About 700 representatives from churches and mission bodies from all over the world gathered Wednesday for the second day of the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME).
The conference, held May 9-16 by the World Council of Churches (WCC), calls delegates from Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches or mission bodies to recognize the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in all of them.
In his presentation to the plenary on the second day of the conference, Dr Athanasios P. Papathanasiou called the churches to a critical creativity towards reconciliation.
The professor of the Higher Ecclesiastical School in Athens offered an Orthodox theological viewpoint to CWME participants, calling churches and mission bodies to encourage the understanding that "authentic existence" is when "otherness is not something parallel or opposite to [one's own] identity", but an element of it.
Because the church believes history is illuminated by the light of the last times, it must witness to the hope of resurrection and of the transfiguration of the whole world, Papathanasiou said.
Therefore, the church can be "neither an association of individuals nor a secular organization," but must give a clear testimony to the Holy Trinity communion, he added. This way of being in communion is neither an undifferentiated "global-village" nor a simple juxtaposition of unlinked single local human contexts.
In addition to Papathanasiou's address, CWME participants also heard a personal testimony from Latin America on healing and reconciling in a local community, and an address from Samuel Kabue from Kenya, who shared how the WCC's Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) that he coordinates views the "healing" or "reconciling" character of the local community.
Over the next several days, Christians from all continents and the largest confessional families will exchange experiences and reflect on the priorities for mission and the future of Christian witness, gathering around the theme "Come, Holy Spirit, heal and reconcile" and the sub-theme "Called in Christ to be reconciling and healing communities."
Participants of the CWME include young people, women and men working at the frontiers of Christian witness, church and mission leaders, theologians and missiologists.
Daily plenary sessions will focus on the central elements of the theme and sub-theme. Moreover, one of the plenary sessions will be dedicated to the complex relationship between mission and violence given that the conference coincides with the mid-point of the WCC Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010).
Aside from the plenary sessions, about 70 workshops will offer participants opportunities to discuss a wide variety of issues in depth. These range from experiences of multi-dimensional healing to mission in war and conflict situations; from the role of women in mission to the relationship between healing, salvation and conversion; from the missionary challenge that people living with HIV/AIDS pose, to the way that indigenous people approach reconciliation and healing.
According to the WCC, there have been 12 such ecumenical mission conferences since 1910.
In addition to being the first time such a conference was held in a predominantly Orthodox context, it will also be the first time ever that the conference plenaries will be broadcast live via the internet.