CWM Moderator to Global Christian Forum: “Diversity is a blessing, not a curse”

by Cheon Young Cheol

Council for World Mission (CWM) Moderator Rt Rev. Lydia Neshangwe preached during the opening worship service of the Global Christian Forum Fourth Global Gathering in Accra Ridge Church, Ghana, Africa on 16 April.

The Global Christian Forum, marking its 25th anniversary this year, is an ecumenical platform where members of different churches and inter-church organisations across denominational, regional, national, ethnic, and cultural boundaries come together in dialogue over shared concerns, such as social and ethical questions, secularisation, or the challenges of minority status or persecution.

Two hundred forty participants from 60 countries gathered for the colourful and vibrant worship service, representing the sheer depth and diversity present in the global Christian community.

Neshangwe’s sermon tied in with the theme of the event, “That the World May Know.” She drew from Acts 13:1-3, which describes the fateful decision by the Holy Spirit to pair Barnabus with the mercurial new convert, Saul, on their first mission trip. The pair goes on to not only establish the early church but also shape Christianity in ways still relevant today.

This coupling, while extremely familiar to modern-day Christians, was an utterly illogical one when viewed through the eyes of the early missionaries. The two men could not be any more different from each other as one looks at their upbringing, education, worldviews, even right down to their individual conversion experiences.

Saul was everything Barnabus was not and vice versa! The pairing looked as though it was set up to fail right from the start.

“…Barnabas and Saul are incompatible, different, and divergent in their whole beings. And the bottom line is that we are all different in our confessions, traditions, contexts, and historical backgrounds,” said Neshangwe, who reminded the audience that differences amongst the ecumenical community are still present today as they were in the first century church.

Neshangwe noted, however, that differences should not be seen as stumbling blocks towards ecumenical unity but rather believers should work together despite the differences so that the world may know the fruits of the church’s labours borne out of unlikely partnerships were from God and not from man, that “the glory will not go to us, but only to God.

“Confessional diversity is a blessing, not a curse. Cultural diversity is a blessing, not a curse,” stressed Neshangwe.

In closing, Neshangwe exhorted the audience to not allow inherent differences to divide, but to harness them to grow the mission of God in both quantity and quality, as Saul and Barnabas did.

“Let us allow our irreconcilable differences to keep us humble, a quality that is absolutely necessary for God’s mission to be achieved,” encouraged Neshangwe, “Then ‘the world may know’ that opposites will not only attract, but they will attract others to Christ.”

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