Report on All Africa Conference of Churches’ 9th General Assembly.
Dates: 7th – 12th December 2008
Venue: Joachim Chissano International Conference Centre, Maputo, Mozambique.
The All Africa Conference of Churches’ General Assembly was held in the context of a crumbling World economy, politically polarized environment in many African States and a general decline of moral values. The theme of the Assembly was: “Africa, step up in faith”. From the thrust of the theme one could sense that the African Christian family was eager to assert her authority in a continent characterized by tension, pain and bloodshed.
The worship sessions were interesting, contextual and relevant to the current challenges that stare at the Church. They were quite fulfilling regarding to prophetic witness and social service. The 9th General Assembly’s constituting service resounded with a desire for the renewal and relevancy: Jesus restores life to those whom he resurrects;…in Jesus the power of death is defeated.” Bishop Dr Nyansako-ni-Nku further argued that “Jesus wants to set people free from fear, free from failure and free from death.” In general, the daily sermons revealed that:
There is a deep desire on the part of the Church to get involved on matters of faith and social services.
There is an urgent need to address aspects of stigma directed to those who live with the HIV AIDs Virus.
The Church must defend the rights of the poor, women and children through the proclamation and action.
The Church has to protect God’s beautiful creation by protecting our ecology from deforestation.
God wants His people to enjoy democracy and good governance and expects the secular leadership to be servants and not masters to the citizens that elect them to political offices.
The varied workshops that ran alongside the plenary sessions were practical, relevant and educative. In these workshops real theological reflection took place. Although the ITRT did nto have its own specific workshops. It was nevertheless critical for the institution to actively participate in these workshops since we were able to openly participate in many workshops thereby learning a lot in addition to selling our image and vision with a larger population. Some of the workshops like; Human Rights workshop, Lobbying and Advocacy, HIV and AIDS to name but a few were sources of fruitful engagement/dialogue and theological reflection. The workshops gave the clergy band laity a platform for sincere and serious dialogue on practical challenges to faith. It is in these workshops that issues of the Church’s role in promoting good governance and respect of people’s rights were fully discussed before the recommendations were made to the plenary for resolutions.
The exhibition booths were a delight to the delegates. These stalls became centres for dialogue and theological reflection. The materials on display were educative, informative and inspiring. In many of the stalls a summation of the social and political responsibility of the Church and its service arms was well spelt out. Participants had a chance to visit the stalls quite frequently. The ITRT booth was a hive of activity as delegates were keen to know more about the institute, its programs, whether it was a regional initiative or a localized institute. Another key aspect about the institute related to our relationship with the varied Church bodies and denominations. It was noted that the relationship between the institute and the various Church groupings was sound. On the ecumenical thrust of the institute it was also noted that the institute has the capacity to be regional or even continental centre for theological reflection. The institute was encouraged to undertake a regional advocacy outreach as a way of mobilizing national Christian Councils towards appreciating genuine theological reflection within their own localities.
Gender Audit Launch and Celebrating the Universal Declaration on Human Rights:
These events were one of the highlights of the General Assembly’s keen interests to tackle issues of relevancy and honest witness. It was noted that “there should be respect of persons regardless of their age and gender.” The gender audit launch affirmed the AACC’s desire to keep abreast with the challenges of our times. It was noted that the struggle of gender balance still continues many years after the liberation struggle. The clergy were challenged to use their pulpits to fight for those of God’s children who are still oppressed because of their gender.
A call for peace and good governance:
As the 9th Assembly applied its mind on the crises/states in Africa, the political and economic crises in Zimbabwe took centre stage. At the end of a long and honest dialogue on the Zimbabwean crisis the General Assembly issued a very strong pastoral statement which condemned the political leadership in Zimbabwe as well as the failure of the regional body to help solve the political impasse which has led to the manifold crises. The AACC also noted with concern the scandalous wars in the Great Lakes region, Sudan and Somalia.
For ITRT the AACC 9th General Assembly was a glorious opportunity of growth and meeting friends, making new friends and lobbying for a sound platform of theological reflection on all matters that affect the goodness of the created order.