A senior Vatican official has said the Roman Catholic Church welcomes a new Global Christian Forum intended to bring together the diverse strands of Christianity as never before - writes Fredrick Nzwili in Nairobi.
"When Christians are divided, the preaching of the gospel suffers and this is a pain we all have to feel," said Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, addressing a 6-9 November 2007 meeting of the forum near Nairobi.
"Every thing that leads in a positive way to rediscovering our unity in Christ is something good, something that we will try to collaborate with, something that we will want to be a partner in," Farrell said in an 8 November address to about 240 leaders from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal and other churches from around the world.
The forum idea was originally proposed in the mid-1990s by the Rev. Konrad Raiser, a German theologian who was then general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
He suggested it could reach out to Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and Evangelical churches that do not belong to the Geneva-based grouping, whose 347 member churches are drawn predominantly from Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox traditions.
The WCC has said the Kenya forum has brought together the broadest range of Christian traditions ever gathered at a global meeting.
Farrell said the Global Christian Forum was vital since it did something other inter-church bodies could not do, although he also cautioned against being too quick to replace them.
"The experience of all of us in these days, is that we have been able to talk to each other in honesty," said Farrell. "If we can know each other better, then we can deal with our questions."
Support for the forum came also from the Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance, which describes itself as a network international organizations and of churches in 128 nations.
He said, "We believe this table brings greater understanding and breaks stereotypes."
See also: Global Christian Forum: www.globalchristianforum.net
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]