Religious leaders from all over the world convened in Manila last month to affirm a “new ecumenical vision” for mission and evangelization amid a “globalized Christianity.”

The country hosted the conference of the World Council of Churches’ Commission for World Mission and Evangelism (WCC-CWME) at the Traders Hotel in Manila last March 22-27. This was in preparation for the organization’s general assembly in Busan, South Korea in 2013.

“A fresh look in the global scenario and its implications for mission and evangelism is indeed imperative,” said Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, a moderator during the pre-assembly conference.

Metropolitan Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, formerly Rev. Dr. George Mathew Nalunnakkal, is a Syriac Orthodox bishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church and the current Jacobite bishop of Niranam]

The six-day meeting discussed the proposed new mission statement of WCC, “Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes,” which was approved by the executive group of the CWME on Jan. 22.

Vice moderator Kirsteen Kim said the proposal for a new WCC affirmation on mission and evangelism was intended not to replace the statement “Mission and Evangelism-An Ecumenical Affirmation” adopted in 1982, but to supplement it. Kim is an Associate Senior Lecturer in Theology at Leeds Trinity University College and Research Coordinator for a worldwide and multi-confessional project based at the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh 2010).

The 1982 manuscript draws insights from Protestant, Evangelical, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic mission theologies.

The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC. But the Vatican, through the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has a joint working group with the WCC, and sends observers to the council’s meetings.

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“The pretext for the new mission statement is to renew the understanding and practice of mission after 30 years specially in viewing the fact that we are in the midst of changing landscapes for all that happened in 30 years before the end of cold war. We need new visions, new concepts, and new directions,” Kim said.

The new statement will be presented to the WCC General Committee and then to the 10th General Assembly of the WCC in South Korea.

Kim explained why words such as “together,” “towards,” and “life,” were used for the proposed new statement of WCC.

“Life refers to life in all its fullness; life in all its dimensions: biological, human, social, and eternal. Jesus Christ is the Life of the World and the Spirit of Life,” Kim said.

Kim said “together” meant that life is for all and that God is together with all creation. It refers to the “ecumenical affirmation” of WCC member-churches and other affiliated mission bodies in “joining in with the life-giving spirit,” she said. The word “towards” refers to “orientation toward life” and the hope in Christ who is “the Resurrection and the Life,” she added.

“Evangelism takes place in the context of dialogue and ‘with the expectation of meeting God who has preceded us.’ Dialogue and cooperation for life are integral to mission and evangelism,” said Kim.

‘Agents of mission’

Coorilos said one of the distinct features of the new statement is that it calls for “mission from the margins, not mission to or even at the margins.”

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According to the draft of the new mission statement, “marginalized people are agents of mission and exercise a prophetic role which emphasizes that fullness of life is for all.”

Coorilos also said the new statement promotes justice, solidarity, and inclusivity as its special recognition of the marginalized, and rejects of the idolatry of man in the free-market economy.

Fr. Jose Dizon, who was among the three Filipino delegates, said the importance of the meeting of various Christian churches was underlined in the effort to define mission and evangelism work in the context of the “new situation.”

“The new situation in the context of the Philippines is the globalization which worsens the poverty of the people of the world,” he said. “The mission must focus on how to address the present context of massive poverty and oppression.”

A total of 226 church leaders worldwide from various Christian traditions—Protestants, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, independent churches, Orthodox, and Pentecostal Churches—participated in the conference

Delegates came from the United Kingdom, Norway, Pakistan, the United States, Haiti, Jamaica, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Ghana, Canada, South Korea, and Zimbabwe.

WCC general assemblies were previously held in Amsterdam, Netherlands (1948), Illinois, United States (1954), New Delhi, India (1961), Uppsala, Sweden (1968), Nairobi, Kenya (1975), Vancouver, Canada (1983), Canberra, Australia (1991), Harare, Zimbabwe (1998), and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (2006). James Bryan S. Agustin and Gervie Kay S. Estella

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