"Towards a Global Vision of the Church": The Faith and Order Commission's Work on "Broadening the Table of Ecclesiological Dialogue".
Summarizing the Process (2015-19)
During the 2015-19 period, the mandate of Subgroup 1 has been served in two major ways:
1. By indirect encounters: Many of the official bilateral dialogues of these denominations (e.g., evangelicals, Pentecostals) with "traditional" churches already discuss various ecclesiological topics. Hence, the members of Subgroup 1 have been in the process of analyzing these dialogues, along with some other official theological statements, in order to harvest contributions from them that inform our multilateral ecclesiological conversation.
2. By direct encounters: Nothing can substitute direct personal dialogue with the representatives of these regions and denominational families. We need to literally sit around the same table and have concrete theological interaction with each other. So far, Subgroup 1 has had three such encounters:
* In Africa (Arusha, Tanzania, 12 March 2018), during a panel at the World Council of Churches' (WCC) Commission on World Mission and Evangelism Conference, which focused on African perspectives on ministry and discipleship.
* In North America (Pasadena, California, 26-30 June 2018), during a consultation with theologians who represent or have expertise on some of the regions (e.g., African perspective, immigration perspective, persecution perspective) or denominations (Independent, evangelical, Pentecostal perspectives) with which we want to broaden the dialogue.
* In Latin America (Vitoria, Brazil, 19-21 March 2019), during a consultation with Pentecostal church leaders and theologians from Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador. That meeting offered a wonderful opportunity for Faith and Order Commissioners to interact and dialogue with theologians from various Pentecostal perspectives on the nature, ministry, and mission of the church.
Most interestingly, during these consultations, a common observation has been that the more one engages in this "broadened" dialogue on ecclesiology, the more points of convergence are found. Thus, although many aspects of ecclesiology of these regions or denominational families seem distant from (or incompatible with) "traditional" ecclesiologies, a closer look has shown that there are significant commonalities and similarities. One of the major challenges that Study Group II (1) has ahead of it is to continue unearthing points of convergence that do not appear initially, but that come to the surface as one digs deeper. It is this process of digging that raises a challenge for the future work of the Faith and Order Commission, but it is also what can significantly enrich the multilateral ecumenical conversation on ecclesiology, and for this reason it can become a significant contribution in our quest for further ecclesiological convergence.
The three major themes on the nature, ministry, and mission of the church were discussed during the direct encounters.
On the issue of the nature of the church, many points of convergence were identified, such as the common emphasis on the church as a therapeutic community of witness, worship, and discipleship, as the priesdy, prophetic, and royal people of God, etc.
At the same time, Pentecostalism raises a challenge. Points of divergence that were identified include the non-sacramental approach to ecclesiology by Pentecostals; the need to reflect on the ecclesiological implications of the five Christological principles of the so-called full gospel; the centrality of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the concept of the Pentecostality of the church.
On the issue of ministry, some frequent observations were that TCTCV needs more emphasis on the role of the laity and the participation of women in the ordained ministry, and the participation of the entire congregation in discernment. It was also clear that Pentecostalism approaches ministry, not in terms of structures, but in reference to the understanding of the leading of the Spirit, and not in a tradition-oriented approach, but in a gift-oriented one.
On the issue of mission, emphasis was given to the notion of Pentecostal churches as missionary and autochthonous institutions, while also recognizing the need for better integration of evangelism with social work by them. In the Latin American context, this also means a mission, not for the poor, but from them. The notion of the movement of the Spirit in mission, the issue of spiritual experience, the missiological foundations of the evangelistic work of Pentecostal and charismatic churches, as well as their understanding of proselytism were among the topics identified as important for further theological reflection in the future.
Two examples of the above-mentioned direct encounters in African and South American regions will be developed below in order to give a better understanding of how the Faith and Order Commission's Study Group on Ecclesiology is "broadening the table of ecclesiological dialogue." Those two examples have been realized in collaboration with the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.
