The Common Good

Report from the Global Christian Forum in Indonesia: Day Two

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a week-long series of reports from the Global Christian Forum in Manado, Indonesia filed by Wes Granberg-Michaelson, the former General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America.

The Governor of North Sulawesi Province in Indonesia is a Christian, a unique feature in the country with the world's largest Muslim population. The reception and dinner he hosted for the participants at the Global Christian Forum was memorable -- a band playing Christian hymns as we entered, and then one local dance group, three magnificent choirs, and four speeches -- all before dinner was served (at 9:30 p.m.)

As we finally started to eat, one of the choirs then broke into the Hallelujah Chorus, which seemed appropriate in more ways than one. (We were too hungry to stand.)

Buses with a police escort took us back to the hotel where forum participants are staying. On the bus, I was seated next to a woman from Kenya named Emily, who works with the Evangelical Alliance in that country. This is Emily's first Global Christian Forum. As we chatted, her joy and excitement about the gathering was palpable (and infectious.) "This must be pleasing to God's heart," she said. Indeed. Many of us at the forum share Emily's sentiments.

Morning worship is a rare ecumenical experience. One morning featured "Bamboo Music" -- an Indonesian version of a brass band -- blasting Christian hymns, followed by traditional Minahasa folk dance and prayer. The service also included traditional hymns such as "Great is Thy Faithfulness" (sung in Indonesian), and "Santo, Santo, Santo" from Latin America, sung after the Prayer of Confession was said in Spanish, English, and Indonesian.

The compelling story of the Global Christian Forum, shared with the more than 300 forum attendees (many of them new), was told in moving testimonies from Orthodox, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Catholic, and historic Protestant members of the forum's steering committee. I concluded a period of testimonies by sharing a passage from I Corinthians 12 that eloquently describes the truth of our calling, which we so often forsake:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we all were baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Later, in 10 smaller groups of about 30 members each, attendees recounted stories from their own spiritual journeys. It's remarkable to hear how an Egyptian surgeon became a Coptic Orthodox priest, or how a woman Anglican Bishop from New Zeland heard her calling to the priesthood as a teenager, long before her church ordained women. Story after story simply puts you in awe of God's grace.

Wes Granberg-Michaelson is former General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America and author of the book Unexpected Destinations, which includes a chapter about Global Christian Forum titled, "The Heartland and the Frontier."

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