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Dispatches from the Global Village

Brian Stiller

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Dispatches from the Global Village

Dispatches from the Global Village

Brian Stiller

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Brian C Stiller writes perspectives as he visits countries around the world, for Dispatches from the Global Village and articles for newspapers and magazines.

Latest Episodes

Trouble doesn’t end witness – Venezuela today

Venezuela, with the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia, today looks more like Syria, noted a journalist. With the country in free fall, it is hard to imagine how it can last much longer. In daily updates, we listen to multiplying horror stories of no food, empty medicine shelves, stunning numbers of kidnappings, and the hemorrhaging of ten percent of its population in a matter of months. This incredibly beautiful and rich-in-resource Latin American country is the paradigm of ideological delusion, bureaucratic dissonance, governmental piracy, police intimidation, and outright robbing of the public purse.----more----Keep in mind what we are talking about. With 30 million in population, about the size of Canada, it is harboured on the northeast coast of South America. Colonized by the Spanish in the 1500s, it became independent in 1881. Long the bastion ofcaudillosor military “strongmen,” in the 1950s and following, a series of elected governments ruled, ending in 1993 with Hugo Chávez becoming president. He died in 2013.During his rule, Venezuela, with more natural oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, came unglued. Mirroring Cuba, its economic management drove it to financial ruin, with shortages in almost everything and millions fleeing the country for survival.Its current president, Maduro, a former bus driver, has turned his failing country into a kind of police state, merging dire economic realities with religious intimidation, social fiascos and an unending litany of debilitating stories of starvation, needless deaths from lack of medicine, and a citizenry fatigued by dishonesty and failed governance.Responding to resistance with authoritarianism and repression, day to day its precarious status teeters on the edge of utter disaster, about to collapse into a valley of ruin with its short-term prospects hanging on attempts, by its opposition leader JuanGuaidó,to arrestnational leadership. Transparency International reports that they are not able to measure the level of corruption in Venezuela. As they note, “Layer upon layer, violence and corruption, handmaidens of the powerful, rule. While these factors exist in various degrees in many countries, here corruption has become statecraft.” Within this cauldron of boiling issues are people of faith, living with resolution and determination. Here, the Evangelical Council of Venezuela is seeking a new way of societal accord, peace, and reconciliation.Pastor Samuel Olson, President of the Council, called on people to pray “together as a family, asking God that through His Holy Spirit cares, directs and blesses our nation in this critical hour of its history.”My last visit illustrated how evangelicals operate in a place of repression and social disintegration. As part of a worldwide network of National Alliances in 130 countries, this alliance, led by Venezuelan-born pastor Samuel Olson, is the voice of the evangelical community, a Christian grouping close to a quarter of its entire population.Bold in their public engagement, I sat with leaders of the Alliance and members of National Assembly to address the importance of allowing people to create a country in which religious freedom rules.A deputy (an elected member of the National Assembly) told me that as a Pentecostal, she found socialism to be aligned with the gospel. Others with a Christian affiliation challenged the government’s handling of social and economic policies. We then met with the Roman Catholic bishop, and after prayer we reflected on the nature of Christian interfacing with societal issues and political conflicts.We spent the next morning with the Jewish community, a friendship nurtured by the Evangelical Alliance. They, too, were feeling the pressure of the government’s policies and wondered as to their future in this land of their ancestry.That evening, in the heart of Caracas, I joined the president of the Alliance and pastors with some 1,200 who had come to the midweek 6 PM prayer service. As their world was collap

