Council for World Mission (CWM) General Secretary Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum delivered the keynote address at the 41st Assembly of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) on the theme “Hope and Healing: Frontiers in Mission towards Life-Flourishing Communities” on 22 September, at Trinity Congregational Church in Gaborone, Botswana. Hosted by the UCCSA Synod of Botswana, the Assembly is the highest decision making body of the church, and brought together delegates from the 5 countries that make up the UCCSA – Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Dr Keum affirmed that the Assembly theme is a significant vision for the renewal of mission and church in today’s deeply wounded world wracked with fundamentalism, violence, discrimination and injustice. Referring to how the pandemic has exposed the urgent need for ecological distance for the resilience of creation, he asked, “What kind of missional action can the church take in the midst of economic and ecological injustice and crisis on a global scale?”

Underscoring the importance of mission from the margins and the power of love to defeat the culture of hatred, he suggested seven directions for future ecumenism: Status confessionis on climate change and ecological diversities; developing economy of life instead of worship of mammon; re-imaging ecumenism as a movement from the margins beyond institutionalism; nurturing a spirituality of the interconnectedness of life and solidarity of hope; exploring theologies of life and fostering partnerships among the vulnerable; shifting the centre of ecumenism from euro-centric to world Christianity and ecumenical leadership based on faith values not ecclesial politics.

Re-envisioning CWM as a community of transforming discipleship, Dr Keum went on to elaborate on CWM’s new Programmatic Structure which aims towards concrete programmes to lead CWM’s missional movement towards life-flourishing oikoumene; and affirming the primary nature and role of member churches as agents of carrying out God’s mission, among other objectives.

With “life-flourishing” as a key motif for CWM’s mission and radical discipleship, CWM’s new Programme Structure challenges and re-envisions oppressive systems of empire as Life-flourishing Creation and Economy; Mission Programme and Partnership; Discipleship, Spirituality, and Dialogue; Education, Formation, and Empowerment; Mission from the Margins; and Peacebuilding and Community Development.

Subsequently, Dr. Keum spoke about four main focus areas of CWM’s recently launched The Onesimus Project (TOP) – legacies of slavery, modern-day slavery, education for liberation, and transformative ecumenism that invite member churches to journey with CWM in addressing modern forms of slavery that are mutated and embedded in today’s society, as well as recognising and celebrating historic resistance against slavery and racism from all over the world.

TOP will assist CWM in becoming self-reflexive in critically addressing both historical and modern-day slavery, providing insights on discerning our mission of justice today and generating positive energy to move forward to the future of world mission. The meeting witnessed CWM’s act of confession, a commitment to reparative action, and a call to other churches and ecumenical and mission organisations with similar legacies for just action.

In his conclusion, the CWM General Secretary encouraged UCCSSA with the words of Allan Boesak, that hope teaches us the language of life in which we express our longing for a life of human flourishing that can lift us out of despair, and empower us to find the liberating and hope-giving God. He reminded UCCSA members that God’s calling for us as transforming disciples is to seek alternative values, ways of life, and communities, to reveal shalom in God’s kingdom on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit.

During the event, Dr Keum conducted Holy Communion and received the UCCSA Justice and Peace Award, which is given to an institution or individual who are deemed to have distinguished themselves as envoys of justice and peace in their societies.