Churches need to create space for wider participation and timely intervention amidst social complexities, says CCA General Secretary

Posted on 2 April 2019
Manado Conf 2 AprilOpening Session of the Church and Society Conference of PGI, Manado, Indonesia

In a message conveyed to the Indonesian Church Leaders’ quinquennial conference on ‘Church and Society’, CCA General Secretary Dr. Mathews George Chunakara stated, “When we live amidst a wide array of complex social situations that are adversely affecting our daily lives, churches need to create a space for wider participation and timely intervention by the faithful beyond their congregational lives; such intervention is a prerequisite to participate meaningfully in God’s mission”.

The Church and Society conference organized by the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI), in collaboration with the regional council of churches in North, Central and Gorontalo (Suluteng) was held at the Sutanraja Hotel, Manado in North Sulawesi from 28 to 31 March 2019.

The conclave was attended by more than 300 church leaders and selected representatives of 89 member denominations and regional councils of the PGI, special invitees from Christian organizations, universities as well as prominent Christian leaders in the country.

Excerpts from CCA General Secretary’s message delivered at the opening session of the Conference that highlighted following issues:

  • “An unprecedented scale of cataclysmic changes affecting our societies and cultures pose consistent challenges to our faith. As Christians ought to be people who live amidst all God’s people and are connected to God and to one another through the divine power, we need to reflect regularly about the role of the Church in society as faithful servants of God, and pay more serious attention for creative interventions needed in different areas in response to God’s call”.
  • “Our lives often distract us and pull us away from making our presence felt or our responses heard amidst all God’s people. We often fail to respond to cardinal social issues affecting our communities and societies. It is in this context that the Church needs to be alerted, sensitized and reprioritize its role from time to time.”
  • “The extreme violence and ferocity with which religious, communal and ethnic conflicts take place in different parts of Asia due to religious intolerance and hatred create more enmity among people in traditionally tolerant and peaceful communities; this should be addressed by the churches more seriously than ever before. Communalism, an attempt to ascribe common political interest to a religious community and thus organizing people politically along religious lines, is becoming a growing trend. This process initiated by a few religious extremists or politicians aims mainly to single out and depict religious communities as ‘the other’ and persecute them. The same tactic is also used as a way of spreading religious fanaticism.”
  • “The trajectory of modern technology and its advancement often adds more fragmentation or building more barriers within our once closely knitted societies. We now live in an age of digitalization and at the same time an era of compartmentalization and fragmentation of our societies and communities. Today, we prefer to live our lives spending more time in front of screens, streams, apps, and phones; our relationships have become digital and we limit our relationships and lose the much needed human connectivity and sensitivity”.
  • “Our spirituality struggles and suffers amidst technology in hand and temptation to use the gadgets that act as our comfort zones round the clock. We prefer to live amidst or via windows and boxes, we prefer to communicate virtually with several people at a time through different windows and we open several chat boxes to write messages. Even inside churches, we tend to post messages and at the same time open apps to read the Bible/ liturgies available online or stored in our devices. All such multiple exercises make matters easy but they disrupt our concentration and relations and lead to an experience of disconnected compartments, a process that wreaks havoc even in our spiritual nourishments”.
  • “The traditional role of a family entails nurturing and caring, but today this role is changing as the family in many societies is unable to perform its traditional role; children are even deprived of the parental care that is rightfully theirs”.

“It is ultimately God’s call and God’s mission is the impetus for our participation and intervention in responding to the challenges in society. We are called to demonstrate our prophetic witness amidst adverse realities that warrant our response”, affirmed CCA General Secretary.

Rev. Jung Eun Moon, Programme Coordinator represented CCA and delivered the message of the General Secretary at the opening session.

The PGI organizes the Church and Society conference once in five years as a prelude to its forthcoming General Assembly.

The General Secretary of the PGI Rev. Gomar Gultam said that the XVII General Assembly of the PGI to be held in Sumba from 8 to 13 November 2019 will receive a report on the outcome and recommendations of the Church and Society Conference.

The overarching thematic focus of the conference was based on the biblical emphasis “I am the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22: 12-13). Various socio-economic and political dimensions’ of Indonesian situations and the Christian witness in Indonesia’s pluralistic religious and cultural contexts in the spirit of the ‘Pancasila Principles’ of the country were discussed in depth during the conference.

Gomar said that deeper discussions and reflections at the Assembly would pave the way for enabling churches in meaningful participation in God’s mission as they live and struggle amidst anxiety, fear and sufferings.

Rev. Dr. Henriettte Hutabarat Lebang, the General Chairperson of the PGI in her concluding remarks said,” The theme and sub-themes of the Church and Society conference are reflections of the ongoing situation of the Indonesian society; these are the priority concerns to be addressed at the forthcoming General Assembly of the PGI”.

Dr. Lebang summarized the most pressing social concerns discussed at the conference in which the Indonesian churches are expected to widen their participation and focus on mission and witness in situations and areas such as ethnic and social divisions, inequalities in social and economic status as well as questions related to Regional Autonomy, rule of law, and human rights, challenges of technological development and erosion of social, cultural and family values.

The conference was opened by Olly Dondokambey, SE, Governor of North Sulawesi Province, and the opening worship was led by Rev. Dr. Hein Arina, Moderator of the GMIM. Chairperson of the Church and Society Conference Ir. Royke Oktavian Roring, who is also the Regent of Minahasa, North Sulawesi, delivered the introductory remarks.

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