7 min2019 JUL 4
Comments
Trouble doesn’t end witness – Venezuela today

Global Christian Forum

Ecumenicalhas not been a friendly word in my lexicon. In my younger years, our small church, and much of our community was in a defensive mode, somewhat fundamentalist and afraid that if we got involved with “liberal” mainline Protestants, it was the beginning of a slippery slide to a faith lukewarm. This major rift within Protestantism, between a growing Evangelical world (and in my case more specifically Pentecostal) and mainline Protestants had enormous consequences. At stake, so we believed, was that their theology might erode our trust in the Scriptures and in Jesus as the only way to the Father. That madeecumenicaldialogue something to avoid. ----more----Yes, we were too sectarian and our reaction often unnecessary, stoked by what we sensed was a manifest lack of respect by mainline churches for who we were and what we believed. These two perceptions soured our sense of each other and resulted in a loss of mutual witness of Christ to our world. We also lost potential in working together to do good within our communities. That’s why recent days spent in Bogota Columbia, as part of the Global Christian Forum, was important. Various major groupings of the global church met to affirm friendship and strengthen Christian witness and bonds in the life of Jesus. Here’s how this came about. A little historyIn the early years of this century, four groups formed a global groupingto share concerns within a dialogue framed by love and devotion to Jesus. This group would not make pronouncements or take actions. Instead, meeting every few years, we would face matters in an open and honest way about our respective witness. The four groups making up this “forum” are The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), the Vatican (Roman Catholics), the World Pentecostal Fellowship (WPF), and the World Council of Churches (WCC). (Seehttp://www.globalchristianforum.org/news.) The theme– this the third forum (the last was in 2011)– was “Let mutual love continue.” (Hebrews 13:1) Balanced with representatives from Orthodox, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant (these called “older”) and Evangelical, Pentecostal, Independent (these called “newer”), this meeting was rich and inspiring. Much of our time spent was within smaller groups, telling personal stories of faith and how our lives had been captured by Jesus. Be it Orthodox or Methodist, Catholic or Pentecostal, we were connected by knowing Jesus and in having been taken hold by the Spirit. Personal TestimoniesOf those in our circle, Rosallee, raised in Brazil, educated and now living with her husband and children in the UK, walked us through her early coming to faith. She now heads up the global office of the Theological Commission of the WEA. Said, living in the unrest and struggle of Lebanon, told us how he and his family survived and thrived in the midst of gun battles and Syrian refugees. Paolo, serving in the Taizé community in France, through worship led us in their plaintive and inspiring music. Stefan from Moscow (we had met at the 500thAnniversary Service of the Protestant Reformation last October in Moscow) told of his early knowing of God’s presence. Joseph from Ghana learned of the Gospel as a child. We learned from Rauli, a Finlander, of his early adventures into the former Soviet community. We laughed and prayed as we learned the ways of the Spirit. It was these stories, shared in groups among the 250 delegates, that linked to messages we heard from the biblical text, the greatest of meta- narratives, itself held together by the many, many stories of both testaments. IssuesAll was not sweetness and light. Issues of regional conflicts and differing interpretations of on-the-ground realities filtered through. Syria was an issue on which there were two distinct sides, one charging that the American and Allied response to the gassing of Syrians was to them an invasion from the West. This surprised many who saw this intervention as a responsible move, especially in the face of the gassi

