Dialogue focuses on ministering to the world

In the third session of the current Pentecostal-Reformed Dialogue, representatives of various classical Pentecostal churches and a delegation from the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) met under the theme “Ministering to the Needs of the World: Mission and Pneumatology.”

Papers were presented by Wonsuk Ma (Pentecostal) and Nadia Marais (Reformed).

Marais built her presentation around the Nicene Creed’s statement on the Holy Spirit as the “Lord and Giver of Life,” affirmed by the first round of the Reformed-Pentecostal Dialogue. Related to this, she highlighted pneumatological impulses within the Reformed tradition and their implications for mission:

  • First, it is not the Spirit alone, but the Spirit sent by the Father and the Son, who is active in mission.
  • Second, the person and work of the Spirit is in relation to the person and work of the Son, “whose life, ministry and death provides the basis of the Spirit’s work, and with whom its relation takes logical priority when relating to the world.”
  • Third, the Spirit, as the self-giving God, is a gift given to the disciples and the church, and also gives a variety of gifts to and within the community of faith, including most importantly, the gift of life.

In an open-ended conclusion, Marais argued for the retrieval of the language of gift and gift-giving as complementary to the widely popular language of sending and being sent for speaking about the missionary or missional task of the church.

Ma spoke under the title “The Holy Spirit in Pentecostal Mission: A Look into the Shaping of Mission Awareness and Practice.”

Missionary formation, he said, begins on a personal level because it is closely related to spiritual formation. Conversion as an encounter with God is key. This experience translates to one’s missional life. Being called by God and being empowered for ministry often goes hand in hand. Many Pentecostals consider a baptism of the Holy Spirit that translates into courage, receiving ordinary and/or extraordinary gifts as vital to missionary formation.

Ma then focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in mission practice. The manifestation of “signs and wonders” in evangelism and establishing new congregations is understood to validate the biblical message of the good news in Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, Ma stressed that such manifestations are always in the hands of a sovereign God. If they occur, they are to be understood as a sign of God’s grace.

Through plenary discussions of each presentation, similarities and differences in the approaches were further analyzed and refined. Questions focused on the nature of the Holy Spirit’s work, its relation to the salvific work of Jesus Christ and the empowerment of believers ministering to a world in need. This fruitful and challenging discussion helped the teams appreciate the respective views on the Holy Spirit’s work in mission.

The meeting was held at the Latin American Biblical University in San José, Costa Rica, 2-6 December 2016, and the delegates were welcomed to the campus by Elisabeth Cook, its president. A meeting with the governing board of the Costa Rican Evangelical Presbyterian Church, a member of the WCRC, provided a valuable opportunity for the dialogue participants to receive information about the life of the Reformed church in this country and how Pentecostalism is influencing the spirituality in many churches.

On Sunday, 4 December, the participants joined in worship lead by Ledys Ruiz and Xinia Porras at New Guácima Presbyterian Church. In the evening the group took part in a service of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church of the Word in Santa Barbara, Heredia, pastored by Ana Felicia Ulloa. Both congregations received the delegates with warmth and hospitality.

The discussions were framed each morning and evening by a time of prayer, singing, Bible readings and devotional meditations. This was an integral part of the dialogue.

The Pentecostal team included co-chair Cecil M. Robeck (Assemblies of God, USA), David Daniels (Church of God in Christ, USA), Jacqueline Grey (Australian Christian Churches), Harold D. Hunter (International Pentecostal Holiness Church, USA), Wonsuk Ma (Assemblies of God, Korea), Jean-Daniel Plüss (Swiss Pentecostal Mission) and Olga Zaprometova (Church of God, Russia).

The Reformed team was composed of co-chair Karla Koll, (Presbyterian Church (USA), Costa Rica), Carmelo Alvarez (Disciples of Christ, Puerto Rico, USA), Dario Barolin (Waldensian Church, Argentina), Nadia Marais (Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa), Setri Nyomi (Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ghana), Bas Plaisier (Protestant Church in the Netherlands) and Gabriella Rácsok (Reformed Church of Hungary).

The next session of the Reformed-Pentecostal Dialogue is scheduled to take place 30 November – 6 December 2017 in Sydney, Australia, where the focus will be on the relationship between mission and the church.

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