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The Ephesian Moment: Crossing Divides Toward Christlikeness

August 6, 2010

Global planning team gathered around “Reconciliation” sculpture at Duke

“The very height of Christ’s full stature is reached only by the coming together of the different cultural entities into the body of Christ. Only ‘together,’ not on our own, can we reach his full stature” — Andrew Walls in “The Ephesian Moment

One dominant narrative about the church today is intense polarizations.  It’s a true story, but not the full story.  I also increasingly see an unprecedented time of beloved communities interrupting great divides.

I see it when I walk into a Christian Community Development Association conference — arguably the most interracial, socioeconomically-mixed setting in America.

I see it in east Africa every January with Christians whose diverse tribes, denominations, and nations may be at odds yet gather as a movement of hope amidst poverty, disease, and violence.

I saw it at a meeting at Duke last week, with ten leaders here from across the world.

One was from the World Council of Churches; another the World Evangelical Alliance.  One was once kidnapped by geurrilla forces in Columbia; another held by rebels in Sudan.  One works across the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; another across America’s ethnic and racial divides.

Several of us shared an extraordinary experience of 47 scattered, global strangers from places of deep conflict becoming companions at the 2004 Lausanne Thailand Forum.  Some of us even washed one another’s feet that week—mainline, evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox; male and female; Tutsi and Hutu; white, black, and Asian.

In October we are all attending the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.  4,000 people will gather, and we are planning a “common reconciliation journey” for about fifty participants building on gifts we have seen and experienced:

A New Community of restless Christians crossing divides to seek something better, who are finding each other…

Compelling Convictions expressed in “Reconciliation as the Mission of God,”a paper being distributed to churches across the world in six languages.  Most recently the Middle East Council of Churches endorsed and is distributing an Arabic translation …

A Compelling Mission: Christians scattered across the world working for peace who have told us they feel alone and yearn to work together …

The message of Ephesians, contends missiologist Andrew Walls, is this:  “Only ‘together,’ not on our own, can we reach [Christ’s] full stature.”  Walls has said we are at a crossroads in Christian history, an “Ephesian moment” of unique possibilities to grow into the full stature of Christ—or to shrivel up.

There are many fresh signs of new space opening up which invite us to enter a new place of risk:  to lose certain things for the sake of better things, to let go of old wine and welcome the new.  Much is at stake:  God offers riches of life and witness which can only come — only — through a new social life of deep cross-cultural communion.

Who’s in the picture above:  (back row, left) Grace Morillo, Columbia, IFES; John Baxter-Brown, WCC consultant for evangelism; Lisa Loden, Israel; Bill Lowrey, World Vision director of peacebuilding; Chris Rice; Sam Barkat, Institute for Collaborative Engagement; Paula Fuller, Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, VP for multi-ethnic ministry.  (front row, left) Rosalee Ewell, Brazil, Lausanne Theology Working Group; Steve Tollestrup, Tear Fund New Zealand, WEA Peace and Reconciliation Initiative; Stephanie Wheatley, Duke Center (not pictured:  Celestin Musekura, Rwanda, ALARM)

About the Author: Chris Rice is co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School.  He is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He writes regularly at the blog Reconcilers.

Last 5 posts on the Reconcilers Blog:

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