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Connecting Everywhere, Every Day

PRAYING IT FORWARD, INDIA 2017

Make plans now to attend our Global Gathering in New Delhi, India, January 12-15, 2017. More information including registration and housing details will be on this site in the months to come.

As we prepare for our Global Gathering in India, Indu Lall, Usha Rees, and others are working to get 10,000 Christians in India to commit to pray for the Gathering. We are working to get 10,000 Christians in the rest of the world to pray for India. Please commit to pray daily for this effort—Praying it Forward, India 2017.

Each month before our Gathering, I will highlight a prayer concern for India in ChristiaNet, This month we focus on the children of India.

Those children are at risk from disease, poverty, and sometimes (yes, even as children) persecution for being Christians. Many children are orphaned in India without adequate government assistance. One great need for children is education.

Stone-Campbell churches in India—Christian, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ—care for children in a myriad of ways through dozens of ministries supported by Christians throughout the world. Let’s focus on one of those ministries.

Global Mission Partners of Australian Churches of Christ (see http://www.inpartnership.org.au/) partners with Gnyan Sampada Residential School (formerly Ankoor Children’s Home) was established in 2002 as a home for children from an extremely poor forest region of Maharashtra State.  Literacy amongst this tribal group is only 2%, so education is highly prized.  The main source of income is from farm laborers or people collecting and selling firewood in the local markets, generating an income of approximately $1 a day.  Poverty forces small children to start working to support families and often they face starvation.  The people live in very remote villages where there are few or no schools for the children.  Some of the village schools only go to Grade 4.

Sixty-five children now live in the home, and the school in its grounds educates 100 children including 35 from the local area. The school teaches Nursery to Grade VI, and hopes to add a grade each year.

So I urge you this month to pray for the children of India, to pray for Gnyan Sampada Residential School, and to pray for all the ministries that serve Indian children in the name of Jesus. And pray that our Gathering in 2017 will connect our churches to give more assistance to the children of India.

God is at work among us!

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AN AFRICAN ADVENTURE

Swaziland.

A small, beautiful country in southern Africa. Those who travel there call it the safest and friendliest country in Africa.

Swaziland Map

I was there a few weeks ago with my friend and board member Doug Foster for two purposes, to explore the possibility of a future Global Gathering of the World Convention in Africa and to teach at African Christian College.

My African adventure (like most) involved seeing beautiful scenery and exotic animals, but it was primarily an adventure in Christian fellowship. World Convention board member Kurt Platt and his wife Wendy opened their home and their hearts to us. Brad and Rachel Carter, Paul and Miriam Chimhungwe, and Manuel and Pam De Olivera did the same. Our students at African Christian College, from ten African countries, opened their minds, and hearts, and lives in our classes.

What I witnessed in Swaziland was a young, vibrant, growing church. These dedicated young students are leaders in their local congregations, bringing the good news of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation to their countries. Their songs of praise continue to reverberate in my ears and my heart. Here is a photo of chapel:

 Africa Adventure 4

There are likely more members of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Africa than in the United States. Those churches grow in spite of wars, disease, and poverty. It is time for us to have a World Convention in Africa, where the world can see the great things that God is doing there. Swaziland would be a good place—politically stable, safe, with good convention facilities. Here Doug Foster and Kurt and Wendy Platt view the Mavuso Trade Center in Manzini, Swaziland:

Africa Adventure 5

 

Please keep that possibility in prayer. And pray for Africa. And your own country. And the world. And continue to pray for the worldwide ministry of World Convention.

 

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WE NEED FRIENDS!

It is an exciting time for World Convention. In January, we were part of an historic consultation on baptism. In March, several met in India to begin planning for our Global Gathering in 2017. Now two board members—Doug Foster and Kurt Platt—and I are in Africa, exploring the possibilities of a future Gathering there. In addition there is the daily work of World Convention of connecting our churches everywhere.
I know you want to be part of this exciting ministry. Please go to our Facebook page, friend us and like us. But more importantly we need friends who will pray for World Convention and who will support this ministry of connection and unity financially.

