By Rev. Dr. Tim Macquiban
Over 20 members representing the four streams (Catholic, World Council of Churches, World Pentecostal Fellowship and World Evangelical Alliance) and other churches across a spectrum of traditions pre and post Reformation as well as Charismatic, Independent and Pentecostal churches from five continents and 18 different countries gathered at the Casa Sacerdotal in Havana at the invitation of the Catholic Bishops and Council of Churches in Cuba, whose leaders we met during the course of three days intensive business. In reviewing the identity and activities of the GCF, we were intentionally preparing for the 20th anniversary of the organisation, birthed from the World Council of Churches but now reaching a mature adulthood!
As well as reviewing the search for a new General Secretary to succeed Dr Larry Miller, we heard reports on progress in two areas of interest, arising from the work of earlier gatherings, namely a report on Discrimination, Persecution and Martyrdom, arising out of the Tirana meeting 2016, and ongoing work on the Call to Mission, Perceptions of Proselytism: a Global Conversation.
Much thought was given to the shape and content of the next and Third gathering from 24th to 27th April 2018 in Bogota, Colombia. This would enable us to reflect on what has been learnt in the past 20 years from the stories shared and the hospitality received in the different locations where the GCF has been. It was always important to engage with conversations with religious and civil partners on the ground.
In Cuba it was good to meet in three separate sessions, the Catholic Bishops, representatives of the Council of Churches and three representatives from the Cuban government. Different perspectives in the challenges facing society since the revolution of 1959 were heard and the place of the churches in maintaining and developing an effective witness for the gospel was appreciated through the stories of struggles and difficulties. It was interesting to reflect on the three pillars of the Church, growth in spirituality, the building of community and engagement in mission. A highlight of the visit was the ecumenical service uniting Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal and Orthodox at which Kathryn Johnson of the Lutheran World Federation preached on the theme of this year`s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which Lutherans had devised.