The board of the World Convention with members from nine countries met in Nashville, April 1-3. God worked powerfully in that meeting, opening new pathways and possibilities for the ministries of World Convention.
The board approved a more succinct mission statement for World Convention:
In Christ, all are reconciled to God and to each other, and in the Spirit, God calls us to proclaim this good news throughout the world. World Convention (Christian-Churches of Christ-Disciples of Christ) embodies and encourages fellowship, understanding, and common purpose within this global family of churches and relates them to the whole Church for the sake of unity in Christ Jesus.
World Convention seeks to fulfill this mission by connecting our churches everywhere, every day. We connect through this email newsletter, through our website, in personal visits, and many other ways. One way we seek to connect our churches is through a Global Gathering. After much prayer and discernment, the multinational board of World Convention has decided with much disappointment and regret that its next Global Gathering, scheduled for 2016, will not be held in South Korea as planned. This decision was prompted by challenges within the leadership of the churches in South Korea. World Convention is thankful to God for the growth of the churches in South Korea. Our prayer is that we might hold a Global Gathering there sometime in God’s future.
The board responded to a moving invitation from churches in India to hold a Global Gathering there. We are overjoyed to announce that the board accepted that invitation and our next Global Gathering will be in India, likely in 2017. More details on that meeting will be forthcoming.
The World Convention board also elected Ajai Lall as its new President. Ajai is the founder of Central India Christian Mission. For more on his work see http://indiamission.org/ and https://vimeo.com/84273044.
Please keep the ministry of World Convention in prayer.
God is at work among us!
One of the joys of my calling at World Convention is that I get to visit many vibrant and creative congregations.
Last Sunday I was at Aspen Grove Christian Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Adam Kaufhold, their minister, planned a marvelously creative service around the story of the crossing of the Jordan, as told in Joshua. After telling the story in the children’s sermon, he led the entire congregation on a reenactment of the crossing. We got in line, read prayers, cleansed our hands with water, and crossed the “Jordan” on dry land. On the way we each picked up a rock to add to the memorial of what God has done for us. At the end we had matzos and honey in the Promised Land.
This was not simply a neat ritual. It was not merely different or fun. It was a solemn reminder of the power of God and our call to trust in him. The waters of the Jordan do not part until we have the faith to step into the water.
All of which relates well to the mission of World Convention. Christian unity at times looks as impossible as crossing a swollen river. If we rely on our own wisdom and resources, it is impossible. But if we step out in faith, trusting God to open a way, he graciously and powerfully leads us safely through.
So in your own corner of the world and also through the ministry of World Convention, step out in confident trust. Work with God beyond your own resources. Join in God’s work of Christian unity so that the world might believe in God’s love.
And think of making a gift to World Convention. This ministry of Christian unity depends on God to provide. And God may provide through you. Here at the beginning of the year we particularly need your gifts. So prayerfully consider
My thoughts lately have been on a country I have never visited that will soon be the most populous country in the world.
My thoughts turn to India because of the reports I receive of the work of Ajai and Indu Lall and others at Central India Christian Mission. These workers for the Lord have planted over 1000 churches; trained leaders at Central India Biblical Academy (CIBA), Darjeeling International Biblical Academy (DIBA) and the Delhi Center; served children through the CICM’s children’s ministry that provides for more than 600 orphans and at risk children and the sponsor program that cares for more than 4,500 children in need; provided medical care through the CICM Mission Hospital, Kansa Village Clinic and Dental Clinic and by holding medical camps in remote villages, treating 4,000 to 5,000 patients each month; and worked to provide economic self-sufficiency through serving local communities in India through their technical training centers. The Mission serves not only in India but in Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, and Nepal. For more on their ministries see indiamission.org.
This is just one of the many ministries of the Christian Churches in India.
Churches of Christ are also growing in India. Ron and Karen Clayton have spent more than three decades in India, and their carefully compiled numbers list 48,880 Churches of Christ in India with a combined membership of 1,139,562. They actually believe this is an undercount and that there may be more than 2 million members in India.
