Friday, October 31, 2014

Workshop at ACT Alliance assembly focuses on “diakonia”

(At the WCC Assembly in South Korea in 2013, I attended an elective on diakonia, and found that its use in the WCC relates more closely to inter-church social aid, and relief and development by church organisations. In 1967 the WCC established a diakonia desk for research and action attached to the WCC’s interchurch aid unit. In 1971, a restructure in WCC made it more difficult for members of diaconates to contribute to international ecumenical discussions about diakonia. More reading here).

(source: WCC)
“When we talk about assets-based ‘diakonia’, we mean building and strengthening fellowship among churches and their ecumenical partners,” said the Rev. Dr Dongsung Kim, World Council of Churches (WCC) programme executive for diakonia and ecumenical solidarity, in a workshop at the 2nd General Assembly of the ACT Alliance, held from 20 to 24 October in the Dominican Republic.
Workshop at ACT Alliance assembly focuses on “diakonia”
WCC programme executive Dongsung Kim at the ACT Alliance assembly in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic
Diakonia is the Greek term used in the New Testament to describe Christian ministries of care and service, mission and support. It is the source of the English words “deacon” and “diaconal”.
“An assets-based diakonia would work as a crucial tool of welcoming the different gifts, skills and contributions from all levels in the ecumenical cooperation, including from the members of the congregations around the world,” said Kim.
“Exploring assets we have as ecumenical partners in diakonia is actually questioning how we can contribute to more robust ecumenical relationships,” Kim said.
The objective behind this activity was to stress the need for strong relationships between churches and specialized ministries. The workshop was coordinated by Kim and Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC associate general secretary, reflecting on diakonia as a key element in church relations.
The ACT Alliance, a partner organization of the WCC, has some 140 churches and affiliated organizations working in 140 countries to create positive and sustainable change in the lives of poor and marginalized people through humanitarian and development projects.
The workshop focused on the “assets-based approach to diakonia” as part of the discussions held at the assembly titled “join hands sessions”. The dialogue among participants focused on opportunities to share, learn and study new ideas while working for concerns significant for churches and societies. The participants included representatives of communities, groups and networks of ecumenical bodies.
In his remarks, Kim went on to say that “diakonia is an essential part of being a church and mission of the church.” He explained, “The concept of ecumenical diakonia of the WCC is not simply of service, but of taking on a transformative role. We are called to transform society.”
Through an assets-based approach to diakonia at the congregational level, it is possible to turn communities into agents of change and transformation, he said.
While the workshop was meant to suggest ways of making the ACT Alliance an even more robust body, it also discussed issues related to humanitarian work, advocacy and development.

Speech at the conference by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC General Secretary here

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