We need old friends! Some of you partnered with us a few years ago to be World Convention friends, agreeing to give to this ministry on a regular basis. If you have not given for a while, we ask you to renew your friendship and give today. And we ask you to encourage others you know to give.
We need new friends! Many of you receive this monthly ChristiaNet report and are vitally interested in this ministry, but you have not participated with a gift. Consider being a partner with One Minute, One Dollar, send us a check, or click the donate button below to give. All gifts are important signs of support and friendship. No gift is too small. God does great things with the gifts we bring!

 




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An African Adventure, part 2

The students here at African Christian College, are bright, engaged, and eager to learn. Some are quite young while many are married with children. Coming from ten African nations, they bring a variety of experiences to the classroom.

One highlight each day is chapel. The singing moves my heart.

Africa Adventure 4

One of the many interesting people here is Paul Shupikai, a teacher at the college. Paul is expanding our knowledge of the Stone-Campbell Movement globally by writing a history of our churches in Zimbabwe. One person he is interviewing for that history is B.J. Mpofu, Past President of World Convention.

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An African Adventure, part 1

Africa Adventure 1

World Convention board member Doug Foster and I are in Swaziland in southern Africa. We are here to make contacts in hopes of having a Global gathering of World Convention in Africa in the next few years. We also are each teaching a course at African Christian College, starting tomorrow (see http://www.africanchristiancollege.org/).

Africa Adventure 2

We arrived Saturday and instantly enjoyed the hospitality of  Kurt and Wendy Platt and of Manuel and Pam de Oliveira who had us into their homes. Sunday was an amazing day of blessings, beginning with worship at the Matsapha Church of Christ. After worship we toured the clinic sponsored by the church, proving healthcare of all kinds but particularly help to those with HIV (Swaziland has the highest HIV rate of any country in the world). We then spent the afternoon with Bruce and Beth Smith who are at African Christian College to teach a course on “The Church and HIV.”

Doug and I start  teaching tomorrow.

Pray for us, for Africa, and for World Convention.

Africa Adventure 3

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A WORLDWIDE FELLOWSHIP

For many decades, the logo of World Convention carried the words, “A Worldwide Fellowship.” This month the truth of those words were brought home to me. In addition to the marvelous fellowship with Christians in India (see last month’s ChristiaNet), we found the world coming to us.

John & Rosemary Williamson-Australia, Stirling College resize

John and Rosemary Williamson were on holiday and joined us for Easter worship at Vine Street Christian Church, toured our office, and had a marvelous lunch. John is Registrar at Stirling Theological College, an agency of the National Conference of Churches of Christ in Australia (see stirling.edu.au). John and Rosemary brought us news of Stirling and of the churches in Australia and surrounding countries.

 

 

Verlaini & Cristovam2

A few weeks later, Deb and I met our Brazilian friends, Verlaini Cintra and Cristovam do Espirito Santo Filho of the Igreja de Cristo,Faicalville (see pastorverlaini.com). These two pastors were our constant helpers and companion in planning and executing the Global Gathering in Goiania in 2012. They were visiting Johnson University in Knoxville, Tennessee and we met them for lunch at the appropriate city of Cookeville! They brought us exciting news of the churches in Brazil and of mission efforts in the United States and Africa.

 

2015 GACS reunonJust last weekend, Deb and I attended a choral reunion at Greater Atlanta Christian School, where I had attended and where Deb and I later taught. There we were blessed to visit with several classmates and former students from many states (and even one from Canada, making this an international gathering). They also shared stories of what God is doing in their churches. On Sunday, we celebrated the 90th anniversary of Peachtree Christian Church in downtown Atlanta, a congregation with a rich history and with vibrant current ministries to their community and throughout the world (see peachtree.org). Their pastor, Barry McCarty, plans to lead a group from their church to our New Delhi Gathering in 2017.

