– Member Churches and Councils
– Officers and Members of the General Committee
– Members of the Program Area Committees
– Ecumenical Partners and Friends
Dear Ecumenical Friends,
Greetings of Lent!
The General Committee that met in 2011 had decided to have a pastoral visit to Aotearoa- New Zealand after the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch on 22 February 2011. Rev. Tara Curlewis, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia and I arrived in Auckland on 22 February 2012, around the time when the people of the country observed two minutes of silence, commemorating one year of this shocking experience. We continued our trip to Christchurch in the evening. We spent three days in Christchurch, visiting the local parishes and various groups that have been responding to these calamities and met the church leaders as well as ecumenical friends. Further, we spent two full days in Auckland to worship with the local congregations, met other leaders of CCA member churches and attended an ecumenical meeting. We were welcomed warmly by all, and left Auckland on 28 February 2012 feeling enriched and energized by this visit.
We saw the devastating impact of the earthquake in the life of many people in Christchurch and heard the stories of the churches continuing to respond to the needs of the people for basic needs as well as pastoral care. We expressed the solidarity of Asian churches with brothers and sisters of the churches in Aotearoa-New Zealand. We learned that in the midst of the mounting tasks, the churches have realized that they need to work together, closer than ever before. They also have discovered that their call is not only to ‘work in the communities but to work with communities’. An ecumenical strategic group representing various denominations in Christchurch meets from time to time to discuss together future steps in addressing the post-earthquake situations. We heard from many who are involved in these endeavors that this devastating earthquake has made them aware of emerging mission challenges in that kind of a situation and has urged them to explore different ways of being church as the body of Christ in such adverse circumstances. A sense of urgency on the need to share limited resources was felt by many, a realization that can enhance the building up of communities. Our deep appreciation goes to Rev. Prince Devanandan, present member of CCA General Committee representing the churches in Aotearoa-New Zealand who organized this visit, and ecumenical friends in Christchurch, especially Rev. Barbara Stephen, Rev. Gard Cant and Rev. John England who facilitated our programs and many other friends who offered us warm hospitality.
Let us continue to support the churches in Aotearoa New Zealand and the people, especially in Christchurch as they rebuild their lives out of their experience of brokenness and a lingering sense of uncertainty and fear concerning their future. Travelling to Aotearoa-New Zealand during Ash Wednesday and being there a few days in the first week of Lent has been a meaningful experience for both of us as we begin to see the signs of hope for resurrection beyond the challenges of the cross, in the journey of our sisters and brothers in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Such faith may also inspire us as we walk in these holy weeks.
Many of us may be aware that on 6 February 2012, a devastating earthquake hit the island provinces of Negros and Cebu followed by a landslide in the central Philippines causing death and widespread damage to buildings, roads and bridges. Let us continue to uphold the people in the Philippines in our prayers, and support the churches in the country as they respond to these calamities. We also hear of another earthquake of 5.9 magnitude that struck southern Taiwan on Sunday, February 25, 2012, causing minor damages. The Asian continent has become more and more fragile. Our mother earth is groaning. We are constantly reminded to care and heal the pains of our planet, as God’s gift, by making intentional and concrete efforts in adopting a way of life that is ecologically sound and responsible.
A Global consultation of the General Secretaries of the NCCs and REOs was held in Beirut, Lebanon from 5-10 February 2012. The consultation focused on the theme “Conciliar Ecumenism”, referring to the Christian councils and associations that pursue church unity at the national, regional or world level. The meeting was attended by thirty-three leaders from national councils of churches (NCCs) and regional ecumenical organizations (REOs), building on the tradition of the WCC, REOs and NCCs working together to give expression to churches’ desire for unity in Christ. There were eight participants from CCA region representing NCC Korea (Rev. Dr. Kim Young Ju), Hong Kong Christian Council (Rev. Po Kam Cheong), NCC Sri Lanka (Rev. Ebenezer Joseph), NCC India (Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad), Malaysian Council of Churches (Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri), Myanmar Council of Churches (Rev. Van Kung), NCC Australia (Rev. Tara Curlewis) and Christian Conference of Asia (Rev. Henriette Hutabarat Lebang).
