Recapping the CWM Assembly 2024

by Cheon Young Cheol

The curtains fell on the Council for World Mission (CWM) Assembly 2024 on 20 June in Durban, South Africa, drawing to a close an event that was eight years in the making. The last time CWM met as a collective body was in 2016 at Jeju Island, South Korea. Then the physical version of the quadrennial event was put on hiatus with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Assembly was held online instead.

The Assembly brings together the CWM family of 32 member churches in solidarity to forge friendships and partnerships, and to share experiences and stories.

Youth and Womens Pre-Assemblies

Prior to the opening of the Assembly, youth and women delegates convened for pre-assemblies, trading regional stories and challenges.

The pre-assemblies on 12-13 June allowed participants to worship and pray for their respective regions as both groups culminated their discussions and collective discernments into statements presented during the Assembly.

Opening service

Held at Grace Family Church, the opening service began with a colourful and lively procession of the delegates from the Radisson Blu hotel to the church.

Outgoing CWM Moderator Rt Rev. Lydia Neshangwe delivered a sermon on how the Holy Spirit is poured out on everyone—children, old people, men, women, and even those who seem unworthy to society—echoing the Assembly’s theme of rising to life and being transformed together.

 Keynote address

Prof. Puleng Lenka-Bula, a trained feminist ethicist with a Ph.D. in Social Ethics, kicked off the Assembly with a reflection on how hope and faith can lead to transformative action. Lenka-Bula, of Lesotho and South African descent, is also the first woman Principal and Vice-Chancellor at the University of South Africa and the third Black Vice-Chancellor since the advent of democracy in 1994.

She expressed grave concern over the deification of money and the rise of fundamentalism in the world while also identifying ecological devastation as another serious challenge.

Her address was ultimately a clarion call for missional imagination, action and, most of all, hope.

“Hope is based on the promise of God to all humanity, and it is based on the promise of salvation to all,” she said. “In this sense, hope is the relationship to the faith that can be articulated.”

General Secretary address

Even as the Assembly saw the gathering of more than 250 global delegates united by a biblical desire and will to see the world rise to life and be collectively transformed, CWM General Secretary Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum maintained that the world is still deeply wounded and more can still be done.

“How can we spread the news that the power of God’s love is far superior to that of the necropolitics of the Empire, the power of life before death?” he asked. “Despite all these challenges, the CWM community has displayed great resilience and commitment to resisting life-denying forces and fostering life-flourishing communities.”

Keum also cited CWM’s values of justice in relationships, mutuality, equality, and interdependence as guiding principles for fostering unity.

Amidst widespread injustice, exploitation, and oppression, it is important for God’s people to rise up together, he urged.

“We need to recognise the power of people’s movements and the strength that comes from joining together in the struggle against injustice and inequality,”

Keum also celebrated the trend that predicts a global shift of Christianity from the global north to the south, and chiefly to Africa which by the year 2050 will be home to more than 40% of Christians in the world.

Keum reaffirmed CWM’s goal to shift the center of ecumenism from being Euro-centric to a global endeavour.

Sub-theme presentations and workshops

Addressing the sub-themes of the Assembly: “Transforming Power,” “Revisioning Mission,” and “Building Life-Flourishing Communities” were five speakers, both clergy and laity.

Transforming Power

Prof. Verene Shepherd, Professor Emerita of History and Gender Studies at The University of the West Indies, Jamaica and Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, surmised that “Transforming Power” is vital to pursuing equality.

She emphasised and spoke on transformative education being the lynchpin that helps students become sustainable, diverse, conscientious global citizens with the ability to problem-solve complex issues for a more equitable and viable world.

Though transformative education, “The University of the West Indies, like many other universities, has managed to demonstrate the importance of a social justice agenda,” said Shepherd.

“The younger generation of scholars have carried on the tradition of research, introducing new topics but always with the goal of keeping a more liberated self in mind,” she said.

Revisioning Mission

Rev. Dr Luma Upolu Vaai, Principal and Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Pacific Theological College in Suva, Fiji Islands, declared that for Pasifika (Pacific), “dirt is the consciousness of the people.”

Vaai believes that to be intentionally missional is to see “dirt communities” as critical spaces for revisioning mission—because dirt theology is grounded in the life of the Trinity.

He drew an analogy to his own family life. “I grew up in a huge, extended family of about 30-plus people who all ate from the same pot,” he said. “We grew ‘in’ together. The only way to navigate that complex world was to live with our differences.”

