By Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, WMC Geneva Secretary
“Let mutual love continue” (Hebrews 13:1) was the theme of the third Global Christian Gathering of the Global Christian Forum (GCF) in Bogota, Colombia, from April 24-27, 2018. Two hundred fifty-one participants from 64 countries and 22 church traditions came together. They represented broad streams of Christianity including mainline churches shaped by the Reformation as well as Orthodox churches, Evangelical groups gathered in the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), the Roman Catholic Church, churches that ally with the Pentecostal World Federation (PWF) and African Independent Churches. The aim of the meeting was to foster mutual respect and address common challenges together.
Sharing faith journeys with one another in small groups is one of the hallmarks of the GCF Gatherings. It was inspiring to listen to Christians that are shaped by a perhaps unfamiliar tradition and express their faith in different words and practices then we do. Faith sharing is common to us as Wesleyans. Nevertheless we could learn from the GCF and take it to global and regional meetings as a means to build trust and to create an atmosphere that allows for honest and uplifting conversations.
Amongst the 251 people were about 10 Methodists. Representing the World Methodist Council (WMC) were General Secretary Ivan Abrahams, Rev. Sam Murillo (President of the Youth and Young Adults) and Geneva Secretary Rosemarie Wenner. One evening all Methodists came together. We were inspired by listening to Bishop Juan Alberto Cardona from the Methodist Church in Colombia and some of the church members. The Methodist Church in Colombia is 22 years “young” and it is very active in Evangelism and Social Justice, welcoming all people and working with the poor. They are present in the conflict areas where the paramilitaries are still active, and they play a major role in the peace building efforts.
In the Plenary Session on April 24 we heard testimonies about the ongoing reconciliation process between some of those called “old churches” in the GCF terminology. Rev. Dr. Kaisamari Hintikka from the Lutheran World Federation explained the process that Lutherans and Roman Catholics led to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) in 1999. “We learnt to see one another with new eyes”, she said. WMC General Secretary Ivan Abrahams offered the Methodist perspective. The WMC was the first to affirm the consensus between the two partners. Methodists did not sign the document itself; but in a short document signed by the now three partners we expressed that we have a common understanding on justification: We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The document also highlights that we Methodists and Wesleyans see the importance of justification and sanctification. The signing happened in 2006 at the World Methodist Conference in Seoul, Korea. In his testimony Ivan Abrahams said that the significance of the JDDJ as a multilateral agreement is not yet fully explored. He encouraged others to engage in further conversations as the agreement provides an opportunity for conversation, repentance and renewal. In 2017 the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and the Anglican Communion followed the WMC in expressing their basic agreement with the JDDJ.
Although the Global Christian Forum is not an ecumenical organization nor is the Global Gathering a decision making body, participants expressed their wish to continue the journey with one another and to take efforts in responding to challenges. Some topics received high attention, including:
- Expanding the work of the GCF into the regions and nations. Leaders from Latin America are now exploring whether a Latin American Christian Forum would be of help. Methodists are encouraged to engage in the conversation.
- Be more exclusive in the work of the GCF. The youth leaders present asked for a stronger involved of younger people (amongst them two Methodists, Rev. Sam Murillo from Mexico and Klaudia Santizo Gramajo from Guatemala serving as regional youth leader of the Methodists in Middle America)
- Remember persecuted Christians and work for religious freedom for all
- Follow the example of the Colombian Christians who are peacemakers
You can view the full statement to the global church from the GCF can be found on their website.
The last hours of the meeting were meant to say thank you to the current Secretary Dr. Larry Miller from the Mennonites and to welcome and pray for the Secretary Elect Dr. Casely Essamuah, a Methodist from Ghana currently serving in the USA. Dr. Essamuah will take office on July 1. He counts on the support of the World Methodist Council and its member churches.
“Let mutual love continue”: The theme of the GCF reminded us as Methodists present in Bogota of the strong emphasis of John and Charles Wesley that love, revealed through Jesus Christ, is above all and in all and for all. Let us therefore continue to remind ourselves that we are called to ‘do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as ever we can.’