15th Christian Conference of Asia's General Assembly: spiritual renewal and ecumenical vision

Christian Conference of Asia's 15th General Assembly. (Photo: YouTube Screenshot/iris media)

The 15th General Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia is currently in session in Kottayam, Kerala. Occurring every five years, this assembly stands as the apex governing body of the Christian Conference of Asia, offering a unique opportunity for representatives from member churches, councils, and ecumenical partners to gather, celebrate faith, and reassert unity within the Asian ecumenical movement. 

This year's assembly revolves around the theme: "God, Renew Us in Your Spirit, and Restore the Creation." 

The last instance of India hosting the General Assembly was in 1981, situated in Bangalore. Kottayam, the present venue, boasts a rich tapestry of religious diversity and holds historical significance as a crucial centre for St. Thomas Christians in India. The city resonates with the legacy of St. Thomas the Apostle, who is believed to have visited Kerala in 52 CE, establishing churches. Kottayam also commemorates the transformative role played by the Church Mission Society since 1816, initiating missionary activities that promoted education among oppressed communities and catalysed a social renaissance in the region. 

Central to the assembly's proceedings is a comprehensive review of past programs and an evaluation of the CCA's work over the preceding years. Beyond reflection, the assembly becomes a crucible for articulating general directions and fostering a shared vision for the future mission and programs of the Christian Conference of Asia. 

A pivotal component of the General Assembly is the 'Churcha' (discussion) sessions, providing a platform for meaningful conversations on theological, social, and geopolitical issues. Delegates selected from fifteen topics, including Responsible Stewardship, Eco-Spirituality, Climate Crisis, Eco-anxiety, and Indigenous People's issues, engaging in expert-facilitated discussions. These 'Churcha' sessions, hosted at three institutions in Kottayam, will yield targeted recommendations for ecumenical action. 

The assembly will also conduct elections for the leadership of the CCA for the upcoming years during its business session, including the Moderator, Vice Moderator, Treasurer, and 17 members of the Executive Committee. 

Noteworthy in this assembly is the participation of Rev. Prof. Dr. Jerry Pillay, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), who delivered the inaugural address and led a special "Lighting the Lamp" ceremony. 

In his keynote address, Dr. Pillay addressed global crises, advocating for a holistic and transformative response. He emphasised that a comprehensive approach is necessary to overcome political and societal impediments and address existential challenges threatening life on Earth. 

Underlining the role of churches, Pillay called for action on the climate crisis and discussed human responsibilities in stewardship. He concluded by asserting the role of faith in protesting against inevitabilities and contributing to the restoration of creation. 

"Faith is a protest against apparent inevitabilities and the restoration of creation," Pillay asserted, highlighting the human role in this restoration. 

He will further contribute to the assembly by presenting a thematic address during a plenary session, participating in various assembly sessions, including one focused on "Dwelling in Harmony with Creation," and engaging with member churches of the WCC. Additionally, Dr. Pillay will meet with 100 participants of the Asian Ecumenical Youth Assembly at Vijayapuram Diocese Conference Centre.