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North American conference convenes to “Reclaim Evangelism!”

North American conference convenes to “Reclaim Evangelism!”

(left to right) Jim Winkler, Heather Lear, Karen Hamilton, Kyriaki Avtzi, Brenda Smith and Charles Fensham convened a groundbreaking Conference on Evangelism. © Tom Gillem

11 November 2015

Nearly 60 participants gathered to reflect on the theme “Reclaim Evangelism!” at the North American 2015 Conference on Evangelism, held 29 October - 2 November in Nashville, Tennessee (U.S.). The conference was organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the National Council of Churches – USA (NCCUSA), in consultation with the Canadian Council of Churches (CC Canada), and it was hosted by the Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church (UMC).

The ecumenical conversation was a moment to celebrate Christian hope in God’s work on making disciples, said Kyriaki Avtzi, WCC programme executive on evangelism. “Planning and organizing this event with NCCUSA, CC Canada and the Discipleship Ministries of UMC was a uniquely enriching experience of mutual learning and collaboration,” said Avtzi. “The commitment and enthusiasm with which participants engaged in group and plenary discussions on new effective ways of reclaiming evangelism in the context of North America is a promising and deeply encouraging sign toward a renewed understanding of evangelism that celebrates diversity, change and collaboration.”

The conference was indeed groundbreaking, said Heather Heinzman Lear, UMC director of Evangelism in Discipleship Ministries. “It was a joy to witness denominational and theological differences melt away as participants engaged in dialogue and dreaming about how to collaborate in sharing the gospel in North America. I am excited to see what God can and will do through these new friends and colleagues in ministry,” she said.

Cooperation between the WCC, CC Canada and NCCUSA led to the conference’s success, added Jim Winkler, general secretary of the NCCUSA. “I was grateful to God that those present brought a Christ-like spirit and a desire to share their expertise and insights. All of us were enriched by the experience,” he said.

Participants thought and prayed deeply about what it means to witness to each other, as well as to and through their communities in a world that is complex and pluralistic, said Karen Hamilton, general secretary of CC Canada. “The meaning of the word 'evangelism' is to witness to the Good News. As diverse sisters and brothers in Christ, we have recommitted ourselves to humility and the need to listen and serve in the name of the Healer who calls us to heal and be healed.”

Jooseop Keum, director of the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, said inspiring conversations took place on how to witness the good news of Jesus Christ in a North American context, through creative ideas generating fresh commitment. “Over discussions and sharing in positive spirit on the understanding of evangelism, I feel that now mainline churches in North America are ready to move beyond the dichotomy between evangelicalism and ecumenism, thus overcoming any past negative notions of evangelism,” he said.

Commission on World Mission and Evangelism

National Council of Churches – USA

Canadian Council of Churches

United Methodist Church Discipleship Ministries