Council for World Mission (CWM)’s Pacific Members’ Mission Forum (MMF) themed “Radical Discipleship and Transformative Spirituality” was held 12-14 April 2023 in Nadi, Fiji, with inaugural worship led by Rev Dr Amelia Koh-Butler, CWM Mission Secretary for Education, Formation and Empowerment.
Acknowledging the land on which the Members were meeting, member church delegates, guest speakers, and staff sang in Fijian and shared in splashing of water as a symbol of rising to life through baptism. Re-envisioning a radical Christian discipleship must take into account the role of Christianity in colonising violence and occupation, and requires Christ’s redemption of such a spirit and practice in discipleship.
During the keynote address by Rev Dr Upolu Vaai, Principal of Pacific Theological College (PTC), he noted that geopolitical and economic labels impact their missional relationships, and encouraged participants to consider ways in which churches might be complicit with economic colonisers.
Rev. Dr Vaai also referred to a Fijian proverb “Let the small trees grow far from the shadows of big trees so they can have life” in discussing strategies for leadership development. This later prompted useful conversations entailing the need for connection with communities of identity and the need for liberation to allow people to blossom into their own expressions of leadership.
The other event highlights included an informal networking and relationship building for women, and an informal youth members’ meeting to discuss a future gathering and their priorities. In addition, the participants heard from Rev. Mark Meatcher and Rev. Melanie Smith, two CWM Partners-in-Mission serving in PTC.
The next two days involved context reading and reflections from member churches where they gave presentations on issues in their contexts, partnerships they were part of and their emerging priorities. Climate change and the resultant food shortage, as well as its impact on plans and programmes was a common concern raised by all the churches. Eco-crisis related pastoral care is now required for cumulative traumas arising from the aftermath of post-cyclone flooding.
Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS) delegates spoke about their missional outreach and engagement with two prisons in Samoa; Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa (CCCAS) representatives shared about their collaboration with the government and mission partners to address issues of economic justice, families and drugs, and gender equality in ministry.
Congregational Union of New Zealand (CUNZ) and Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) conveyed the common need to train lay leaders for increased responsibilities, as pandemic lockdowns, membership reduction and fewer leaders meant that full-time ministry placements were replaced by part-time ministry placements, which are often difficult to fill.
Missional stories continued to be shared by Pacific member churches’ delegates the next day after Rev. Dr Cliff Bird’s Bible study on radical discipleship and CWM Deputy General Secretary – Programmes Dr Sudipta Singh’s introduction on CWM’s New Programmatic Structure. Some of the conversations gathered from the member churches will be shared in the upcoming CWM Annual Members Meeting (AMM).