MANADO, Indonesia – Christians from a broad range of denominations met in Manado, Indonesia, last week to direct attention to changes at work in the world of Christianity today and to discern what God is doing in the churches around the world.
The Second Global Christian Forum –yes the first being in Kenya in 2007 – had more than 300 delegates from 81 countries, bringing together a number of different streams and denominations.
Delegates represented all of the major “families” of world Christianity: Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic as well as Pentecostal and other evangelical traditions. The GCF is the only time all these Christian traditions come together for “intentional, sustained worship,” said the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, a delegate from the Reformed Church in America.
A number of discussions and lectures took place throughout the Oct. 4-7 forum, centering on the theme of “Life Together in Jesus Christ, Empowered by the Holy Spirit.”
Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance, welcomed the Global Christian Forum as a very important space for dialogue and conversation.
“The WEA’s participation in the GCF is an important way of improving understanding and growing together with other Christians in what Paul calls the ‘mind of Christ,’” he told delegates, quoting from Philippians 2. “The WEA is committed to building bridges for dialogue and understanding between Christians so as to breakdown stereotypes and to strengthen our Christian character.”
Tunnicliffe said the WEA sees the GCF as a place to discuss, to learn from and to challenge one another without murmuring and arguing, yet with honesty, transparency and especially humility.
At the opening plenary Oct. 4, the Rev. Sarah Rowland Jones of Anglican Communion welcomed the participants at the GCF, saying, “I think it’s time for new growing, for custom movement and it’s particularly a turning point for Evangelicals.”
She acknowledged, “We have to begin with Christ as a sample foundation and we shall begin always with sharing faith stories.”
Cecil (Mel) Robeck of Fuller Theological Seminary said the Global Christian Forum is special because it brings together Catholics and Pentecostals.
“I [was] as surprised as most of [you] people because most Pentecostals … are separate from many of you and your various traditions,” he said.
“As the world has changed … we have come to realize that we need you more now than we ever have.”
The forum is a place where different denominations can come together as brothers and sisters in Christ and learn from each other as they continue to grow, Robeck added.
Dimitra Koukoura of the World Council of Churches echoed the Orthodox Church’s desire to listen to people’s experiences and to work together in their commitment for the unity of church. “So that we might be one,” Koukoura said.
The Rev. Nicta Lubaale Makiika of the Organization of African Instituted Churches also shared the suffering of Christ brings hope and joy, as inspired by the Holy Spirit. He hopes that the Global Christian Forum can share Christ’s experience with joy “and have it become our experience, and come together, empowered by the Holy Spirit,” Makiika said.
The Rev. Richard Howell of Evangelical Fellowship of India said he discovered God at work at the forum.
“The Global Christian Forum is [one of] God’s gifts to His one worldwide church,” Howell said. He stressed that sharing about one another’s faith journey is the key.
In the closing remarks of the plenary, the Rev. Granberg-Michaelson – who is the general Secretary of the RCA – encouraged participants to reflect on the spirit.
“We wish to listen and to discern what God is saying to the churches from the specific regions and the stories they are sharing,” he said. “We hope in addition to our sharing and our listening, we can discern, [with] eyes of faith, what the next steps may be.”
Gabrielle Devenish contributed writing to this report.