World Evangelical leaders joined their Pentecostal counterparts to welcome better relations with members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) on Monday. The drive for a greater co-operation in the future came as WCC members gathered for their 9th Assembly currently taking place Feb. 14-23 in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
The Rev Geoff Tunnicliffe, the International Director and CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), reported that the WEA “parallel network” of 400 million Christians identified with many of the WCC’s themes, such as HIV/AIDS, violence and poverty.
In particular, Tunnicliffe said that Evangelicals, many of which exist within WCC churches, were dedicated to integral mission, the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel.
“If we ignore the world, we betray the word; if we ignore the word, we have nothing to bring to the world,” he said.
The WEA head went on to explain that the evangelical alliance was not a member of the WCC, partly because of the structural differences between the two worldwide bodies, and also due to some “historical and deeply-felt issues.”
However, he stated that the way forward was “to find connections around issues” such as the northern Uganda crisis, on which both organizations agreed.
When asked about evangelism and proselytism, Tunnicliffe said that the desire to see personal conversion was “at the heart of the evangelical movement.”
“We need to work on best practices about how we engage in evangelism,” he added.
The Chairman of The Church of Pentecost in Ghana, the Rev Michael Ntumy, also made an emotional call for closer connections between Pentecostal and WCC churches.
Referring to the origins of Pentecostal congregations a century ago, he said that many of them were the result of acrimonious separations from old churches. He said, “Although time does not necessarily heal all divisions, 100 years is long enough.”
Ntumy praised the strong emphasis in WCC churches on the social gospel, but said that “the Pentecostal emphasis on the proclamation of the gospel is an area WCC churches do not emphasize enough.”
Inviting a more unified future, he said that if Pentecostal, WCC churches and the Roman Catholic Church were to come together “we would become a spiritual colossus in the hands of God."
He concluded: "Our doors are open; come, let's talk.”