Celebrating with CWM and living our partnership

Rev. Dr Collin Cowan (left), CWM general secretary, and Rev. Dr Karin Achtelstetter, WACC general secretary

WACC General Secretary Karin Achtelstetter is in Asia where the first stop of her trip was Singapore – the headquarters of WACC’s partner, the Council for World Mission (CWM), which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

WACC and CWM share a long history, which dates back to the time when both global organizations had their headquarters in London, UK.

Here is a glimpse of some of the highlights of recent years:

  • In 2012, when WACC updated and revised its Principles of Communication, CWM was the first organization that integrated WACC’s Principles into its own Communication Policy, acknowledging and embracing WACC’s holistic understanding of communication as community building and its social justice perspective.
  • In 2012, I was also invited to run a series of workshops on Advocacy and Communication at CWM’s assembly in American Samoa.
  • In 2014 CWM General Secretary Rev. Dr Collin Cowan gave the keynote address at WACC Asia’s regional assembly in Manila, Philippines.
  • In 2015 WACC and CWM renewed their relationship; and CWM’s General Secretary Rev. Dr Collin Cowan and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of our organizations outlining our future collaboration, also acknowledging that some of CWM member churches are also WACC members and that some of WACC’s individual members are active members of CWM churches. 
  • Also in 2015 WACC President emeritus Dr Dennis Smith and I were invited to address CWM’s International Communications Consultation; the theme of my keynote address: “Mission Today and the Uninvited Guest”.
  • And in 2016, WACC Director and WACC Asia President Ramon Bultron represented WACC at CWM’s assembly in Korea.

Rev. Dr Collin Cowan and I met for the first time in 2010 – we both only recently had been appointed general secretaries of our organizations. While WACC had moved its headquarters from London to Toronto in 2006; CWM’s Trustees made the decision to move the organization’s headquarters from London to Singapore. Since then Collin and I have been sharing our experiences and challenges in moving a global organization and its staff to a new jurisdiction; while maintaining also a certain organizational presence in the previous location, London.

Now I am back in Singapore and it is a real privilege and honour for me to be invited with many other ecumenical friends such as Rev. Dr Chris Ferguson (General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches / WCRC), Dr Mathews George Chunakara (General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia / CCA) and Prof. Ioan George Sauca (Director of the Ecumenical Institute Bossey of the World Council of Churches / WCC) to CWM’s 40th anniversary celebrations and thanksgiving service. (Photo right shows Rev. Dr. Christopher Duraisingh, CWM's first General Secretary from the global South and in the background CWM's moderator/chair Rev. Darchonhaia Darnei.)

There could not be a better date than Pentecost Sunday to celebrate CWM’s vision and mission and its outstanding work amongst its member churches in six regions and its commitment to social justice. WCRC general secretary Chris Ferguson in his greetings highlighted CWM’s “new way of understanding mission,” by “breaking the mould” and addressing the relation between mission and colonial powers. Former CWM general secretary Rev. Dr. Christopher Duraisingh in his address underlined “the central role of the spirit” in CWM’s self-understanding; it is “the spirit which is leading CWM into the world,” he said.

“Today, after forty years, we pause not only to celebrate the journey over which we have come but also to commit ourselves to charting the course of the future,” Collin Cowan wrote in his reflections. “The death-dealing systems and structures, designed to serve empire have resulted in poverty of inordinate proportion, conflict and violence of the most heinous nature; and a society on the brink of hopelessness and despair, starved of the good news of Christ of Nazareth and without the spirituality of resistance to imagine an alternative.”

Collin and I used this occasion of the 40th anniversary celebrations to continue our discussions, on how CWM and WACC can best implement and live its MoU; our next milestone will be WACC’s and CWM’s joint Course on Communication and Advocacy to be held in Singapore in August this year.

Representatives from CWM member churches and WACC project partners/members will jointly explore topics such as: “healing of memories”; “discrimination and marginalization”; “human trafficking and economic exploitation”, and “post-independence manifestations of Empire in Africa”, while WACC members and WACC staff – Dr Glory Dharmaraj (WACC North America), Fr. Benjamin Alforque (WACC Asia) and Ms. Sara Speicher – will be facilitating the course.

CWM is especially interested in WACC’s media monitoring expertise, which is unique involving participants ranging from grassroots communities to researchers and academics to media practitioners. Media monitoring – as a tool to challenge media’s role in shaping people’s perceptions and attitudes.

It is my hope that this course will lead to further joint action and activities and will deepen the relationship between WACC and CWM and our members.

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