Fraternal Delegates from several Christian denominations addressed the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization yesterday afternoon. Among the delegates who spoke were His Eminence Hilarion Alfeyev, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, Russia, Rev. Dr. Timothy George who represented the Baptist World Alliance, and Sarah F. Davis, representing the World Methodist Council.
Speaking on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church, Bishop Hilarion reflected on the anniversary and significance of the Second Vatican Council, stating that even 50 years ago, the fathers of the Council were aware of the importance of a closer cooperation between Christians of different traditions.
Today, he said, “we are called to think about solving our common tasks that the present epoch puts forward. The challenges of the last fifty years that have passed since the beginning of the Vatican II have not only lost their significance, but have become even more acute and threatening.”
The Russian Orthodox prelate stressed the necessity of both the Catholic and Orthodox churches in combining their efforts to face the challenges of modern society. Bishop Hilarion cited the cooperation of both Churches “within the Orthodox-Catholic forum, in different international organizations and at other places of dialogue with the secular world.”
The representative for the Baptist World Alliance, Dr. Timothy George, emphasized three major points of the New Evangelization in his intervention. The first point was in regards to the belief that Baptist share with all Christians: “a robust faith in the triune God.” Without this “fundamental Trinitarian reality, all of our programs and plans of evangelization will be fruitless,” he said.
Dr. George, who also serves as Dean of the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, underlined the biblical imperative for Christian unity, stating that ecumenism is “always in the service of evangelization.” Concluding his third point, Dr. George stated that religious freedom is not rooted in political or social paradigms, but originates from the character of God himself. “The tradition of faith, he said, “resounds as an authentic response to our vast experiences and questions surrounding the Universe. We live, therefore, in an age of great opportunity to announce our faith through dialogue with both the natural and historical sciences.”
Expressing her gratitude in representing the World Methodist Council, Sarah F. Davis, who also serves as Vice President of the council, referred to the gathering as “the most timely and critical Synod in the life of Christendom.”
Davis recalled the 1971 World Methodist Conference, which called all Methodists to dedicate themselves to both World Mission and Evangelism. She also stated that Methodists agree with the Holy Father’s assertion that it is important that people know Jesus Christ in the 21stcentury. “The world is hurting, lost, confused, distracted, distraught, diseased and disgraced and desperately needs healing, hope, and salvation. There is no other name to call on at a time such as this but Jesus Christ,” she told the Synod.
The Vice President of the World Methodist Council also emphasize the need for “Evangelistic outreach” to meet the total needs of a person’s physical, emotional, economic, social, political and spiritual needs “with the offering of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Davis concluded her address thanking the Holy Father’s call for a New Evangelization and prayed for “God’s continued favor on the yet to come outputs of this Synod.”
Bishop Davis’ full statement to the Synod:
Your Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus:
How very thankful I am to God for this premier opportunity to be a part of this august body during the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to represent the World Methodist Council, a body of over 80 million members belonging to Methodist, Wesleyan and related Uniting and United Churches in 90 countries. The World Methodist Council is extremely grateful to the Holy Father for extending the invitation for us to participate in this most timely and critical Synod in the life of Christendom.
In 1971 when the World Methodist Conference declared: “It is time for all the people called Methodists to be about both World Mission and Evangelism”, World Evangelism was launched with much fervor and intentionality. The World Methodist Council believed then as it does now that the Great Commission of Christ to His church to teach and preach the Gospel and to make
Disciples is the supreme business of the Church.
The World Methodist Council agrees with the Holy Father and the findings outlined in the Instrumentum Laboris that it does matter that people know Jesus Christ in the twenty-first century. The world is hurting, lost, confused, distracted, distraught, diseased and disgraced and desperately needs healing, hope, and salvation. There is no other name to call on at a time such as this but Jesus Christ.
In meeting the challenges of the New Evangelization the following considerations are needful:
Evangelistic outreach must be informed and shaped by the specific needs and cultural environment of those to whom the Gospel is being shared. Creativity is needed so that in meeting the needs of persons, the Gospel is not compromised.
Evangelistic outreach must be “wholistic”. It must meet the total needs of persons physical, emotional, economic, social, political and spiritual – with the offering of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Evangelistic outreach must be based on the awareness of the power of God’s grace. At all times in all places, God is already at work in the lives of every person encountered.
Evangelistic outreach must always be infused by the Holy Spirit. Alone Evangelizers are epowerless but, empowered by the Holy Spirit, outreach becomes a dynamic and authentic expression of the saving grace of God expressed in Jesus Christ.
The success of the New Evangelization is closely related to the believability of the Evangelizer. It will be the Evangelizers who are placed under the microscope; not the processes, not the programs, nor the plans developed out of this Synod. People want to know that what the Evangelizers are advertising has already worked in their lives.
We thank God for His Holiness’ clarion call for the New Evangelization and pray God’s continued favor on the yet to come outputs of this Synod. To God be the Glory. Thank you.