We experience the space created by the Global Christian Forum (GCF) as a gift from God. We affirm the GCF committee’s leadership and urge them to continue seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance in shaping the Forum’s future, offering the following as our contribution to this discernment.
Manado 2011 – Guidelines
Guidelines from the Second Global Gathering of the Global Christian Forum
4 – 7 October 2011, Manado, Indonesia
Discerning the future of the Global Christian Forum
Sharing faith journeys
The practice of sharing personal and community faith journeys is central to the GCF, and we believe it is one of the Forum’s unique contributions to the body of Christ. It demystifies and bridges differences between us, leads to mutual appreciation, encourages humility, and helps us to recognize the work of the same Holy Spirit in each other’s lives.
Next steps for the Global Christian Forum
The GCF should move to the next level in providing a platform for building relationships. The GCF should therefore continue to organize gatherings periodically, including at the global level, which facilitate sharing theological issues, enhance our understanding and appreciation of different Christian traditions, and offer an experience of others’ modes of worship. And, because our encounter with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ must affect our behavior and attitudes as we return to our own communities and contexts, the GCF committee and participants should encourage regional and national Christian forums, as well as forums for specialized ministries (e.g. reconciliation, healing, justice, etc.). The gatherings of Christians in the spirit of the GCF at the more local level will enhance the GCF mission in the future.
Organizers of future GCF gatherings should make every effort to ensure that participants are representative of the diversity of worldwide Christianity and its leadership, in gender, age, economic capacity, physical ability, region, ethnicity, tradition, etc. Special attention should be given to improving the participation of women and youth, including on the GCF committee. We also hope that future gatherings will encourage greater balance in sharing between presenters and participants, and improve translation capabilities to allow full participation of non-English speakers.
Unity and God’s Mission
GCF participants value the opportunity to take concrete steps toward a greater experience of Christian unity without abandoning theological distinctives and traditional identities. One aspect of this unity is the evidence provided by our shared faith journeys that we are fellow agents of God’s mission, called and sent by the same Lord Jesus Christ and empowered by the same Holy Spirit. We believe that this recognition of sharing in God’s mission must be manifested at the local level, as well, and that the expansion of the GCF via regional, national, and local forums could improve our understanding of unity. These forums should not avoid issues of mission that divide Christians at the local level; for example, different understandings of church growth. We believe that such work is critical in light of the changes in world Christianity. In the pursuit of unity, the GCF should actively seek to include more recent manifestations of Christianity (e.g. independent churches, megachurches, contemporary Chinese churches, etc.) that are not encompassed by common historical traditions.
We have heard the Spirit calling us, not only to foster respect for one another, but now also to move forward together in addressing common challenges. GCF participants believe that the Forum has the potential to be a space for discussing relevant topical issues, even and perhaps especially where we are not in agreement with one another. To take just one example, GCF participants have questions and concerns about the presentation of other religions within the Forum gathering. We trust that the Holy Spirit will continue to draw us closer to one another and strengthen our bonds of trust and friendship, allowing us to engage matters of theological and ethical difference among us. We believe that the Forum is already helping Christians better to navigate the challenges of a multicultural and multi-religious world.
The changing face of world Christianity
Over the past century the rapid growth of Christian populations in Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world has shifted the demographic center of Christianity, making it a genuinely worldwide religion. This shift will shape the work that GCF does and the way in which we carry it out. In particular, the significant resource imbalance between Christians worldwide raises profound concerns for both unity and justice. We recognize that Christians are called to serve and to empower the poor, the persecuted, and the marginalized, regardless of their location, both individually and systemically.
GCF should maintain a modest, flexible structure and avoid institutionalization. The GCF should practice financial transparency and accountability regarding spending and fundraising. The GCF committee should review its composition and function as it works with and considers how best to support the new GCF secretary.
Above all, GCF staff, leaders, participants, and supporters should pray diligently for its work and mission.