Monday, November 4, 2013

Mission and Evangelism Highlight Monday at Assembly

Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes, a new declaration by the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, was the highlight of Monday's deliberations at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea.
The day began as always with Morning Prayer and Bible Study featuring an emphasis on the Holy Spirit and Witness. This moved the Assembly into its Mission Plenary.
As the plenary opened, there were notable greetings from the Lutheran World Federation by Bishop Munib Younan, from the World Evangelical Alliance by Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher and from the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations by Rabbi David Sandmel.
Following the greetings, the theme of the Plenary was introduced with Dr. Kirsteen Kim moderating, by a WCC video featuring the history of the World Missionary Conference and the CWME. Then it came time to work with the document itself. Roman Catholic scholar and missioner Stephen Bevans, SVD of the United States offered a theological basis for the document rooted in a pnuematology of mission. All mission is God's mission enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
Subsequently the stage was filled with dancers from the Teatro Ekyumenikal of the Philippines' Council of Churches who spread the word that the document was about giving all peoples the fullness of life.
Rev. Cecilia Castillo Nanjari, a Pentecostal from Chile, followed up with an appeal to understand mission as announcing the Good News that life can be lived in its fullness and goodness. Her presentation was cutting edge but controversial for churches which promote teachings on the respect for human life that contradict what she holds as women's rights on reproductive health. Her appeal was for people on the margins.
Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop Geervarghese Mor Coorilos of India, Moderator of CWME, then presented the document itself. It is divided into four sections: the mission of the Spirit; mission from the margins; mission in the life of the Triune God; and the call to witness. He put a great emphasis on the fact that in today's Church we are witnessing evangelization from the margins rather than to the margins.
The plenary ended with a spirited send off by the Teatro Ekyumenikal.
Later on in the day, Dr. Kim, Bishop Mor Coorilos and Dr. Jooseop Keum gave a press conference in which they reemphasized the points made during the plenary.
Dr. Kim highlighted the fact that this is the first mission statement of the WCC since 1982 and that the landscape has changed dramatically. Mission from the margins would be a special feature henceforth of the WCC .
Adding support to the statement, World Evangelical Alliance General Secretary Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher in another press conference said the WEA would not object to anything in the document though it would stress differing emphases. He added that the WEA and the WCC were on excellent terms and in dialogue with one another.
And so another day comes to a close at the Assembly. Together Towards Life will now be received by the churches for comment and review. It may assist in understanding the complexities of the new evangelization and foster yet closer bonds among Christians.

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