Sunday, May 22, 2005


Rather foolishly, I forgot to mention the page that I created here in order to accumulate reporting and comment from the CWME conference. I was also interviewed yesterday by the Christian Today website on the experience, and on the future of British ecumenism. Like all bits of instant punditry, it feels inadequate... but a start.

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

Sunday, May 15, 2005


...or, rather, hearing what the Spirit might be saying to the churches and movements in Christian mission, has been the task of 'listeners' at the WCC thirteenth Conference on World Mission and Evangelism meeting in Athens, 9-16 May 2005.

As well as being an ecumenically delegated participant, and reporting for Ekklesia, I have been privileged to be part of that process.

Here we are, giving some brief input at the final conference plenary. The snapshots given (you can view the webcast here) were not intended to be representative, but to give a flavour of the variety of perspectives we will be offering.

More detailed, written responses are being produced by the end of May. Some of these will be published in the International Review of Mission, others as part of the reporting process from CWME.

You can see what I have been reporting back through the media here.

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

This from the irrepressible John Dear (Jesuit Priest, Peace Activist, Organizer, Lecturer, Retreat leader, and author/editor of 20 books on peace and nonviolence) on Common Dreams:

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43)

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:28)

A few weeks before he died in 2002, the great peace activist Philip Berrigan was asked what we could do about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the U.S. warmakers.

“We have to do two things,” he answered. “We have to pray for them and resist them.”

That parting wisdom sums up the mission before us, to pray for our persecutors, bless the warmakers, and resist them with all our strength and love by opposing their wars, weapons, greed, injustices, and environmental destruction.

In that Spirit, here goes then... (continued here).

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

The world’s churches have been invited to adopt non-violence and peace building as distinctive ‘identity markers’ of the Christian community, alive and active in the world.

Dr Fernando Enns, a German Mennonite member of the central committee of the World Council of Churches, spoke on this theme at a press briefing following his presentation today at the 2005 Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Athens, Greece.

Dr Enns played a significant role in securing the adoption of the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010) at the eighth assembly of the WCC in Harare, 1998. Its aim is to create a space for churches across the globe to collaborate in peace-building initiatives in a world of division and conflict.

“We do not believe any longer that we will overcome evil by evil, but by doing good”, said Dr Enns. “We truly believe that the Apostle Paul is right when he says in his letter to the Corinthians that we are ‘a new creation’ from God ‘who reconciled himself to us through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation’.” (Continued here).

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Three signs marked my arrival as a participant in the historic thirteenth WCC Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Athens, Greece (9-16 May 2005). In content and form they were very different, but together they show the scale of the global challenge Christians face in commending the Gospel of reconciliation to a divided world.

The first sign was an advertising poster on the road between Athens and Attiki. “We welcome a new myth to Greece”, it declared. “Yours.” It would be hard to find a more potent summary of the post-modern condition. There is a genuine hospitality to the plural environment. But it is one which is tempted to replace commitment with curiosity, to see our founding narratives as exchangeable goods, and to think of the story that shapes us as ours to dispose of as we choose.

In coming to Greece, the land of antiquity, we have been reminded that things are rather more complicated than this... (Continued here).

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

For convenience, I have collected together WCC Conference on World Mission and Evangelism reports from different sources (mostly Ekklesia and ENI) on a single CWME web page associated with my main site.

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

Thursday, May 12, 2005


"I don't have the Holy Spirit in my pocket"

These were Orthodox theology teacher Athanasios Papathanasiou's words during one of the press briefings at the WCC world mission conference. Papathanasiou, a member of the Church of Greece involved with the planning of the conference, was trying to explain the seemingly abstruse issue of the influence that the final things (eschata) have over the non-final ones (history).

"Nothing in history is final," he said, "and that gives us a lot of freedom, because the future remains open for God". At the same time, the perspective of God's kingdom means that every human activity is under judgement. "I know for sure that I'm being called to salvation, but I can't be sure that God would agree with everything I think," he said. Papathanasiou is nonetheless sure about some things: "It's not true that we Christians should be reconciled with everything: we don't have to be reconciled with injustice." (via WCC)

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


If Christians are to be heard speaking truthfully in a fast-changing, plural world they must repent of domineering attitudes and emulate the self-giving, non-violent love of Jesus Christ. That was the heart of the message presented today by the general secretary of the World Council of Churches to participants at the Athens global mission conference.

Speaking to the widest range of church representatives ever gathered for such an event, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia acknowledged that “the word ‘mission’ carries a heavy historical baggage, having played a part in fostering division and conflict between peoples, and even between families of churches".

