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Call to include the missing 25 per cent

06 August 2004

The sole Pentecostal member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order plenary commission has made a powerful call for the inclusion of independent, evangelical and new churches, estimated at more than 25% of Christians worldwide, within the ecumenical movement.

Speaking at the end of the meeting held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28 July - 6 August, 2004 Professor Cecil M. Robeck said that "Faith and Order has had absolutely no impact on Pentecostals around the world."

Stressing his appreciation of the way he himself had been made welcome in ecumenical circles, he acknowledged that the question of how to include such groups had often been asked. However, he continued, "When the subject of these newer, growing, Evangelical, Mega, Pentecostal, and Independent churches is raised, you tend to throw up your hands either in frustration or despair."

The newer churches, he said, were the "children" of the historical denominations. "You may not realize it, but your churches brought them into existence. Like our own children, they think differently from the way that many of you think."

The Faith and Order commission, he said, needed "to decide to address these churches, which means pursuing them with all the determination that you have given to one another, or you need to stop asking the rhetorical question about how to include them and simply ignore them.

"The problem with this latter response, however, is that they will, for the foreseeable future, continue to grow, while at the same time, many of your churches, as you well know, will continue to decline. Where, then, will that leave Faith and Order, or even the WCC?"

In the end, they might energize Faith and Order in ways that none of us here are yet able to anticipate. Most of these churches believe that the Holy Spirit is active in the church, begging for the opportunity to lead us."

In an interview later, he spoke of a developing "Global Forum", originally a WCC initiative, which was bringing together evangelical church leaders, other churches and established ecumenical bodies. "By the end of 2006, the steering committee will call all of the regional groups together and say, 'We've finished our job – now it's up to you.'

"There's a reconfiguration of the ecumenical movement going on outside the bounds of the WCC. We don't know what the future is."