6 min2019 APR 23
Comments
Global Christian Forum

To Be or Not To Be an Evangelical

WEA Global Ambassador Brian Stiller reflects on the term Evangelical. Read this and more at:www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/dispatches A friend wrote, “I no longer call myself an Evangelical.” Thoughtful, well informed but now I suspect feeling embarrassed, he has chosen to avoid a term used globally by hundreds of millions of Christians. For many within shouting distance of U.S. media circles and party politics, the word has become a banner of disrepute.Evangelicalis now a word disfigured by political pundits, muddied by protestors from the left and right, and brought into dishonor by self-proclaimed spokespeople who excuse inappropriate behavior and language as the necessary price for political power. The center has shifted, and many Evangelicals now wonder where they fit. ----more----I come to this subject as a Canadian, not caught in the political wars of our great neighbor to the south, and with no need to offer opinions on their issues. I am also part of a world association which came into existence in 1846 and is today a global body that numbers some 600 million Christians. Obviously, I have reason to be concerned over the use of the termEvangelicaland its meaning to the world. This is a deeply emotional issue, and not just for Americans. There are three centers around which this conversation revolves. First, there is a community of those who self-describe asEvangelicaland who support American conservative politics, leadership and policies. Second, there are self-describedEvangelicalswho abhor a particular type of politics and populism, currently exemplified by the President, his language, life and social policies. Third, there are those who, like my friend, continue to believe the essential theological affirmations of Evangelicals, but whose commitment to its related mission has led them to forgo using the word and exempt themselves from any associated identity. Does it matter? Is it best (like the ‘red letter Christians’ or ‘followers of the Way’) to drop it altogether and find another term or label? Wouldn’t just being calledChristianora follower of Jesuswork? To enable a helpful discussion, consider these items to frame our conversation. * It is globalWhile the recent sharp reaction to the use of the label has come about in the U.S., in part because of divisions following the 2016 presidential election, a decision onwhat name best suits us globally is not a choice we can leave for Americans to decide. The U.S. does not set the agenda for the world, and we should not assume that what matters to them will define what matters globally. As influential as they are, and recognizing that American concerns do affect the world, the real place of evangelical growth is in the global south (Asia, Africa and Latin America). Here is where there has been an explosive growth of Christians. For example, in 1900 in Latin America, there were just 50,000 Evangelicals. Today in that region there are a 100 million. Any conversation on this issue needs to take into account how it is seen by Christian colleagues in other parts of the world. At the same time, I would warn that we should beware of a liberal backlash just as much as we need to beware of a conservative ‘export of the American gospel.’ Both sides end up trying to silence the voices of the majority world, and the indigenous hearts and minds who interpret the Gospel within their worlds. It is a definerThere has developed over the centuries a number of identifiable labels which are helpful in denoting the core beliefs and organization of major Christian traditions: ‘Roman Catholics,’ ‘Eastern Orthodox,’ or ‘Mainline Protestants,’ for instance. The term ‘Evangelical’ is another helpful identifier for a major, self-conscious stream of Protestantism which has spread around the world since the 1730s. (Pentecostals are usually located in the Evangelical family.) Roman Catholics comprise 1.2 billion. Eastern Orthodox and Mainline Protestants organized around the World Council of

11 min2019 APR 9
Comments
To Be or Not To Be an Evangelical

The Evangelical Church in Vietnam: Beauty and resilience

WEA Global Ambassador Brian Stiller visits Vietnam and reflects on the state of the Church in this beautiful country. Read this and more at:www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/dispatches Aromas from open kitchens scent the night air as I walk the narrow streets of old Hanoi. It’s time for evening dinner: Sidewalk restaurants filled with children and adults spill out their happy chatter, all busy with eating in one of my favourite places in the world. Anthony Bourdain, the recently deceased gourmet globe trotter for CNN, named Vietnam as among his most loved countries: “The food, culture, landscape and smells—they’re all inseparable.” In his 2016 series the camera catches him on a low seat in a noodle restaurant, just off the street, not only inquiring about spices and noodles, but life. His pictures crossed my mind as I strolled that evening. Vietnam also carries with it other memories: bombers dropping their destructive ordnances on unsuspecting villagers and soldiers creeping throug...

10 min2019 APR 8
Comments
The Evangelical Church in Vietnam: Beauty and resilience

African Children Singing Us Into Pentecost

There is nothing like a children’s choir to warm the heart. It was the day before Pentecost Sunday and the last day of a conference of African Pentecostals and Charismatics. A choir of South African children, bodies moving in rhythm to a Zulu tune, reminded us of the remarkable stories of unforeseen growth in the church of Africa. People had come from across the continent to the Word and Life Church in Johannesburg, called together by the global movement Empower 21, a fellowship linking Charismatic churches, old-time Pentecostals, and Charismatic Catholics. Within this past century this global community, estimated to be around a half billion, is changing the face of the Christian witness and presence. ----more----How did this come about?The heart of this community and its message is their emphasis on the person, gifting, and anointing of the Holy Spirit. But why is this different from earlier centuries? The church has always believed in the Holy Spirit as a member of the Trinity. H...

