of its diverse expressions are found is Latin America.

The two meetings on the Global Christian Forum that have taken place in Latin America (Santiago, Chile in 2007 and San José, Costa Rica) in 2010, have not really succeeded in achieving a good representation of the Pentecostal movement in the region. Only some of the smaller, more ecumenically open Pentecostal churches participated.

With the second gathering in Indonesia coming up, plans are now underway for a small consultation with Pentecostal leaders from Latin America, next August. This encouraging initiative was taken by two Pentecostal participants at the November meeting in San José, who formed a small team with others, and started visiting and contacting the leaders of the larger Pentecostal groups in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.

The focus of the consultation in August will be Christian unity, from the perspective of the experiences and challenges of Pentecostalism.

One of the intentions of the meeting is that some of the leaders present will join the five Latin American Pentecostals who have already registered, and the other five who have been invited for the event in Indonesia.