The objectives of the meeting included: (1) build fellowship between councils of churches and strengthen an informal network of leaders; (2) offer an assessment of the ecumenical movement from the perspective of conciliar ecumenism; (3) examine the role of councils and other forms of conciliar ecumenism within the ecumenical movement; (4) seek a renewed theological understanding of conciliar ecumenism; (5) use the experience of councils to examine important themes and current issues, including migration and interreligious dialogue; and (6) establish intentional connections with the various regional assemblies in 2012/13 and the WCC Assembly in 2013 thematically, structurally, relationally and in terms of regionally based preparations.
The participants got an opportunity to visit H H Catholicos Aram I, head of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Orthodox Church. He underlined that “Ecumenism is a quality of life that needs to be articulated in all aspects of a Christian’s life”, and “conciliarity is an essential nature of the church.” His Holiness also identified three distinctive trends that require further consideration in conciliar ecumenism, namely, the growing shift from church-centered to people-centered ecumenism, a shift from multi-confessional to confessional ecumenism, and a shift from global to regional and local ecumenism.
Installation of a church leader
I had the privilege to attend the Installation Service of the 4th Archbishop of the Southeast Asia Province of the Anglican Church, Most Rev. Datuk Bolly Lapok, the first Iban and Sarawakian to hold the post. The service was held in St. Thomas Cathedral in Kuching, Sarawak, and West Malaysia on 12 February 2012. His pastoral jurisdiction covers the Anglican diocese of Sabah, Kuching, West Malaysia and Singapore, including the nine nations of Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Nepal.
Strengthening ecumenical networks and friendship
Mr. Steven Cutting, Coordinator, graduate outreach program of Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in Japan, visited CCA office on 28 February, 2012. His visit was to strengthen ties with CCA and to work in collaboration with the ARI training programs especially for grass root leaders on sustainable agriculture through integrated organic farming techniques, community building, and leadership, so that ‘each person could live to his or her fullest potential’.
We also welcomed a 12 member strong team from one of our ecumenical partners, ‘Kerk in Actie‘ of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands who visited CCA office on 24 February 2012. They spent an hour and a half with us, during which we shared the CCA Vision, Mission and Goals of the CCA, and introduced CCA member constituencies and programs. The group comprising 6 men and 6 women, was accompanied by Rev. Karsten van Staveren from the McGilvery Theological College of the Church of Christ in Thailand located in Chiang Mai.
We thank both our ecumenical partners for their kind gesture of visiting us at our headquarters, and for their genuine interest in getting to know each other better and work together enhancing what is expressed in the ARI motto: “That We May Live Together.”
It is with deep sorrow that I report the demise of Rev. Dr. Samson Prabhakar, Director, South Asian Theological Research Institute, Bangalore, India on 19th Feb 2012. A well known educator, Rev. Prabhakar has contributed meaningfully to the Asian ecumenical field and has been a resource person for many of the Theological consultations of the CCA. He was also serving as a member of the Continuation Committee of the Congress of Asian Theologians.
We would also like to record our grief at the sad demise of Senior Metropolitan H G Dr. Gheevarghese Mar Osthathios of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in India on 16 Feb 2012. His Grace was a renowned theologian, orator and writer, and has contributed a lot to the ecumenical movement as a member of the ‘Faith and Order Commission’ of the World Council of Churches, President of the Kerala Council of Churches, Bible Society Kerala Auxiliary and member of the Pro Oriente Foundation that dealt with relations between the Catholics and the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches.
May their souls rest in peace.
Thank you for your attention and looking forward to your continued support and cooperation.
Henriette Hutabarat Lebang