7 min2018 DEC 21
Comments
African Children Singing Us Into Pentecost

6 Takeaways from The Future of Evangelicalism in America

At a recent meeting near Chicago, fifty Evangelical leaders of various ministries, ethnicities and churches explored the theme:The Future of Evangelicalism in America.(Six of us from outside of the U.S. were included.) The conveners making no claim to represent a full round of Evangelical views and with no pretense of attempting to arrive at solutions, were courageous and ambitious, even though it was evident that (at best) this was just the beginning of a conversation. While some points might well serve Evangelicals in other parts of the world, this was America’s turn. At this point in Christian history, American Evangelicals are caught in a situation of their own making. Here are my takeaways. ----more----One: As the country is deeply divided, so are Evangelicals.Recent conversations over what it means to be an Evangelical have erupted out of a long history. One embedded with expectations and fears, hopes mixed with myths, a dynamic church community conflicted by living in the wo...

12 min2018 NOV 28
Comments
6 Takeaways from The Future of Evangelicalism in America

Finding Light In Darkness - The Myanmar Tragedy

As I walked among the glistening gold-plated stupas of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Burma), it was hard to believe that just miles north, a genocide took place masterminded by the country’s military. A people-name once unknown, the Rohingyas, is now a common point of our conversations. But even as we assume the worldwide accusations are self-evident behind the genocide of these ethnic Muslims in the heart of a Buddhist country, complexity rules—a fact of which the small Christian community there is well aware. We wonder at the silence of the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. What are the factors in the social architecture of Myanmar that have contributed to this seemingly unforgiveable tragedy? ----more----To begin, Myanmar is a country of 54 million people, divided into eight major ethnic races grouped by region, more so than language of ethnic affiliation. These regions camouflage its actual 135 distin...

11 min2018 NOV 15
Comments
Finding Light In Darkness - The Myanmar Tragedy

So much for Secular Canada allowing diversity

Trinity Western University, a Canadian liberal arts university, planned to open a law school as part of its vision to prepare Christians to serve in public and civic life. It wasn’t long before their plan triggered the ire of provincial law societies. In the end, this case ended up before the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled that provincial law societies could refuse to admit TWU law grads from practising law. Their ruling was based on their objection to the university’s community covenant: it requires students to agree to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and woman.” Why does this matter to Christians inside and outside of Canada? ----more----First, it shows how a country’s top court can render a verdict in favor of human rights, biased against religious freedom.When the two ideas butt heads, religious freedom is the loser. Second, it makes short shrift of the model that within a diverse society a plurality of ideas and bel...

9 min2018 SEP 6
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So much for Secular Canada allowing diversity

Did We Find Peace in Assisi?

Peace is hard to come by. Ask John Kerry and his Russian equivalent Sergei Lavrov in their intermittent successes at finding a Syrian cease-fire. In the 20thcentury 231 million died in wars and conflicts. Even so Stewart Pinker (Harvard) said five years ago,“we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence,”followed by Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, one year later, that today our world is“more dangerous than it has ever been.”Pinker makes his assertion based on the percentage of killings to world population, Dempsey on actual numbers killed. ----more----If you are a mother or father in Aleppo scrounging for food or pulling your child out from under rubble, cut and crying or dead, what do Pinker and Dempsey mean to you? Who can or will bring peace? Is it possible? Or are we doomed to just limiting what destroys peace? Or softening its blows? Mitigating its causes? Providing safe zones so combatants can bash each other’s brains out? ...

12 min2018 MAY 22
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Did We Find Peace in Assisi?

When is a Heresy a Cult?

Dispatches from the Global Village By Brian Stiller Spiritual movements produce bizarre and often cult-like offshoots. Nowhere is this truer than in Brazil. The explosion of Christian faith in Latin America, and indeed in the world, occurs in an environment where ideas framed by hope, accelerate popularity of some giving influence to self-proclaimed prophets. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is now a world phenomenon. Beginning in the 1970s, its founder Edir Macedo had come to Christian faith in the Igreja Cristã de Nova Vida a Brazilian Pentecostal church pastored by a Canadian, Robert McAlister, of the famous pioneering Canadian family of the early 20th century. Macedo broke away from McAlister and today claims churches in 200 countries with millions of members... Read this and more at:www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/Communicat…esy-a-Cult

8 min2018 MAY 8
Comments
When is a Heresy a Cult?

