As delegates to a World Council of Churches (WCC) gathering noted Christianity's growth in the global South, church leaders from Africa and Asia stressed that partnership in mission and evangelism is needed more than ever - writes Maurice Malanes.
"We acknowledge that the growth of Christianity in the global South (Africa and Asia) is the result of the success of the North's mission and evangelism work," the Rev Opoku Onyinah of the Pentecost Bible College in Ghana told ENInews las week.
Speaking before a pre-assembly of the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), Onyinah said Pentecostal churches' emphasis on personal religious experiences and encounters with the Holy Spirit has helped many churches in Africa grow.
"But as the North needs missionaries from the South to help them in their evangelism and mission work, we still need each other's partnership," he said. The North, for example, can help provide theological training on mission and evangelism, which many Pentecostals lack, he said.
Filipino Roman Catholic Bishop Antonio Tobias of the Novaliches diocese in Quezon City, who is participating in the WCC pre-assembly in Manila, agreed with Onyinah.
"Our partnership with churches in the North is needed more than ever as we are called to also to help re-evangelise them," Tobias told ENInews. According to the Vatican, he said, "we are expected to send some of our missionaries to the North."
In its draft statement on mission and evangelism, the WCC commission affirmed that mission movements today are emerging from the global South and East.
Approved by the WCC-CWME executive group last 22 January, the draft was presented on 22 March to the pre-assembly, which gathered 226 participants from various churches. The participants had until 27 March to improve, comment on and enhance the statement, which will be finally presented before the WCC's 10th general assembly in Busan, South Korea in 2013.
The statement aims to seek renewed thinking on mission and evangelism, which will update the current one written in 1982.
Hosted by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the pre-assembly theme is "Together towards life: mission and evangelism in changing landscapes."
Church leaders stressed the values of embracing dynamism, transformation and diversity as part of the statement on mission and evangelism. "This new document offers us an opportunity to challenge the global church to move out further into the deep end of mission and evangelism to engage the life-denying realities that are enslaving people," said the Rev Roderick Hewitt, of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and former moderator of the Council for World Mission.
The WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said that the statement on mission and evangelism will contribute greatly to the WCC Assembly theme "God of Life, lead us to justice and peace."
"The church has a mission to recognise and empower the marginalised as subjects of mission and not as objects only," said Tveit in his opening address. "Those on the boundaries are the frontiers in mission who can provide a vantage point for a new mission thinking that generates creative alternatives."
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]