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is also active in service in India, partnering with over twenty churches and organizations to spread the gospel.
The Stone-Campbell Movement entered India in 1882. Missionaries from the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Brazil and many other countries have served there. Today the churches are led by Indians, many of whom have become missionaries to other countries.
God is at work through our churches and other Christians in India, feeding, healing, teaching, and bringing many to faith. God is at work powerfully in every nation, among every tribe, in every heart.
We are in that season when we particularly remember the astonishing truth at the heart of the Christian faith, that the eternal, all powerful God became a human being. In the words of familiar hymns, we believe the fullness of God lived in a helpless babe, so that we could see the godhead veiled in flesh.
It is also (in much of the world’s calendar) a time at the end of the year when we reflect on the last twelve months. In the past year, we have seen God in flesh both near and far. For the babe born in Bethlehem later promised his disciples that he would not leave them as orphans, but along with the Father, the Savior would make his home with us through the Holy Spirit.
So we have seen God at work this year in bodies, in everybody that proclaims the good news by word and by deed. We have seen God care for those devastated in the Philippines. We have seen God protect and provide in the horrors of the Syrian war. We have seen God in every cup of cold water given to the thirsty. We have seen the babe of Bethlehem work through countless disciples, through his body, the church, and (for me) particularly in that part of his body that historians call the Stone-Campbell Movement. I have told some of those stories on our website, but you have your own stories of what Christ is doing through his people.
And so now at the time we remember the incarnate deity let us reflect on where we have seen God at work both near and far. And let us pledge anew our bodies and our churches to do God’s work, not our own.
God is at work among us!
What happens at a World Council of Churches Assembly? Here is a typical day.
It started early with some quiet time and a walk by the beach not far from the hotel (passing a good luck pig along the way). Then the bus ride to the convention center and an interesting conversation with George, an Assyrian Orthodox Christian from Chicago.
The theme of the day was Mission, so our morning was Bible study focused on Philip and the Eunuch. The plenary session, with thousands present, was “Together Towards Life, Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes,” with presentations by missionaries all over the world.
Lunch in the cafeteria with a variety of foods and fellowship with a variety of world Christians.
In the afternoon, I attended a workshop on the changing Christian world, sponsored by the Global Christian Forum. Then a session on ecumenism in changing settings.
A late dinner with my friends, the Secretaries of Christian World Communions (including three World Convention board members, David Thompson, Doug Foster, and Robert Welsh). I struck up a conversation with Danisa Ndlovu, the President of the Mennonite World Conference from Zimbabwe. I said, “Perhaps you know my friend in Bulawayo,” and before I could finish the question, he said, “Mpofu. Everyone in Zimbabwe knows Church of Christ and Mpofu.”
Then a taxi to the hotel and rest.
The days are long and fruitful. God blesses beyond measure.
Sunday was so far the highlight of the Assembly of The World Council, for today we visited local churches.
The procedure was to sign up to attend any church, so I was assigned church 29. I arrived early to the conference hall to find my number.
Church 29 turned out to be a Presbyterian church about an hour’s drive from Busan. They thought they were hosting four Americans, and they were, but three of them were much more interesting than the fourth:
Raafat Labib Zaki grew up in Sudan as a Coptic Christian. He is married to a Korean and they live near Atlanta, Georgia but he works for the Presbyterian Synod in Ohio.
Yena Lukac was born and raised in Korea, is married to a Slovakian, and works in New York for the World Evangelical Alliance.
Timothy Goropevsek is Director of Communications for the World Evangelical Alliance, works in New York, and is originally from Switzerland.
The church greeted us warmly on a special day (not just because we were there). It is Thanksgiving Sunday in Korea, so the pulpit of the church was decorated with the first fruits (literally) of the people. That also meant that we shared in communion (which that church observes only six times a year). I later gently told the pastor that our churches celebrate communion every Sunday.
I wish with all my heart that each of you in our Movement could have experienced the smiles, bows, communion, luncheon, and deep Christian fellowship of this church.
God is at work among his people and in his world.
