Plenary session on ‘Being the Church in Asia: Our Witnessing Together’.
“For Being the Church in Asia, we must together enter into positive relations with people of other religions. This is where we can witness together. We need to face the challenges in Asia, especially when violence and terrorism plague Asia’s multicultural and pluralistic societies today. This is the context which God has given us and in which we are called to be His witness,” said Bishop Joseph Chusak Sirisut of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) in a plenary session on ‘Being the Church in Asia: Our Witnessing Together’.
A three member panel, representing three major ecclesiastical and ecumenical bodies in Asia, the FABC of the Roman Catholic Church, the Asia Evangelical Alliance (AEA), and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) emphasised in unison that the churches in Asia need to find more relevant and unique Asian ecclesiology in order to witness amidst diverse and pluralistic realities with a vision of seeking to build the Kingdom of God, at CCA’s international consultation on ‘Towards Revitalising the Ecumenical Movement in Asia’.
The consultation, held on 11-12 July 2017 at the CCA headquarters in Chiang Mai, Thailand, presented an opportunity for church and ecumenical leaders to engage in deliberations to construct a collective plan of action to promote increased ecumenical accompaniment among ecclesial, ecumenical and mission partners in Asia.
“A worldview that values power and domination and violence will see Christ’s meekness and humility as a vice; in contrast, Christians see Christ as the very exemplar of virtue, and so we evaluate his meekness and humility as virtues to which we aspire. The telos for Christians is Christ: Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of what we’re made for, of the end to which we are called. This is how we become human. This is what we’re here for,” General Secretary of the AEA, Rev. Dr. Richard Howell said.
Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, General Secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines said, “Yesterday, we used the imageries and metaphors of “Walking Together” to describe the ecumenical movement. But there is also repentance, not just finger-pointing or playing the blame game, but a serious critical reflection of our past and present; a self-criticism process. I would call this our “Wailing Together”. By doing that, perhaps, the winds of the Spirit may once more breathe on us and rekindle the flame so that our lament and mourning may be turned into joy and dancing. Perhaps then we can, in God’s kairos, “Waltz Together” in celebration.”
The session on Migration and Human Trafficking presented by the Director of the Asian Migrant Centre (AMC), Dr. Reiko Harima highlighted the major concerns for churches and the ecumenical movement in Asia and ways to engage the issue of the suffering people in collective ecumenical actions, while being engaged in our prophetic witness.
“Ecumenical education is limited to academicians, theologians and a few stakeholders. The concepts of ecumenism must go to people and not the other way around. We must go where they congregate and declare the message boldly. We often talk about the tension between ecclesial-oriented ecumenism and secular-oriented ecumenism. We often put the word “versus” between them. I would rather see the word “and” instead. Can’t we by now, find a new paradigm which accommodates both, ” Ms. Nancy Caluya, an officer of the Association of Christian Institutes for Social Concerns in Asia (ACISCA) asked the question in her presentation on ‘Ecumenical Theological Education and Ecumenical Formation’.
The communique adopted at the end of the consultation called on churches, councils, theological institutions, and various ecumenical organisations in Asia to be engaged in the process of revitalising the Asian ecumenical movement and to “ensure the coherence of the ecumenical movement in Asia and greater unity of the churches and work for all God’s people with a sense of togetherness, as well as to participate in God’s mission.”
The consultation was organised in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the CCA. Sixty selected church and ecumenical leaders representing various churches, councils, and Asian and global ecumenical organisations attended the consultation, several of them once actively participated in CCA’s leadership starting from 1957.
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