Newsletter: October 2012
The GCF program continues
The Facilitation Group of the Global Christian Forum, which met in Strasbourg, France early July, confirmed the decisions of the GCF Committee in adopting a forward-looking program of consultations, regional team visits and theological reflection.
A number of areas will receive high priority, including:
- Continuing close consultation with key global Christian World Communions and other bodies that were founding or early supporters of the GCF, including the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the World Evangelical Alliance and the Pentecostal World Fellowship. A key matter in these consultations thus far has been reflection on the 'journey with Jesus Christ' as each Forum encounter offers new insights and challenges in the common task of working for unity and understanding.
- The talks with these global pillar groups have highlighted the GCF's role in being a helpful leadership group where other avenues do not exist for discussion and reconciliation between Christian churches or organisations in matters of mutual interest.
- The formation of a GCF Theological Working Group (TWG) to reflect on and articulate the meaning of the GCF experience for the present and future church. [See more below]
- Developing plans for one or more global thematic gatherings on Issues that are a 'common challenge' to all Christians. For example: prosleytism and mission, the persecuted church, or the future shape of global Christianity.
- To facilitate regional meetings and visits to help bring the GCF vision and method of inviting all Christians to the same table into focus. In relation to this, a team visit to Bangladesh took place in early October.
- The GCF is also assisting the Pentecostal Forum of Latin America and the Caribbean in its proposed meetings over the next several years. Other initiatives in the planning stages include a Middle East visit- following up on earlier consultations- and a Caribbean Consultation, where a gathering of the full spectrum of Christian churches in that region will take place in 2013.
- The GCF Committee will meet in Accra, Ghana November 26-30, 2012. Plans are being drawn up for a meeting with national church leadership and local church visits by the committee members in association with the meeting. The GCF Facilitation Group is also aware, within the African context, of the hope for a Francophone gathering in the future.
- Importance of communications, including website update, logo and stationery designs and acceptance of a communication strategy.
Global conference connections
The GCF Is preparing to be present at two significant gatherings for global Christianity next year.
The meeting of the Pentecostal World Fellowship in Malaysia during August and the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches In Korea beginning at the end of October are major events for the international church, and the GCF is hoping to be a helpful presence at both.
Whilst conversations on the appropriate way to be involved are continuing, the GCF is thankful for the invitations to be present and will carefully and creatively prepare how it will support and add its distinctiveness to the gatherings.
Facilitation Group members plus:
The GCF Facilitation Group comprises several members of the GCF Committee: Rev Nlcta Lubaale (African Instituted Churches); Rev Dr Canon Sarah Rowland Jones (Anglican Communion); and Rev Wesley Granbers Michaelson (World Council of Churches and World Communion of Reformed Churches).
Staff members included Rev Dr Larry Miller, Ms Joy Lee (Administrative assistant), Rev Kim Cain (Communications assistant), Mr Hubert VanBeek (Consultant) and Ms Josephine Ntihinyuzwa (Bookkeeping assistant).
Guests included, Dr JeanDaniel Pluss (Chair, Board of Trustees, Fondation du Forum Chretien Mondial, Switzerland), Dr Wonsuk Ma (Convener, Theological Working Group) and Dr Kathryn Johnson (Secretary, Theological Working Group).
Global Christian Forum gets a new logo
A new Global Christian Forum logo has been adopted by the GCF Committee. Like many designs this one has its own story to tell regarding its 'birth'.
At their meeting in Rome last January, the GCF Committee agreed to consider a new logo as part of developing new visual design guidelines in order to enhance the profile of the GCF. The Rev Kim Cain, who serves the committee as communications assistant, presented an initial logo design.
Although many committee members liked the design, an extensive discussion revealed concern that it could be culturally or religiously confusing to people in some parts of the world. So Kim was urged to think of other possibilities, including ones reflecting ancient Christian images and symbols, especially of the cross.
