The third Global Gathering of the Global Christian Forum, the world's most diverse high-level leadership grouping in global Christianity has begun in Bogotá, Colombia.
An opening prayer service on April 24 included scriptures read in Arabic, Spanish and English and French; music combined the soft chants of the ecumenical Taizé and traditional Latin sounds of pan pipes, percussion and guitar.
It is the first GCF global gathering in the Americas and the first in a Spanish-speaking ntion gathering under the theme "Let mutual love continue" (Heb.13:1), from the epistle to the Hebrews.
World Council of Churches General Secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit told participants that the GCF is remarkable in building trust among participants and opening ways for new forms of cooperation.
The director of the WCC's Faith and Order Commission Rev. Odair Pedroso Mateus delivered a message from Tveit on 24 April, the opening day of the forum gathering.
Tveit said that in August 1998, before the WCC's Harare assembly a group of 28 "visionary and committed people" met at the Ecumenical Institute at Château de Bossey, near Geneva to develop a proposal for a "forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organizations".
They represented the WCC, Christian world communions, regional ecumenical organizations, national councils of churches, international ecumenical organizations, and churches that were not associated with ecumenical structures from Evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic traditions.
FELLOWSHIP IN CHRIST
"They recognized that fellowship in Christ transcends membership in a fellowship of churches such as the WCC," said Tveit.
The WCC general secretary said that the effect of the GCF has resulted in "notably improved" and more extensive relations and cooperation between church partners that had few or difficult relations before.
In his message, Tveit outlined the development of the WCC in the GCF noting, that GCF's trust building among its participants has enabled the opening of new forms of cooperation.
The WCC general secretary said that the trust had "notably improved" and there were more extensive relations and cooperation between partners that had "few or difficult relations before".
Bishop Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance, also sent his greetings to the participants of the GCG gathering.
Delivered by Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, WEA Associate Secretary General for Theological Concerns, Tendero expressed his appreciation for the GCF, describing it as "a precious gift from God to all of us at the WEA."
He reaffirmed WEA's support for its continuation into the future.
Serving a constituency of some 600 million evangelicals around the world in 129 nations, WEA is one of the founding members of the GCF and is considered one of the four "pillar organizations" together with the Vatican, the World Council of Churches and the Pentecostal World Fellowship.
The third GCF Global Gathering is taking place April 23 – 28 and it is bringing together some 250-300 church leaders reflecting the breadth and depth of world Christianity.
MEETING IN TIRANA, ALBANIA
One of the most significant recent gatherings of the GCF was held in Tirana, Albania on the topic of discrimination, persecution, and martyrdom where there were prayers and solidarity in the face of religious persecution.
There was also an expression of apologies and repentance for times when Christians of different traditions have persecuted each other.
"We saw the GCF's unique effectiveness in bringing together believers of many traditions at the powerful 2015 Tirana conference on the persecution of Christians.
"The GCF has helped us raise worldwide awareness of this crucial concern. It has enabled us to achieve consensus and collaboration on key issues while providing a platform for us to openly discuss sensitive matters, such as the current GCF process on proselytism," Tendero noted.
He acknowledged the leadership transition taking place at this year's gathering in Bogota with Rev. Larry Miller handing over the role of GCF Secretary to Rev. Casely Essamuah, a Ghanaian evangelical pastor who has served in the United States for the past 13 years.
The gathering of the Global Christian Forum represents the broadest expression world Christianity, with leaders coming from all streams of the Christian faith.
This includes churches from African Independent, Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical, holiness, independent, mega, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Protestant churches.
The search for closer understanding and joining in common challenges across the broad spectrum of Christian faith, comes at a time when global forces of division, mistrust and retreat from connection and community is occurring in across the world.
GCF Secretary, Larry Miller said the gathering will be "testimonial, relational and missional".
This will be reflected in the time given to sharing in faith discussion across traditions and inter-ecclesial groups, focussing on future common challenge together.
Participation in the conference is based on a 50:50 ratio between leaders of 'older' churches (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) and 'younger' churches (Evangelical, Pentecostal, independent).
The GCF says it as a forum is a safe space for Christian faith to be shared across traditions. It does not seek to be an organisation or to replace other ecclesial bodies. Participants are drawn together for discussion, prayer and to explore common challenges.