Council for World Mission (CWM) Mission Secretary for Mission Programme and Partnership Rev. Julie Sim brought congratulations to Church of South India (CSI) for its 75th Anniversary during the CSI Mission Consultation on 24-26 September in Chennai, India. During the Mission Consultation themed “Life Affirming Mission of God: Towards Building Living Communities”, Rev. Sim commended CSI for its significant contributions to ecumenical leadership in the region and how it had been instrumental in shaping and framing CWM’s missional agenda.

During the event, she delivered a presentation on “Gender and Sexuality: Mission as Affirmation of Dignity of Life”, offering thoughts on furthering the conversation on how a just conversation of gender and sexuality can reflect Jesus’ community of hospitality and the imperatives of the church in promoting equal dignity of sexual and gender minorities.

She began by a context reading of South Asia, a region rife with multiple social, economic, and political issues such as discrimination, human rights violations, conflict, low illiteracy rates, and climate crisis. Despite this, it has emerged as a region of strategic international interest, with experts claiming that India will be one of the two biggest economic powers in the world in 2050 – a development that will still have a negative impact on women and children.

Reflecting on the issues of gender in this context, she said that equity and quality for boys and girls in the areas of health and education is still lacking. The quality of education for girls is poor even though they have equal access to education, thus affirming gender equality and securing human rights is crucial for their empowerment and development.

She highlighted the gender nonconforming, or sexual minorities as another community whose voices and experiences are silenced by the majority through cultural, religious and state-supported systems. Hence, she believes that gender-responsive curriculum changes are vital to include and embrace sexual minorities.

In fact, liberation from gender and sexual discrimination also manifests the faith and spiritual endeavours of a faith community that has created a safe space for gender expression, said Rev. Sim. The biblical call to love one’s neighbour is a compelling justification for affirming and respecting people’s dignity and equality. Therefore, a critical engagement of any faith community is to recreate alternative narratives of traditional gender worldviews biblically and theologically. Behaving and practising freedom and faith from sexism and gender roles as a faith community reflects its faith endeavour in Jesus’ community of hospitality, she added.

Hence, in our missional engagement, discussing and learning about gender fluidity, listening to the gender and queer narratives as part of church and non-church curriculums, and affirming the safe, liberative, and genuine space for gender non-conforming community and women should be a primary mission agenda of Christian groups and the community imagination of the future world of the society at large.

In this kairotic moment CWM commits itself and calls upon its member churches and the wider ecumenical community to engage in transforming discipleship, as expression of faith and witness to enable Life-Flourishing Communities. This vision of life-flourishing communities requires a paradigm shift in prophetic understanding and mission engagement, for a rediscovery of human identity, in the image of God, in an era of egotistic, mechanistic and technocratic dehumanization.

In addition, Rev. Sim spoke about CWM’s engagement in Mission as Promoting Life-Flourishing Societies. CWM is committed to engaging with churches that nurtures relevance in being church in a pluralistic society, and exploring on the basis of life-flourishing values, principles that address issues such as gender injustice, racism, caste, disabilities, and religious persecution.

In divisive contexts led by ideologies of supremacy, Jesus calls the church to be life-flourishing at the the grassroots level, embodying inclusiveness, justice and peace. CWM will, therefore, encourage a spiritual renewal movement within the church, where worship serves as a life-giving instrument for transforming discipleship, hope in action and prophetic witness to life-flourishing communities.

Dated: 28 September 2022