Latest Episodes

Trouble doesn’t end witness – Venezuela today

Venezuela, with the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia, today looks more like Syria, noted a journalist. With the country in free fall, it is hard to imagine how it can last much longer. In daily updates, we listen to multiplying horror stories of no food, empty medicine shelves, stunning numbers of kidnappings, and the hemorrhaging of ten percent of its population in a matter of months. This incredibly beautiful and rich-in-resource Latin American country is the paradigm of ideological delusion, bureaucratic dissonance, governmental piracy, police intimidation, and outright robbing of the public purse.----more----Keep in mind what we are talking about. With 30 million in population, about the size of Canada, it is harboured on the northeast coast of South America. Colonized by the Spanish in the 1500s, it became independent in 1881. Long the bastion ofcaudillosor military “strongmen,” in the 1950s and following, a series of elected governments ruled, ending in 1993 with Hugo Chávez becoming president. He died in 2013.During his rule, Venezuela, with more natural oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, came unglued. Mirroring Cuba, its economic management drove it to financial ruin, with shortages in almost everything and millions fleeing the country for survival.Its current president, Maduro, a former bus driver, has turned his failing country into a kind of police state, merging dire economic realities with religious intimidation, social fiascos and an unending litany of debilitating stories of starvation, needless deaths from lack of medicine, and a citizenry fatigued by dishonesty and failed governance.Responding to resistance with authoritarianism and repression, day to day its precarious status teeters on the edge of utter disaster, about to collapse into a valley of ruin with its short-term prospects hanging on attempts, by its opposition leader JuanGuaidó,to arrestnational leadership. Transparency International reports that they are not able to measure the level of corruption in Venezuela. As they note, “Layer upon layer, violence and corruption, handmaidens of the powerful, rule. While these factors exist in various degrees in many countries, here corruption has become statecraft.” Within this cauldron of boiling issues are people of faith, living with resolution and determination. Here, the Evangelical Council of Venezuela is seeking a new way of societal accord, peace, and reconciliation.Pastor Samuel Olson, President of the Council, called on people to pray “together as a family, asking God that through His Holy Spirit cares, directs and blesses our nation in this critical hour of its history.”My last visit illustrated how evangelicals operate in a place of repression and social disintegration. As part of a worldwide network of National Alliances in 130 countries, this alliance, led by Venezuelan-born pastor Samuel Olson, is the voice of the evangelical community, a Christian grouping close to a quarter of its entire population.Bold in their public engagement, I sat with leaders of the Alliance and members of National Assembly to address the importance of allowing people to create a country in which religious freedom rules.A deputy (an elected member of the National Assembly) told me that as a Pentecostal, she found socialism to be aligned with the gospel. Others with a Christian affiliation challenged the government’s handling of social and economic policies. We then met with the Roman Catholic bishop, and after prayer we reflected on the nature of Christian interfacing with societal issues and political conflicts.We spent the next morning with the Jewish community, a friendship nurtured by the Evangelical Alliance. They, too, were feeling the pressure of the government’s policies and wondered as to their future in this land of their ancestry.That evening, in the heart of Caracas, I joined the president of the Alliance and pastors with some 1,200 who had come to the midweek 6 PM prayer service. As their world was collap

