Over the last decade, many persons have worked to develop the Global Christian Forum.
One person who worked hard on behalf of this forum process, but is not here today at this important event, is Dr. George Vandervelde, of the Toronto Institute of Theology, and a member of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.
George was, for years, a member of the Continuation Committee of the Global Christian Forum, and was very deeply committed to the development of the Forum. He participated in the planning meeting which the Continuation Committee held last November, 2006, in the Netherlands, which took decisive steps toward this global assembly in Limuru. But within two months of that meeting, after contracting a serious illness, he died in
January, 2007. It was a great shock to all of us on the Committee.
I knew and worked with George for many years. I knew him in different settings. In 1990, he and I were part of a small planning committee representing the World Evangelical Fellowship (now Alliance) and the Pontifical Council For Promoting Christian Unity, of the Catholic Church, which worked toward establishing international conversations between that Alliance and the Catholic Church. We both served on those conversations which met from 1993-2002, and produced a report entitled Church, Evangelization and the Bonds of Koinonia published in 2003, and which has been well received.
George was one of the fraternal delegates, representing the Canadian Council of Churches, participating in the 1998 Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, which focused on the region of America. I recall, when he arrived for that, bringing him into the Synod Hall in the Vatican, in which more than 200 Bishops were taking part in the Synod, where he, like the other fraternal delegates, was warmly greeted by Pope John Paul II. He enjoyed participating in that Synod.
Dr. Vandervelde took a leading role when, a few years ago, his church, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, after dialogue with Catholic theologians representing the Bishops conferences of Canada and the United States, made a statement acknowledging that Question and Answer 80 of the Heidelberg Catechism, an important confessional standard, presented and criticized a description of the Catholic mass which was inaccurate. I remember George, when presenting that church’s acknowledgement of the problem, saying “we cannot confess what is not true.”
But most of all, today, we need to remember George for the contribution he made to helping this meeting of the Global Christian Forum come about. Perhaps we can do that best by concluding with a prayer.
Let us pray. Lord, we give thanks for the life and witness of George Vandervelde. We give thanks for his ecumenical vision, for his constant efforts to promote reconciliation between Evangelicals and Catholics. We give thanks for his efforts to promote mutual understanding, to break down the walls of hostility, and to promote a healing of memory. We give thanks for his commitment to the success of this Global Christian Forum.
We remember him today, and ask you to bless his family.
We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Mgr. John A. Radano,
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity,
member of the Committee on the Global Christian Forum.