Issue No 2: June 2004

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Peace and greetings from Geneva!

I am very pleased to share with you, in this issue, the reports and reflections of two events in which I participated, both very closely related to the World Council of Churches’ activities on mission and evangelism.

The first one refers to the conference “Mission in the 21st Century. Mission as Evangelism in Tension with Mission as Development”, which was held in Livingstone, Zambia, last 25th March to 1st April, organised by the United Theological College of Zambia (UTCZ).

Following this Conference, I had the opportunity to visit churches in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 2nd –5th April. The South Africa Council of Churches (SACC) hosted this visit. It was a very rich experience and provided the opportunity to engage in a fruitful dialogue on mission and evangelism with brothers and sisters there, focusing especially on reconciliation in the 10th anniversary of the democratic changes which took place in the country.

The second report covers a visit which I made to Argentina and Uruguay, May 27th – June 2nd, hosted by the Latin America Council of Churches’ (CLAI). Mission and evangelism is a high priority for the churches in Latin America. The fact that the churches (mainly evangelical and Pentecostal), are growing very fast and their visibility and service increasing in the public sphere, are indications, among others of this reality. So the main purpose of the trip was to engage in a dialogue on our mission endeavor, with pastors and leaders in these two countries, in order to reaffirm our mutual commitment and to strengthen our co-mission of proclaiming of the gospel ecumenically.

Written reports cannot cover all of the richness of the vitality of my experiences, but I hope that you find these two reports helpful to enable you to savor something of the flavor of the evangelistic mission, which is being carried out very faithfully by brothers and sisters in different parts of the world.

Evangelistically yours,

Carlos Emilio Ham
WCC Program Executive for Evangelism

Issue No. 2 - June 2004

The Mission Conference in Zambia – March/ April, 2004

(quote from the preparatory papers).
As we move into the 21st Century what are the needs of the church that we as people of God need to consider and what are the needs of the world to which we as the church feel called to respond? What is our role as Christians living in a world that is becoming more diverse, more abusive and violent, more centrist and less caring, less thoughtful, uncaring of the injustices that are all around us, immobilised by the enormity of the challenges before us?

< The church is growing in some parts of our world and the church is struggling for survival in other parts of the world. The church is involved in the political life and struggle for liberation of its people in some parts of the world and the church is insular and considered not terribly relevant to the life of its people in other parts of the world. The world continues to grow in a way that the rich are getting richer and fewer, as the poor become poorer and grow in number. The church in all parts of the world continues to ask itself "what is the appropriate role of the church in this world?"

For many years the church has equated mission with evangelisation [winning or converting people to Christ]. Today we tend to have a wide variety of understandings concerning the concept of mission. What do these understandings contribute to the breadth and depth of our understanding and what understandings of mission are needed in the church today? What can we learn from one another as we come with our different cultures and our different life experiences and our different understanding of mission?

Purpose, Aim, Goals and Sub-Themes

With this background, the purpose of the Conference was to explore and examine the commonalties and tensions between mission as evangelism and mission as development as it has been, and is being experienced in many of the once politically colonised and the now economically colonised countries of the south.
As we explored why some churches are growing while others are diminishing we aimed to:

  • Explore the tensions between mission as evangelism and mission as development.
  • Examine the implication for our international context and contexts.
  • Challenge and be challenged by one another as we strive to discern the role and practice of mission in, and for the 21st century.
  • Examine the role of interfaith dialogue and its relationship to mission.
  • Examine the role of the Christian church in the world today.
  • Experience the reality of the Zambian context in which mission happens today.
  • Examine what it means to live our mission in today's world.

The Goals:

  • to understand and appreciate the gift of mission as evangelism and the gift of mission as development from a variety of contexts.
  • to identify, and begin to understand and grapple with the complexities of the issues that we face as a world church.
  • to hear from each of the continents, and begin to understand their focus for mission as evangelism as we discern the relevance of this understanding for our own work.
  • to interact with a wide variety of people and understandings of mission as evangelism.