Similarly, mission will ultimately only succeed if it acknowledges differences—but Vaai said we seem to be in a world in which we live next to each other but we cannot live with each other.

Mission needs more than a one-dimensional approach, Vaai concluded.

Building Life-Flourishing Communities

Three young women panelists from Nigeria, Palestine, and India reflected on what life is like on the ground in their communities—and how they are dealing with injustice. Their reflections put a human face on what “Building Life-Flourishing Communities” really means.

Habiba Juma, founder of Soraya—an organisation that offers mentorship, community awareness, job training, and a safe space for young women and mothers from the slums of Nairobi—shared that many of them were forced into early marriage while others were coerced into employment at an early age.

Muna Nassar a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem, shared on how she is still grappling with the situation on the ground today, where 37,000 have been killed in Gaza as a result of the ongoing military conflict.

Priyanka Samy, a Dalit feminist activist based in India, decried the caste system. She said, “The practice of caste, it is very important to note, is widely pervasive not only in South Asia, but across the globe to the South Asian diaspora,” she said. “I want you to hear this: Most often, people from the upper castes—the privileged classes—occupy influential positions in our churches across South Asia. Our churches are patriarchal and casteist institutions.”


In addition, the Assembly also hosted a series of 16 workshops where participants were challenged by various speakers who shared their experiences and stories.

CWM elects new Moderator, Treasurer, Trustees, and Board

One of the main purposes of the Assembly was the election of key appointment holders who will serve for the next quadrennium. As the previous Moderator, Treasurer, and Board of Directors step down from their positions, new candidates were chosen to fill in their offices to continue CWM’s work.

CWM appointment holders 2024 – 2028
Directors for the Council for World Mission Ltd.

Moderator: Dr Ming-Chu Lin, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
Treasurer: Mr James Ronnie Kaboke, United Church in the Solomon Islands

Rev. Chipasha Musaba, United Church of Zambia
Ms Afika Babazile Rwayi, Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa

Rev. Anthony Chung, United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
Mr Trevor Llewellyn Benn, Guyana Congregational Union

East Asia
Mr Lim Kar Hor, Gereja Presbyterian Malaysia

Rev. Dylan Rhys Parry, Union of Welsh Independents
Ms Gwen Aeron Down, Presbyterian Church Of Wales

Ms Mina Tupu Saifoloi, Congregational Christian Church in American Samoa

South Asia
Rev. Sunil Mankhin, Church of Bangladesh
Ms Zodinpuii, Presbyterian Church of India

Trustees of the Council for World Mission (UK)

Rev. Dylan Rhys Parry, Union of Welsh Independents (chair)
Ms Afika Babazile Rwayi, Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa
Mr Trevor Llewellyn Benn, Guyana Congregational Union
Ms Zodinpuii, Presbyterian Church of India
Rev. Dr Wonbin Park, Presbyterian Church of Korea (independent trustee)
Rev. Francois Pihaatae, Etaretia Porotetani Maohi (independent trustee)

Directors for the Council for World Mission Africa NPC

Rev. Kudzani Ndebele, United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (chair, independent director)
Rev. Anthony Chung, United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
Ms Gwen Aeron Down, Presbyterian Church of Wales

Closing service

A closing service full of music and a dramatic rendition of Romans 12:1-21, allowed CWM delegates and friends to end their gathering in a spirit of prayer.

Moderator-designate Dr Ming-Chu Lin offered a sermon on the Kingdom of God, which she acknowledged may seem far off in today’s world of grave challenges.

She reflected that a foundational aspect of mission is to encourage people—children of God, God’s family—to respect and honour each other. “May we continue to encourage each other,” she said.

Assembly Statement

The Assembly was closed with the drafting of a unified CWM statement. The final Assembly Statement reflected on the missiological meaning of the gathering in Durban, South Africa, under the theme “Rise to Life: Together in Transformation.”

It read, “With its struggles for emancipation and dignity, Africa provided a youthful and inspiring context for an Assembly focussed on rising to life.”

“In the face of socio-political catastrophe and environmental emergency, the Assembly heard the call to rise to life and be together in transformation,” the statement continued

The statement acknowledged that the Assembly was led by the voices and actions of young people.

The statement concluded that the unity sought by CWM was not achieved through its own efforts but the Holy Spirit who unites, and continues to inspire the spiritual commitment of the organisation.

CWM Assembly 2024 website: 

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