The quarterly of the World Council of Churches.
In my bookshelf stands a copy of the Report of the All Africa Church Conference held in Ibadan, Nigeria, in January 1958, on the theme "The Church in Changing Africa". This copy bears the name of my father (now of blessed memory) and the inscription "27-29 January 1960, Limuru, Kenya". Even though my father had not been at Ibadan in 1958, he had been a participant in another conference two years later on the life and mission of the church in a changing Kenya, where he had received this copy of the Ibadan document.
The mission church in Kenya featured prominently in Ibadan because of a report presented on "Unity and Union in Kenya". The report insisted that:
Unity is indivisible. It cannot be divided into bits. We cannot effectively unite in some activities while we remain divided in others. We cannot effectively unite in education and medicine while we remain divided in evangelism. We cannot unite interconfessionally while we are divided inter-racially or intertribally. Unity is all or it is not unity. (p.85)
This striking statement shows that a yearning for an holistic approach to African affairs was very much in place in Ibadan. Moreover, ecumenism in Africa was very much in the mind of the participants, who saw themselves standing at the dawn of a new era in the life and mission of the church: namely, the emergence of an authentic African church emerging from the original mission church.
More than forty years later, the articles featured in this issue of The Ecumenical Review attempt to address the same concerns voiced in Ibadan. We approach them here under the theme: "Envisioning a New Church -- Transforming Ecumenism in Africa in the 21st Century". The reality of ever-growing denominationalism and the fragility of the ecumenical enterprise in Africa are concerns that cannot be ignored. This is true despite -- or, better, precisely because of -- many other burning issues tearing the continent apart, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, civil wars and abject poverty. Therefore this issue of the Review is intended to provoke and promote critical scrutiny of the nature of the churches in Africa, and the state of Christianity in general, and ecumenism in particular. It is part of the WCC's effort to accompany Africa on its "Journey of Hope", a journey which began at the eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches in December 1998 in Harare, Zimbabwe. And it reflects our conviction that only a self-critical approach will help African Christians to dream and envision a unity that is truly "indivisible".
The issue includes articles from a wide variety of perspectives, solicited by African staff members of the WCC. We greatly appreciate the generous cooperation of the authors of the articles published here. Through these articles African Christians add their voices to the scrutiny of the historical, theological, ethical, economic, political, sociological and cultural factors which have contributed -- and continue to contribute -- to denominationalism, as well as promoting creatively and imaginatively the search for new ways of transforming the church and ecumenism in Africa. Examples and case studies of ecumenical models which give glimpses of hope are included, as well as personal perspectives on ecumenism. Together these materials reinforce and affirm the urgent need to take seriously matters of disunity in the church and the conflicts which result from religious differences in Africa.
Even as I write, African political leaders are gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, where they have declared the end of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and welcomed the birthing of a new expression of cooperation in Africa, the African Union (AU). It is hard to predict what will come from these new efforts forty years from now but, as people of faith, let us remember the vision of the journey of hope of African churches as articulated in Harare, Zimbabwe. This is a vision that:
-- calls us to work together and creatively to be in solidarity with one another, to accompany those among us with burdens too heavy to carry alone;
-- compels us to work towards the elimination of the barriers and walls that divide and enslave us;
-- provides us with instruments to reconcile broken relationships and heal wounds inflicted by violent ways of resolving misunderstandings and conflict;
-- can be realized if Africans agree to work together in the spirit of pan-Africanism, and manage their human and natural resources responsibly and ethically, together and in partnership with one another and with nature.(1)
As a complement to these reflections, we include a summary of ecumenism in the Caribbean region, raising concerns parallel to those outlined in the papers on Africa.
Finally, words of appreciation are in order. On behalf of African WCC staff members, who were asked to envision this issue by WCC general secretary and Ecumenical Review editor Konrad Raiser and by Tom Best, Ecumenical Review managing editor, I wish to thank all our contributors. We appreciate their work, done under considerable pressure of time, and their commitment to the vision of a new ecumenism in and for Africa. We are grateful also to our colleagues in publications Joan Cambitsis and Evelyne Corelli for their diligence and sense of humour as we put the issue together. A Luta Continua.
(1) Diane Kessler, ed., Together on the Way: Official Report of the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Geneva, WCC Publications, 1999, p.224.
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|Author:||RAISER, KONRAD; BEST, THOMAS F.; CAMBITSIS, JOAN; NJOROGE, NYAMBURA J.|
|Publication:||The Ecumenical Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2001|
|Previous Article:||Books Received.|
|Next Article:||Denominationalism in Africa.|