The head of the World Council of Churches has lamented the decline of Christianity in the West, while also praising rapid growth of the faith in developing countries - reports Ecumeical News International (ENI).
"Churches are being sold in Europe and are being converted into bars. It is sad to hear that liquor is being served from pulpits where the word of God used to be preached," WCC general secretary the Rev Samuel Kobia noted in Kottayam in India's southern state of Kerala, at the end of his recent visit.
In African and Asian countries, "Christianity and churches are vibrant," Dr Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya, told a 19 February 2007 meeting organized by the Kerala Council of Churches, a grouping of 13 Protestant and Orthodox churches.
"At a time when the Christian identity is eroding in several parts of the world, especially in the West, it is heartening that churches in developing countries are growing fast," said Dr Kobia on his 12-20 February visit to India.
In his speech, the WCC leader also urged the churches to take further steps towards unity. "It is better to pray together than separately," remarked Dr Kobia, at the meeting attended by bishops wearing cassocks of different liturgical colours, and at which he was welcomed by the sound of traditional Hindu drummers.
Dr Kobia acknowledged during the past 50 years, "relations between various churches and ecclesiastical bodies have changed radically from that of isolation to one of mutual respect and cooperation". But, he said, there was "need for more dialogue for establishing a Christian identity".
The previous day, Dr Kobia had delivered the valedictory sermon at the 112th Maramon Convention, which is said to be Asia's biggest Christian gathering, held at Maramon in Kerala. Its theme was globalisation and Christian alternatives to a colonial model of world development.
With grateful acknowledgments to ENI - www.eni.ch