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10.05.05 03:03 Age: 7 yrs

Church must repent to be truthful, says WCC head

If Christians are to be heard speaking truthfully in a fast-changing, plural world they must repent of domineering attitudes and emulate the self-giving, non-violent love of Jesus Christ. That was the heart of the message presented today by the general secretary of the World Council of Churches to participants at the Athens global mission conference.Speaking to perhaps the widest range of church representatives ever gathered for such an event, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia acknowledged that "the word ‘mission' carries a heavy historical baggage, having played a part in fostering division and conflict between peoples, and even between families of churches". "Perhaps the time has come for confession and repentance," continued Dr Kobia, an ordained member of the Methodist Church in Kenya who took up his post as WCC chief in January 2004. The shift of the demographic centre of Christianity from the North to the South has enormous spiritual, moral and theological implications, he added. "Our vision must undergo a corresponding conversion." "Forms of expressing our faith that grew out of European culture are no longer normative", he went on. Today, mission spreads from unexpected directions "borne by brothers and sisters who have received gifts of the Spirit that were never monopolized by European or North American intermediaries". World Christianity must now open itself up to "new manifestations of the Spirit" that "though often providing healing, joy and comfort, may also create tensions and disunity among churches."It is thought that this may be a guarded reference to the vituperative arguments among Anglican and other churches about human sexuality and other issues.New insight is vital, said the WCC chief, but not derived in ways that become "detached from the truth, tradition and theology of historic communities that have faithfully served God for two thousand years". Echoing Jesus injunction about the need to ring out treasures both old and new from the storehouse of faith, Dr Kobia said that this week's Conference on World Mission and Evangelism was meeting at an important historical crossroads."It is my hope that this gathering will encourage broad dialogue on Christian witness, joined by participants from diverse traditions," he added. In addressing some of the challenges that Christians face in the world today, the WCC general secretary highlighted the manipulation of religious identities "for narrow nationalistic and economic ends". "I encourage this mission conference, focusing on a theme of healing and reconciliation, to highlight peace and non-violence as gospel imperatives", Dr Kobia proclaimed.Some five hundred delegates and 200 advisers and media have gathered from every corner of the earth through the auspices of the thirteenth World Council of Churches' Conference on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME). They will confer, debate, pray and work together from 9-16 May under the theme "Come, Holy Spirit, Heal and Reconcile!"The World Council of Churches has 340 members from the Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox across the globe. Catholics are observers, but with full participation in certain areas of cooperation - including mission and evangelism.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia