Mennonites have been reflecting on the significance of the recent second international gathering of the Global Christian Forum (GCF).
The GCF met in Manado, Indonesia, last month (October 2011), with a number of Anabaptists among the 287 participants. The first such gathering was held in Kenya in 2007.
Participants came from 65 countries and all continents and brought together most of the major streams of the Christian faith: African Initiated, Anglican, Catholic, Charismatic, Evangelical, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Protestant, mega-church, Peace church and contemplative communities.
In a 21 November 2011 news release, Mennonite World Conference described the meeting as "extremely diverse" and highlighted some of the most important developments in world Christian cooperation embodied in the gathering.
Leaders at the gathering came from 12 world Christian communions and nine global ecumenical organisations.
Mennonite World Conference (MWC) was represented by Anne-Cathy Graber, MWC representative on the GCF Committee, Danisa Ndlovu, MWC president, and Larry Miller, MWC General Secretary. Miller was introduced at the gathering as the new GCF secretary beginning from January 2012.
Miller’s appointment “has been made possible thanks to an agreement between the Mennonite World Conference and the GCF on a secondment,” says the Global Christian Forum.
The overall guiding purpose of the GCF is “to create an open space wherein representatives from a broad range of Christian churches and interchurch organisations, which confess the triune God and Jesus Christ as perfect in His divinity and humanity, can gather to foster mutual respect, to explore and address together common challenges.”
One of the “most poignant moments”, say observers and participants, was a panel of churches and communities that have experienced healing and reconciliation in Christ.
These included the reconciliation of Lutherans and Mennonites, the resurrection of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Albania and “the extraordinary stories of the churches in China and the churches in the Middle East and northern Africa.”
Another focus of the gathering was to engage the shifts in world Christianity, with the majority of Christians now coming from the 'global south' while much institutional strength and resources for traditional Christianity remains in Europe and North America.
In a final message, the delegates to Manado referred to the “open space” process as a “gift of God” which should continue not only at the international but also at the regional and national levels.
Anabaptist and other delegates also expressed preference for an ongoing minimal structure run by a volunteer committee and several staff. Larry Miller’s appointment represents a transition to a full time secretary.
Mennonite World Conference (MWC) is a global community of Christian churches rooted in the 16th-century Radical Reformation in Europe, particularly in the Anabaptist movement.
Today more than 1,600,000 believers belong to the Mennonite-Anabaptist faith family. Over 60 per cent of these are African, Asian, or Latin American.
MWC represents 100 Mennonite and Brethren in Christ national churches from 57 countries on six continents.
* More reports on the GCF: www.globalchristianforum.org
* Mennonite World Conference: www.mwc-cmm.org