In this Advent season of expectancy and gratitude to God, we at INFEMIT celebrate the great gift of God’s presence here on earth. This gift gives hope and purpose to all that we do, as we seek to partner with God in the work of peace and justice and expectantly await God’s coming Kingdom. As a fellowship, we realize that we also have much to be thankful for this year and much to look forward to in 2018!
The year in review…
We give thanks for the flourishing and new developments in several of INFEMIT’s programs:
The Stott-Bediako Forum
This year’s Stott-Bediako Forum gave us the chance to go to the Akrofi-Christaller Institute in Ghana, the home of the late Kwame Bediako, whose legacy in promoting theology from and for the majority world is represented in the name and goals of this annual event. This year’s forum continued the theme of The Refugee Crisis: A Shared Human Condition within the African context. The event was especially fruitful, not just for the incredible speakers who shared, but for each participant who walked with us on a journey through the realities of migration in our world to approach the Biblical text and finally walk toward redemptive responses – specific action plans for churches and communities in their contexts.
We invite you to read more about this year’s forum in the Press Release on our website.
Faith and Life
For those yet unfamiliar with Faith and Life, it is a process of theological formation for integral mission which empowers Christians to live out the good news of God’s reign in all arenas of life. In its original form developed in Latin America, Faith and Life is structured around four modules: Work, Family, Church, and Society. As a curriculum project for other regions, Faith and Life has the potential to be developed for a specific cultural context by those with native understanding of that context as they think through the central themes relevant to their region, appropriate contextual forms of learning, and the local resources available to facilitate reflection on each topic.
During 2017, INFEMIT supported two major processes for the development of Faith and Life in different regions:
- Master’s Program on Faith and Public Life in Arad, Romania: INFEMIT members in Eastern Europe built upon processes of contextualization that they had undergone in the past to shape a new Master’s Program in Faith and Public Life that is hosted out of the Aurel Vlaicu University of Arad in Romania. This program was accepted and accredited early this year, and it launched in October. There are already several students involved in the program, studying independently and attending long weekend intensives as a cohort. INFEMIT celebrates this new program as an opportunity to form young leaders in holistic theology and practice in Eastern Europe and as a foundation for similar future endeavors in other regions.
- Faith and Life Contextualization in Africa and North America: In Ghana in June of this year, a small group of leaders from various sub-regions of Africa gathered to share their experiences with the Faith and Life material and to form a working group on contextualization and program piloting in Africa. This working group continues to meet regularly and seeks to collaborate as they look for curriculum and modes of implementation that emerge from the African context. Similarly, in North America, conversations and interest have advanced toward the possibility of contextualizing and piloting a Faith and Life version for Latino congregations (in Spanish), and we hope to see this process move forward in the New Year.
We are also grateful for the fellowships in each region which are the foundations of the work of INFEMIT. We seek to serve each of these fellowships through our programs, by promoting cross-regional dialogue, and in prayer.
- African Theological Fellowship (ATF): The ATF was able to meet together prior to the Stott-Bediako Forum in Ghana, with a desire to take on a more active role in their coordination and work in the region. They were able to start a joint research project and to begin to recruit members among young leaders.
- INFEMIT Asia: Some INFEMIT Asia members in the Philippines were able to meet early in 2017 to consider the possibility of adapting and contextualizing the Faith and Life curriculum for their region. As a Networking Team, we are grateful for the upcoming opportunity to strengthen and encourage this regional network as we hold our Stott-Bediako Forum in September 2018 in the Philippines.
- Latin American Theological Fellowship (FTL): The INFEMIT Networking Team welcomed its newest member this year: Nicolás Panotto who was appointed to represent the new Board of the FTL. We are thankful for Nicolás’ input in our Networking Team, and for the ongoing work of the FTL. The FTL is especially focusing on exploring theological questions in issue-centered working groups. Topics include indigenous theology, youth, creation care, and more. The FTL held an event in Lima this year which was encouraging and especially helpful in promoting the ongoing involvement of these working groups.
- INFEMIT North America: In North America, INFEMIT partners with other networks and associations who are active in the region. Several Networking Team members attended the Annual meeting of the American Society of Missiology, where we held a discussion centered on seeking Biblical Faithfulness in Politically Volatile Times. INFEMIT also decided to partner with Missio Alliance to offer ongoing reflective theological articles from a global perspective. INFEMIT members and recruits from the regions will be offering regular articles on their website.
- INFEMIT Europe: In Moldova earlier this year, a small group of INFEMIT Europe members gathered to brainstorm ways forward as a fellowship. In the region, we are also very encouraged by the offering of a new program, the Faith and Public Life Master’s program, at a public university in Arad, Romania. We thank God for the flourishing of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS), INFEMIT’s historic partner, as it continues to support scholarship and publications from the majority world. We are excited to support OCMS as they grow in this new season, with a revised mission and vision, and seek to support consultations and research on specific issues in various regions across the world.
- Caribbean: This year, we witnessed devastating hurricanes tear across the Caribbean, leaving entire countries devastated in their wakes. We continue to pray for those countries in the long process of reconstruction, and we pray for the churches seeking to play an active role in this process.
- Middle East: We constantly remember the Middle East amidst the challenges caused by so much violence. Many countries are in the midst of war and conflict; others struggle to receive refugees on the move. Our prayers are with churches and members of the INFEMIT fellowship as they seek peace and dialogue; and across the region, for justice, peace, and care for the most vulnerable.
Prayers, Hope, and Announcements for the New Year
We invite you to walk with INFEMIT into the New Year, with its exciting new projects and events, and its opportunities to reflect and act for holistic transformation globally and in our local contexts.
We, the INFEMIT Networking Team, are excited by some new areas of growth for 2018. Alongside our partners at Micah Global, we are seeking to design and launch a new blog space that will facilitate conversation on important issues between theologians and practitioners across the globe. We also constantly seek new ways to invest in younger leaders across the regions, in their opportunities and development. Finally, we look forward to the 2018 Stott-Bediako Forum on the themes of political conflict, peace building, and transformation that will be held in the Philippines in September. It is an exciting opportunity to support the Micah Global Triennial Gathering (which will be held just prior to the forum) and to strengthen the fellowship of INFEMIT in the Asian region. Please join us in prayer for these activities and remain attentive to our announcements throughout the year to see how you can get involved!
Beyond the specific initiatives of INFEMIT, there is a great need for all of us in each of our local contexts and regions to prophetically seek faithfulness in light of the violence and hatred so widespread in our societies and governments today. We specifically want to reiterate this call we issued at the start of 2017 – the Call for Biblical Faithfulness Amid the New Fascism. Perhaps more than at the start of the year, we have become accustomed to the harmful acts and words we see every day in the news. Perhaps more than before, we are used to the injustices committed against our Earth and against vulnerable or minority groups in our societies. But more than before, we are being called to think, speak, and act in a radically different way. We are being called to Biblical Faithfulness. Please click here to review the call issued earlier this year in many languages and to reaffirm your own commitment to live for justice, peace, and truth in 2018.
We stand together in prayer and hope at the end of this year, not naively believing that the current injustices will simply disappear, but prophetically proclaiming that Christ, God on earth, has shown and paved a different way, so that we all may follow him into a reign of peace and justice that is both now and not yet.
In the radical hope of our Lord, Christ, God with us… and wishing you a Merry Christmas!