African Ecclesiological Perspectives on Ministry and Discipleship
The first dialogue and encounter took place in Africa: in Arusha, Tanzania, on 12 March 2018, during the WCC's Commission on World Mission and Evangelism Conference. Subgroup 1 members led a workshop on African perspectives on ministry and discipleship. During the workshop, some African Christian leaders were given the floor to share their own views on ministry and discipleship. The group of African speakers comprised leaders connected to the Pentecostal churches as well as the African Independent Churches (2). Below are the major names of African church representatives with whom Subgroup 1 entered into dialogue during the workshop:
* His Holiness, Pope Dr Rufus Okikiola Olubiyi Ositelu--The Church of the Lord Prayer Fellowship Worldwide (CLPFW) (Nigeria)
* The Rev. Dr Jerry Pillay--Presbyterian Church (South Africa--a former president of World Communion of Reformed Churches)
* Dr Liz Vuadi Vibila (Democratic Republic of Congo)
* Apostle Christian Tsekpoe--Church of Pentecost (Ghana)
* Nicta Lubaale Makiika--General Secretary of the Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC)
The first representative of African Christianity presented a very rich picture of various ministries within his own church. His own title, as well as and titles belonging to other spiritual leaders of his denomination, has been clearly adopted from the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. (3) Thus he introduced himself as "His Holiness, Pope" and, mentioning particular church offices, he listed the following: primate, cardinal, archbishop, bishop, archdeacon. However, some alternative terminology for particular offices like apostle general, apostle, senior prophet, and prophet, are also used. In the Rev. Rufus Ositelu's opinion, each of these ministries needs personal vocation given by God, but such a vocation has to be discerned and confirmed by the congregation of church leaders. What's more, describing the cases of ordination in his own community, he characterized them with phrases like "investing someone with ministerial or sacerdotal functions" or "conferring holy orders upon," referring to the language of so-called sacramental and historic churches, mentioning even "universal and apostolic succession." Unfortunately, the presentation was too brief to give a clear picture of his detailed understanding of such a structure. Thus, it is difficult to say how close theologically this type of structure is to the historical churches. Can one speak of some kind of clear similarity in understanding of the CLPFW church and her ministries with historical churches, or are their theological terms treated only as a kind of convenient verbal quarry to describe a different theological reality?
One particular issue shows that CLPFW does not feel bound unconditionally to the tradition of the historical churches. Only 12 years after its founding (1937), the Church of the Lord introduced the ordination of women; today it has the exact parallel structure of female ministries. Hence, there is a cardinal woman, also called Rev. Mother General, as well as some cases of Rev. Mother Superior (an equivalent of archbishop), Rev. Mother (an equivalent of bishop), and so on.
The CLPFW highly values thorough theological education and training for ministry and has well-organized courses taught in the Aladura Theological Institute. It is designed to give professional training for pastors, evangelists, and those engaged in various forms of Chrisdan educational work. The main goal is to make the participants effective in their service of the word through the life of the churches.
In describing the nature of CLPFW, Rev. Ositelu mentioned six tenets of his church: The church is (1) Pentecostal in power (the role of the Holy Spirit accentuated), (2) biblical in pattern (the authority of the Bible), (3) evangelical in mission (reaching everywhere), (4) prophetic in ministry (using spiritual gifts), (5) social in responsibility (being a blessing to the community), and (6) ecumenical in outlook (brotherly love and unity in diversity). For obvious reasons, he didn't elaborate much on these features.
The ecclesiological doctrine of the CLPFW certainly poses some major questions and calls for clarifications, but its representatives seem to be willing and ready to participate in the discussion and evaluation of the TCTCV document.
Another speaker, Apostle Christian Tsekpoe, also analyzed the notion of discipleship in the context of church ministry. In Africa, he stated, one can observe many churchgoers, but these people are not necessarily real disciples. Although "there is a growing recognition ... that evangelism must not be reduced to preaching the Gospel and bringing large numbers of converts into the church," the need of seeking real discipleship is still often neglected. His church, called the Church of Pentecost (CoP), belongs to the classical Pentecostals in Ghana and is the fastest-growing denomination in the country, but the church also stresses the importance of discipleship. In fact, "the core mandate of ministry is disciple making."