7 min2019 JUL 4
Comments
Trouble doesn’t end witness – Venezuela today

Global Christian Forum

Ecumenicalhas not been a friendly word in my lexicon. In my younger years, our small church, and much of our community was in a defensive mode, somewhat fundamentalist and afraid that if we got involved with “liberal” mainline Protestants, it was the beginning of a slippery slide to a faith lukewarm. This major rift within Protestantism, between a growing Evangelical world (and in my case more specifically Pentecostal) and mainline Protestants had enormous consequences. At stake, so we believed, was that their theology might erode our trust in the Scriptures and in Jesus as the only way to the Father. That madeecumenicaldialogue something to avoid. ----more----Yes, we were too sectarian and our reaction often unnecessary, stoked by what we sensed was a manifest lack of respect by mainline churches for who we were and what we believed. These two perceptions soured our sense of each other and resulted in a loss of mutual witness of Christ to our world. We also lost potential in working together to do good within our communities. That’s why recent days spent in Bogota Columbia, as part of the Global Christian Forum, was important. Various major groupings of the global church met to affirm friendship and strengthen Christian witness and bonds in the life of Jesus. Here’s how this came about. A little historyIn the early years of this century, four groups formed a global groupingto share concerns within a dialogue framed by love and devotion to Jesus. This group would not make pronouncements or take actions. Instead, meeting every few years, we would face matters in an open and honest way about our respective witness. The four groups making up this “forum” are The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), the Vatican (Roman Catholics), the World Pentecostal Fellowship (WPF), and the World Council of Churches (WCC). (Seehttp://www.globalchristianforum.org/news.) The theme– this the third forum (the last was in 2011)– was “Let mutual love continue.” (Hebrews 13:1) Balanced with representatives from Orthodox, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant (these called “older”) and Evangelical, Pentecostal, Independent (these called “newer”), this meeting was rich and inspiring. Much of our time spent was within smaller groups, telling personal stories of faith and how our lives had been captured by Jesus. Be it Orthodox or Methodist, Catholic or Pentecostal, we were connected by knowing Jesus and in having been taken hold by the Spirit. Personal TestimoniesOf those in our circle, Rosallee, raised in Brazil, educated and now living with her husband and children in the UK, walked us through her early coming to faith. She now heads up the global office of the Theological Commission of the WEA. Said, living in the unrest and struggle of Lebanon, told us how he and his family survived and thrived in the midst of gun battles and Syrian refugees. Paolo, serving in the Taizé community in France, through worship led us in their plaintive and inspiring music. Stefan from Moscow (we had met at the 500thAnniversary Service of the Protestant Reformation last October in Moscow) told of his early knowing of God’s presence. Joseph from Ghana learned of the Gospel as a child. We learned from Rauli, a Finlander, of his early adventures into the former Soviet community. We laughed and prayed as we learned the ways of the Spirit. It was these stories, shared in groups among the 250 delegates, that linked to messages we heard from the biblical text, the greatest of meta- narratives, itself held together by the many, many stories of both testaments. IssuesAll was not sweetness and light. Issues of regional conflicts and differing interpretations of on-the-ground realities filtered through. Syria was an issue on which there were two distinct sides, one charging that the American and Allied response to the gassing of Syrians was to them an invasion from the West. This surprised many who saw this intervention as a responsible move, especially in the face of the gassi