And sub-themes included:

  • The world in which we live and work
  • Biblical and historical roots
  • Mission in five continents
  • Mission and HIV/AIDS
The gathering also included preparation work for the 2005 CWME Conference. In order to accomplish this, information was provided to the participants in lectures and through a panel of three, which focused on the previous conferences, and in particular on the next conference. A document summarising the lectures, focusing specifically on reconciliation and healing, the thematic focus of the Conference was prepared by a participant, Prof. Michael Kinnamon, as a contribution to its preparation process. Also, all the papers will be printed in a book.

The Programme included:

  • Two theme presentations each day with two or three respondents for each theme presentation. Although it was also planned to have the opportunity for small group discussions and reflection, this rarely occurred.
  • Two field trips to experience mission in rural Zambia.
  • Informal presentations and an opportunity for special interest groups as identified by participants.
  • Morning worship and evening vespers led by people from different contexts and different faith perspectives.

Around 200 persons participated in the conference, which included representatives, --most of whom were renowned scholars worldwide--, from the five continents. The theme presentations therefore came from a wide variety of contexts and theological, political, social and economic perspectives, representing

all partner churches and organisations; mainline churches from all continents; selected representation from liberation and evangelical churches and selected theological Colleges from different parts of the world.

We experienced the freshness and richness of the participation of around 100 students from the UTCZ who shared their experiences both in formal and informal meetings. This gave us a great sign of hope, and of joy and

celebration, because their choir sang and danced on several occasions in the worship and in other activities.

Following in chronological order, the speakers included (not including people in charge of the morning and evening worships): Elizabeth Joy from CWM, Abraham Berinyuu from EDAN, Charles Wanamaker from South Africa, Elsa Tamez from Costa Rica (sent her paper), Carlos Ham from Cuba with WCC, Peter Henriot, Jesuit from Zambia, Israel Selvanayagam from India working in Cambridge, Aruna Gnanadason from India with WCC, Charles Thomas from Mindolo, Michael Kinnamon from the USA, Maake Masango from South Africa, Esther Mombo from Kenya, Edwin Zulo from South Africa, Lucy Kasanga from Zambia, Ivone Gebara from Brazil, Adolfo Ham from Cuba, Jacques Thomson from Scotland, Ernst Conradie from South Africa, Stephen Plant form England, Ken Ross from Scotland, John Kafwanka from Zambia, Caroline Wickens from England serving in Kenya, Marilyn Legge from Canada, Chris Ferguson from Canada, Musonda Bwalya from Zambia, Muimui Sinyama from Zambia, Tobias Brankner from Switzerland serving in Hong Kong, M Mahlangu-Ngeobo from South Africa serving in the USA, Garth Mundle from Canada, Isabel Phiri from Malawi serving in South Africa and Japhet Nhlovu from Zambia. Serving as hosts were: Betty Marlin from Canada, UTCZ; Teddy Kalongo, president of the UTCZ and Patrice Siyemeto presiding Bishop of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ).

Even when there was representation from all five Continents, there was an absence of participants from Eastern Europe, East Asia and the Pacific. We did not receive any inputs from the Orthodox tradition and very little from the Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions, which would have made our conference much richer and more diverse. However we did have the participation of a Roman Catholic priest.

Visit to Churches in Argentina and Uruguay – May/June 2004

From May 27th – June 2nd 2004, I visited Argentina and Uruguay, where I was hosted by the Rev. Juan (Hansy) Gattinoni, Latin America Council of Churches’ (CLAI) Regional Secretary for “Rio de la Plata” (which covers Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay). We had an extensive and intensive program, which included one city per day (Buenos Aires, Rosario, Córdoba, Marta del Plata in Argentina and Montevideo in Uruguay).

Purpose of the visit
Mission and evangelism is a high priority for CLAI and has been part of a process that was enriched by the mission consultation held in Barranquilla, Colombia, prior to the CLAI's General Assembly, (2001), and encouraged by the fact that the churches on the continent (mainly evangelical and Pentecostal), both members of CLAI or not, are growing very fast and their mission is increasing in the public sphere. As part of this process, the WCC’s Mission and Evangelism program is committed to a three-year project supporting this initiative with particular focus on evangelism.