The structure of the CoP ministries is drawn from the Bible through the conviction that "ministerial gifts such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers still exist today and that they were given to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry, including discipleship (Eph. 4:11-13)." The top administrative body is an executive council (15 members) which is accountable to the general council. However, Tsekpoe's church values decentralization of the ministry and thus a local regional head (apostle, prophet), and subsequently its natural structure includes a district pastor down to an elder leading the local congregation.
The mainline activity of CoP is discipleship, meant as apprenticeship, since it is carried out "through personal relationships, interactions, church meetings and conventions." It is conducted in the five major fields: children, youth, men, women, and evangelism (Tsekpoe has named them ministries, which might be a little confusing). The pastoral care has various forms, like Sunday morning Bible studies, Sunday evening home cell meetings, and new converts' classes. The CoP also has structures for ministers' training. There is an officers' retreat organized annually both on a global and local level. Every year all the clergy meet (ordained full-time ministers and their wives) to be equipped for effective ministry. The church has its own seminary with a one-year theological program and pastoral training and a Pentecost University College with regular five-year theological training (BA and MA).
Even though the CoP does not recognize women as ministers, (4) it does value them as real responsible members of the church, for theological education is given not only to male ministers but to their wives as well. (5) Women also participate in all the pastoral training their husbands receive. According to the biblical tradition of the CoP, representatives recognize women functioning as deaconesses. What is more, CoP authorities respect the role of women as church-planting agents led by the Holy Spirit. However, even in these cases, the newborn communities initiated by pious women are subsequently organized according to the principles stated above.
The three presentations of the Rev. Dr Jerry Pillay, the Rev Dr Liz Vibila, and Nicta Lubaale Makiika were not sent to the FaO and thus they are not easy to summarize in detail. However, the first speech emphasized the role of discipleship. Pillay stated that the actual concentration of the church on ministry must switch into a concentration on discipleship. Since "clergy do not grow the churches," they need to look for models of structures that are effective in terms of pastoral goals. The key issue is not to teach many, but to grow disciples who actually carry out the gospel to others. The second presenter (Vibila) supported the views of the previous speaker. She also stressed the need to focus on discipleship rather than on ministry. She added that women as pastors may enrich the models of Christian leadership. Nicta Lubaale Makiika pointed to the resourcefulness of African churches and their responsiveness toward the reality they live in. In his opinion, African churches act rather pragmatically without deliberating too much on theoretical/theological solutions. Thus, many men and women have established and lead their own churches without any external consent. They seek no ecclesial authority, but simply exist, relying on God's resources.
Latin American Perspectives on the Nature, Ministry, and Mission of the Church
On 19-21 March 2019, Subgroup 1 gathered at the Faculdade Unida de Vitoria, in Vitoria, Brazil, for a consultation with the tide "Towards a Global Vision of the Church: Dialogue with Latin American Pentecostalism." The selection of the specific venue was no coincidence, as the Faculdade Unida de Vitoria is a multidenominational theological faculty, offering theological reflection open to dialogue. It thus created this space of dialogue between the Faith and Order Commission and Latin American Pentecostals. Ten Pentecostal church leaders and theologians from Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador were invited to give the Pentecostal understanding of the nature, ministry, and mission of the church, with special reference to what TCTCV says on these issues. Six representatives of the Commission of Faith and Order also presented the "traditional" churches' understanding of the same topics. Hence, a constructive and very interesting interaction took place during the consultation.
The new aspect of this consultation was the presence of the WCC staff of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), Kyriaki Avtzi, who was invited to take part in the discussion and provide input coming from the perspective of mission and evangelism. In the work on ecclesiology since the WCC Busan Assembly in 2013, this was the first time a collaboration restarted between two sister commissions, with a hope that it would be broadened in the future and that the Faith and Order Study Group II on Ecclesiology and the CWME working group on Evangelism (now Discipleship) would pursue the collaboration in their commission level.
