On his last full day in Canada, before leaving to the States for an annual conference meeting with U.S. church, Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), applauded the Canadian churches for its progression in ecumenism, Sept 3, 2004. The service, held at the Global Communion Sunday in Parkwood Presbyterian Church in Ottawa, was an extension of the theme carried throughout Kobia’s 3-day visit to Canada: “Impact on Interfaith Relations on Ecumenical Theology and Practice.”
"Greater awareness [in the last three decades] of religious plurality invited a new approach to the realities of our world. It has questioned some of our theological categories and language and put to the test the commitment of Christians to the common good of their societies," Kobia said.
Kobia outlined his understanding of ecumenism and unity: both of which are critical factors in the future of Christianity.
Ecumenism “is characterized by increased bilateral dialogue, fewer multilateral structures, the shift of Christianity from North to South and a growing hunger for spirituality,” Kobia said, according to the WCC. And “ecumenical worship is a concrete manifestation of the movement towards unity.”
In terms of religious pluralism, Kobia said Christians must reach out and share dialogue with people of different audiences. Such dialogues will hinder the efforts to polarize religious communities at an international level.
"There is a need to de-globalize situations of conflict and to analyze each one within its own context,” said Kobia. “We [Christians] are not to stand in judgement of others. We need to reassure our partners in dialogue that we are sincere and open in our wish to walk together towards the fullness of truth… as we struggle together with others in a world torn apart by rivalries and wars, social disparities and economic injustices."
At that end, Kobia comforted the Canadian ecumenical community by telling them not to be discouraged when dialogue fails to meet their highest wishes.
“The impact of dialogue in the context of conflicts may disappoint high expectations. When it is unable to quell conflict, its relevance is questioned. However, by its very nature interreligious dialogue is not an instrument to resolve problems instantly in emergency situations,” said Kobia.
Kobia will be leaving for the United States on October 4, for the upcoming U.S. Conference of Churches, during which he will give the keynote address. Prior to his leave, Kobia is set to take part in an all-day forum on dialogue in Ottowa, organized by the Canadian Council of Churches(CCC).
Throughout his visit, which began on Sept 30, the general secretary spent time with the leaders of three of the largest member churches of the WCC: the Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the United Church of Canada - and their staff members in Toronto.
Kobia also addressed an ecumenical dinner, during which he praised the CCC’s model of collaboration between “Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Roman Catholic churches and similarly the ecumenical justice coalition "Kairos", where economic, social and environmental issues are addressed and acted upon only with the full support of all denominations.”