We engaged in discussions and dialogue with leaders and pastors on the evangelistic aspect of mission. In particular we discussed issues centered on the 2005 Conference for World Mission and Evangelism’s (CWME) theme, namely, “Come Holy Spirit, Heal and Reconcile. Called in Christ to be Reconciling and Healing Communities”.

We had also intended to reflect on “God in Your Grace, Transform the World”, the theme for the 2006 WCC’s Assembly, focusing specifically on grace, a proposal of the Latin American churches, however we emphasized on the whole question of the missiological approach of the congregations and churches as healing and reconciling communities.
What I found extremely encouraging in this experience was, that not only did we meet with the national leaders of the churches in the two capitals (Buenos Aires and Montevideo), but we also had the opportunity to meet pastors and leaders in different locations throughout Argentina. In this report we try to cover the content of the dialogue, which was extremely rich and will be therefore, a helpful contribution to the whole debate on the theme.

Buenos Aires
The program began with a meeting in CLAI’s office, on May 27th with bishops, presidents, moderators and general secretaries of the mainline protestant churches of the country. The following churches (members or not of the WCC and CLAI) were represented by at least one person: Disciples of Christ, Evangelical of Rio de la Plata, Anglican, of Christ, Christian Biblical, Lutheran, Evangelical Congregational and Presbyterian. Among the participants we had very close collaborators with the WCC, such as the Rev. German Zijlstra, member of the Commission on Education and Ecumenical Formation and executive secretary of AIPRAL (Latin America Area Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches), and the Rev. Hector Petrecca, member of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.

Among the topics discussed are the following:

  • Ecumenical theology and practice of holistic mission as evangelism.
  • Detailed information of the CWME (program, theme, participants, style, spiritual life, venue, etc).
  • WCC’s relations with the Orthodox Church, in particular its implications related to the venue of the CWME. Was this decision politically motivated?
  • Local communities as agents of reconciliation and healing in a wounded world, torn apart by violence, exclusion and marginalisation.
  • Healing and reconciliation as the basis for Christian unity. We can’t evangelize if we are not healed. The society needs a healthy Church in order to be able to heal.
  • Discussion of the legal status of the protestant churches vis-à-vis the Roman Catholic Church, as an uniting feature.
  • Inter-religious dialogue.
  • The theme of reconciliation of the nation after the military dictatorship, has been brought again to the public debate by the Roman Catholic Church, but truth and justice need to be taken into consideration as part of the discussion.
    A member of the Disability Network expressed that the issue of disability is absent in the discussion of the churches. When we talk about reconciliation and healing this issue needs to be addressed as well.
  • The visit of Sam Kobia to Argentina (November 14th – 16th). The local churches have set up a commission, which is working on the preparation of the visit.
  • The participation of the Argentinean member churches in the CWME.
    Joy was expressed by the participants for the opportunity of hosting, as Latin American churches, the next WCC Assembly in Porto Alegre. This is both an honor and a responsibility.
  • The payment of the WCC’s membership fees.

Visit to ISEDET
We met in the afternoon with Dr. Rene Krueger, president of the Evangelical Institute of Higher Theological Studies (ISEDET), and a very prestigious institution in the region. Many bishops, church leaders and pastors studied in this Institute. We also had the opportunity to greet Dr. Mercedes Garcia, the Dean.

Apart from the traditional curriculum, new subjects are being introduced, such as, alternative conflict resolution, reconciliation, alcoholism, drug addiction, pastoral training for indigenous people (focusing on Bible and the land), for disabled people. They are planning to include HIV/AIDS as well. After the visit we sent the CD produced by EHAIA (Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative for Africa) sharing the work that WCC has accomplished on this topic.

Meeting at the FAIE
The Rev. Emilio Monti, president of the Argentina Federation of Evangelical Churches hosted us in his office that evening. He reaffirmed that the theme of reconciliation is reemerging in the society. Legal registration of the protestant and evangelical churches; the “spiritual war”; theology of prosperity; the role of the mass media for evangelism; the Athens CWME; Protestant / Roman Catholic relationships, were among the issues dealt with.

