As is normal these days, looking at 28 small faces on a screen, over 3 days, with 3 hours each day was the substitute for the regularly scheduled annual meeting of the Conference of Secretaries of World Communions. These general secretaries are the women and men who offer executive leadership to the various global denominational bodies. Three of us are invited as representing multilateral global bodies, the general secretaries of the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance, and myself as the Secretary to the Global Christian Forum.
With a combination of prayer, reflection, conversation, and reporting, we surveyed all our work and ministry in the shadow of COVID. Doubtless, other challenges confronted us such as racism, the growing inequalities, migration, and climate justice. Sadly, in all these, the church is not able to offer a united prophetic voice.
We rejoiced with some of the opportunities of this season as well, the innovation of younger church leaders, and the availability of a digital community as we observe social distancing.
At the end of all our time, we were collectively trying to discern what God is saying to us in this moment and how to identify priorities for the coming years.
Some of the interesting developments shared was the outreach by the World Evangelical Alliance to Humanitarian Islam in taking steps in reducing religiously-induced violence.
A lingering question which was posed that needs further reflection was: how can we continue to reframe the theological dialogues less around theological differences and more about shared concerns facing the church (e.g. climate change or refugees)?
One remarkable sentence stuck with me as we closed our meeting. We need to find a new hermeneutic of difference, and no longer use difference as a marker of our own identities. I think this is a fruitful challenge for the times we are in.
The group consisted of:
Rev. Gretchen Walsh of the Friends World Committee for Consultation/FWCC (Quakers) as chair;
Rev. Dr. Ganoune Diop of the General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventists/GCSDA as Secretary.
Other Global Christian Forum International Committee members were the following:
Fr. Andrzej Choromanski (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity/PCPCU);
Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher (World Evangelical Alliance/WEA);
Fr. Mikhail Goundiaev (Moscow Patriarchate);
Prof. Mel Robeck (Fuller/Global Pentecostalism);
Dr. David Wells (Pentecostal World Fellowship/PWF);
Rev. Nicta Lubaale (Organization of African Instituted Churches/OAIC);
Commissioner Elizabeth Matear (The Salvation Army);
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (World Methodist Council);
Dr. Chris Ferguson (World Communion of Reformed Churches/WCRC);
Dr. Vasile Octavian Mihoc (World Council of Churches/WCC);
Dr. Will Adam (Anglican Communion);
and Dr. Dirk Lange (Lutheran World Federation/LWF).