July 2012

 

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‘Embracing and Embodying God’s Hospitality Today’:
A Message from the Seventh Congress of Asian Theologians


We Asian theologians—24 women and 46 men—gathered together for the seventh Congress of Asian Theologians in Seoul, Korea, from July 1 to 5, 2012, under the theme “Embracing and Embodying God’s Hospitality Today,” would like to convey the message below to the sisters and brothers in Christ, particularly in Asia, but also beyond, especially in view of the forthcoming World Council of Churches (WCC) General Assembly next year in Busan, Korea, with the theme “God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace.”

We affirm
our belief that God is the ultimate host of the whole Creation and we are the recipients and agents of God’s hospitality through Jesus Christ, churches, religions and creation.

We also affirm
that our hospitality is simply an overflowing of God’s abundant hospitality and our joyful and thankful response to it.
We speak of hospitality in a theological and moral sense, which does not assume any return or profit, and not in a commercialized and commodified sense.

We repent
that we Christians in the past—and at times even in the present—have harbored an attitude of superiority to others and have often been lacking in giving due recognition to them, even in providing hospitality, unilaterally playing the role of host.
This is particularly a painful memory in Asia where most of the churches were brought by the Western missions that often coincided with colonial projects.

We hope
that we first learn to recognize and embrace God’s hospitality through Jesus Christ, churches, religions and creation and,
secondly, commit ourselves to embody God’s hospitality in churches, between churches, among religions and in the midst of Creation.
We are aware that this may entail a prophetic role to challenge an unjust host in seeking to provide just and true hospitality, especially to the marginalized.

Through the discussions during the congress, we have also come to propose the recommendations below that have emerged.

Migration and Multicultural Society

  • In the context of migration within and from Asian countries and its by-products of victims of exploitation and violence, it is imperative that Asian Christians take a deliberate prophetic role to advocate for justice and the human dignity of all individuals.

  • Asian Christians need to acknowledge the injustices against Aboriginals and indigenous peoples in their own native lands and to embrace and embody the wisdom and experiences that indigenous people offer to the well-being of the community.

  • Asian societies and churches should embrace the multicultural realities in their lands as a God-given opportunity for hospitality and mutual transformation in congregations, workplaces and the whole community. Hospitality from the perspective of multiculturalism is not just about culture but is a way of defining what it means to be a human being.

Christian Unity

  • We call upon the Asian churches to manifest mutual hospitality toward one another by moving beyond our doctrinal differences and the practice of competitive proselytizing for the sake of better intercommunion and effective witness in this discordant world.

  • We call upon the churches to implement programs of education that include the theme of Christian unity in all levels of ecclesial existence.

  • Interreligious Relations

  • Just as a rainbow cannot be formed by one color, the whole nature of God cannot be expressed by a single religion.

  • We call upon the Asian churches to form and nurture our distinct Christian identity in ways that do not repeat the mistakes of our past practices of mission and evangelism by being the guests of our religious neighbors as well, shedding our assumption of superiority and being humble learners of their rich spiritual treasures as gifts of God’s gracious hospitality.

Peace and Conflict Resolution

  • Peace-building and conflict resolution skills have become necessary skills for today, which the Church in Asia can provide. Asian Christians can radically embrace the prophetic tradition and courageously take up the role of facilitators for peace in conflict zones in Asia, such as those involving North and South Korea and Pakistan and India.

  • Continued dialogue, engaged with respectful recognition of the other (ethnic, religious, caste, class, gender), need to be funded and pursued persistently.

  • A critical re-reading of the Bible is necessary to ground the Asian Christians’ affirmation of a just and holistic society.

Ecological Justice

  • Asian churches should publicly oppose and seek alternatives to the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons and power plants, especially after the exposure of the catastrophic damage to nature and human life in the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

  • Asian Christians should become aware of the collusion of government, business and the nuclear industry to hide the truth of the real dangers and costs of using nuclear power.

  • Churches in Asia should take responsibility to work for ecological justice by participating in people’s movements (e.g., fisherfolk, farmers, etc.) and give attention to the peoples of Oceania who are in danger of becoming climate refugees due to the drastic impacts of global warming.

  • Seminaries in Asia need to include courses in environmental theology and ecological justice in the required curriculum with field exposures as a vital component in order to equip churches with leaders who understand the responsibility of humans as part of the web of Creation.

Gender

  • Asian churches need to acknowledge the existence of diverse sexual orientations (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) among their people and be open to include them in their fellowship.

  • Violence against women and sexual minorities need to be addressed as an urgent challenge to Asian churches; violence in all forms, e.g., domestic violence, sexual trafficking, rape, sexual harassment, etc., strikes at the root of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which requires and affirms respect and the dignity of all humanity.

  • The leaders and authorities of the institutionalized churches should make deliberate efforts to include women in all forms of ministry.

  • There is a need to organize a database of women theologians who can be resources for programs.

We invite
our sisters and brothers in Christ to consider our recommendations above and find ways together to make them concrete and translate them into action in order to witness to God’s hospitality.

We remember
that Korea, the host country, remains divided between North and South. We particularly wish that the efforts for reunification will bear fruit and would like to encourage fellow Christians and others in Korea and around the world in such efforts.

We thank
as a congress the host for the wonderful hospitality during the meeting that was shown especially by local Korean churches and congregations as well as by the faculty, staff and students of the Methodist Theological University. Theirs was the setting and nourishment for our reflections and conversations.

The hospitality of the Triune God, which we are to embrace and to embody, is the supreme expression of self-emptying and self-giving as manifest in the incarnation, ministry, cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our message of hospitality, which we declare here and carry with us as we journey back to our many nations and churches, is one of courageous vulnerability and a faithful gift of ourselves to our neighbors and to one another.