Nearly a hundred years after a pivotal world mission conference helped spark the modern ecumenical movement, the head of the World Council of Churches is calling for change in the conference's famous motto, "the evangelization of the world in this generation."
On Friday, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the WCC, made a sober analysis of the progress and failure since the 1910 Edinburgh World Mission Conference, which is regarded by many as the symbolic starting point of the modern ecumenical movement.
At a meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, to prepare for the 100th anniversary celebration of the event in 2010, Kobia acknowledged that though the Edinburgh motto called for "the evangelization of the world in this generation," 100 years later the number of Christians in the world is proportionally the same – roughly a third of the world population.
"Realistically speaking, it doesn't make sense to just repeat the Edinburgh watchword," the WCC head argued, in a statement.
Instead, Kobia called for focus on "this generation's mission in the globalized world" in light of both the changes in the world and the landscape of Christianity since 1910.
More specifically, the ecumenical movement should focus on healing Christian division through building communities of healing and reconciliation and challenging all justifications of violence, said the WCC head. It should also share the Gospel in "Christ's way" in the modern world.
Kobia highlighted, in particular, the rift between "Christians of the evangelical mission family" and "Christians of the…ecumenical mission family."
"We should find a way to confess mutual exaggerations and disrespect" in order to facilitate "an authentic reconciliation process," he urged.
Kobia is currently on a Apr. 24 – May 4 tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The World Council of Churches is one of the largest ecumenical organizations in the world, bringing together more than 340 churches, denominations and church fellowships in over 100 countries and territories throughout the world. WCC claims to represent some 550 million Christians, including most of the world's Orthodox churches. The group seeks to promote unity among the Christian bodies.