Servanthood, stewardship, and good governance key to strengthen ecumenical diakonia

Programme Review and Programme Direction

Two key deliberative sessions during the 15th CCA General Assembly are the Programme Review and Programme Direction sessions.

The Programme Review and Programme Direction sessions will both be conducted in three groups relating to the CCA’s programme areas, namely, (i) General Secretariat (GS), (ii) Mission in Unity and Contextual Theology (MU) and Ecumenical Leadership Formation and Spirituality (EF); and (iii) Building Peace and Moving Beyond Conflicts (BP) and Prophetic Diakonia (PD).

Assembly participants will have the option to join one of three groups for both the Programme Review and Programme Direction sessions. For the sake of coherence, the assigned group will remain the same for both sessions.

General Secretariat

The General Secretariat oversees the coordination of programmatic, administrative, and financial activities of the organization. The GS comprises various departments such as church and ecumenical relations, relations with ecumenical partners, finance, administration, and communications, which provide crucial support and services for the implementation of programs and contribute to the overall functioning of the CCA.

Programmes: Relations with member churches and councils, ecumenical partners; advocacy at the United Nations; ecumenical responses to emerging issues in solidarity; income development and finance; and communications.

Mission in Unity and Contextual Theology (MU) and Ecumenical Leadership Formation and Spirituality (EF)

Under the MU programme area, the CCA accompanies Asian churches to strengthen their mission and witness in multi-religious contexts, revitalise and nurture church unity and the Asian ecumenical movement, and develop contextual theological foundations.

Programmes: Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU); Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS); Asian women doing theology in the context of wider ecumenism; contextualisation of theology in Asia and ecumenical theological education.

The EF programme area focuses on nurturing and developing ecumenical leaders in Asia. The programme aims to enhance spiritual formation and theological understanding, enabling people to actively engage in ecumenical dialogue and collaboration.

Programmes: Ecumenical Enablers’ Training in Asia (EETA); Asian Ecumenical Institute (AEI); Youth and Women Leadership Development; Ecumenical Spirituality and Nurturing of Contextual Liturgical Traditions; Asia Sunday

Building Peace and Moving Beyond Conflicts (BP) and Prophetic Diakonia and Advocacy (PD)

The BP programme area is dedicated to promoting peace, justice, and reconciliation in Asia’s diverse contexts. Through training, advocacy, and dialogue, the programme addresses the root causes of conflicts, empowers communities, and fosters sustainable peacebuilding initiatives.

Programmes: Pastoral Solidarity Visits; Churches in Action for Moving Beyond Conflict and Resolution; Young Ambassadors of Peace in Asia (YAPA); Ecumenical Women’s Action Against Violence (EWAAV); Eco-Justice for Sustainable Peace in the Oikos.

The PD programme area focuses on promoting justice, human rights, and social transformation in Asia. Through advocacy, capacity-building, and raising awareness, the programme addresses systemic injustice, empowers marginalised communities, and advocates for prophetic actions and meaningful change.

Programmes: Human Rights advocacy; Migration, Statelessness, and Trafficking in Persons; Asian Ecumenical Disability Advocacy Network; Asian Advocacy Network on the Dignity and Rights of Children (AANDRoC); Ecumenical Solidarity Accompaniment and Diakonia in Asia (ESADA); Health and Healing; Good Governance; Action Together to Combat HIV and AIDS in Asia (ATCHAA).

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    Panel discussion session on 'Networking and Collaboration for Collective Impact'


    Medan, Indonesia: The importance of servant leadership, good governance, and stewardship as well as network-building and collaboration as key factors in enhancing the diakonal mission of Asian churches was emphasised on the third day of the ongoing Asia regional training programme on 'Ecumenical Diakonia and Sustainable Development' being held in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Rev. Dr Kim Minji of the National Council of Churches in Korea who shared a biblical-theological reflection on diakonia told the participants that diakonia is not a simple act of service to neighbours but “a continuation of the living practical transmission of the prophetic-apostolic tradition in performing the governance of Shalom, the peace of the Kingdom of God, which is entirely self-giving service given to the very last and least; as Jesus said, 'Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me' (Matthew 25).”

    She also considered the Eucharist and diakonia as acts of dividing oneself for one's neighbours, in accordance with Christ's command to "do this". Regarding discipleship and the profound prophetic service of love that seeks changes in the regime of domination, violence, and oppression through Christ's profound suffering, Rev. Dr Kim continued to explain, "We must always remember that diakonia is the formation of the scripture, and the Christian identity must be practiced as the apostle of the Lord who practises the life of Jesus."

    Rev. Dr Kim further elaborated, “The church, guided by the Spirit, loves their neighbours, follows the path of Jesus, resembling Christ as servants. In this way, Jesus demonstrated the models of service of love, service of restoration, service of reconciliation, service of the bridge, and service of the Holy Spirit and sent his disciples to serve the world with these service-oriented lives and attitudes.”

    Diakonia a “dangerous task”

    Rev. William Premkumar Ebenezer Joseph, President of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka, who led a session on ‘Relevance of Global Issues for the Local Diakonia Mission’ spoke about the importance and parallels between global issues and local diakonia activities. He described the involvement of churches in Sri Lanka and the high reputation gained over the years in diaconal ministry as a result of significant and unique diakonal manifestations, including areas such as advocacy for workers' rights, democracy movements, and interfaith cooperation.

    Citing various examples of Sri Lankan churches’ diaconal mission during several years of the civil war situations in his native country, Rev. Joseph said diakonia ministry is a dangerous task based on the values of the cross and sacrifice.

