Global Christian Forum Into The Future
The out-going GCF secretary,Hubert van Beek, reflects on Manado gathering and beyond
The first global gathering of the Global Christian Forum (GCF), in November 2007 at Limuru, Kenya, affirmed very clearly that the participating churches and organizations wanted the Forum to exist and the process to go on.
A key question at the heart of the second global gathering was how the Global Christian Forum should continue.
The GCF Committee had decided to put this question before the gathering itself, not to discharge its responsibility on others, but as part of the theme of listening and trying to discern what the Spirit is saying, and to benefit from the collective insights of a larger group.
Participants were asked to reflect on the future of the Forum in the various group settings in which they met, by tradition, by region, in the mixed discussion groups and finally in plenary. Their findings are reflected in the Guidelines* that were adopted in Manado, as their contribution to the discernment.
What strikes me most is that in two places these Guidelines speak of moving on, moving forward, to a next level, a next step.
Referring to the “guiding purpose statement” of the GCF with its two-fold goal of fostering respect and addressing common challenges, the Manado gathering now encourages the Forum to press on in two ways: One, to intentionally provide a platform for building relationships, globally, but also aiming at regional and national Christian forums, and at forums around specific ministries, e.g. of reconciliation, healing, justice etc.
Secondly, to provide spaces for discussing relevant issues, even, and perhaps especially, around issues on which the participating churches and organizations disagree.
The Guidelines name two in particular: the understanding of church growth, and interreligious relationships; others could easily be added from the experience of past Forum meetings.
The stimulus to go forth is echoed in the Message of Manado, when it says: “we have heard the Spirit calling us not only to continue to foster respect for one another, but now also to move forward together exploring and addressing common challenges”. And, in response as it were, the Guidelines affirm the trust of the Manado gathering in the Holy Spirit which “will continue to draw us closer to one another … strengthening our bonds… allowing us to engage matters of theological and ethical difference among us”.
People came from across the world to attend the GCF gathering in Manado, Indonesia. Here is collection of experiences from ordinary participants in an extra-ordinary gathering
MAJOR SASMOKO HERTJAHJO – The Salvation Army,Indonesia
The Salvation Army is in 22 of the 32 provinces of Indonesia, with membership of 70,000. We are a part of a loose organization of churches where we talk about social problems, relationships and our role in society for social progress, as we are meant to be ‘salt and light of the world’.
I am excited about GCF. This is where we can work together as one and to build stronger relationships towards unity and respect of each other in each church’s tradition. Here I come to know the Mennonites, Lutherans, learned about the situation of Christians in China, and that there are Christians in the Middle East too. Indonesians think all people in the Middle East are only Muslims.
I am impelled to share with other church leaders about GCF, and that we must strengthen our ecumenical relations and collaboration. We are one in God, one in baptism and in the Spirit. Traditions must not be barriers.
DR. ESTHER KOOYIP – Minister, Assemblies of God, Peru
My church is a conservative one, and the word ‘ecumenism’ is a ‘bad word’ for us. Peru has 30 million people who are predominantly Roman Catholic, with one million as members of the Assemblies of God. I was not supposed to come, and my church leaders told me, “when you come back, keep a low
profile.” I am a fighting woman I cannot keep a low profile. My church leaders were concerned about the presence of the Roman Catholics here. I myself wanted to see the ‘devil’ face to face here.
What is important is the result for churches to fulfill their mission as churches. The GCF is a great venue for open discussions, meet people, know how they think, and to include more colors in ‘my picture’ of Christianity in the world. Here is a truly different environment, because in my country there is a big void between Roman Catholics and Protestants, and there are no Orthodox or Anglicans and other churches. To talk to these people is very enriching.
My vision has been expanded, and I love the simplicity and the humility of participants, the human element and relationships established. The expositions are enlightening. I am looking for depth therefore it is a challenge to keep on searching.
BISHOP EINARS ALPE – Latvia Evangelical Lutheran Church,Latvia
This is my first time to come to Asia. When we came together in bus from Manado airport, everybody was happy to meet each other – sisters and brothers from other countries. I felt at home like being in a big family of God.
At the opening worship I saw people from the local church and I saw the future of the church in Latvia in its local congregations. The church’s future is not in its organization but in local congregations when they stay true to God in preaching the gospel.
GCF gave us the opportunity to come together. Without GCF it is not possible to see brothers and sisters from other continents and it is a very beautiful experience for me. We need an organization like this at this time. I realize that we are not alone but together. Language is not a problem. I came here not as a tourist but to listen.
Global Christian Forum goes local in Indonesia
Inspired by, and in response to the Global Christian Forum meeting in Manado, the local Indonesian host churches have formed and launched their own Indonesian Christian Forum (ICF).
In a declaration signed by eight Christian groups and denominations on the final day of the Manado gathering the churches said they would “robustly” strive for Christian unity all over the region “so that they could play their vital role for a better future life for the nation”.
This they said this would be in significant arenas such as “justice, human rights advocacy for marginalised groups, poverty and education, democratisation, witnessing to the spread of the Good News in a diverse society, and in the area of the environment”.
The declaration said the Christian organisations would establish the forum as a “network amongst Christian organisations and institutions that gather in the name of Jesus Christ.” It said the ICF would be a forum, not a structural organisation, but an open, flexible gathering welcome to all.
Groups that signed the declaration included the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, the Catholic Bishops Conference, the Fellowship of Indonesian Evangelical Churches and Institutions, the Salvation Army, the Indonesian Pentecostal Churches Fellowship, the Orthodox Church and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.