Twenty-five Eurasia Region representatives joined a total of 300 Nazarenes from around the world in Leesburg, Florida, USA, to look deeper into the denomination's theology of Christ at the fourth Global Theology Conference from 18 to 21 March.
“At times, the focus of the church can be on the church: it can be on membership and statistics, it can be on social justice – so a lot of things that are good things — but actually we have to focus around Christ and our response to the question of who Christ is, what that means for us, and how we engage with community in light of that,” said Peter Rae, academic dean at Nazarene Theological College–Manchester.
The conference’s theme, “Christology – To Know Christ,” was drawn from Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Each year, participants are given the conference and response papers in advance to help them better prepare for discussion. This year, there were three focuses:
● “Who do you say I am?” – Knowing and becoming more like Jesus Christ
● “Take up your cross and follow me” – Becoming more faithful to Jesus Christ
● “As the Father sent me so I send you” – Joining the mission of Jesus Christ
With more than 50 Nazarene higher education institutions and more than 30,000 churches represented, participants were able to see the Nazarene church on a global level and better understand the theology and issues facing Nazarenes in other cultural and geopolitical contexts. The conference is designed to be a safe environment where people’s ideas and beliefs are respected and heard.
“You can read a lot, you can chat a lot, and be actively engaged in your local and district church life, this way knowing your local and district framework,” said Svetlana Khobnya, a small group leader at the conference and faculty member at NTC–Manchester. “But just listening to people from around the world you realize there are many more perspectives, there are more views, there are more ways to deal with issues, and there are more questions to ask globally.”
The conference is intended to open the door for theological discussions within the Church of the Nazarene to maintain a unified front on sound theology. For a region of the denomination that is as diverse as Eurasia – encompassing Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, India, and South Asia – maintaining unity within diversity remains a continual challenge. The Global Theology Conference presents one more opportunity to strive for that balance.
“It helped us to know our region better,” Rae said. “As the church grows globally, we either wrestle with issues of diversity and distinctiveness … or we say as a single denomination that we’re committed to working together. We saw gaps of diversity in our own region and saw the needs and possibilities for areas like India, Bangladesh, the South Asia field. We saw the need for well-prepared leaders to help shape the conversation and ask how we can work alongside others to alleviate some of the overstretched leaders already there.”
The papers presented at the conference are intended to start conversations within the global church, with those conversations eventually reaching to include the local church.
Plans are underway for the next Global Theology Conference that will be held in 2022. All papers are available in multiple languages at didache.nazarene.org.