6 min2019 APR 23
Comments
Global Christian Forum

To Be or Not To Be an Evangelical

WEA Global Ambassador Brian Stiller reflects on the term Evangelical. Read this and more at:www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/dispatches A friend wrote, “I no longer call myself an Evangelical.” Thoughtful, well informed but now I suspect feeling embarrassed, he has chosen to avoid a term used globally by hundreds of millions of Christians. For many within shouting distance of U.S. media circles and party politics, the word has become a banner of disrepute.Evangelicalis now a word disfigured by political pundits, muddied by protestors from the left and right, and brought into dishonor by self-proclaimed spokespeople who excuse inappropriate behavior and language as the necessary price for political power. The center has shifted, and many Evangelicals now wonder where they fit. ----more----I come to this subject as a Canadian, not caught in the political wars of our great neighbor to the south, and with no need to offer opinions on their issues. I am also part of a world association which came into existence in 1846 and is today a global body that numbers some 600 million Christians. Obviously, I have reason to be concerned over the use of the termEvangelicaland its meaning to the world. This is a deeply emotional issue, and not just for Americans. There are three centers around which this conversation revolves. First, there is a community of those who self-describe asEvangelicaland who support American conservative politics, leadership and policies. Second, there are self-describedEvangelicalswho abhor a particular type of politics and populism, currently exemplified by the President, his language, life and social policies. Third, there are those who, like my friend, continue to believe the essential theological affirmations of Evangelicals, but whose commitment to its related mission has led them to forgo using the word and exempt themselves from any associated identity. Does it matter? Is it best (like the ‘red letter Christians’ or ‘followers of the Way’) to drop it altogether and find another term or label? Wouldn’t just being calledChristianora follower of Jesuswork? To enable a helpful discussion, consider these items to frame our conversation. * It is globalWhile the recent sharp reaction to the use of the label has come about in the U.S., in part because of divisions following the 2016 presidential election, a decision onwhat name best suits us globally is not a choice we can leave for Americans to decide. The U.S. does not set the agenda for the world, and we should not assume that what matters to them will define what matters globally. As influential as they are, and recognizing that American concerns do affect the world, the real place of evangelical growth is in the global south (Asia, Africa and Latin America). Here is where there has been an explosive growth of Christians. For example, in 1900 in Latin America, there were just 50,000 Evangelicals. Today in that region there are a 100 million. Any conversation on this issue needs to take into account how it is seen by Christian colleagues in other parts of the world. At the same time, I would warn that we should beware of a liberal backlash just as much as we need to beware of a conservative ‘export of the American gospel.’ Both sides end up trying to silence the voices of the majority world, and the indigenous hearts and minds who interpret the Gospel within their worlds. It is a definerThere has developed over the centuries a number of identifiable labels which are helpful in denoting the core beliefs and organization of major Christian traditions: ‘Roman Catholics,’ ‘Eastern Orthodox,’ or ‘Mainline Protestants,’ for instance. The term ‘Evangelical’ is another helpful identifier for a major, self-conscious stream of Protestantism which has spread around the world since the 1730s. (Pentecostals are usually located in the Evangelical family.) Roman Catholics comprise 1.2 billion. Eastern Orthodox and Mainline Protestants organized around the World Council of

11 min2019 APR 9
Comments
To Be or Not To Be an Evangelical

The Evangelical Church in Vietnam: Beauty and resilience

WEA Global Ambassador Brian Stiller visits Vietnam and reflects on the state of the Church in this beautiful country. Read this and more at:www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/dispatches Aromas from open kitchens scent the night air as I walk the narrow streets of old Hanoi. It’s time for evening dinner: Sidewalk restaurants filled with children and adults spill out their happy chatter, all busy with eating in one of my favourite places in the world. Anthony Bourdain, the recently deceased gourmet globe trotter for CNN, named Vietnam as among his most loved countries: “The food, culture, landscape and smells—they’re all inseparable.” In his 2016 series the camera catches him on a low seat in a noodle restaurant, just off the street, not only inquiring about spices and noodles, but life. His pictures crossed my mind as I strolled that evening. Vietnam also carries with it other memories: bombers dropping their destructive ordnances on unsuspecting villagers and soldiers creeping throug...

10 min2019 APR 8
Comments
The Evangelical Church in Vietnam: Beauty and resilience

African Children Singing Us Into Pentecost

There is nothing like a children’s choir to warm the heart. It was the day before Pentecost Sunday and the last day of a conference of African Pentecostals and Charismatics. A choir of South African children, bodies moving in rhythm to a Zulu tune, reminded us of the remarkable stories of unforeseen growth in the church of Africa. People had come from across the continent to the Word and Life Church in Johannesburg, called together by the global movement Empower 21, a fellowship linking Charismatic churches, old-time Pentecostals, and Charismatic Catholics. Within this past century this global community, estimated to be around a half billion, is changing the face of the Christian witness and presence. ----more----How did this come about?The heart of this community and its message is their emphasis on the person, gifting, and anointing of the Holy Spirit. But why is this different from earlier centuries? The church has always believed in the Holy Spirit as a member of the Trinity. H...

