Towards Assembly 2024: Rise to Life with the Africa Regional Pre-Assembly

by Cheon Young Cheol

The Africa region held its Pre-Assembly from 8-12 February in Durban, South Africa—the first Council for World Mission (CWM) region to convene ahead of the full CWM Assembly in June.

In a welcome speech to the delegates, CWM Deputy General Secretary, Dr Sudipta Singh, described Regional Pre-assemblies as platforms for member churches to come together, share their experiences, and collectively discern emerging issues that impact their communities.

The pre-assemblies also provide opportunities for new members and churches with a shared history with CWM to join in the journey of transformation – a key motif of the CWM Assembly.

Africa not homogenous

The three-day meeting was opened with a keynote address by Bishop Sidwell Mokgothu, the District Bishop of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa-Pretoria.

“The hosting of the Council for World Mission Assembly in Durban…is an opportunity to position ourselves better for the progressive mission agenda of the Council… [while] we must seek material support for mission, we must not turn the African church into a begging bowl that strips us of our dignity and agency,” stressed Bishop Sidwell in his opening address.

Bishop Sidwell also made clear his hopes for the region concerning the progression of missions in the continent—that en route to rising to life there must be, for Africa, an understanding that Africa is not a homogeneous continent and cannot, therefore, be given a generic intervention. He underlined the importance of collective prophetic discernment, collaborative partnerships, and contextual theological reflection that empower marginalized voices.

Understanding power in relation to empire

Rev. Dr Lesmore Gibson Ezekiel, Director of Programmes at All Africa Conference of Churches, shared on the concept of power through biblical and secular lenses during the second day of the meeting. His presentation, “Transforming Power,” was a critical examination of how power intersects with empire, with its various manifestations and its potential for transformation or oppression.

Ezekiel analysed the complexity of power in Africa, pointing out its transient nature and its potential for misuse when monopolised by individuals or institutions, negatively impacting humanity and creation. Drawing from the Pentecostal account in Acts 1:8, Ezekiel contrasted the worldly use of power against that which submits to the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. He emphasised the importance of wielding power that recognises God’s sovereignty as one that will witness and fulfil God’s mission against the global backdrop of poverty, racism, and militarism.

Revisioning mission in Africa

One of the sub-themes of the 2024 Assembly is “Revisioning Mission” – a topic that was explored during the Africa Region Pre-Assembly. It has become necessary to critically assess how modern 21st-century socio-economic, political, and religious realities in Africa impact the understanding and practice of ecclesial mission. There is now a clear, urgent need for a mission approach that is locally defined, contextually relevant, and capable of addressing the life-denying conditions prevalent across the continent.

During the presentation on the sub-theme, the presenters concluded by calling for a new missiological vision that emphasises justice, peace, environmental stewardship, and the creation of life-flourishing communities in alignment with CWM’s strategic focus.

Local immersion and staff farewell

The last day of the Regional Pre-Assembly presented an opportunity for local communities to interact with the global delegates via a service with the KwaMashu congregation of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. A lively, communal celebration of faith creatively put in practice discussions from the preceding two days.

The Regional Pre-Assembly also took time to bid farewell to long-serving CWM staff and community leader, Rev. Dr Sindiso Jele, who will be stepping down as CWM’s Mission Secretary for Social Justice and the Africa Region in March. Throughout his ministry that spanned more than a decade, Jele has been known for empowering communities, nurturing the faiths of many congregations, and strengthening bonds of unity within the African church. His leadership has been a testament to the power of faith in action, driving social change, and fostering a life-flourishing spirit of resilience and hope.

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