‘Let mutual love continue’ – Global Christian Forum gathering – Bogotá 2018

‘Let mutual love continue’ – Global Christian Forum gathering – Bogotá 2018


The Global Christian Forum challenges
the historical Churches including us, Catholics, to recognize the phenomenon of God’s work
in these new communities and to take them seriously. I believe it is also a very good space
in order to discern what is God doing in this world, also with the Church; the Church is changing, the world is moving on
and the Churches are changing. So for us, we cannot see ourselves as Christians
by living in our local security, without seeking of the visible unity. Pentecostals need, and our denomination,
we need the theological depth and experience of our brothers
and sisters in the Orthodox community, in the Roman Catholic community who have these 2000 years
of Church history. Well, 250 people coming together
are returning to their own countries, to their own responsibilities, to their own Churches and congregations. And I believe they return changed, they have returned surprised
because God has worked in our midst. The 3rd global Christian Forum gathering
took place in Bogota, Columbia, from April 24th to the 27th 2018. 250 Church leaders from 55 countries
gathered for dialogue on the theme “Let mutual love continue”
Hebrews 13:1 What greater promise, what greater incentive could there be for us
indeed to show that love to God and to one another? The Global Christian Forum,
which began in 1998, in the words of the Guiding Purpose Statement of the first world meeting in Limuru, Kenya, in 2007, is “an open space wherein representatives
from a broad range of Christian Churches and inter-Church organizations,
which confess the triune God and Jesus Christ as perfect
in His divinity and humanity, can gather to foster mutual respect, to explore and to address together
common challenges.” Under the careful guidance of the Secretary, the Reverend Dr Larry Miller, the GCF brings together in one place
the widest range of leaders of world Christianity today. Bogota is only the third ever global gathering
of this unique forum, and the first gathering
in a Spanish speaking nation. We want to bring into conversation, have a space for conversation, between those who have been historically
involved in the ecumenical movement and those who have not, and often those who have not have even been suspicious of the ecumenical movement. So we have established
what we call a kind of 50-50 principle. We always try to have about 50 percent of the participants
in a Global Christian Forum event coming from the historic
ecumenical movement So that would be the Orthodox Churches,
the Protestant Churches, the Anglican Communion,
and the Catholic Church. And the other 50 percent are the,
one can call them, the younger Churches: the Churches that come from
the Evangelical movement, 18th and 19th centuries,
and the Pentecostal movement, Charismatic movements of the 20th century. A lot of what happens at the Global Christian
Forum happens in small group, around tables, sharing with each other, what’s going on in your communion,
what’s happening in my communion, how do we understand each other better. You know, when you know someone
and you have a relationship with them, it’s hard to fight them. So in many ways, the Global Christian Forum
helps defuse animosity between movements and may be show us a way
that we can work together in the future more. I think for me this week, one of the most meaningful things
has been the times of scripture reading and prayer and worship together. I love the life of worship
in the Orthodox Church, but worshipping with Christians in other
traditions according to their worship styles, reading the scripture with them and listening to their reflections have
really been a wonderful experience. The passage that we have read this week
about the resurrection, the road to Emmaus and the discovery
of the disciples that the Christ truly is alive and is with us and is walking with us
and opening the scriptures to us, has been a tremendous blessing to me. There was plenty of dialogue between
African brothers and sisters: we talked about our African experience I as an African woman living in Europe and
they as African theologians living in Africa, and this sharing was very enriching
for all of us. I leave with the thought that this mutual love
begins between individuals before it extends to be Churches. The Global Christian Forum
is a real ‘incubator for unity’. It allows the different denominations
to meet in a climate of mutual trust and to discuss difficult questions for example how the different Churches have wounded
one another over the course of history. Contrary to ‘polite ecumenism’ which hardly scratches the surface
these meetings foster a much deeper reflection. The long history of Christianity, from its beginnings
two thousand years ago until now, is without doubt on the way to achieving unity
within the body of the Church. For the Lord asked this of us, or rather He asked it of his Father
when He said: ‘Father, I pray that those whom you
have given me may be one, as we are one”. This is not to deny that there are wounds
in the single body of the Church and that, alas, there are several Churches
and several divisions. This is not the result of a divine plan
or the divine will, but of a human plan and human will. “Friends, I give you a new commandment:
that you love one another” Ecumenism in Latin America is still very difficult to accept
by the majority of Churches, And in that sense I believe that there is still a way to go to try
to understand what we are understanding here, that to enter into
an inter-denominational relationship is not to negotiate our convictions, but to learn what the Lord is doing
in other places. What was particularly heartening this time was that as we reflected on the joint
declaration on justification, we celebrated the fact that today; this joint declaration has been signed
by five Churches that is recognized by five Churches. And this is so encouraging
for the Global Christian Forum. And also a reminder that
we need to continue to foster and to welcome this dimension
of the Church amongst ourselves. On the second day of the meeting, the participants discussed issues
that the Churches are called to face together: discrimination, persecution and martyrdom
for the sake of the faith. These were the subjects
of the conference in Tirana in 2015. “A readiness to follow Jesus, even to giving up our lives as he did,
is the condition of true discipleship”, as is emphasized in the concluding message
of the meeting in Bogota. A moving tribute was paid to two bishops, Metropolitan Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim a member of Global Christian Forum
from the beginning and Archbishop Boulos Yazijy, both of whom were abducted
in Syria 5 years ago. This may be the big question of the day. Are we raising up a generation
of Christian believers, young men and women
whose faith is strong enough to go all the way to death. Will they be like first generation Christians
who gave their lives because they believed in Jesus? I want to highlight,
as important for my experience, that I was invited
by the Forum to Albania in 2015. And one thing that broke my heart was to see
the expression of one of the bishops who came from Syria, commenting that
when ISIS was going to the communities, they were not asking who were evangelicals
or Catholics, Orthodox or Anglicans. Simply by following Jesus,
their lives were in danger. That profoundly impacted my life. And I realized that there were more reasons
to be together than to be separated. In the “message to the Churches”
given at the conclusion of the Bogota meeting, the participants declared: “We encourage one another to be bound together in our mutual love in Jesus Christ and journey forward together We want to share and grow the joy
we have experienced in Bogota, by extending the experience of the
Global Christian Forum through regional and local initiatives rooted in the places
where we live.” So Ecumenical movement is to learn
about charity, about love, about solidarity, about how I can mobilize all the other
Christian brothers and sisters all over the world to care about the common challenges that we are facing in the global society
right now all over the world. It seems to me that what we experience here
at the Global Christian Forum, learning how to exchange our ideas
in a simple manner, is something that is accessible to everyone. It’s not just a concern for important leaders
of large Christian denominations, but a simple daily exercise for all of us. The message is, I’m sure,
going to make many people happy. And this is what is needed also
in the given prejudices, misunderstandings among us Christians,
among various groups, so this message will kind of tell people
that there is hope. That is the key word in the message; it is a message of hope:
“let mutual love continue”. I believe that as Christians, in our hearts, we want to make a difference and we know, we know so so well in scripture that
we make an impact when we work together. The work to achieve Unity is only possible
because some people choose to commit to the cause of inter-Church communion. To recognize this, the participants at the
Global Christian Forum gave thanks for Larry Miller’s 6 years
of service as secretary. The participants at the Global Christian Forum also prayed for the future mission
of the new secretary, Casely Essamuah. Our unity is not a unity just for the sake of
coming together, but for the credibility of our witness if you are really passionate
about the Good News, you want to lock arms to do it with others,
knowing that if we unite, we have much more credibility. If we unite, we have more resources, if we unite, we don’t duplicate efforts, if we unite, we bring glory to God.

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