The nature of the church
On nature of the church, Dr Elizabeth Salazar's presentation acknowledged the great diversity of Pentecostalism, as well as the aversion to ecumenism that most Latin American Pentecostals have. She also highlighted that the church, as the body of Christ in unity and communion, is understood as centred in the gospel and guided at all times by Christ himself as path, truth, and life. According to Salazar, these are important points of convergence of Pentecostal ecclesiology with the TCTCV document, which she considered as "very precious today for us as Christians." Overall, her contribution came from an optimistic conviction about ecumenism, in resonance with this process of dialogue and other reflections for strengthening the church and its witness.
Dr Daniel Chiquete called the TCTCV "a broad and profound ecclesiological conception that can enrich the Pentecostal understanding of the Church itself," as it offers a holistic and multilevel vision of the church. He acknowledged many points of convergence that Pentecostals could identify with the ecclesiology portrayed in TCTCV, such as the conception of the church as a priestly, prophetic, and royal people of God and as a human reality and a divine constitution at the same time. He also pointed out some important areas of divergence, such as the lack of emphasis on the role of the laity, the different approaches to the sacraments that Pentecostals have, the relationship of ecclesiology with the five Christological principles of the so-called full-gospel, and the notion of the church as a therapeutic community.
The very Rev. Jack Khalil explained the traditional Orthodox understanding of ecclesiology, elaborating particularly on the notions of the oneness, holiness, apostolicity, and catholicity of the church. He also explained the constitutive role that the eucharist plays in the being of the church.
The Rev. Sotiris Boukis presented a paper on Pentecostal insights to TCTCV based on the bilateral dialogues of Pentecostals with Reformed and Lutherans. He also highlighted both areas of convergence (e.g., the church community of witness, worship, and discipleship) as well as of divergence, especially on the issues of the centrality of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Finally, some areas worth further exploration were also identified (e.g., the connection between Pentecostal Christology and ecclesiology).
The ministry of the church
On the ministry of the church, Dr Gedeon Alencar highlighted the need to pay attention to the sociological and political presuppositions and implications of ecclesiology, as they are often ignored or relativized (as they are in TCTCV, according to him). He gave various examples of the implications of this for the issues of baptism (whether it becomes a symbol of the state's power of the church or a symbol of the autonomy of the individual), the eucharist (who sets the limits of exclusion to participation in it, and how), and ministry. In the latter, he highlighted especially the distinction between the Pentecostalisms (the various expressions of Pentecostalism among different churches and denominations) and the Pentecostality of the church (i.e., the theological doctrine of the belief in the contemporaneity of the gifts of the Holy Spirit), which he identified as "something found transversally, as synonymous with the catholicity, in all times and places."
Rev. Laura Saa identified some fundamental points of agreement, such as the importance of unity, the reality of sin and how it affects the church, and the importance of baptism, eucharist, and ordained ministers. She also explained some of the different approaches to the understanding of the role of "bishops" and councils among various Pentecostal denominations and churches. Saa also identified some important topics, which, from a Pentecostal viewpoint, are not adequately addressed in TCTCV, such as the participation of women in the ordained ministry, the need for more emphasis on the mission of the church in the world, and the movement of the Spirit.
Dr Krzysztof Mielcarek explored the secdons of TCTCV on the issue of ministry from a Roman Catholic point of view. As he observed, while TCTCV does not offer any ecumenical agreement on ordained ministry or apostolic succession; nevertheless it does provide "a very solid and panoramic outline of the results of ecumenical discussions, a genuine catalogue of convergences and divergences." He also acknowledges that, from a Roman Catholic perspective, TCTCV demonstrates some progress in comparison to the previous ecclesiological documents of the Faith and Order Commission, such as the challenge to the churches to consider the historic episcopate as "something intended by Christ for his community."
The Rev. Sotiris Boukis discussed that Pentecostalism, compared to the TCTCV ecclesiology, generally focuses much less on issues like ministry and the sacraments. As he observed, in Pentecostalism the topic of ministry is discussed not in terms of structures, but in reference to the understanding of the leading of the Spirit and in the context of an emphasis on the participation of the entire congregation. Interestingly, some of these Pentecostal points of criticism to TCTCV (e.g., the emphasis on the two-fold rather than three-fold ministerial structure and the need for further emphasis on the laity) could also be shared by many mainline Protestant churches.
