On May 10-11, the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Athens officially began. During the opening session, Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, His Beatitude Christodoulos and World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia along with the other plenary speakers addressed the 700 participants in accordance to the objective of the conference: "To empower participants to continue their call to be in mission together and to work towards reconcilation and healing in Chrsit in God's world today."
The head of the (Orthodox) Church of Greece spoke on the need for dialogues and interactions among participants to built ecumenicalism and for "new articulation of Christian identity and mission in order to face contemporary challenges" without compromising our faith.
Among the new realities challenging churches today, Christodoulos addressed the growing effects of globalization,
"When peoples are more and more impoverished while the rich are becoming richer" while economic and political decisions are presented as "historically unavoidable," the church as to be "on the side of peace, the poor, the marginalized, and the powerless," he affirmed.
Meanwhile, the WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia said that it is time for confession , repentance and a deep conversion in thinking and attitudes.
"Mission carries a heavy historical baggage, having playing a part in fostering division and conflict - between people, and even between families of churches". "So perhaps the time has come for confession, and repentance," he suggested.
Kobia also stated the challenges that the ecumenical movement would have to confront when the "new manifestation of the Spirit" through often providing healing, joy and comfort is revealed, which may cause possible tension and disunity among churches. And that it would need to avoid becoming detached from the truth.
Two complementary presentations were given by Dr. Kirsteen Kim from UK, who is more theological for the Presbyterian lecturer, and Dr. Wonsuk Ma from South Korea, who is more narrative for the Pentecostal missionary. While Kim focus on the question of discernment of the Holy Spirit's preesence and action, Ma mainly presented Pentecostal experiences through the history of the past 100 years.
Kim reminded participants that "the claim that the Spirit is with us is not ours to make; it is for our neighhbours to recognize". She said that this discernment is "a matter for ecumencial debate, and it requires wide horizons and humility".
Delegates to the World Council of Churches CWME conference from Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches or mission bodies are called to this humility, so as to recognize the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in all of them.
Following the opening sessions, the participants are free to participate in seveal elements of the Mission Conference programme, which includes "Home groups", daily plenaries, a "synaxeis", and liturgical events. (Definition of these terms)
For more information, please refer to the WCC website.