8th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches

December 3-14

Harare, Zimbabwe

A report*

 

Not unrelated to the devastation left behind by the Second World War and the start of the Cold War with its nuclear threat, various global efforts got underway in the 1940s. Both the Pentecostal World Conference (PWC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) were formally organized in the late 1940s. Both groups looked to the 21st century at their respective 50th anniversaries, the PWC meeting at the Yoidoo Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea and the WCC at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare, Zimbabwe (Africa). Although the WCC is, then, itself a product of early globalization, voices rang out from Harare de-crying ruination resulting from the "New World Order."

The 8th general assembly of the WCC, which ran December 3-14, attracted a record attendance of approximately 5,000 persons. The 900 plus voting delegates of member churches looked like the world in miniature and required simultaneous translation in five languages. Some pentecostals raised on the notion that the WCC is the Anti-Christ and rumors that this was confirmed by the WCC’s alleged supply of arms to atheistic thugs in places like Rhodesia, nevertheless traveled to Harare. Many of these Pentecostals were involved in one or more of four WCC consultations with Pentecostals commissioned by Canberra ‘91.

In all, twenty-nine Classical Pentecostals took part as delegates, delegated observers, advisors and Padare presenters. Although a majority of the Pentecostals came from Latin America, for the first time representatives were designated by PWC-member churches spanning three continents - Africa, Asia, and North America. An undetermined number of charismatics including one from the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship were on hand, the best known being The Most Reverend George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury. Various Evangelicals were present and visible, but Pentecostals and Evangelicals never met together. Daily Prayer Summits were conducted by Ray Bringham. An enormous tent drew thousands each morning for worship which featured inspirational music by an Zimbabwean choir.

Three Padares led by Dr. Juan Sep˙lveda (Pentecostal Mission Church [Chile]) were devoted to Pentecostalism, while Rev. Eugene Rivers (Church of God in Christ) and Rev. Joe Aldred (Church of God of Prophecy, UK) led separate Padares on racism. Rev. ┘lises Mu˝oz (Iglesia Pentecostal de Chile) and Rev. JosÚ Domingo Caetano (Evangelical Pentecostal Mission of Angola) were elected to the new 150-member Central Committee. The General Assembly approved a WCC-Pentecostal Joint Working Group in addition to a Forum that intends to bring together WCC-member churches with Roman Catholics, Evangelicals and Pentecostals. Dr. Juan Sep˙lveda was interviewed in a plenary and Dr. Cecil M. Robeck (Assemblies of God) was chosen to lead one series of the daily Bible Studies.

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Dr. Juan Sepulveda with mic

 The WCC is the most comprehensive, organized reconciliation effort of its kind in global Christianity. Claiming to represent Ż billion Christians, it cannot count the one billion Roman Catholics among its numbers nor any sizable portion of the Ż billion extended Pentecostal family. North America Pentecostal denominations have chosen to identify with groups like the National Association of Evangelicals or the National Black Evangelical Association and play a lesser role in conferences hosted by the North American Renewal Service Committee (NARSC) that bring together pentecostals and charismatics across the spectrum.

Orthodox delegates in Harare complained loudly about the WCC departure from mission and evangelism in unity. Since the last general assembly, both the Georgia Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church left the WCC. A representative of the Georgia Orthodox Church was permitted to speak during a business plenary in Harare. He explained that his church was not made up of "fanatics," but made the painful decision to leave the WCC to avoid schism. When engaging conciliar ecumenists, Pentecostals frequently find Orthodox valuable allies. However, in countries where the Orthodox are the majority, relations with Pentecostals are often reduced to issues of proselytism and persecution. Hence ongoing efforts since at least 1991 to put together an Orthodox-Pentecostal Dialogue may start with informal talks in 2001.

Although a fundamental mission of the WCC has been towards unity made visible (not a "super-church"), various members of the headquarters staff in Geneva and representatives of member churches who are professional ecumenists have introduced division by their obsession with peripheral agenda. WCC general secretary Dr. Konrad Raiser’s insistence, notwithstanding, the WCC does not function simply as a "fellowship" of churches. One wonders if the volume of such groups is not unrelated to the noise of their financial contributions.

If one were to judge the contents of the Harare assembly by the most widely circulated accounts, it would be difficult to understand how any Pentecostal could remain in such an alien environment. However, charismatics in historic churches have experienced the same dynamics. Committees on controversial subjects are often skewed and published reports push the fringe element. In the end, however, majority members of the churches often prevail in official church action. This was a lesson illustrated well at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops where Two-Thirds World bishops prevailed over their European counterparts. WCC General Assembly resolutions are not binding on member churches where action was taken against pornography but no statement was made on human sexuality.