The mission of the church
On the mission of the church, Rev. David Mesquiati de Oliveira pointed out some important hindrances to many Latin American Pentecostal churches to engage in ecumenism (e.g., their emphasis on conversionism and the fact that the term "ecumenical" has negative connotations for them). He also pointed out how the decentralized form of many of these churches means that they essentially function like "free churches"; thus official documents like TCTCV have little impact on them. He also highlighted the notion of Pentecostal churches as missionary and autochthonous institutions, while also recognizing the need for better integration of evangelism with social work by Pentecostal churches.
Regina Sanches argued that, from a Pentecostal perspective, thinking about a comprehensive and integrative mission requires us to consider historical, theological, social, and faith-based elements. It will hardly be a mission for the poor, but from them and from their experience of scarcity. She also highlighted that the pneumatic experience must be valued "not as a force of alienation from reality, but as a place of living it, of hope and empowerment of people for resistance to injustice and for its transformation." She also underlined how important it is that "in this missio-pneumatology, the power of the Holy Spirit is understood together with its person and work, in view of Jesus Christ and for the sustenance of life in the world."
Kyriaki Avtzi highlighted the centrality of pneumatology in the work of mission and evangelism, arguing that the nature of the church is to be a missionary church. She also raised the question of the need to identify the missiological foundations of the evangelistic work of Pentecostal and charismatic churches, as well as the way that different churches understand the notion of proselytism.
Dr Pablo Andinach approached mission from a Latin American Methodist perspective, underlining the need for the mission of the church to be directed to the whole creation (humanity and creation), and also to be directed to any person, irrespective of race, education, social status, etc. He also focused on the issue of "internal mission" within each church. Finally, he pointed to mission as not only an invitation to others to conversion, but an invitation to an entire journey of faith. In all of these, he pointed out comparisons between TCTCV points and John Wesley's teaching.
The very Rev. Jack Khalil, speaking from an Orthodox perspective, focused on the mission of the church as the continuation of the mission of Christ, which has the Father's love for the world at the centre of its action. Within this viewpoint, evangelization fulfils the command to bear witness to the whole world about the reconciliation achieved by God the Holy Trinity, proclaiming the healing of one's body and soul and newness in the Spirit of God. This then has implications for the seeking of justice and peace, which must be sought in a holistic way, addressing the spirit, soul, and body of human beings.
In the concluding session of the last day of the consultation, four participants gave some concluding remarks.
Dr Wanderley Rosa observed that a common point shared by all Latin American theologians is the fact that the contemporary Latin American theology was born in the mid-20th century, in a context that is full of sorrow, where military dictatorships existed on the entire continent. Latin American theologians looked at the suffering in the context of the Cold War and read the Bible in the midst of this context. Thus, Latin American theology can be described as a theology that claims the liberation of the Latin American population. To this, he observed that theologians from the global North often consider this as a "minor theology" or feel uncomfortable with it, even though in reality their theology is also contextual (based on their different context). Rosa also highlighted the importance of the WCC taking the initiative to come to Latin America (not to wait for Latin Americans to travel elsewhere) and argued that the dialogue must continue, e.g., through the RELEP.
Dr Graham McGeoch underlined the need for theology to discern the dialogue in relation to social sciences, arguing that theology in Latin America needs to revisit this discussion. He thus pointed out two possibilities of how this could happen: one would be through an incorporation of a dialogue with social sciences that makes theology a critical study and leads to the liberation of theology. The second possibility would be through returning to the origins of theology. McGeoch also observed that this consultation did not give a clear answer on which of these two models would be best. He also observed that the ecclesiological basis of the contemporary ecumenical dialogues is from Africa (Cyprian and Augustine), and thus the ecclesiological approach of the WCC seems more in line with Orthodox theology than Protestant theology. This, however, means that some of its aspects are difficult to contextualize in the Latin American context (e.g., the basis of ecclesiological dialogue in terms of church canonical or charismatic). Finally, McGeoch reflected on the search for the bonds of love and the bonds of peace, challenging the participants to consider how we can find and express them in the life of our churches.