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THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME

Gary @ Taj Mahal It will be the experience of a lifetime.

 The 19th World Convention, New Delhi, India, January 12-15, 2017.

IMG_2790wSights. Crowds. Faces. Faces of smiling children. Faces of Christian worshippers. Stories. Stories of adversity. Stories of faith. Conversations.

IMG_3043wAll these I experienced, along with David Empson and Jim Chamberlin from the International Conference on Missions, as we visited India this week. All this and more you can experience in 2017.

We were hosted in our visit by Ajai Lall, President of World Convention. The International Conference on Missions is co-sponsoring our 2017 Gathering in New Delhi. This trip was to visit possible venues and begin planning for that meeting.

It was my first visit to India, and the sight of so many people in New Delhi was my first impression. Soon those crowds became individuals.

IMG_2843w

We had encouraging conversations with Vijayesh Lal, Executive Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, and with Bishop P.C. Singh of the Church of North India. Both are enthusiastic supporters of our 2017 Gathering, believing it will help all Christians in India.

Talkatora StadiumWe saw two sports complexes, one seating 4000 and the other 7000, that might serve as the location for our Convention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next we moved to Damoh, where most of the ministries of Central India Christian Mission (led by Ajai Lall) are headquartered.IMG_2938w There we were embraced by the smiling children of the children’s home. We worshipped with 400 nursing students, ministry leaders, and employees. We experienced the overwhelming hospitality of Indian Christians.

IMG_2681wIMG_2775w

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We helped to dedicate a new church building for a congregation of about 150 in Jalapur.

Ministers meeting

The high point of the visit was a gathering of over 100 ministers, leaders of the Christian Churches, Disciples, the Church of North India, and Churches of Christ from nine of the 29 Indian states.

IMG_3179w They and the 3000 churches they lead are enthusiastic about the World Convention coming to India in 2017. Two themes dominated the meeting. One is that this Convention will help unite all the Christians in India. The second was that we have the right leader for the Convention in Ajai Lall.

All will be ready for you to come to New Delhi, January 12-15, 2017, and experience for yourself what God is doing in India.

What can you do to get ready?

1. Save the dates.

2. Save your money. You have 21 months to save.

3. Watch our website (worldconvention.org) for information to come on costs, registrations, housing, tours, mission opportunities, and more.

4. Above all, pray. Usha Rees, President of Global Women Connecting, is raising up over 10,000 Indians who will commit to pray daily at 4:30 PM for World Convention. Let us join them!

 

God is at work!

 

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OUR INTERNATIONAL BOARD

One great blessing of my role at World Convention is spending time with our board members from thirteen countries.

It was a great blessing for me to be with several board members in January. Robert Welsh and David Thompson were the planners for the Consultation on Believers’ Baptism held in Jamaica (see the report and photograph in our last ChristiaNet).

While in Kingston, Jamaica, it was a particular pleasure to be with Richmond Nelson (President of the Kingston World Convention in 1984). Richmond gathered fifteen former attendees of World Conventions at a lunch where we updated them on the plans for India. We hope to have a significant delegation from Jamaica in New Delhi!

Bazenski photo enhanced 2

Last Tuesday, board member Andrej Bazinski, his wife Urszula, and Pastor Leszek Juszczyszyn from Poland visited with me and Julia in our office in Nashville. Their visit reminded me of the marvelous blessings of my visit to Poland in 2011. In 2021, the Churches of Christ in Poland will celebrate their centennial. Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate with them as a Global Gathering!

Later this year, I hope to see board members Ajai Lall in India, Kurt Platt in Swaziland, and Dan Yarnell in England. In addition, I plan to see our board members from the United States at the North American Christian Convention, the Disciples General Assembly, and Summit at Abilene Christian University.