    The early church which had focused diakonia was rooted in caring and sharing and had experienced the element of risk. If the church loses the element of risk in today’s diaconal ministry, then it tends to become an NGO, said Rev. Joseph.

    Diakonal expressions should find lessons from the past experiences of ancestors, and authentic diakonal ministry that was lost has be regained. Churches should realise that diaconal ministry is not the monopoly of the churches and at the same time churches must not attempt to become another NGO.

    While defining authentic diaconal ministry as immersing oneself in the issues of the people, Rev. Joseph said, as the church must be there with those who are suffering.

    He also emphasised the risk and peril of diaconal ministry, recalling Jesus' suffering and sacrifice, as well as the humble service demonstrated by washing the disciples' feet.

    "Do not underestimate the power of the local people; do not undermine the power of the localised diakonal ministry. The invisible potential of the local communities needs to be identified and their capacities need to be strengthened in order to support and accompany them in their diaconal interventions," stated Rev. Joseph, emphasizing the importance and effectiveness of local diaconal ministry that is deeply rooted in the challenges and struggles of people.

    Finally, he discussed the church's higher role both globally and locally, as well as the importance of interfaith cooperation in performing diaconal ministry as an inclusive act of service.

    Networking and collaboration for effective impact

    During a session on networking and collaboration for collective impact, Rev. Mika Purba of the Christian Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) in Indonesia highlighted her church's experience with cooperation for diaconal ministry with local and international partners.

    According to Rev. Purba, HKBP's diaconal ministry focuses on the following areas: humanitarian aid distribution, environmental conservation projects, healthcare outreach initiatives, education and skill development, student and coworker exchange programme, and sustainable agriculture projects.

    She described specific programmes such as literacy for community children, the HKBP AIDS Ministry, which has been providing support and advocacy for people living with HIV and AIDS, women's empowerment programmes in church and society, and food security programmes in the community for low-income families. With the growth of technology, she stated that the church has used online platforms and social media for collaborative endeavours, outreach, effective communication, and stakeholder engagement.

    Rev. Purba talked about video conferencing, webinar hosting, and mobile support, which enabled the church to expand its diaconal ministry. She emphasised the importance of inclusive service, ecumenical synergy, SDG alignment, community participation, and strategic alliances when networking and engaging in ecumenical diakonia.

    Rev. Genesis Mark Langbao of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines spoke about the Baguio City Ecumenical Council (BCEC), located in the northern Philippines. Three important values underpinned the grassroots ecumenical organisation which includes the Roman Catholic Church, mainline Protestant churches, and independent evangelical churches: preserving ecumenical connections at the grassroots level, fostering a tapestry of prayerful expression, and addressing social issues and cultural and ecological preservation.

    He described the many expressions of ecumenical diakonia practiced by the local ecumenical organisation, including the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Easter Sunrise Service, Prayer Breakfast and Fellowship, frequent meetings, fellowships, and engagements, and prayer and advocacy programmes.

    Rev. Langbao further explained how the ecumenical organisation has been actively working to combat gambling, advocate for peaceful government elections, organise the Indigenous Peoples' Month celebration, and launch the Season of Creation. He also mentioned that they were able to deliver provisions to ministers during the COVID-19 outbreak and arranged a charity dinner for a fellow pastor who needed money for cancer treatment.

    Pointing out challenges, Rev. Langbao stated that while limited, ecumenical diakonia can be strengthened through collaboration. "The BCEC is an avenue to voice diakonia and work for the common good of the community," said the rector. 

    Finally, he described how the Episcopal Church supported farmers through the Episcopal Church Action for Renewal and Empowerment (E-CARE). Rev. Langbao explained how the church, in partnership with other churches and organisations, was able to transport and sell vegetables grown by farmers in the Philippines' northern region.

    Rev. Ch. John Nischal Kumar of the Church of South India (CSI) made a presentation on network and collaboration for collective influence in diaconal ministry, drawing on his church's experience. He explained how God, the earth, and mankind are all interconnected, and also spoke of the barriers that prevent connections from being established.

    Rev. Kumar specifically discussed CSI networking through the internet, including the website, magazine, Facebook, WhatsApp broadcast group, YouTube, Twitter, and e-newsletters. He acknowledged that young people play an important part in good networking operations.

    Rev. Kumar also narrated the ecclesial and social goals of networking, which go from church to community but are challenged with the tasks of overcoming barriers of differences, language, expertise, finance, and changing priorities.

    Stewardship and good governance in diaconal ministry

    Bishop Steven Lawrence of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia (ELCM) led a session that was meant to provide participants with an in-depth understanding of good governance and stewardship in ecumenical diakonia. He identified three areas of governance: leadership, service, and accountability, and characterised Christian stewardship as a way of life that stems from a person's faith in Christ and seeks meaning through relationships with neighbours.

    During a group sharing session, participants were asked to focus on the narrative from John 6:1–14, which describes Jesus' feeding of the multitudes, as a source text for discussions about Christian stewardship and good governance.

    Bishop Lawrence advocated a strategy for Asian churches to begin locally and develop local ecumenical diakonia networks to create shared responsibility in addressing local issues. He noted the ELCM's and Malaysian CARE's ministry to people living with HIV and AIDS, which resulted from a consultation conducted by the CCA. 

    The Asia Regional Training Workshop on Ecumenical Diakonia seeks to edify the churches' capacity in diakonia ministry and motivate the churches in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their local contexts. Attended by 35 participants, mostly second-line leaders of churches, the programme is jointly organised by the CCA and the World Council of Churches from 29 April to 2 May 2024.


    For more photos (Photo Gallery), please click here: Ecumenical Diakonia and Sustainable Development Day 3