One of the best moments of the visit was, of course, to have the opportunity to visit bishop Federico Pagura (and his wife Rita), one of the WCC’s presidents and a long time friend - one of our Latin American prophets and patriarchs. After a very rich conversation at his home, the following issues were highlighted: challenges for the ecumenical movement; human rights concerns; the role of the USA people today (victim or complicity of the Empire’s doctrine of “national security”?). We met afterwards with members of the New World Ecumenical Cathedra, which embraces not only Protestant churches, but Orthodox and Roman Catholic as well.

Issues covered in the discussion were: the need to reconstruct the social texture; crisis of authority; gangs; drugs trafficking; the role of the churches in the current context; reality of the Indigenous peoples; deterioration of children’s and youth’s situation; the role of the Ecumenical Cathedra, enabling the churches to address social issues, such as human rights from the perspective of a responsible theological and Biblical reflection. Among the lecturers they have invited: Leonardo Boff, Julio de Santa Ana, Fr. Casaldáliga, etc.
Time was also devoted to the 2005 CWME and to the Porto Alegre Assembly. We are hoping that the Ecumenical Cathedra would be represented at the “Partnership” program.

Another unforgettable experience for me was to visit the home where Ernesto “Che” Guevara was born and the monument to the flag of the Republic.

Here we met at the Ecumenical Center. I was very impressed by the deep ecumenical spirit and commitment among the churches of the city, expressed by the attendance and participation in our meeting. We had 20 participants, coming from the following churches: Evangelical of “Rio de la Plata”, Family Development, Consolation Work, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Independent Evangelical, Congregational, Missionary Divine Verb, Free Brethren, Biblical Society, Lutheran and Christian Reformed.

After Hansy and I shared information relevant to the next CWME, we engaged in a very rich discussion, covering the following topics: meaning of healing related to the Christian faith (relation with Pentecostals, elderly, “disabled” people, indigenous people, domestic violence, mental illness, Jesus Christ as the healer of souls and bodies, sin, crisis of medical systems, hygiene, emotional balance, etc.); charismatic renewal; the dichotomy between social concerns and mission and evangelism in the churches and the ecumenical movement, the need therefore, to rescue the holistic understanding and praxis of mission and evangelism, which also includes diakonia; opportunistic position (silence!) of the churches facing social and political realities; care for the families, especially for the children and youth; education and ecumenical formation; religious liberty versus religious equality.

Considering the pneumatological aspect of the CWME’s theme, we also reflected on the role of the Holy Spirit as the healer of our ecumenical relationships; the enabler of mission; “we do what we can, and the Spirit does the rest”; the need for repentance and reconciliation, for visions and dreams together; how churches want to have the monopoly of the Spirit; one Body, several
members and gifts and one Spirit; we are not only diverse, but complementary to each other; the mission of the church is the mission of the Spirit; to reconstruct the social texture, to be more human; to create “safe spaces” in which every contribution is recognized and valued; on Pentecost the Spirit finds the disciples praying, the importance of prayer listening the voice of God and to be open to diversity; to reconcile diversity and announce one gospel, one only Jesus.

Not only to struggle against the violation of human rights but also to be reconciled in the love of God and to walk together; to announce the person and the gospel of Jesus Christ, which implies denouncing of injustice.

Buenos Aires
Back in the capital, I had the opportunity to preach in two churches on Pentecost Sunday (May 30th), in the morning at the Methodist Church of Temperley, where Hansy serves as the pastor. It was an inspiring occasion to worship in this “laboratory of liturgy” where he, as the person in charge of the Liturgical network of CLAI, applies fresh ideas and experiences. In the evening I also preached at the Christian Biblical Church where our friend Héctor Petrecca serves as a pastor. Indeed a great challenge for a Protestant pastor to preach in a Pentecostal Church on Pentecost Sunday!

Another unforgettable experience was the relaxing and rich time I spent in between both services, with Aldo Etchegoyen, former bishop of the Methodist Church of Argentina and member of the WCC’s Central Committee. His remarks about the social, political and economical situation of the country and the mission of the Church facing it, the celebration of our Assembly in Porto Alegre, the visit of Sam Kobia to Argentina and other aspects of the life of the WCC, I found very helpful.

