Message of Global Christian Forum recognizes brokenness, points to healing only in Christ

By Jim Olang and Timothy Goropevsek |
Group photo of the Global Christian Forum's fourth global gathering in Accra, Ghana.
Group photo of the Global Christian Forum's fourth global gathering in Accra, Ghana. | Comfort Woode/Global Christian Forum

As the Global Christian Forum (GCF) concluded in Ghana this past week, the 250 participants from more than 60 countries and all streams of Christianity sent a message reflecting on their joint experience in Accra, Ghana. They had met from April 16-19 for the fourth GCF global gathering, with part of the program including a day trip to slave castles in Cape Coast where they offered a special service of lamentation.

Commemorating its 25th anniversary this year, the GCF message first highlighted the role the forum has played over the years, saying, “Throughout its existence, the GCF has been a unique space for all major streams of Christianity to be together for encounter and prayer. It is the broadest expression of Christian faith and one that reflects the movement of the majority of churches from the global north to the global south.”

Referring to the theme So That the World May Know, the message said, “We want the world to know and to do so we must live the gospel in unity.”

“The charism of the Global Christian Forum is the sharing of faith stories. These personal stories act as bridges that help us foster mutual respect and embrace diversity by recognising Christ in the other. They help us move beyond a posture of ‘us’ and ‘them.’”

In an interview with Christian Daily International preceding the event, GCF Secretary Rev. Dr. Casely Essamuah acknowledged the various divisions among the more than 45,000 denominations and recognized that there are differences and challenges, historically and today. Yet, GCF’s approach of sharing stories allows conversations to move from the institutional to the personal, which changes the attitudes in people’s hearts and brings them closer together.

“As we begin to share those stories, there are bridges that we are able to cross and walls that we are able to tear down just because we realized that there's a lot of similarity,” he said, adding that “there's a lot that we work with as a result of our ethnicities, as a result of our denominations, as a result of our nations. But when you focus on who you are in Christ and what Christ has done for you, all of sudden you look at that person who is wearing a robe that you're not familiar with and say, oh my goodness, that's a brother!”

During the global gathering, participants also visited the slave castles in Cape Coast where African slaves were shipped to the West, and offered a lamentation service.

Cape Coast visit
GCF participants visited the dungeons underneath the slave castle at Cape Coast where slaves were kept as they waited for ships to take them to the West. | Comfort Woode/Global Christian Forum

The message reiterated some of the reflections, saying “During our time together in Ghana, we walked in the footsteps, on the sweat and blood, of millions of enslaved, dehumanised African men, women, and children at the Cape Coast Castle. We stood in the dark, stifling dungeons, spaces made more horrifying by the presence of a church directly above. Those above invoked blessings for the ships that would forcibly take the captives to the Americas, Caribbean, and Europe as objects of lucrative trade.”

“Sadly, as we continued to share amongst ourselves, we heard stories of continuing dehumanisation across the world today. Where human beings are oppressed and marginalised, there is a failure to recognise the image and likeness of God in one another,” the message continued.

That the historical injustice continues to impact people today was highlighted by Rev. Merlyn Hyde Riley, Vice Moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and General Secretary of Jamaica Baptist Union. Preaching at Wesley Cathedral, she echoed Psalm 137 lamenting that, “Many of us in the African diaspora still chant, ‘By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. For the wicked carried us away to captivity, required from us a song. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’”

And while the issue of slavery might feel like history from past centuries for many, Rev. Dr. Richard Howell from the Evangelical Church of God in India, shared in his reflection after the visit that the discrimination on the basis of skin colour and gender remain prevalent. One example is his home country India where the caste system still exists.

Pointing to Jesus Christ as the only hope for healing, the GCF message then continued, “As the broken – and yet reconciling - Body of Christ, we can clearly hear the voice of the Shepherd who heals all wounds. Through the testimonies of pain and ever-enduring hope, God is speaking, calling us to deeper conversion and unity.”

And it concluded by referring to the Trinity, saying, “In lamentation, may our hearts be broken by that which breaks God’s heart. In Christ, may we experience healing and reconciliation. And in the Holy Spirit, may we be sent out with boldness and humility, to make God’s transforming Spirit of forgiveness, justice, healing, restoration, grace, and salvation known.”