Global Christian Forum

Global Christian Forum

A unique gathering of the leaders reflecting the breadth and depth of world Christianity began in the Indonesian city of Manado on October 4.

The Global Christian Forum (GCF) brings together all the great streams of modern Christian faith: Anglican, Charismatic, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Protestant, Roman Catholic, mega churches and many contemplative communities.

The meeting comes at a time of dramatic shifts in world Christianity.

The last two decades have seen the majority of Christians living in the “global south”, while much institutional strength for traditional Christianity remains in Europe and North America, but with declining church attendances.

In what is only the second such Global Christian Forum gathering — the first being in Kenya in 2007 — the GCF will have over 300 representatives from every continent on the globe and every Christian tradition from 81 countries.

Coming together in unprecedented numbers and variety, leaders representing 12 world Christian communions and nine global ecumenical organisations, including the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance and the Pentecostal World Fellowship, will sit side by side with national councils of churches, representatives of the Vatican, evangelical organisations and mega church leaders from around the world.

The Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists, Society of Friends and Syrian Orthodox Church leaders will all be there.

From an Australian perspective — and reflective of the diversity of the meeting — Australian representatives include Tim Costello of World Vision, the Rev. Robert Gribben of the Uniting Church (also representing the World Methodist Council) and the Rev. Fr Shenouda Mansour from the NCCA.

Meeting around the theme “Life Together in Jesus Christ, Empowered by the Holy Spirit”, the church leaders will explore “what the Spirit is saying to the churches” today.

Each participant will tell the story of what is happening in their own context.

Members of the convention will also discuss the future directions of the GCF, which has always maintained non-institutional structures and practice.

To complete the picture there will be a session on trends and changes in world Christianity and sharing of statistical research compiled through the Atlas of Global Christianity.

The global changes in Christianity is one of the reasons why Indonesia was chosen as the venue of the 2nd Global Christian Forum, as it is the world’s largest Muslim nation but with significant religious diversity, including a large Christian population.

The worship life of the gathering will reflect the various traditions of delegates. It will be facilitated by Father Ghislain, from the Taize community in France.

“We plan to examine the global trends that are changing Christianity, listen to the reports of developments and struggles of the church in various regions of the world, and discuss how our fellowship can be strengthened for the purpose of our common witness,” said the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, a GCF organiser and adviser for ecumenical relations at the Reformed Church in America.

Rumours of the demise of Christianity are premature, said Granberg-Michaelson, especially across Africa and Asia. “The fact is that today there are probably 560 million Pentecostals, meaning one out of every four Christian is of a Pentecostal background.

“Christianity in Africa in the last 100 years has grown from just a few million to 375 to 380 million (adherents), making Christianity in Africa the fastest-growing center of Christian witness.”

Granberg-Michaelson called the GCF an all-embracing ecumenical fellowship. It was founded during the World Council of Churches’ eighth assembly in Zimbabwe in 1998, but is more representative than the WCC.

“The World Council, as it exists, only includes one-fourth of global Christianity,” said Granberg-Michaelson, who was the WCC’s director of church and society from 1988-1994.

“As great as the World Council is, it’s unable to build a table that is broad. This is the only place that will have the full breadth of world Christianity represented in a meaningful way.”

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