A Postscript for the Aussies: Ian Smith from Australian Churches of Christ is representing the Victorian Council of Churches at the Assembly. It is always a great joy to be with Ian. I include this photo to show the folks back home what he looks like in a suit and tie (along with pictures of Doug Foster and Gary Holloway, just to prove we are here)!
Today there were no Assembly sessions so I was blessed to tour the city with board member Robert Welsh, Nathan Wilson from First Christian Church, Shelbyville, Indiana, and Paul Tche of White Oak Pond Christian Church in Richmond, Kentucky (and the next Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Since Paul was the only one of us who spoke Korean, he was our guide.
We travelled to the fish market, seeing not only every kind of fish, but every kind of store. The citizens were out in force on a shopping Saturday, with young people, families with children, and four tourists in the crowd. We ate a marvelous meal for 8000 Won ($8 US) and handled our chopsticks with dexterity.
Then to the other side of Busan to visit a Buddhist temple. On the way we marveled at the beauty of the city, set between between the hills and the sea, and at the numerous high-rise apartments where the four million inhabitants live.
The temple visit was interesting but not what we expected. Instead of being a contemplative place it was a crowded tourist attraction where very few were praying. The setting, on a hill beside the sea, however, was spectacular.
A great day to share fellowship and catch a glimpse of a vibrant city.
FYI: In addition to the four mentioned above, about twenty from the Stone Campbell Movement are at the Assembly, including board member David Thompson from England as well as others from Korea, Puerto Rico, Australia, and the United States.
That is the theme of the Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea. Each day of the assembly we constantly unpack that theme. Here are my reflections.
GOD. All our efforts for justice and peace are rooted in the character and power of God. Justice and peace come from him as gracious gifts. Yet God in his mercy allows us to work with God and in God’s power to bring about justice and peace.
OF LIFE. God is Creator, the source of all life. Thus, whatever gives life comes from God. All that takes away life—war, poverty, oppression, discrimination, and violence—is not from God.
LEAD US. This is the important question, “Do we really want God to lead us?” For he often leads us where we do not want to go. He leads us to serve others, not ourselves. He leads us to sacrifice. He leads to the death and resurrection.
TO JUSTICE. We think we understand justice should be when we have been treated unfairly. But we are often blind to injustices suffered by others. We can make a long list of injustices in our societies, but are we willing to suffer with the victims of injustice so that God’s justice will reign.
AND PEACE. Peace is much more than the absence of war (although that would be a great blessing). It is Shalom, being right with God and others.
The theme, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace” is a prayer that I encourage us all to pray daily.
This morning at the World Council Assembly, I was blessed to be part of a Bible study with thirty Christians from Ghana, Australia, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Sierra Leone, and other countries. These Christians were from Coptic, Lutheran, Methodist, Disciple, Presbyterian, Orthodox, and United Churches.
In such a diverse group, our common faith and devotion to the Bible allowed us to experience a rich discussion on Genesis, chapter two, focusing on God as creator.
The Bible is truly for all!
There were two great highlights today at the World Council of Churches Assembly, the opening worship and the opening assembly.
In worship, we sang in Korean with a marvelous choir with members from throughout Korea. Representatives of each continent gave their cries and hopes to the Lord in their own language. The Scripture reading was from Luke 24 (the Emmaus story), chanted in Aramaic (the language of Jesus). It was followed by a marvelous sermon in Armenian, and then the Lord’s Prayer spoken by us all in our own languages. So Korean, English, Spanish, French, Aramaic, German, and Armenian.
The second highlight was a marvelous dramatic presentation of the history of the churches in Korea. Amazing voices, dancers, costumes, lighting, and set all went together seamlessly to tell the Korean story of war and peace, darkness and light, despair and revival. From missionaries planting the gospel in Korea over 100 years ago to Koreans sending out more missionaries to other countries today than any country except the United States.
Interesting facts on the Assembly: There are 761 delegates here from 345 member churches. 465 of us (including me) are invited guests as ecumenical partners. There are over 1000 young people helping with the assembly and over 1000 Korean volunteers.