Leaders meeting in Kenya belonging to all main Christian traditions, and from countries ranging from Armenia to Zimbabwe, have pledged to convene international, local and regional meetings to deepen reconciliation and understanding - writes Fredrick Nzwili.
"Recognising that unity is first and foremost God's gift through the work of the Holy Spirit, our commitment is to press on in promoting ever greater understanding and cooperation among Christians, while respecting the diversity of our identities, traditions and individual gifts," the leaders said in a statement issued at the end of the 6-9 November 2007 meeting.
The gathering, called the Global Christian Forum, brought together about 240 leaders from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal and other churches, and international organizations
"This is an historic event for world Christianity," said Roman Catholic Archbishop Fernando Capalla from Davao in the Philippines.
The forum idea was originally proposed in the mid-1990s by the Rev Dr Konrad Raiser, a German theologian who was then general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
He suggested a forum could reach out to Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and Evangelical churches that do not belong to the Geneva-based WCC grouping, whose 347 member churches are drawn predominantly from Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox traditions.
The WCC said the forum at Limuru near Nairobi brought together the broadest range of Christian traditions ever gathered at a global meeting.
"I think the expectations have been met. We have a set of good proposals to go into the future," Hubert Van Beek, the main organizer of the meeting, told Ecumenical News International on 9 November at the conclusion of the event.
Still, he acknowledged areas where more discussion was needed between the various Christian traditions.
Some adherents of Pentecostalism, and others within Evangelical Christianity, have come in for criticism by other Christians and members of other religions for engaging in proselytising, Van Beek noted.
"That is something you cannot solve in one meeting. We need to do more work," he said.
The general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, the Rev. Ishmael Noko, told ENI that participants had agreed to continue the process as a forum with a small structure.
"I had been concerned when I came here that there could be perceptions that the forum is intended to replace the existing ecumenical structures," he explained.
The forum, Noko said, would be a place where members of different traditions could engage in dialogue to promote understanding.
In an interview, the Rev. Setri Nyomi, the general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, said the dialogue at the Kenya meeting would have failed if it were not followed up at a regional and local level.
"We have been able to see that we live in global realities and are global Christians. We are speaking about globalised Christianity," said Bishop Nareg Alemezian of the Armenian Apostolic Church from Lebanon. "We are responsible for taking this spirit with us to our churches."
More on: Global Christian Forum - www.globalchristianforum.net