World Council of Churches - Update
Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 email@example.com For immediate release: 20 November 2006
Kobia calls for poverty eradication, common witness in a globalized, deeply divided world
Free photos available, see below
"Increased power must always signify increased accountability and increased responsibility," said World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in reference to what he identified as the "challenges that come with the growing integration of the Chinese economy into the so-called world market, and the new role China assumes as a nation in global politics".
In a public lecture at the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary on 17 November, the third day of the WCC delegation's visit to China, Kobia addressed the issue of "Ecumenism in the 21st century, common witness in a globalized, but deeply divided world".
"We are living in an increasingly globalized world," Kobia said, "but this very fact has even further exposed and accentuated the still-existing divisions within humankind and our misuse of the gifts of creation. That kind of world needs healing."
Acknowledging the reduction of poverty in China from 64% of the population in 1981 to only 17% by 2001, Kobia said he was "impressed by the way in which China eradicates poverty," and wondered "how this example could be replicated in the countries whose efforts are less successful". But he also asked to what extent China is "interested in eradication of global poverty just as it is interested in eradicating domestic poverty?"
"Could churches in China raise the issue of poverty eradication both within China and with regard to China's role in global trade?" Kobia challenged.
Taking the example of Africa, the WCC general secretary said that many Africans were "keen * that China's increasing economic involvement with Africa should avoid the pitfalls that have characterized that continent's relationships with the economies of the West". "How," he asked, "can China deal with Africa in a different way that will lead to a genuine eradication of poverty on that continent?"
Referring to WCC work on poverty, wealth and ecology, Kobia said that people need to ask "where and when is there enough of economic growth and accumulation of wealth?" and suggested that "the Chinese people should be asking this question now, even at this point of their country's economic growth".
"An ethics of wealth and poverty is not strange territory," Kobia said in his closing remarks. "It belongs within the domain of biblical and theological studies. Because Nanjing Union Seminary is ... known far beyond China for the quality of the theological education offered, faculty and students carry the burden of history and have the responsibility to ask these kinds of questions. The WCC believes you have an important contribution to make to the ecumenical movement in this regard, and would be willing to accompany you in studying these issues."
Following his formal remarks, Kobia engaged in a lively exchange with students on the role of evangelism in the ecumenical movement.
Earlier, Rev. Dr Tyrone Pitts, general secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention USA, and a member of the WCC's executive committee, in a chapel meditation suggested that "the challenge for us, today, is to be living water in a dying world, to seek unity in the midst of diversity* Because Jesus, the living water, lives - we can face tomorrow and provide living water to a dying world."
Amity Foundation's pioneering work
On the same day, the WCC delegation was received by leaders of the Jiangsu Provincial Council of Churches and Three-Self Patriotic Movement as well as by the faculty and students of the Jiangsu Provincial Bible School. Here, the ecumenical visitors heard that providing sufficient church workers for some 3,700 congregations is the greatest need in this province.
The delegation was moved by evidence of the impressive development of Amity Foundation's pioneering work, begun in 1985 by Bishop K. H. Ting and other Christian leaders. Focusing their efforts on empowering people-center ed, sustainable development through the ecumenical sharing of resources, Amity makes Christian involvement and participation in meeting the needs of society more widely known in China.
"We believe in what you do," Kobia said in response to a spirited briefing on the work of the foundation. "You have been a very effective instrument in helping churches in China see that what is preached is translated into the real lives of people."
At the request of Amity general secretary Mr Qiu Zhonghui and associate general secretary Mr Zhangliwei, staff members shared "best practice" stories of the impact of the foundation's work in the key areas of education, rural development, medical and health care, social welfare, and gender development.
"Our social development is lagging behind the economic growth of China. We always see ourselves as a bridge between church and society," Zhangliwei explained. "We are working with church leaders to get volunteers working outside the walls of the churches," he added.
On 18 November, their final day in Nanjing, the members of the delegation visited the Amity Printing Press, a joint venture between the Amity Foundation and the United Bible Societies that began in 1986. Since then, 42 million Bibles have been printed in Chinese.
Giving priority to printing Bibles, hymnals and other Christian literature for China, the Amity print house supplies more than 50,000 congregations through 65 distribution centres around the country. Amity has also produced Bibles in Chinese Braille and a number of minority languages. More than eight million copies of the Bible have also been exported to more than 30 different countries and regions.
The final visit in Nanjing was to the building site of the new Nanjing Union Theological Seminary in the centre of the Jiangning Science and Technology Zone. Located on approximately 33.5 acres (13.5 hectares), the new premises will accommodate 500 students and are due to open in September 2007.
The full text of Samuel Kobia's lecture at Nanjing Union Theological Seminary is available at: http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?id=2668
For additional information about the visit see also: http://www2.wcc-coe.org/pressreleasesen.nsf/index/pu-06-14.html http://www2.wcc-coe.org/pressreleasesen.nsf/index/pu-06-13.html http://www2.wcc-coe.org/pressreleasesen.nsf/index/pu-06-11.html http://www2.wcc-coe.org/pressreleasesen.nsf/index/pr-06-45.html
Free high-resolution photos are available at:
http://www.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/images/wcc-main/news/autumn2006/China04. jpg http://www.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/images/wcc-main/news/autumn2006/China03. jpg http://www.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/images/wcc-main/news/autumn2006/China02. jpg http://www.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/images/wcc-main/news/autumn2006/China01. jpg
A more detailed visit programme outline is available at: http://wcc-coe.org/wcc/press_corner/chinavisit-06.html
This material may be reprinted freely.
Additional information: Juan Michel, +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 firstname.lastname@example.org
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The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 348 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.