As in previous assemblies, the 12th General Assembly was not only a time for business meetings but also for solid input on important topics. The D. T. Niles Memorial Lectures, a series of lectures on significant topics, remained an important feature of the Assembly. These lectures are held during the CCA General Assembly in memory of Dr. D. T. Niles (1908-1970), the first General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, then the East Asia Christian Conference. Dr. Niles is known, not only in Asia but worldwide, as one of the great leaders of the ecumenical movement, an evangelist, and statesman.
During the 12th CCA General Assembly, the D. T. Niles lectures were on the general theme, “Listening to the Voice of God”. For even as the Assembly sought to reflect on what it means to be engaged in “Building Communities of Peace for All”, which as assembly theme shall guide the life and work of CCA in the next five years, they still had to listen to and discern the voice of God that usually comes in many unexpected ways.
Three lectures on the theme were presented by invited lecturers. The Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, spoke on “New Trends in the Ecumenical Movement”. Dr. James Haire, president of the National Council of Churches in Australia, spoke on the Assembly theme, “Building Communities of Peace”. Dr. Christine Loh of the Civic Exchange in Hong Kong, spoke on “Geopolitics in Asia: An Overview”.
A fourth D. T. Niles input came in the form of an interfaith panel moderated by Christian theologian and Bible scholar Dr. Anna May Chain. It was indeed a unique and special feature at this Assembly: to listen to the voice of God from representatives of other living faiths – Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, who gave the Islamic perspective, and Dr. Swami Agnivesh, who gave the Hindu perspective. Buddhist female monk, Ven. Dhammananda (Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh), unfortunately could not come. There were no papers for the fourth input, hence, only the first three lectures are published in this edition.
Also in the tradition of previous assemblies, special pre-assembly forums were held prior to the General Assembly. The Women’s Forum, People’s Forum, and Youth Forum gathered representatives from their respective constituencies (women’s network, urban rural mission network, and youth network). A new forum that began this year and which reflects CCA’s commitment to this vulnerable group was the Forum on People with Disabilities. Each of the forums was conducted in a way that would prepare delegates to the Assembly but also for them to come up with a statement or some recommendations on important issues for consideration by the Assembly.
This CTC Bulletin edition carries some of the main presentations made at those forums – e.g. keynote addresses, input presentations, biblical-theological reflections, and the messages or statements produced by the forum participants that were presented at the General Assembly proper.
A unique characteristic of the pre-assembly forums this year was the incorporation of the concerns of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV). Since this year is also the DOV Focus on Asia, which was launched at the General Assembly, most of the DOV Reference Group members of the World Council of Churches were present at the different forums. They came as “living letters” – i.e., sharing inputs on DOV at the four forums, participating in small group discussions, giving some encouraging words, and simply being there to listen to the stories of struggles of Asians and to express their solidarity. The Reference Group also conducted a one-day seminar with a small group of Asian representatives to hear some update on the DOV campaign in some parts of Asia.
Another new and interesting feature in the General Assembly was the holding of simultaneous interest groups that participants were free to choose from. These focused on human sexuality, DOV and art, tsunami, networking of youth, health and healing (HIV/AIDS), ecology and tourism, information technology and communication, interfaith concerns, people’s security and human rights, and civil society. Resource persons were specially invited to facilitate interactive sharing on the various issues.
The busyness of Assembly preparations may be over, and new officers have been elected. But the life and work of CCA for the next five years until the 13th General Assembly has just begun. Taking the challenge and mandate contained in the theme, “Building Communities of Peace for All”, it is now our task to listen to God in the cries of the suffering Asian peoples and to participate in the building of caring and healing communities for all.
May God grant us the strength, wisdom, and commitment that can prove equal to that challenge!
Hope S. Antone
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