The very Rev. Jack Khalil focused on the perpetual need to reshape our faith according to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, while at the same time acknowledging the variety of spiritual experiences that come from the same Spirit. He also reflected on the issue of proselydsm, and especially on the question of when it becomes mission and when it becomes a work of the flesh.
The Rev. Sotiris Boukis highlighted four main observations. First, Pentecostals emphasize the spiritual (rather than the institutional) approach to ecclesiology--a point where they can find significant convergence with other Christians (especially with Orthodox and evangelicals). Second, it is a challenge for Pentecostals to reflect on the reasons and implicadons of institutionalization (i.e., that the latter eventually occurs unavoidably when church growth occurs, and hence even Pentecostal churches that today speak negatively of institutionalization may soon find themselves functioning in institutional ways). Third, identification of spiritual experience is a topic worth further theological exploration in future ecumenical dialogue on ecclesiology. And fourth, context is important: the consultation revealed various aspects that are distinctively Latin American (regional context), others that are distinctively Pentecostal (denominational context), and others that affect the way of theologizing in different contexts (e.g., by using discussions instead of academic papers). Boukis also acknowledged the need for a change in vocabulary in many ecumenical interactions, as some words (e.g., ecumenism, sacraments, institutionalization) have different connotations among different churches.
Finally, he highlighted some significant contributions in each part of the discussion: the notion of the Pentecostality of the church as an interesting contribution to the discussion on the nature of the church; the gift-oriented (versus tradition-oriented) approach to ministry; and the need to explore the link of ecclesiology, missiology, and soteriology because one's assumptions on soteriology do influence where one does evangelism.
At the end of the consultation, all participants expressed their great appreciation for the open dialogue, the high academic level of conversations, and the excellent opportunities for fruitful interaction this meeting provided. Even though Pentecostal and "traditional" perspectives on ecclesiology often seem very different from each other, this consultation offered once again the opportunity to unearth points of convergence that do not initially appear but come to the surface when one digs deeper. And of course the consultation showed the potential of how promising the continuation of such dialogue may be in the future, and the level of further convergence that can be achieved through it.
Identifying Some Next Steps (2019 Onwards)
The richness of theological reflection and interaction that has taken place during the above direct and "indirect" encounters has been a significant contribution to the multilateral ecclesiological dialogue. Hence, the papers of the above encounters are being gathered (all contributors have been asked to submit their final papers by the end of 2019) and will be published, along with the work of Subgroup 2, in an official Faith and Order publication in 2020, which will harvest the fruits of the ecclesiological progress from TCTCV and beyond. It will be a landmark publication in the history of Faith and Order, as it will not only analyze the official responses to TCTCV, but will integrate a uniquely global and multivoiced feedback, which will unearth new areas of convergence.
Furthermore, having organized the above consultations in Africa, North America, and Latin America, a next significant step will be to organize one more consultation in Asia, in order to have at least one consultation in every major region of the global South during the term of the current commission (up to 2021). Of course, needless to say, this will not mean that the commission will have exhausted the topic of global South perspectives on ecclesiology with one consultation in each region. To even imply such a thing would be a terrible understatement. The goal is not to have finished the broadening of the conversation by 2021 (as if that were even possible), but to have begun it by then in each of these three global South regions (in fact, this should have begun many years ago). But even now, it is crucial to make a first step in each region in order to open the way for the next term's commission to capitalize on this and carry on the conversation.
In any case, it will be vital for Faith and Order to keep broadening the dialogue with these regions and denominational streams in the future; otherwise, its work will become less and less relevant to their context. However, if the work of Faith and Order becomes relevant only in the "traditional" global North Christianity, this will be a vital problem, as the very relevance of its work will be at stake. This then makes vitally important the of broadening of the conversation that takes place during the current term all the more obvious.