7 min2018 DEC 21
Comments
African Children Singing Us Into Pentecost

6 Takeaways from The Future of Evangelicalism in America

At a recent meeting near Chicago, fifty Evangelical leaders of various ministries, ethnicities and churches explored the theme:The Future of Evangelicalism in America.(Six of us from outside of the U.S. were included.) The conveners making no claim to represent a full round of Evangelical views and with no pretense of attempting to arrive at solutions, were courageous and ambitious, even though it was evident that (at best) this was just the beginning of a conversation. While some points might well serve Evangelicals in other parts of the world, this was America’s turn. At this point in Christian history, American Evangelicals are caught in a situation of their own making. Here are my takeaways. ----more----One: As the country is deeply divided, so are Evangelicals.Recent conversations over what it means to be an Evangelical have erupted out of a long history. One embedded with expectations and fears, hopes mixed with myths, a dynamic church community conflicted by living in the wo...

12 min2018 NOV 28
Comments
6 Takeaways from The Future of Evangelicalism in America

Finding Light In Darkness - The Myanmar Tragedy

As I walked among the glistening gold-plated stupas of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Burma), it was hard to believe that just miles north, a genocide took place masterminded by the country’s military. A people-name once unknown, the Rohingyas, is now a common point of our conversations. But even as we assume the worldwide accusations are self-evident behind the genocide of these ethnic Muslims in the heart of a Buddhist country, complexity rules—a fact of which the small Christian community there is well aware. We wonder at the silence of the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. What are the factors in the social architecture of Myanmar that have contributed to this seemingly unforgiveable tragedy? ----more----To begin, Myanmar is a country of 54 million people, divided into eight major ethnic races grouped by region, more so than language of ethnic affiliation. These regions camouflage its actual 135 distin...

11 min2018 NOV 15
Comments
Finding Light In Darkness - The Myanmar Tragedy

So much for Secular Canada allowing diversity

Trinity Western University, a Canadian liberal arts university, planned to open a law school as part of its vision to prepare Christians to serve in public and civic life. It wasn’t long before their plan triggered the ire of provincial law societies. In the end, this case ended up before the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled that provincial law societies could refuse to admit TWU law grads from practising law. Their ruling was based on their objection to the university’s community covenant: it requires students to agree to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and woman.” Why does this matter to Christians inside and outside of Canada? ----more----First, it shows how a country’s top court can render a verdict in favor of human rights, biased against religious freedom.When the two ideas butt heads, religious freedom is the loser. Second, it makes short shrift of the model that within a diverse society a plurality of ideas and bel...

9 min2018 SEP 6
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So much for Secular Canada allowing diversity

Did We Find Peace in Assisi?

Peace is hard to come by. Ask John Kerry and his Russian equivalent Sergei Lavrov in their intermittent successes at finding a Syrian cease-fire. In the 20thcentury 231 million died in wars and conflicts. Even so Stewart Pinker (Harvard) said five years ago,“we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence,”followed by Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, one year later, that today our world is“more dangerous than it has ever been.”Pinker makes his assertion based on the percentage of killings to world population, Dempsey on actual numbers killed. ----more----If you are a mother or father in Aleppo scrounging for food or pulling your child out from under rubble, cut and crying or dead, what do Pinker and Dempsey mean to you? Who can or will bring peace? Is it possible? Or are we doomed to just limiting what destroys peace? Or softening its blows? Mitigating its causes? Providing safe zones so combatants can bash each other’s brains out? ...

12 min2018 MAY 22
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Did We Find Peace in Assisi?

When is a Heresy a Cult?

Dispatches from the Global Village By Brian Stiller Spiritual movements produce bizarre and often cult-like offshoots. Nowhere is this truer than in Brazil. The explosion of Christian faith in Latin America, and indeed in the world, occurs in an environment where ideas framed by hope, accelerate popularity of some giving influence to self-proclaimed prophets. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is now a world phenomenon. Beginning in the 1970s, its founder Edir Macedo had come to Christian faith in the Igreja Cristã de Nova Vida a Brazilian Pentecostal church pastored by a Canadian, Robert McAlister, of the famous pioneering Canadian family of the early 20th century. Macedo broke away from McAlister and today claims churches in 200 countries with millions of members... Read this and more at:www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/Communicat…esy-a-Cult

8 min2018 MAY 8
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When is a Heresy a Cult?
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