*By Claus Grue
The first question the secretary of Global Christian Forum, Rev. Dr Casely Baiden Essamuah, asks himself when he sits down at the table together with networking peers from different denominations is: “who is missing?”
Although the pandemic has posed extraordinary challenges for the forum, which he has led since 2018, bridging gaps and bringing people from different denominations together at the same table remains a priority. In reality, it has been difficult to live up to such objectives in a time when the world has been shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
”All of a sudden, everything came to a halt and we had to find new ways to encounter and engage one another,” Essamuah explains.
To keep its status as a uniquely positioned forum for dialogue between churches of all denominations around the globe, the Global Christian Forum had to rely on meetings online, combined with a continuous flow of relevant material in its newsletters and social media channels.
”We launched a series of interviews with interesting people, covering a variety of relevant topics from different angles. It has been very well received and is something we will continue to do,” Essamuah says, while at the same time also pointing out that nothing can replace personal meetings.
Global meeting in Accra, Ghana
A return to normality in terms of getting together with others across the table is slowly beginning to happen. Plans are underway for the first global gathering since the forum’s Bogota-meeting in 2018, to be held in Accra, Ghana, in 2024, when Essamuah not only will welcome Christians from all over the world to a hub of Christianity in the global south, but also to his own home country. The meeting will be hosted by a Pentecostal church and the theme, inspired by John 17:23, is: That the World May Know.
The rationale behind this theme is that the need for the Global Christian Forum has become even more imperative in the past few years, according to Essamuah:
”The world has become more polarized due to growing nationalism, and sadly, the churches have become more fragmented. A challenge now is elevating uniqueness over what unites us, which is our Christian values, the Christian witness and that we are all part of one Christian fellowship since we were baptized. So, the question is; does the global Christian church have a message?”
In Essamuahs mind, there are no other ways to confront that challenge than to sit at the table together and have a dialogue.
Finding absent groups is a priority
Leading up to the larger Accra meeting, regional meetings will be held in Seoul and Amman in October 2022 and October 2023, respectively.
With meeting restrictions easing up and things getting back to normal, Essamuah is confident that the Global Christian Forum will not only sustain its relevance as a facilitator of dialogue and an agent for change but also make new inroads in Christian communities around the globe.
An important milestone on that path is the agreement with the World Council of Churches (WCC), that was signed during the WCC central committee in Geneva in mid-June.
”It affirmed our status as a forum, not an institution, and the WCC’s status as one of four cornerstones of our operation, along with World Evangelical Alliance, Pentecostal World Fellowship and the Roman Catholic Church through the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity,” Essamuah explains.
A priority now is to intensify dialogue and continue engaging groups he feels have been missing around the table in the past, such as young people. A meeting in Denmark with Christian youth leaders in 2019 will now be followed up by the participation of ten Global Christian Forum representatives in the youth pre-assembly in Karlsruhe. Other categories, whose absence need to be addressed, are women, mega churches and migrant churches.
”We shall find them, welcome them, and engage them,” Essamuah firmly concludes.
*Claus Grue is a senior communication consultant for the World Council of Churches.