Our board reflects the worldwide nature of our communion. Look on our website for brief information on the 199 countries and territories where there are expressions of our movement. And keep me, our board, World Convention, the global Stone-Campbell Movement, and the worldwide church in prayer.

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WORLD CONVENTION AND ECUMENICAL DIALOGUES

Although the World Convention of Churches of Christ has been part of the annual meeting of Secretaries of Christian World Communions since its beginning, World Convention has not been engaged in bilateral or other ecumenical dialogues. The reason for that lack of engagement is the nature of the three churches that are part of World Convention. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been involved in ecumenical dialogues for decades, since 1979 through the Disciple Ecumenical Consultative Council. In most cases, Disciple theology would be similar to that of the other two churches in World Convention, Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and Churches of Christ. However, on certain topics the theology of those churches would differ from that of Disciples.
Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and Churches of Christ are quite similar in theology and practice. Both groups have a strict congregational polity with no official organizations beyond the local congregations. However, in both groups, there is a loose connection between the churches through para-church ministries, colleges, religious papers, and lectureships and conventions. These two churches have not been involved in ecumenical dialogues partly because of the challenge of representation in a congregationally organized church and partly because of their opposition to or apathy toward a wide ecumenism.
However, in more recent years, both churches are more open to ecumenical engagement. World Convention is the only global organization that can provide them with a seat at the ecumenical table.
Therefore the Consultation on Believers’ Baptism, held in Kingston Jamaica in January 2015 was a historic first for these churches. Although it was not a bilateral dialogue, it did mark the first time that theologians from Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and from Churches of Christ participated in a global ecumenical consultation. Their presence was particularly important since there are significant differences in practice between those churches and Disciple churches, particularly in the acceptance of those baptized as infants for membership.
Here is the press release for the consultation:

Groundbreaking Consultation explores the meaning and practice of “believers baptism” for the future unity of the church

January 10, 2015 (Kingston, Jamaica) — A three-day consultation took place involving representatives from six different “believers baptism” church traditions to share their understandings and practices of baptism and to explore how their thinking has changed in light of the emerging theological convergence on baptism and growing ecumenical encounter over the past 30 years. This was the first time such a gathering has taken place, and thus represents an historic moment in the life of these traditions.

The traditions included the Baptists, Brethren, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Mennonites, and Pentecostals. The 18 participants came from Jamaica, Kenya, Germany, Paraguay, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The initiative for the consultation grew out of the annual meeting of Secretaries of Christian World Communions in 2012, which noted fresh thinking and official agreements around the mutual recognition of baptism between churches who practice “infant baptism” and those who have practiced “believers baptism” have been observed.

The agenda of the consultation included presentations from each of the traditions on their past and current teaching and practice of baptism, with attention to how their understandings have changed or developed, along with the opportunity to discuss the presentations. A representative of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches was also present to provide input from the perspective of the wider global discussion on baptism within the ecumenical movement.

The highlights of the consultation, as stated in a report on the meeting, included:
- gratitude for the opportunity to have an open and honest reflection on the meaning, practice and shared understandings of baptism among the participants;
- naming the potential found in the image of “being on a journey” for the Christian life, with different forms and expressions of initiation and confession, while sharing a similar call to discipleship;
- the significance of understanding the Holy Spirit as a source both of our diversity as well as our unity in Christ;
- the need for a re-examination of the language of ‘sacrament’, ‘ordinance’, ‘sign’ and ‘symbol’ as ways to acknowledge that God is the primary actor in baptism;
- the need to recognize the continuity between ecumenical reception of other traditions as church, and the practices that marks each tradition as a unique expression of the body of Christ.

The full text of the report on the meeting will be shared with both the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions and the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC with the hope that it will move the discussion and work on the mutual recognition of baptism and Christian unity forward.