The first evening plenary was an open engagement of reports by the Moderator and General Secretary. Considerable attention was given to the dominance of the Western concept of parliamentary procedure as a way to achieve group decisions by 51% votes. Those who spoke emphasized that WCC was to be a fellowship of churches and the way forward toward constructive relationship was to seek consensus, an idea gingerly tested at the end of the evening session. This idea is certainly not new to Pentecostal churches that emphasize discernment through the operation of spiritual gifts.

 Stories highlighting controversies surrounding the WCC are well known if not always exaggerated. Lesser known are the ways in which the WCC has empowered Pentecostals around the world. I have taught in Pentecostal Bible schools in Nicaragua and Romania related to the PWC which received financial assistance from the WCC. Since at least 1960 and up through the devastation caused by Mitch during October 1998, Pentecostals in Latin America, including those who belong to the PWC, have benefitted from the WCC’s Relief and Development Program. The long-term director of this department in Geneva is Ms. Marta Palma, a member of the Pentecostal Mission Church (Chile). During a morning worship service in Harare, an offering was received to be divided among victims of Hurricane Mitch in Central America and the AIDS plague in Zimbabwe.

During discussion about a resolution creating the WCC-Pentecostal Joint Working Group, Rev. Dr. Yong-Wha Park, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, drew attention to the fact that the Korean Assemblies of God joined the Korean National Council of Churches. Insiders talk about a revolution in this conciliar unit. More compelling, however, is the story of Rev. Dr. Frank Chikane who was featured in a November 1998 airing of NBC’s "Dateline" because he almost died after being poisoned by his own government. Chikane, while pastoring for the oldest and largest Pentecostal group in South Africa, was first imprisoned in 1975 for resisting apartheid. The South African Council of Churches intervened by the time that his torture was supervised by a white deacon from his own denomination. Chikane would later succeed Archbishop Desmond Tutu as head of the South African Council of Churches. Chikane now holds an elected position in the South African government and in his denomination.

In much the same way, South African President Nelson Mandela came to express his appreciation to the WCC. On the other hand, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugambe solicited support from the WCC to cancel their foreign debt and force land redistribution. Also on hand was Chris Cramer president of CNN International which claims to be "the world’s only global TV news network". In an interview, Mr. Cramer noted that he is regularly contacted by heads of state to get on air.

As sojourners in this shrinking global village, how then shall we travel?

Harold D. Hunter in Harare

Classical Pentecostals: AFRICA: Em Christmas, Zimbabwe Assemblies of God in Africa; Bishop Tudor Bismark, Jabula New Life Ministries; Rev. Jose Domingo Caetano, Evangelical Pentecostal Mission of Angola; Sra Madelena Chilimbo, Evangelical Pentecostal Mission of Angola; Mr. Nicolau Francisco, Evangelical Pentecostal Mission of Angola; ASIA: Rev. Jong-sun Paik, Korean Assemblies of God; Dr. Young-man Kang, Korean Assemblies of God; EUROPE: Rev. Joe Aldred, Church of God of Prophecy; Corneliu Constantineanu, Pentecostal Church of Romania; Kosta Milkov, Evangelical Church of Macedonian; Ronald Nathan, formerly General Secretary of the Afro-Caribbean Evangelical Alliance; LATIN AMERICA: Pastora Juan Albornoz G.; Bernardo Campos, Pentecostal Autonoma; Rhode Gonzalez Zorilla (Cuba); Sinforionino Gutierrez; Lydiette Garita Mora; Ulises Munoz, Iglesia Pentecostal de Chile; Esaula Nunoz V., Iglesia Pentecostal de Chile; Maria Palma Manrizuez, Servicio Evangelico para al Desarrollo; Hna Marta Palma; Hector Osvaldo Petrecca, Biblical Christian Church; Senia Pilco-Tarira; Dr. Juan Sepulveda; Narcisco Sepulveda; Rev. Daniel Osvaldo. Vacaro; NORTH AMERICA: Rev. Robert L. Asberry, Church of God in Christ; Rev. Dr. Harold D. Hunter, International Pentecostal Holiness Church; Rev. Eugene Rivers, Church of God in Christ; Rev. Dr. Cecil M. Robeck, Assemblies of God.

 

*The WCC web links to three sets of reports on the general assembly. The official WCC press releases are most factual, while the reports by ENI and those found in Jubilee are skewed.

