Lebanon meeting explores vision for more inclusive global church

Posted on Feb 13, 2020

World Council of Churches, 07 February 2020

From 31 January – 2 February in Beirut, Lebanon, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, hosted a group of church leaders at Antelias who explored a more responsive and inclusive ecumenical vision.

Twenty-five people – from Lebanon, Switzerland, Ghana, the Vatican, India, Thailand, United States, Finland, Sweden, Kenya, Indonesia, Burundi, Jordan, Germany, and South Korea – gathered to consider present ecumenical realities, problems and challenges in order to seek new and relevant ways to articulate a forward-looking vision.

Image: Photo courtesy of Armenian Church Catholicosate of Cilicia

Photo courtesy of Armenian Church Catholicosate of Cilicia

The purpose of the meeting was to draft a statement, which will be shared at the end of February, that calls churches, ecumenical organizations and societies to a more responsive and inclusive ecumenical vision.

Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith, a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, said that the consultation occurred at a time of dramatic change in both church and society.

“The statement promises to be a groundbreaking document to help lead the church’s witness to unity, justice and mission now and in the future,” she said.

Jonas Jonson, bishop emeritus, Church of Sweden, Diocese of Strängnäs, who also previously served on the WCC Central Committee, reflected that, in a world facing profound crises, dramatic climate change, increasing injustice, authoritarian regimes, political religion, anti-liberal opinions, and loss of memory, the ecumenical movement must hold its many dimensions together. “The ecumenical movement transcends the churches and the manifold ecumenical organizations, but must remain the voice of the churches and an instrument for spiritual and moral renewal,” he said. “It must avoid becoming an administration run by bureaucrats; the movement must remain rooted among people personally committed to the healing and liberation of humanity.”

Wes Granberg-Michaelson, former general secretary of the Reformed Church in the USA and now serving on the Global Christian Forum leadership team, said he found the consultation helpful and constructive.

“When I took account of each representative and estimated their individual years of ecumenical service, we had 500 years of gathered ecumenical experience in the room,” he said.

Jonson said that the consultation in Beirut showed a renewed commitment to a broad and inclusive ecumenical vision seeking restoration of creation, renewal of Christian spirituality from below, and the unity of the church in anticipation of the unity of humankind.

“Take courage and walk the pilgrimage!” Jonson encouraged church leaders. “Anticipate eucharistic communion and raise signs of justice and hope. Rarely has the church been more in need of spiritual, creative, and moral leadership rooted in faith and living by hope.”

Jonson recalled that his 60 years of ecumenical pilgrimage started when the legendary bishop Ireaneus in Kastelli, Crete, opened his heart to orthodox spirituality with inspiring and remarkable social action. “This taught me inclusive ecumenism,” said Jonson. “Since then I have met with friends in all continents who kept my heart warm and my hope alive. The reunion with some of them at Antelias brought me new insight and inspiration.”

Armenian Church Catholicosate of Cilicia Antelias, Lebanon