The Global Christian Forum is a new phenomenon bringing together Christian churches from throughout the globe and the different parts of the Christian community - from Pentecostal to Catholic, historic Protestant to Orthodox. In the March issue of Sojourners, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson describes the Forum's historic gathering last November of 245 Christian leaders in Limuru, Kenya, "where God's Spirit began erasing the excuses that have kept Christians judging one another and apart from one another." Below, he gives an update.
Last week about 18 of us from throughout the world, representing the full spectrum of the Christian community, were in Geneva to help figure out what happens next with the Global Christian Forum. The committee, which has guided the GCF process, gathered at a small hotel and, for the first morning, simply shared our impressions and experiences since the Limuru meeting.
Rev. Nicta Lubaale, general secretary of the Organization of African Instituted Churches, spoke of how there was not a bureaucracy filled with "power games," but a genuine place of fresh fellowship that must continue. Prince Guneratnum, who is pastor of a 5,000 member Pentecostal congregation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, reflected on what a blessing this was to the churches. Several of us kept pointing to how we were not centered around structures, or arguments around particular doctrines, but had put our focus on getting to know one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and that this is the model that the wider church needs.
We agreed that the Limuru gathering, as the culminating meeting of a nearly 10-year process of exploration and preparation, had found a "spiritual entry point," and something new had emerged. Our Vatican representative said that this has become a place where we can tap into God's energies and become a source of light. And Metropolitan Mar Gregorios from Syria said that for the 21st Century, we need something new like this. Those like him who have been in WCC circles said that its approach, emphasizing the search for theological common ground in groups like Faith and Order, had its place and role. But the Global Christian Forum had discovered a different starting point-what one Lutheran member called a "lived ecclesiology"-and we must keep our focus here.
All this underscored our pattern of beginning with the sharing of our spiritual journeys. This testimonial approach, across such vast differences of theology, culture, geography, and tradition, was the unique gift that made so much else possible. Nicta put it this way: The Global Christian Forum gave us a picture of "the imagined church."
So what now?
We came up with clear ideas and commitments. First, communicating the vision and experience of the GCF will be a priority. We've got about 1,500 people on an e-mail list who have had some contact with the Forum over the past decade, and about 245 who were at Limuru last November. They have to be the ones to carry this vision, so we'll focus our communication with them.
A couple of independent groups will also do a thorough evaluation done of the whole process since 1998. Those results will be brought to a gathering of about 30 to 40 people in November, meeting in New Delhi, to plan for the next three to five years. Also, since we haven't had a regional meeting in the Middle East (prior to Limuru we held regional meetings in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe), we scheduled this, to be hosted at the end of September by the Syrian Orthodox Church.
Our vision is expansive. The response is so affirming. Our infrastructure and budget are minimal. It's a new paradigm, and we're convinced that God's Spirit is creating a new thing. Huge questions remain ahead, but the journey is as exciting as any ecumenical experience I've ever known.
Wesley Granberg-Michaelsonis general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, a member of the steering committee of the Global Christian Forum (www.globalchristianforum.org), and vice-chair of Sojourners' board of directors.