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What is the Institute for World Christianity?
The Institute for World Christianity exists to heal divisions and to promote mutual understanding and fruitful collaboration among Christian leaders from all cultures, regions, and traditions.
The IWC was established in 2005 as a nonprofit (501c3) organization. Its purpose is to gather emerging Christian leaders to pray, learn, and serve together, with a view to fostering new relationships and new avenues for communication and collaboration in the Christian world. Because of theological, denominational, cultural, racial, ethnic, economic, and geographical divisions among Christians, the vast majority of church leaders today have no regular contact with their peers in in other traditions and in other world regions. The IWC seeks to heal divisions in the church by establishing new relationships and new lines of communication. The role of the IWC is not to direct and dictate the outcome of these relationships, but to function as a catalyst to help make them happen.
How does the IWC seek to promote its aims? What are its strategies?
The IWC is still in its formative stages, but its first Consultation for Emerging Christian Leaders (Jan. 2007) is designed to bring together a gathering of some sixty to seventy outstanding younger leaders from around the world. The IWC over the next several years will sponsor a series of short-term consultations with a view to establishing a residential center in the St. Louis region. This center will be a partnership between Christian congregations from the greater St. Louis region and the international Christian community. Christian leaders-in-training from all regions of the world will come to the IWC for a short-term (i.e., four month) residential program combining prayer, study, and service. They will serve in pastoral ministry in St. Louis area congregations. Conversely, local pastors and lay leaders will be encouraged to participate in the academic program at the Institute. The IWC is thus a local-global and pastoral-academic initiative.
Does the IWC have a doctrinal basis?
Yes. The IWC is committed to the historic orthodoxy of the early church as expressed in The Apostles' Creed, and The Nicene Creed, and to an acknowledgement of the divine inspiration of the Old and New Testaments. Among the Christians who are encouraged to participate in the IWC are Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Christians from ancient Eastern churches, Lutherans, Anglicans, Reformed and Presbyterian Christians, Baptists, Methodists, Restorationists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Nondenominational believers, members of other unnamed denominations, and members of indigenous churches from around the world.
What are the core values of the IWC?
The core values of the IWC might be summarized a follows:
1. Expectancy. We believe that the divisions among the churches can be healed, and we view the future relations of the churches with an attitude of hopefulness and expectancy.
Because of this belief, we will persist in initiating contacts with all Christian groups that adhere to the doctrinal basis of the Institute, and we will not abandon our efforts out of discouragement.
2. Openness. We believe that all the major traditions in the Christian world today have something to learn from one another. Because of this belief, we will resist any effort to make the Institute a bastion of a single Christian tradition, and we will strive to include all traditions and encourage an attitude of openness to learning from all traditions.
3. Prayer and Worship. We believe that the healing of divisions must begin in and be sustained by shared prayer and worship. Because of this belief, we will make shared worship an integral part of the programs and conferences sponsored by the Institute. We will resist the temptation to neglect worship because of practical concerns, pastoral demands, or academic needs.
4. Study. We believe that academic study plays a key role in the healing of divisions in the church, and that many divisions are perpetuated by ignorance. Because of this belief, we are committed in the long run to establishing and excellent academic program under the sponsorship of the Institute.
5. Service. We believe that Christians from different traditions can engage in fruitful collaboration in service. Because of this belief, we will seek to facilitate and catalyst new proposals for common projects and service across the existing boundaries within and between the churches. We will avoid any sort of narrow denominationalism in our approach to Christian service.
6. Creeds. We believe in what is affirmed in The Apostles' Creed and The Nicene Creed, and believe that these texts represent a foundation for fellowship among Christians. Because of this belief, we will incorporate the study of the creeds into the curriculum of the Institute, and use them in our shared worship.
7. Racism, Ethnocentrism, and Gender. We believe that theories and attitudes of racial or ethnic superiority are inconsistent with the Christian gospel, and we lament the effects of racism and ethnocentrism in the life of the churches. We believe that both men and women are called to serve God and God's people. Because of these beliefs, we will seek racial, ethnic, and gender diversity among our board, staff members, and sponsoring churches. We will develop our program at the Institute with consultation and advice from men and women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
8. Finances. We believe in financial accountability and transparency in all endeavors and projects undertaken by the Institute. Because of this belief, we will make available an annual statement of financial transactions at the Institute. We will not engage in undisclosed financial transactions with funds belonging to the Institute, nor will we enter into partnerships with outside parties or organizations if this will compromise our commitment to financial accountability and transparency.
Is the IWC a part of "the ecumenical movement"?
The IWC has no formal link to the World Council of Churches, the USA-based National Council of Churches, or any other organization associated with the twentieth-century ecumenical movement. Moreover there are some characteristics that distinguish the IWC from the mainline ecumenical movement:
- The ecumenical movement from its beginning pursued a top-down, institutional strategy to address the problems of Christian disunion, while the IWC is committed to a grassroots, informal, and relational approach.
- The ecumenical movement -- at least since the 1970s -- has deflected attention away from doctrinal consensus and the church's historic orthodoxy, while the IWC explicitly adheres to the doctrines expressed in The Apostle's Creed and The Nicene Creed.
- The ecumenical movement in recent years has given less attention to prayer among Christians, while the IWC seeks to make prayer an integral aspect of all its activities.
- The ecumenical movement did little to incorporate into its gatherings the members of younger churches (e.g., Pentecostals, Charismatics, and indigenous churches) alongside those from older traditions (e.g., Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, etc.), while the IWC has leaders and participants in substantial numbers from younger as well as older churches.
- The ecumenical movement has increasingly made dialogue between Christians and non-Christians a major focus and reason for its existence, while the IWC is exclusively concerned with intra-Christian relationship and reconciliation.