Members’ Mission Forum (Europe Region) discusses life-flourishing themes

by CWM Communications Team

28 delegates from five CWM Europe member churches and ecumenical partners gathered from 20-22 April 2023 for the Members’ Mission Forum (Europe) themed “Break down the Walls of Division” (Ephesians 2:14) held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The MMF focused on the Council for World Mission’s life flourishing themes and discussed The Onesimus Project (TOP).

Hosted by the Protestant Theological University (PThU), the MMF heard from Prof. Annette Merz and Dr. Martijn Stoutjesdijk, who delivered the keynote address about a major international research project on legacies of slavery carried out by researchers from several universities and funded by the Dutch government. CWM General Secretary, Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, shared information about The Onesimus Project with member churches, ecumenical partners and scholars.

Describing the two faces of the London Missionary Society, Dr Keum said, “It is indeed true that some of the missionaries commissioned by LMS were part of and active collaborators of the slavery system. On the other hand, we need to emphasise the fact that many of the LMS missionaries fought against the systems of slavery during the colonial era. The Onesimus Project is not only about reparations and apologies but also about empowerment, education and transformation”.

During an exposure visit to ‘sites of memory’, participants sailed on the canals of Amsterdam learning about the houses, warehouses, offices and docks implicated in the legacies of slavery in Amsterdam. Jennifer Tosch, a researcher of ‘sites of memory’, told participants that slavery as a system was legalised out of Amsterdam and these ‘sites of memory’ offer a lesser-known Dutch history alongside, and part of the ‘Golden Age’ narrative.

Over the first two days, member church delegates discussed common concerns such as worry over church buildings and decline in numbers, yet they were able to encourage one another through inspirational stories of growth and creativity in the life of their churches.

In addition, member churches and ecumenical partners had an opportunity to explore CWM’s life flourishing themes. Participants visited a pioneering ministry in a poor neighbourhood in Betondorp, Amsterdam. This was a church plant started by Rev. Margrietha Reinders for the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN). Meeting in a community centre, she told participants, “Welcome to the concrete village flourishing!”

While it would be easy to be depressed by the social issues in the neighbourhood – drug use, alcohol abuse, domestic violence – and the lack of a Christian presence, Rev. Reinders pioneering ministry began in the local pub, “because that is where the people meet. I was very scared and did not know what to expect when I first sat in the pub. But people came to speak to me, share with me and pray with me”.

CWM Mission Secretary – Europe Region Rev. Dr Graham McGeoch also led a workshop on the CWM life flourishing themes, where member church representatives and ecumenical partners affirmed the CWM themes as reflective of the mission and service of the churches and CWM. Life flourishing ecology, life flourishing society and life flourishing spiritualities were of particular interest to the Europe churches. Member churches affirmed the need to continue to work together in local and global contexts through CWM.


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