The General Secretaries’ Conference of the CWM Called the Member Churches to Engage in Mission as Prophetic Dialogue in the time of the Pandemic

The biennial General Secretaries’ Conference of the Council for World Mission (CWM) member churches was held on 12-13 October 2021 from 12:00 to 15:00 each day. The conference was held virtually due to the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic. The theme of the conference was “Mission in the time of the Pandemic.” About 35 members have participated in the conference, most of which were the General Secretaries of the CWM member churches, including the CWM Moderator, Rev. Lydia Neshangwe, and CWM General Secretary, Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, and a few staff members.

The conference began with opening worship and Bible study led by Rev. Lydia, who emphasised that for us to understand and do God’s mission, to do the right thing, and to fulfill our purpose; our knowledge, information, intelligence, and experiences are not enough, but we need “a discerning heart” which only God can give.

In his welcoming greetings, the General Secretary, Rev. Dr Keum, expressed his gratitude to all the members for their trust in handing this great responsibility of leading the CWM in this time of the world faced with numerous challenges. He also expressed his solidarity with the member churches and his heartful willingness to work together in partnership to serve the churches and equip them as life flourishing communities.

Invited by the General Secretary, Prof. Stephen Bevans, a renowned contemporary missiologist, delivered his keynote on the theme, “Mission in the time of Pandemic,” using a pre-recorded video. While voicing his concerns on the challenges that the world has been facing, Prof. Bevans called upon the members for a renewed hope found through the deeper faith in the work of the Holy Spirit. He emphasised the importance of open and genuine dialogue in the Church with the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit. He called such dialogue ‘Prophetic Dialogue’ and encouraged the members to engage in mission as a prophetic dialogue to discern the will of the Holy Spirit in discovering the prophetic action that the church should carry on amid the pandemic.

In his report titled, “Transformative Mission and Ecumenism in a Pandemic-Stricken World,” Rev. Dr Keum described how vulnerable we are in this pandemic-stricken world with all the inequalities, ecological disasters, socio-economic challenges, political corruptions, as well as systemic greed, and moral decadence in the world. However, he expressed that the resurrection of the Lord gives us hope and he encouraged the members to seek alternative missional engagements in the context of the new normal we are living in. He emphasized that, despite the life-threatening forces, our mission is to rise to life, confessing witness to life-flourishing communities. He further reminded the CWM Strategic Framework 2020-2029 and encouraged members to form partnerships, to embrace spiritualities upholding the promise of the Lord in John 10:10 that says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

An update on the Legacies of Slavery (LoS) project was presented by Rev. Dr Peter Cruchley, Mission Secretary of Mission Development, and Rev. Dr Michael Jagessar, Mission Secretary of Europe and Caribbean, informing the members on its new direction based on the discussions during the recent Special Board of Directors Meeting. The General Secretaries also stressed the importance of addressing modern slavery and felt a great need to empower churches to resist any forms of slavery.

During the member church stories, particular emphasis was given to the Presbyterian Church in Myanmar (PCM), Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), as they endure grave difficulties from the military coup and famine, respectively, in addition to the ongoing pandemic. The missional activities of the Union of Welsh Independents (UWI) were also presented to encourage the members to continue to be resilient, hopeful and use the digital opportunities in doing the mission. The General Secretaries have solidarized with the PCM and FJKM, promised their prayers and needed support, and recognized the importance of prophetic dialogue and close partnerships amid the pandemic.

Over the two days, the General Secretaries have shared their experiences, stories, challenges, and concerns of their representing churches and nations. Even though the conference was held entirely online, it has facilitated productive conversations, stories of challenges as well as encouragement, meaningful discussions, prayers, and fellowship.

The conference was concluded by Rev. Dr Keum’s words of thanks to the Moderator, the General Secretaries, the church representatives, and staff who have participated in the sessions, followed by the closing worship and prayer by Rev. Julie Sim.