Twelve participants drawn from diverse church traditions met in Bossey, Switzerland from 22 to 26 June to explore fresh approaches to Christian witness in contemporary Europe. A primary outcome of the consultation will be the drafting of a resource for theological education with the working title “An Ecumenical Handbook for Teaching Evangelism in Europe”.
Among participants in the consultation were members of Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and Evangelical churches in Europe, Asia and Africa.
The event, organized by the evangelism office of the World Council of Churches (WCC), continues a process begun in 2012 at a consultation on “Evangelism in Theological Education and Missiological Formation in Europe” which called for development of a handbook.
Prof. Donna Orsuto, of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, highlighting that “the sharing of the joy of the gospel is an urgent responsibility of every Christian”, said at the close of the event, “I am hopeful that this handbook on evangelism will be an important contribution in offering both sound theological foundations and practical suggestions, especially for those who teach at theological institutions in Europe.”
Francis Brienen, deputy general secretary of the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom with special responsibility for the mission department, observed that “sharing God’s love with the world in word and action is a major challenge for all churches in Europe. It is my hope that the new Ecumenical Handbook will become a key tool in equipping future church leaders in this task.”
Kyriaki Avtzi, WCC programme executive for evangelism, reported that the consultation’s “participants set the foundations for the Ecumenical Handbook through their in-depth contextual analysis of key aspects of evangelism in theological education and training.” She added that the group has provided authors of the handbook “ample material with regards to its structure as well as its content.”
Wonsuk Ma, a South Korean theologian who serves as executive director of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, saw the significance of the process leading to the handbook in that “it brings evangelism back to the centre of ecumenical mission thinking. This allows us to sharpen our understanding of the ‘what’, the ‘why’, the ‘for what’ and the ‘how’ of evangelism in the ever-changing and challenging European context.”
Avtzi noted, “The radically changing denominational and religious landscape in Europe, and globally, presents our churches with the opportunity to renew our expressions of Christian witness. We are examining new ways of making the gospel message relevant within more secular, multicultural and multi-religious contexts.”
Jooseop Keum, secretary of the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), stated that “CWME would like to extend an urgent call for authentic discipleship to churches as we become witnesses to our faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ”. He added, “Evangelism is at the heart of CWME’s work in sharing the good news of God’s kingdom.”