Kottayam, Kerala: Two renowned Asian theologians delivered thematic presentations on ‘Renewal and Restoration of Creation: Affirming the Will of God’ at the second thematic plenary session on the second day of the 15th General Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA).
Thematic presentations form the cornerstone of the General Assembly, grounding the discourse of the Assembly theme and sub-themes, while illuminating pressing issues and challenges being confronted in Asia and beyond.
Dr Judy Berinai and Rev. Dr Ferdinand Anno, both of whom are indigenous theologians from Malaysia and the Philippines respectively, spoke on ‘Renewal and Restoration of Creation: Affirming the Will of God’.
Dr Judy Berinai, the Dean of Studies at the Sabah Theological Seminary in Malaysia, who hails from an indigenous community, anchored her presentation on Romans 15:5–6: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dr Berinai emphasised the call for “unity of the local churches and the global body of Christ”.
“The spirit of unity is primarily expressed in our commitment to each other as we overcome our differences in theology, doctrines, worldviews, and ethnic or racial diversity. The spirit of unity does not refer to superficial formalism, nor does it entail conformity to doctrinal standards, but rather having the same view of the Christian life: to live to love and please God, and to love and serve each other without selfish interests,” said the Malaysian indigenous theological educator.
“Our unity in Christ is the most significant factor that enables us to pray and act in one accord as we are renewed by the Spirit and to restore God’s creation. We need to affirm our unity in Christ which I believe is the will of God for the local churches and global body of Christ represented in the 15th CCA General Assembly,” said Dr Berinai.
Rev. Dr Ferdinand Anno, an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, serving parishes in the southwestern fringes of the indigenous Cordillera region, focused his presentation on examples of the grassroots situation of the ethnic indigenous communities.
“Our human-centric worldview extends beyond mere centrality; it also establishes a hierarchical relationship wherein humans reign supreme in the ecological order. This skewed perspective has its roots in a distorted interpretation of Judeo-Christian cosmology that is characterised by perverted, monarchic, androcentric, and misogynistic elements…This departure from the basic biblical theology of creation has given rise to what I term ‘mammomania’––the human mania for profit, fame, and power,” the indigenous Filipino theologian observed.
Sharing the rite of Pudong, a ritual practice by indigenous communities in the northern highlands of the Philippines, Dr Anno offered a reconsideration of the ecumenical affirmation of what God wills for humanity at this “post-human” juncture in planetary history. The Pudong, bundled reed sticks with knotted ends, was a call for people to come together as a community, “transcending social divisions and the political machinations of imperial greed”; it declared the earth and all its inhabitants holy. Challenging the historical desacralisation of the earth, it highlighted the need to re-sacralise the profaned earth, thus countering the rampant exploitation of natural resources. It encouraged a Jubilee declaration for the earth acknowledging the necessity of rest and restoration, and it finally indicated our transformation from wilting reeds into people, symbolising the potential for indigenous resurgence and a return to ecological consciousness.
For more photos (photo gallery) please click here: Thematic Presentation: “Renewal and Restoration of Creation: Affirming the Will of God" , 29 September 2023