 

CONSELHO MUNDIAL DE IGREJAS

8a. AssemblTia e Cinqnenten▀rio

PRESS RELEASE

Comunicado de Imprensa No. 25

12 de dezembro de 1998

Oficina de Comunicatpo do Conselho Mundial de Igrejas

50, route de Ferney PO Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2 Switzerland

 

PENTECOSTAIS QUEREM O FORO DE DI-LOGO

Representantes de igrejas pentecostais dos Estados Unidos, da AmTrica

Latina, da -sia e da -frica presentes na 8a. AssemblTia do Conselho Mundial

de Igrejas (CMI), reunida em Harare de 3 a 14 de dezembro, apoiam a

realizatpo do Foro de Igrejas Cristps e Organizat)es EcumOnicas, um espato

informal de di▀logo, proposto por liderantas cristps.

"A maioria dos 25 pentecostais que estpo aqui em Harare, representando

igrejas e fraternidades de igrejas, pensam que o Foro poder▀ ser um espato

de di▀logo muito profundo com vistas a uma aproximatpo ao CMI", diz

Bernardo Campos, diretor do Instituto Peruano de Estudos Religiosos (IPER),

de Lima.

Mas antes de ingressar no Foro, "T preciso cometar um processo de di▀logo

entre os pr=prios pentecostais", define o peruano. "As cinco igrejas

pentecostais que j▀ participam do CMI poderiam ajudar, assim, a derrubar

alguns mitos e preconceitos que os pentecostais nutrem contra o organismo

ecumOnico", explica.

Para algumas liderantas pentecostais, o CMI T o Anticristo, que s= trata de

temas polfticos e tem uma diferente conceptpo de misspo. As cinco igrejas

que j▀ integram o Conselho spo a Igreja Pentecostal do Chile, a Misspo

Igreja Pentecostal e as Miss)es Pentecostais Livres, todas do Chile; a

Igreja de Deus e a Igreja Cristp Bfblica, da Argentina.

Os pentecostais debateram o tema entre si em Harare. Eles entendem que as

bases do Foro npo devem ser estabelecidas pelo CMI, mas por todos os

participantes. O ponto de partida seria a doxologia, a mesma que o

organismo ecumOnico tem em sua constituitpo. "Mas devemos cometar no Foro

compartilhando experiOncias, e depois entrar na questpo de credos", defende

Campos.

O di▀logo do CMI com os pentecostais deve se dar a nfvel de igrejas. Campos

fala em pentecostalidade, expresspo universal presente em todas as igrejas

cristps. "H▀ um ecumenismo de Espfrito, que T muito mais amplo e ultrapassa

as instituit)es. Por isso o Foro, se implantado, viria num momento certo.

Ele seria um acerto, um sinal do Espfrito", sustenta.

A teologia liberal protestante e os temas Tticos, como as quest)es

vinculadas a sexualidade humana, e mesmo a ordenatpo feminina, spo pedras

de tropeto no caminho do di▀logo com os pentecostais, reconhece o lfder

peruano. Igrejas pentecostais atT admitem mulheres no sacerd=cio, mas a

elas estpo fechadas as portas que levam aos cargos de diretpo.

Campos acredita que um primeiro passo no aprofundamento do di▀logo do CMI

com os pentecostais, iniciado em 1994, ser▀ dado de imediato, atravTs da

criatpo de um grupo de trabalho pentecostal no organismo ecumOnico. A nfvel

de AmTrica Latina, relata, a Comisspo EvangTlica Pentecostal

Latino-Americana (CEPLA) est▀ trabalhando para que a maior parte das

igrejas pentecostais participem do movimento ecumOnico.

Contacte: John Newbury, Imprensa & Informatpo do CMI

Oficina de Harare

Tel: +263.91.23.23.81

E-Mail: jwn8@staff.wcc-coe.org

------------------------------------------------------------------------

O Conselho Mundial de Igrejas T uma fraternidade de igrejas que re?ne 339

denominat)es, de diferentes tradit)es cristps, em mais de 100 pafses, nos

cinco continentes. A Igreja Cat=lica Romana npo T membro do CMI, mas

trabalha de modo cooperado com o Conselho. Seu =rgpo decis=rio m▀ximo T a

AssemblTia, que se re?ne a cada sete anos. O CMI foi fundado, formalmente,

em 1948, em Amsterdp. Seu staff T liderado pelo secret▀rio-geral, pastor

Konrad Raiser, da Igreja EvangTlica da Alemanha.

Fin do despacho

(SIPALC)

SERVICIO DE INFORMACION PENTECOSTAL DE AMERICA LATINA Y EL CARIBE

E-mail: sipalc@usa.net

Servicio promovido por el Instituto Peruano de Estudios de la Religion

(IPER)

Jr. Van Gent 135, Urb. El Pacifico, Mza. U, II Etapa, SMP, Lima 31 - PERU

Telefono: (511)5312288 - Fax +(511)4253977

Director: Bernardo L. Campos - E-mail: bcampos_@hotmail.com

Web Site: http://members.xoom.com/bcampos