Asia and Africa may become the centre of gravity for 21st century Christianity, says World Council of Churches general secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia, who has challenged Philippine church leaders to prepare for this shift.
"Christianity is declining in Europe but growing in Asia and Africa," Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya, told bishops and other church leaders on 19 November in Manila. He said this situation raised at least two questions: "What kind of Christianity can we have in the future?" and, "Will the churches from Asia and Africa re-evangelise Europe?"
The WCC leader said that church buildings in Europe were being sold to Muslims, who were converting them into mosques, and to business people, who were transforming the churches into hotels, restaurants and other commercial centres.
On the other hand, Filipino churches had begun to spread their reach overseas as they sought to minister to legions of Filipinos seeking overseas jobs, said the WCC general secretzry.
Kobia and a WCC team are on an 18-21 November visit to this predominantly Roman Catholic Southeast Asian nation of 86 million people. The WCC groups 347 churches, principally from Anglican, Protestant and Orthodox traditions. He was speaking to the leaders of the member churches of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, which groups mainly Protestant and Anglican denominations.
During the meeting, the Rev. Joel del Rosario of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines reported how his denomination is working with Catholic priests to help address the concerns of overseas Filipino workers. "One big challenge is to help ensure that the earnings of overseas Filipino workers are not fleeced by commercial and government banks. So, we are contemplating establishing an international bank for overseas workers," said Del Rosario.
"At the same time, we have to address the continuing concern for the spirituality of our overseas workers," he added, citing the psychological effects of separation, with which, he said, both the worker and his or her family have to live.
There are reportedly about 10 million overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East, Hong Kong, Europe, the United States, Canada and other places around the world, not including undocumented migrants. This makes Filipinos the third largest group of migrant workers worldwide, after Indians and Indonesians. Other NCCP members, such as the United Methodist Church in the Philippines, the Salvation Army, and the Philippine Independent Church, have also begun responding to the needs of overseas migrant workers.
"The ministry to migrant workers is really a big challenge because we lack priests, especially trained clergy, to minister to our migrant workers," said Bishop Godofredo David of the Philippine Independent Church.
While NCCP members are expanding their reach overseas, churches that do not belong to the council are reported to be more advanced in extending their churches abroad.
Pentecostal and charismatic fellowships have been sending Filipino missionaries overseas to places such as the United States and Europe since the 1990s, Pastor Octavio Muncada of the Good News Fellowship told Ecumenical News International.
Ecumenical News International
Photo : WORLD NEWS