Representatives of different Christian traditions will analyze the challenges to mission in secularized contexts during a seminar 22-26 February in Hungary.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) is offering the event as a joint effort with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Evangelisches Missionswerk and Council for Work Mission-Europe.
The seminar is coordinated by Dr Marina Behera, professor of Missiology for the Ecumenical Institute; Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, director for the WCC Commission on Mission and Evangelism; and Rev. Dr Hielke Wolters, associate general secretary for WCC Unity, Mission and Ecumenical Relations.
“We are gathering as a response to developments and questions in several European churches,” explained Wolters. “These churches see a decline of membership and wonder how we can share the Christian faith in such a way that it is relevant for people living and working in secular contexts. There is no easy answer and many churches have already explored new ways of engagement in their societies. The purpose of the seminar is to share these experiences and reflect together on ways forward.”
A shared ecumenical challenge
WCC’s new mission statement Together Towards Life — presented to the WCC 10th assembly at Busan, Korea, in 2013 — offers a new perspective on the situation and missionary challenges of churches in secularized societies. For many churches, especially in Europe and North America, this is a pressing and vital issue. It is also a shared ecumenical challenge for all member churches of the WCC.
“There is a great interest in mission in secular contexts among the member churches of the WCC,” said Wolters. “The leadership of these churches is fully aware of the urgent need to find new approaches. They see that their membership is aging and they struggle with reaching out to young people. So, any support they can get from the ecumenical movement and any space the ecumenical movement offers for joint reflection and action is very much welcomed.”
One of the main challenges of mission in secular contexts is that a sensitivity for religious language is missing, at the individual as well as at the collective level, explained Wolters. “Speaking about God, referring to salvation, does not automatically lead to a fruitful conversation. It is necessary to understand the fundamental questions which secularized people have, for instance, about the dilemmas they are struggling with or their doubts about the meaning of life. The churches need to develop a new language and also new approaches to the sharing of life experiences if they want to convey in a convincing way the Christian message of faith, hope and love.”