Thus began a long journey of research into early Christian art. This proved to be an interesting but somewhat fruitless task, because most images did not translate well into a modern idiom that reflects the diversity of the GCF - and still do justice to the original work.
Then almost by accident, Kim discovered images of mosaic crosses found in the ruins of former basilicas and churches around North Africa and in Palestine. These crosses were more of a square Greek cross shape. Some were found in former baptisteries of ancient churches.
Working with graphic designer Simon Kingsford in Melbourne, Australia, a mosaic cross design, influenced by those ancient designs emerged. Moreover, it was discovered that mosaic art, while having its origin in ancient history, is still a living art form practised extensively today.
The colours of the design are reflective of the ancient eras of the church. The chipped, or broken and slightly different shaped tiles remind us that we come as 'chipped' and 'broken' communities. But together - through the cross of Christ - we have our place. We belong together.
The cross, put over an image of the globe, with the words The Global Christian Forum, tells our story. The GCF has its roots in the cross of Christ known in history, but is present and alive in the contemporary world.
Like any mosaic, there is a unity and diversity in that each tile is individual, but belongs to the whole.
In this design of the mosaic cross, we have our own hues and shapes, but together, we show that we belong to the other as we continue the search for unity in Christ.
Two new committee members
The Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the General Conference of the Seventh Adventist Church have respectively nominated a new representative to the GCF Committee.
The Vatican has put forward Rev Dr Luis M. Melo, S.M. to be a Catholic representative. Fr Melo has joined the PCPCU from his previous position of Director, Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Archdiocese of Saint-Boniface (Winnipeg, Canada), where was since 2002. A Canadian, Fr Melo was also Lecturer in the Department of Religion, Faculty of
Arts, University of Manitoba and a staff member at the Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies, St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba. Fr Melo has been involved in many ecumenical dialogues and in writing ecumenical theology.
Fr Melo has a commitment to theological conversation and writing as a comparative, convergence and consensus experience at the local, national and international levels — recently interested in dialogue with Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and the Mennonite traditions.
Fr Melo is also concerned to discover a ‘spirituality of ecumenical reception’.
This is a commitment to praxis in discipleship whereby ecumenical texts and agreements are allowed to influence ecclesial life and contribute to the writing of a new chapter of Christian history. Dr Melo sees this as “Receiving the other and receiving from the other—to the degree possible in the present stage of koinonia among the churches—giving witness to the living Word of God for the life of the world.”
Dr Ganoune Diop has been nominated by the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) as its new member on the Committee. Dr. Diop is currently Director, United Nations Relations, and Associate Director, Public Affairs & Religious Liberty at the General Conference of SDA World Headquarters.
Previous to this position, he was director of Global Mission Study Centres of Adventist Mission, at the SDA World Headquarters. He had responsibility to explore ways to better understand world religions and philosophies and find pathways for dialogue and witnessing.
Dr Diop has a Masters in Exegesis and Theology from Colognes, France, a Masters degree in Philology from the University of Paris and a Ph.D in Old Testament Studies from Andrews University, Michigan, and is a Ph.D candidacy in New Testament Studies.
Dr Diop, born in Senegal, is an ordained minister.
His passion for God has led Dr. Diop to extensive theological, philosophical and literary studies.
Stop Press: A nominee for the second Catholic seat in the GCF Committee has just been submitted by the PCPCU. More information in our next issue.
GCF team visits Bangladesh
In response to an invitation of the United Forum of Churches Bangladesh (which includes the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh, the National Council of Churches and the Catholic Church), the GCF sent a team of four to visit the South Asian nation early October. The aim of the visit was for the GCF to learn more of the Bangladesh situation and to share the vision of the GCF with church leaders in the country.
It was an opportunity for the GCF to discuss with the church leaders ways of carrying the vision of GCF forward In the local situation, as well as an occasion to learn from, and to encourage the Bangladeshi church. As the church operates as a minority religious community, it is important to understand how religious harmony is understood, achieved or dealt with. This will have important learning's for the global church.
