Asian church and ecumenical leaders’ summit closes with call for Asian Ecumenical Diakonia Forum

"Thursdays in Black", - Participants of ACELC on 4 May 2023, during the week-long Jakarta Conference

Jakarta, Indonesia: Over 100 high-ranking heads of churches, bishops, general secretaries, moderators, and presidents of various member churches and councils of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), as well as ecumenical partners, adopted a Communique at the end of the week-long Asian Church and Ecumenical Leaders’ Conference (ACELC) held in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 1 to 5 May 2023.

Among other points of action, the Communique especially recommended to the upcoming 15th General Assembly of the CCA the establishment of an Asian Ecumenical Diakonia Forum that would “comprise churches, national Christian councils, and church-related ecumenical organisations involved in diaconal ministries in Asia, to provide support, enable collaboration, pool together resources, and promote shared learning as part of a renewed commitment to the development of growing partnerships in witness and service—that includes a focus on the prophetic and restorative aspect of diaconal activity”. 

The Communique also urged the CCA and the World Council of Churches (WCC) to facilitate more meaningful participation and engagement of Asian churches and the Asian ecumenical movement in “advocacy on human rights in Myanmar, religious and ethnic conflicts, the plight of religious minorities in different Asian countries, peace and reconciliation in the Korean peninsula, and challenges related to emerging geopolitical, geo-economic, and geo-strategic arenas”, and also recognise “the need for wider collaborations with civil society networks and faith-based groups so as to better respond to emerging crises in Asia”. 

Another important call to action was for churches, national church councils, and ecumenical partners in Asia to “promote spaces and opportunities for a living prophetic voice that speaks truth to power, calls the church to clarify its whole mission to the whole world, and seeks peace with justice; and integrates prophetic and transformative diaconal ministry into the life of the member churches and councils of the CCA that moves beyond being involved in mere charity work and leads to the upholding of human rights and dignity and into active advocacy for all God’s people”.

The historic summit of over 100 church and ecumenical leaders convened around the theme ‘Changing Ecclesial and Ecumenical Landscape in Asia: Our Common Witness and Accompaniment’. 
The first segment of the ACELC looked at good governance, integrity in leadership, and consensus decision-making, while the second segment explored models and practices of ecumenical diakonia, accompaniment, and solidarity. 

The Communique underscored the necessity of ecumenical diakonia and accompaniment that was transformative, dignifying, and empowering, “rather than a tool of dominance and dependence”. Diakonia and koinonia had to be preceded by metanoia, or repentance, and had to fully address the concerns of ecological justice and restoration considering the ongoing climate emergency. 

Any act of stewardship, care, and engagement required good governance and capable leadership in the handling of resources, said the Communique, and recommended that churches, national church councils, and ecumenical partners “reflect on and renew the theological basis for good governance rooted in the Trinitarian mystery of God, and in church leadership at all levels (from national to local), and manifested through service and good stewardship”.

The Communique was drafted and shaped by a special team comprising Bishop Melzar Labuntog from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Rev. John Gilmore from the National Council of Churches in Australia, Rev. Mery Kolimon from the Protestant Evangelical Church in Timor, Indonesia, Rev. Asir Ebenezer from the National Council of Churches in India, and Juliate Malakar from the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh. 

The Communique was presented in a concluding plenary session to the participants of the ACELC, and its terms and content were thoroughly deliberated upon and discussed in an engaging and participatory manner. 
The ACELC concluded with closing worship led by the local hosts, the Protestant Church in the Western Part of Indonesia (GPIB), a member church of the CCA. 

The full text of the Communique can be found below: 

Asian Church and Ecumenical Leaders’ Conference on ‘Changing Ecclesial and Ecumenical Landscape in Asia: Our Common Witness and Accompaniment’