An Ecumenical Encounter with the Global Christian Forum (GCF) Asia Regional Meeting
A Reflection by Yustin Pasaribu,
WSCF AP Chairperson
From November 12-16, 2010, 60 participants from 19 Asian countries gathered at Choi Jasil Memorial near Seoul, Korea for the Asia Regional Meeting on the Global Christian Forum.
They represented national Councils of Churches and Christian Councils, National Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, National Evangelical and Pentecostal Alliances and Fellowships, Regional Ecumenical, Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal Bodies, and Churches. The meeting was held on the premises of the Fasting Prayer Mountain of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul.
This was the first time that a GCF meeting was received by a Pentecostal church. The Revd. Dr. Young-hoon Lee who succeeded in 2009 the founder of Yoido Full Gospel Church, the Revd. Dr. David Yonggi Cho, as Senior Pastor addressed the Asia Regional Meeting on the theme of The Holy Spirit Movement and the Ministry of the Yoido Full Gospel Church.
The GCF evolved from a process that first took shape in the 1990s. It arose from reflections on the nature of the World Council of Churches, and the recognition that the embrace of contemporary Christianity was wider than the council was conceivably going to be able to span. There was a need to find other ways for catalysing contacts and potential relationship between brothers and sisters in Christ who had little if any encounter with one another. Cautious conversations led to careful consultations with a widening circle of partners, and to greater confidence in pursuing the possibilities of this vision to facilitate ever broadening interactions.
During the GCF, the participants shared and confronted their views on inter-church relationships in Asia, identified and discussed some of the issues at stake and the obstacles to unity and cooperation, and sought to lift up positive developments in their national situations. After a series of discussions, they agreed on the following:
- Ecumenism is understood as an intra-Christian, inter-church movement towards unity in obedience to the prayer of Jesus “that they may be one... so that the world may believe” (John 17:21).
- The foundational identity of the church grounded in Scripture and as expressed in the ancient creeds which confess the Triune God and Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is the basis of ecumenism.
- Being ecumenical is to be on a journey with other churches and to recognize that all are not at the same stage. It asks for patience and tolerance. Those who are on the ecumenical journey should invite and welcome others who wish to join provided they confess the basics of the Christian faith. Newcomers should accept and respect the ecumenical experience and insights that churches have acquired on their journey.
- Being together on the ecumenical journey is to grow together in mutual learning and understanding of what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
- Christian unity enhances our ability to dialogue with others and join hands in response to the concerns of the society. In this regard the churches in Asia have much to offer to churches in other parts of the world because of their experience of living in multi-religious societies, working together, and sharing their faith together in dialogue with those around them.
- The specific task of the GCF in Asia and elsewhere is to foster relationships between churches of all Christian traditions, especially those that have had little or no conversation with one another.
As participants, we affirm the Asian Movement for Christian Unity started in 1996 by the CCA and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, and welcome the inclusion of the Asian Evangelical Alliance. We also recommend the following:
- We recommend to the regional bodies involved in AMCU to seek ways of including also the Pentecostals of Asia in the movement.
- We welcome the steps taken in India and Indonesia and the creation of the United Christian Alliance of Nepal which are consistent with the vision of the Global Christian Forum
- We recommend similar actions and follow-up at national and local levels in our respective countries in Asia and commit ourselves to promote such actions.
- We recommend to the GCF Committee to include young people and women in its meetings and to organize meetings aiming at youth. The responsibility of encouraging participation of youth and women should be taken by our own churches.
- We recommend to the GCF to promote the vision of the GCF through formation in seminaries and other training centers and to enhance the visibility of the Global Christian Forum.
- The progress of the GCF will be enhanced by ensuring a certain measure of continuity between regional and global meetings in terms of participants and representation.