This team visit is part of GCF's efforts to promote initiatives to bring the leadership of all the churches together at the national level in various countries; thus following the guidelines issued by the Second Global Gathering that took place in Manado (Indonesia) In October 2011.
The team included H. G. Archbishop Felix Machado from India, on behalf of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Prof. Dr Dimitra Koukoura from Greece who represents the World Council of Churches on the GCF Committee, and Rev Dr Richard Howell, General Secretary of the Asian Evangelical Alliance and the Evangelical Fellowship of India, a member of the International Leadership Team of the World Evangelical Alliance and also of the GCF Committee. Mr Hubert van Beek, GCF Consultant, accompanied the team.
Theological Working Group go ahead
A short-term Theological Working Group has been appointed to articulate theologically the history, experience and significance of the GCF. It will take into account the GCF journey and experience from its formation to its current engagement with global Christianity. Or Wonsuk Ma is serving as convenor of the group.
The Theological Working Group's task is shaped by some key questions facing the GCF including how does the forum understand itself ecclesiologically, what is its significance for the global church and how should it serve the various parts of the global church, including its Ecumenical and Evangelical/Pentecostal communities.
The formation of the TWG arises out of a call from the Second Global Gathering in Manado (Indonesia) last year for the GCF to address common challenges facing the church globally.
It is also a response to a desire by the primary participants in the GCF for it to "theologically articulate" its journey with Jesus Christ as it takes part in global ecumenical conversation.
Dr Ma said the "The time Is now right to stop and reflect on the GCF. Reflecting on our experience will help to deeply shape and identify our work."'
Rev Dr Larry Miller, Secretary of the GCF emphasised that the task of the group will not be a rewriting of the Faith and Order work of the ecumenical movement. "Through this theological reflection the GCF itself will be enabled to contribute from its unique perspective and experience to current discussions in the global church on how to live out and witness to unity in Jesus Christ... as the geographical and theological centres of Christianity shift."
Dr Wonsuk Ma is Director of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. The makeup of the TWG reflects the diversity of the GCF with members drawn from African Instituted, Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Protestant traditions. The group hopes to have completed its work by mid-2013.
Global Christian Forum and Orthodox leaders meet in Crete
From the beginning of the year, the Global Christian Forum has sought counsel from leadership of participant churches in regard to Forum priorities and activities for the next three years.
As part of this process, several GCF leaders met with Orthodox members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, September 5, at the Orthodox Academy of Crete.
The WCC leadership facilitated and also participated in the meeting.
In addition to a presentation on 'The Global Christian Forum: Pursuing a Vision, Taking a Journey' and a constructive exchange on the future of the Global Christian Forum, which focused on Orthodox participation in it, the meeting gave opportunity to name Orthodox members of the 'Theological Working Group'
Participants unanimously affirmed the importance of the conversation. They also agreed to continue it in March 2013, in connection with a wee Executive Committee meeting, and then with a full spectrum of Orthodox leadership in November at the WCC 10th Assembly.
Orthodox Churches represented in the meeting included the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Moscow Patriarchate, the Orthodox Church of Finland and the Orthodox Church in America.
Metropolitan Prof. Dr. Gennadios of Sassima Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, presided the conversation. Metropolitan Gennadios is a member of the Global Christian Forum Committee and Vice-Moderator of the WCC.
Father Mikhail Gundyaev (Moscow Patriarchate) and Prof. Dr Dimitra Koukoura, Orthodox members of the GCF Committee, helped to organize the meeting and participated in it. Due to the grave situation in Syria, Metropolitan Mar Gregorios (Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch), also a GCF Committee member, was unable to attend.
Other GCF leaders participating were Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, who together with Prof. Dr Koukoura represents the WCC in the GCF Committee, and Rev. Dr. Larry Miller, GCF Secretary.