Invitations to nominate participants to the next Conference on World Mission and Evangelism have been sent out to World Council of Churches (WCC) member churches and organizations and networks affiliated with the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME). The conference will take place in Athens, Greece, 12-19 May 2005.
Under the title Come Holy Spirit, heal and reconcile, the conference theme is: "Called in Christ to be reconciling and healing communities". In their invitation, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser and CWME moderator Rev. Ruth Bottoms stated that churches' and Christians' mission is "to form healing communities", and "to create and multiply such safe spaces, hospitable to those who are stigmatized, lost, searching for meaning or community, and to journey with victims of violence and sin towards reconciliation and justice".
Rev. Jacques Matthey, executive secretary in the WCC Mission and Ecumenical Formation team, states that the 2005 world conference might well be "the most universal Christian mission gathering envisaged at the beginning of this century in terms of denominations and cultures represented." "Other conferences are bigger with regard to numbers, " he says, "but I don't know of any other meeting calling together such a variety of Christians struggling with healing and reconciliation in mission."
In addition to delegates from mission or church councils affiliated with CWME, participants also include representatives of WCC member churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and wider mission networks, in particular evangelical and Pentecostal/charismatic churches and traditions. The conference will have about 500 official participants; however, the letter invites wide participation at the church and community level in the preparatory reflection on mission. Churches, mission and church councils will submit their nominations for participants through 2003, with final approval by the WCC Central or Executive Committee to ensure balanced participation.
The Church of Greece is hosting the conference, the first WCC world mission and evangelism conference to be held in an Orthodox-majority country. The last such conference, focusing on gospel and cultures, was held in 1996 in Salvador da Bahía, Brazil. The tradition of world mission and evangelism conferences goes back to a 1910 world mission conference in Edinburgh, held under the auspices of the International Missionary Council (IMC). The IMC merged with the WCC in 1961.