Global Christian Forum is 'most diverse Christian gathering ever'

By staff writers
5 Nov 2007

A unique gathering of high level church leaders starting on Tuesday 6 November 2007 near Nairobi, Kenya, features the broadest range of Christian traditions ever represented at a global meeting, says its organisers.

The gathering will "allow for a discussion of unprecedented ecumenical breadth on what Christians are called to do - together if possible - in the world today", say those taking part.

The 6-9 November gathering, called the Global Christian Forum, brings together about 250 high level representatives of all the main Christian traditions and of their global organizations at the Jumuia Conference Centre in Limuru, near Nairobi.

The Forum's stated purpose is to create a new, open space in which a broad range of Christian churches and interchurch organizations can gather in a multilateral setting to foster mutual respect and explore and address together common challenges.

It aims to include all streams of Christianity, including those which have not been in conversation with one another. In Limuru about half of the participants will be Evangelicals and Pentecostals.

Over four days, with the theme 'Our Journey with Jesus Christ, the Reconciler,' participants will discuss how best to promote dialogue and co-operation on issues of Christian unity and common witness to the world. They will debate proposals for the future of the Forum, and it is hoped that a 'Letter to the Churches' will summarize the results of the meeting.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) will be represented by the moderator of its central committee, the Rev. Walter Altmann; its general secretary, the Rev. Samuel Kobia; its president from the Pacific region, Mr John Doom; and the Rev. Robina Winbush, member of the continuation committee of a process called "Ecumenism in the 21st Century".

First proposed in the mid-1990’s by the Rev Dr Konrad Raiser, then WCC general secretary, the Forum was born out of the recognition that the ecumenical movement is broader than the WCC. Although it helped to initiate the process, the WCC sees itself as one of the participating organizations alongside others.

Regional consultations have taken place since in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. The methodology used in those encounters encouraged the sharing of the participants’ faith journeys and of the stories of their faith communities.

The Forum process, which is led by a 12-member continuation committee, has so far avoided becoming a new organization or institution, and continues to be based on “participation” as opposed to “membership”.

The Christian traditions represented at the Forum meeting in Limuru are: African Instituted, Anglican, Baptist, Evangelical, (Roman) Catholic, Disciples (Churches of Christ), Friends, Holiness, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Moravian, Old Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Pentecostal, Reformed, Salvation Army, Seventh-Day Adventist, United and Uniting Churches.

In addition to these Christian traditions or “families”, a number of Christian organizations are also represented: regional ecumenical organizations, youth and student international movements, YMCA and YWCA, United Bible Societies, World Vision International, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, the World Council of Churches and a number of forum-type organizations.

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