Participants in the Consultation:
Baptist World Alliance
Rev. Neville Callam, General Secretary, Baptist World Alliance (Washington, D.C.)
Rev. Dr. Glenroy Lalor, Lecturer, United Theological College of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica)
Rev. Dr. Jim Somerville, Pastor, First Baptist Church (Richmond, Virginia)
Church of the Brethren
Rev. Dr. Jeff Carter, President, Bethany Theological Seminary (Richmond, Indiana)
Dr. Denise Kettering-Lane, Assistant Professor of Brethren Studies, Bethany Theological Seminary (Richmond, Indiana)
World Convention of the Churches of Christ
Dr. John Mark Hicks, Professor of Theology, Lipscomb University (Nashville, Tennessee)
Dr. Gary Holloway, Executive Director, World Convention of Churches of Christ (Nashville, Tennessee)
Dr. Mark Weedman, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, Johnson University, (Knoxville, Tennessee)
Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council
Rev. Dr. Marjorie Lewis, President, United Theological College of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica)
Rev. Dr. David M. Thompson, United Reformed Church and Emeritus Professor of Modern Church History, University of Cambridge (England)
Rev. Dr. Robert K. Welsh, General Secretary, Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Mennonite World Conference
Rev. Dr. Fernando Enns, Professor of (Peace-)Theology and Ethics, Free University Amsterdam (Netherlands) and University of Hamburg (Germany), member of Central Committee of World Council of Churches
Dr. Alfred Neufeld, Rector, Protestant University of Paraguay (Ascension, Paraguay)
Rev. Rebecca Osiro, Mennonite World Conference Eastern Africa Representative, and pastor of Mennonite Church in Nairobi, Kenya
Pentecostals
Dr. Cecil M. Robeck, Professor of Church History and Ecumenics, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, California)
Rev. Dr. Tony Richie, Pastor, New Harvest Church of God (Knoxville, Tennessee) and Adjunct Professor of Pentecostal Theology (Cleveland, Tennessee)
Rev. Dr. Daniel Tomberlin, Pastor, Vidalia Church of God (Vidalia, Georgia)

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UNITY AND EVANGELISM (again)

Back in the October ChristiaNet, I wrote of the intimate connection Jesus made among prayer, unity and evangelism: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:21).
Sec CWC 1
In November I experienced that connection firsthand at two significant meetings. First was the annual Secretaries of World Christian Communions meeting, held this year in Amersfoort, Netherlands. For decades this meeting has promoted mutual understanding among the different groups of Christians in the world—Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Pentecostal, Methodist, Baptist, Reformed, African Instituted Churches, the Salvation Army, and others. Out of this meeting have come several significant dialogues and discussions that represent a growth in consensus among Christians.
Sec CWC 2
The secretaries of the various Christian communions come to this meeting in genuine humility, wanting to share the gifts God has given their communion and to receive those gifts from others. What we have found is a spiritual and relational unity based on our common experience of a loving God. In the words of Jesus, “may they be in us.” That unity showed itself particularly in our worship and meals times together. We have also found that Christians worldwide face many of the same challenges. Two issues that surfaced in this meeting were “How do our churches discern the will of God on theological and moral issues?” and “How do we promote both autonomy and accountability in our churches?” These are both significant questions for our Stone-Campbell Movement.
ICOM-Header-Logo
The other significant meeting was the International Conference on Missions, held in Columbus, Ohio, USA, a meeting that brings together missionaries and supporters of missions. The ICOM is partnering with World Convention to promote our upcoming Global Gathering in India.
One of the most captivating classes at the ICOM was taught by Victor Knowles, longtime friend of World Convention, and leader of Peace on Earth Ministries (http://www.poeministries.org/). Vic gave a marvelous presentation on Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17. This was particularly significant at a conference on missions, reminding us that prayer and unity are at the heart of God and at the heart of all Christian missions.
Praying group
Do you pray daily for Christian unity? Do you pray daily for the mission of God, that the world might know God’s love? If not, I invite you to make that daily prayer a resolution for 2015. And pray for this mission organization, World Convention, in our work of unity and evangelism.

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