Mar del Plata (Atlantic Ocean)
I was and hosted by Rev. Gerardo Oberman, vice president of the Reformed Church in Argentina. We had a very rich four hours meeting with more that twenty pastors and leaders of the city, many of them belonging to Pentecostal and evangelical churches which do not belong neither to CLAI nor to the WCC.

After sharing an introduction to the WCC in general, I spoke about the importance of the next CWME in 2005 and also in particular of the next WCC Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil. A question regarding the criteria for membership of the Council was raised. We then engaged in an interesting discussion on healing, with the inputs of the Pentecostal and Evangelical participants. We spoke about the church being a healing community both inwards and towards the society. A pastor spoke of miracles of healing and even of resurrection in his church. We also spoke about the meaning of conversion.

Reflection was also devoted to the Church as a reconciling community as well. The importance of cultivating the Christian witness and character in society was emphasized. A very interesting analysis was shared regarding Christian education, the crisis of the educational system in the country and of the Sunday Schools, and the role of the families carrying out the ministry of Christian education, especially among youth and children. The importance of ecumenical formation was also underlined.

Finally we had a very interesting discussion, assessing the festival "Great music! Good News!" that the international evangelist Luis Palau brought to Mar del Plata in late January, attracting crowds in excess of 310,000 over the two days. This was one of the largest Christian musical events ever staged in the South American nation, which is also Palau's birthplace. Some of Latin America's most popular musical artists performed, including Jose Luis Rodriguez ("El Puma") and Mexican superstar Yuri.

Montevideo, Uruguay
In this very short visit to the city (less than 24 hours) we had two meetings, one with national leaders of churches belonging to CLAI, to the WCC and to the Federation of Protestant Churches, and the other with pastors and leaders. In both meetings we spoke about the 2005 CWME, the Porto Alegre Assembly and the Revd. Dr. Samuel Kobia’s (WCC General Secretary) visit to Uruguay in November.

The second meeting was more focused on the meaning of evangelism, reconciliation and healing. We admitted that historically we have dealt more with the concept and practice of reconciliation, when healing is a bit rare in our “mainline” church traditions.

We referred to the fact that we have many people sick and with personal and family problems. Youth are facing a critical situation, hopelessness and there is a lack of vision, many of them want to emigrate and there are problems related to consumerism, increased crime, suicide and the use of illegal drugs - 57% of youth in the country live below poverty level.
Healing and reconciliation through the Holy Spirit, as promotion of dialogue towards holistic healing and seeking for shalom. Not only a matter of saving the soul, but also the body and the whole society. Do healing campaigns produce healing communities? A community, which is not healthy, can’t grow. The importance of the preventive approach of healing.

Final remarks
This was a very productive visit because it included meetings in locations other than the capital cities. I appreciated the opportunity to meet so many local pastors and leaders, very committed to the ecumenical movement. It provided a very rich experience for me, a great occasion not only to deepen my theology of evangelism, as it is conceived and practiced by the churches in the region, but also to receive inspiration and encouragement by the people of God, who in a situation of despair do not know what the future holds, but know Who holds the future.

I was always inspired by the fact that the meetings not only provided a rich discussion of the theme, but also were an important space for pastors and leaders to meet again. This enabled them to further deepen their fellowship as we reflected together on the common challenges posed by the society and to further work to be healing and reconciling communities, empowered by the Holy Spirit. It was also a unique opportunity to share in the meetings what CLAI and the WCC are doing towards the visible unity of the churches in order to transform the world together by God’s grace.

I want to end by thanking the Latin American Council of Churches for this very rich experience, to all my hosts and in particular to my brother Hansy Gattinoni, who not only prepared an excellent program, but also spent most of his precious time traveling, in this journey of hope.

We invite you to
Pray for the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism
in Athens, Greece, 9-16 May 2005
on the theme
Called in Christ to be reconciling and healing communities

Do you have a story, an experience, a blessing to share on how the gospel is shared ecumenically and creatively in your region? Please send it and we will be very happy to publish it!
We invite you to
pray for the Forum for World Evangelization
in Thailand, September 29 – October 5 2004
on the theme
Hosted by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.

Please remember that this Letter is published in the four languages of the WCC