Finally, one major next step would be to identify possible ways to integrate the work of the two subgroups. This could happen in various ways, including but not limited to the following. (1) We could identify key themes that appear in the encounters of the Subgroup 1 papers (just as Subgroup 2 has identified 16 key themes that appear in the official responses to TCTCV). (2) We could compare which major themes are common between the two subgroups, which ones are unique in each of them, and how "new" and "traditional" perspectives differ in their approach to each theme. (3) We could include members of both subgroups in future consultations that examine the views of both "new" and "traditional" perspectives on ecclesiology, either generally (by keeping them in dialogue on the nature, ministry, and mission of the church) or specifically (on one or some of the key themes that seem more promising).
Sotiris Boukis, Ani Ghazaryan Drissi, and Krzysztof Mielcarek
Sotiris Boukis, member of the Faith and Order Commission, and associate pastor of the Greek Evangelical Church of Thessaloniki.
Ani Ghazraryan Drissi is a programme executive for the World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order and coordinator of the Commission's work on ecclesiology.
Krzysztof Mielcarek is a member of the Faith and Order Commission, lay theologian, and professor at the Faculty of Theology of John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland.
(*) Summarizing the process (2015-19) and identifying the next steps (2019 onwards).
(1) In previous reports of Study Group II, these churches were often referred to as "new" and "emerging" churches--a working term originally used in order to differentiate them from "traditional" churches. Nevertheless, it soon became clear that all these terms had problematic connotations, as these "new" voices represented churches, denominations, or theological streams which are not "new" at all; in fact, they have been existing for decades or centuries and they also share numerous common core ecclesiological elements with the "traditional" churches. Many of them also have a long history of involvement in the purpose of Christian unity, though not in terms of "ecumenism" but in terms of "interdenominationalism." This means that, in contrast to churches that have traditionally viewed ecumenism in institutional terms (e.g., bodies such as regional, national, and world councils of churches focusing on the goal of visible unity), these churches or streams have traditionally viewed unity in terms of interdenominational cooperation (thus focusing more on growing in fellowship and cooperation rather than growing into a single unit). Hence, taking the above into consideration, the use of the term "new" and "emerging" churches has been discontinued, and the language preferred has now become that of "broadening the table of conversation" and working "toward a global vision of the church."
(2) The African Independent Churches have been rapidly growing in number in Africa. In 1968 there were about 5,000 of them and only a decade later their number doubled; see B. Sundkler and C. Steed, A History of the Church in Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 1032.
(3) The Aladura Church in Nigeria evolved much in in her structure in the second half of the 20th century, becoming very much like the historical churches. In fact, in terms of robes, one can hardly distinguish between the robes of AlC's leaders and those of Anglican or Roman Catholic bishops today; see Akin Omoyajowo, "The Aladura Churches in Nigeria since Independence," Christianity in Independent Africa, ed. E. Fashole-Luke et al. (London: Rex Collings, 1978), 109.
(4) Most Pentecostal churches in Africa affirm the equality of humans and act to liberate women from traditional cultural structures, but they also uphold the sanctity of the patriarchal family and refuse to let women take leadership positions in the church. There are, however, some churches that have women ministers. Among the most influential women ministers one should mention Margaret Idahosa, Bimbo Odukoya, Dorcas Olayinka, Helen Ukpabio, and Stella Ajisebutu in Nigeria; Mercy Yami in Malawi; Christie Doe Tetteh in Ghana; and Margaret Wanjiru, Elizabeth Wahome, and Teresia Wairimu in Kenya. See J. Soothil, "Gender and Pentecostalism in Africa," in Pentecostalism in Africa: Presence and Impact of Pneumatic Christianity in Postcolonial Societies, ed. A. Davies and W Key (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 191-219, at 204.
(5) In Soothil's opinion, "It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the pastor's wife in Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity." In fact, it is "the most prominent form of women's church leadership" in Africa. Ibid, 204.
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|Author:||Boukis, Sotiris; Drissi, Ani Ghazaryan; Mielcarek, Krzysztof|
|Publication:||International Review of Mission|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2019|
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