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Focusing on visible unity, Faith and Order work has to be meaningful to the churches, its moderator says

28 July 2004

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Keeping the focus on visible unity, making its work more meaningful to the life of the churches and helping to overcome denominationalism are the three main challenges before the Faith and Order commission at the beginning of the 21st century, according to its moderator Rev. Dr David K. Yemba.

Addressing the plenary commission meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 28 July to 6 August, 2004, Yemba shared his vision about opportunities and challenges for the work of Faith and Order at the transition of two centuries, a time he described as "a strategic moment in the history of humankind and therefore also that of the ecumenical movement".

Recalling its role as a "forum for theological debate", Yemba told the commission that the first challenge they face is to maintain the "focus on the aim of Faith and Order which is to call the churches to move together towards visible unity," avoiding "the risk of reducing the debate to a purely academic exercise whose practical results are non-existent".

In line with that, the second challenge arises from the theme of the meeting: "Receive one another, as Christ has received you, for the glory of God" (Romans 15:7). "The theme itself calls on the work of Faith and Order to be more meaningful for the faith, life and witness of the churches" engaged in the movement "beyond convergence in documents" Yemba stated.

The third challenge is related to the fact that, although the church is growing in the Southern hemisphere to the extent that it is possible to affirm that "the future of the Church of Jesus Christ is above all found in the third world," the "mother churches" of the Northern hemisphere "continue to exert excessive denominational influence" on them. According to the Faith and Order commission moderator, "denominationalism is one of the big obstacles in the way of Christians and in the way of the churches".

Yemba also highlighted that, at the end of a century that "has offered opportunities never experienced before in relationships among the churches", the "work of Faith and Order in its numerous studies has tremendously contributed to moving the churches toward a new step in sharing". "The biggest lesson we have learned is how to live and grow in unity within a changing world", he affirmed.

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