“Perhaps the time has come for confession and repentance,” continued Dr Kobia, an ordained member of the Methodist Church in Kenya who took up his post as WCC chief in January 2004. (Full story here).

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

In a moving ceremony to mark the opening of the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Athens, Greece, a 25-foot high Cross arrived by boat from the divided city of Jerusalem today. It was received with prayers for peace with justice by representatives of churches from across the globe.

The olivewood Cross was made by craftspeople who have themselves been caught up in the tragic Israel-Palestine conflict. It represents both the historic presence of the Gospel in the region and the call for worldwide support for peace building and for solidarity with the small Christian community, the ‘living stones’.

The Cross is a gift from Christians caught up in a war zone to their sisters and brothers gathering to reflect on the role and impact of the Christian message in the 21st century. (Full story here).

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

Part of the site of the Olympic Games in 2004 is being transformed this week into a global meeting point for Christians from 105 countries. The Agios Andreas Recreational Centre in Attiki, near Athens, formed the hub of media operations for the Games. It is now mainly used by officers of the Greek army. For seven days, however, the military is taking a back seat to a historic meeting about the future of Christian mission – one focusing on the healing, reconciling and peacemaking vocation of the churches. (Full story here).

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

The most widely representative global gathering of Protestant, Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical and Orthodox Church leaders concerned with the 21st century mission of the world's 2.5 billion Christians begins today. It will be a unique moment in Christian history.

The assembly will commence with the gift of a huge wooden Cross from Jerusalem, due to be blessed by Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos. Some five hundred delegates and 200 advisers and media have gathered from every corner of the earth through the auspices of the thirteenth World Council of Churches' Conference on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME). They will confer, debate, pray and work together from 9-16 May under the theme "Come, Holy Spirit, Heal and Reconcile!"

The conference in Athens convenes at a time of continuing division among nations, across peoples, between religions and throughout the churches. WCC general secretary, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, will this morning issue a stirring call to Christians of every tradition and theological persuasion to take with renewed practical seriousness the Gospel of peace, justice and reconciliation which called them into being in the first place. (Full story here.)

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

So here I am in Athens, 9-16 May, at the World Council of Churches' Commission on World Mission and Evangelism. Since I finish my work at CCOM on 30 June, this is really my swansong. The theme is right up my street, and the sub-theme crystallises the challenge very aptly: Called in Christ to be Reconciling and Healing Communities.

I have three functions at CWME. One is to link with members of the British and Irish contingent (as a delegated ecumenical representative). Another is to be a rapporteur for the event on behalf of the WCC. And a third, fitted in around the other two, is to deploy my press credentials on behalf of Ekklesia. I'll post the openers for my stories here, too.

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Life being as busy as it has been, I have been quiet for most of the British general election campaign. Here, anyway. Over on Ekklesia I was involved in the Subverting the Manifestos document. I also penned two columns, one during and one right at the end of what turned out to be a rather depressing campaign: how the Cross marks our ballot and Questioning political leadership.

The outcome was pretty much as I expected and wanted: a Blair goverment may have many faults, but after the appalling xenophobia of the Tories, with their vilification of migranst and asylum seekers, the main opposition deserved nothing but defeat.

I voted Labour without much enthusiasm, however. Thank goodness my London MP is the dedicated and principled Glenda Jackson, who deserved re-election. If I had voted in Exeter it would have been with the Lib Dems against pro-war (and anti-asylum gateway scheme) MP Ben Bradshaw. He got my effective abstention instead.

As many commentators have observed, the most pleasant irony of the result is to be found in the fact that a non-proportional electoral system ill-suited to nuance ended up delivering just the kind of mixed message that was needed at a time like this.

The prime minister's majority (and his room for manoevre) has been limited by dissenters in the Labour Party and by those who stengthened the Liberal Democrats. The Greens, sadly disabled by greener-than-thou sectarianism, had little impact.

At the same time, and less enjoyably, we have also been made to face up to the scale of anti-immigrant opinion reflected both in the Conservative vote and in the growth of support for the British National Party. The issue must now be confronted, both politically and socially.

The big lie behind the 'tough immigration controls' argument, besides its unfeasibility and immorality, is the unspoken notion -- one that goes back to the early 1950s in British parliamentary discourse -- that a dose of racism at the borders will innoculate the country against racism within those borders. This is the reverse of the truth. Michael Howard boosted the BNP mentality by scapegoating for votes. Christians should not be afraid to point this out.

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety