The XXIX General Assembly 2023 of the National Council of Churches in India
Theme: ‘The HOUR has come: Let us get Going…’
Place: HMI, Hyderabad Date: 21-24th April 2023
The XXIX General Assembly 2023 of the National Council of Churches in India invites its member churches and organisations to discern the ‘hour’ and respond to the call: ‘The HOUR has come: Let us get Going…’ (Mark 14:41-42). The General Assembly is the time when the member churches and its allied bodies within NCCI come together to reflect upon its missional agenda, its goals, purposes, priorities and to determine new strategies in the light of God’s call to be a witnessing church. This is also a time for the churches, councils, organization and agencies to come together, and celebrate in fellowship the spirit of ecumenism.
The theme for the XXIX General Assembly 2023 of NCCI is ‘The HOUR has come: Let’s get Going…,’ The anguish that Jesus experienced in the garden of Gethsemane, with the spectre of death approaching him reflects the hour in which the churches in India find themselves. The sufferings of the people induced by political, economic, institutional power make it necessary for the churches to discern the hour in which we are living. This definitive moment is a paradoxical moment for it is a moment of death and also a moment of salvation. All around us we see growing challenges and threats, including acts of violence against minorities by vigilante groups. These are indicators of the hour of crisis. It is a salvific moment because it also opens up to the church the opportunity to live out its mandate of being a community that is called to transform. This hour demands that we act now. The present reality accentuates the urgency with which the churches in India are to respond. Therefore, Jesus’ words to his disciples, “let us get going” is an imperative call for the churches, as its very own life and existence is enmeshed within these desperate times.
The HOUR in India and the world at large is characterized by a political and cultural configuration that renders certain lives as expendable. These include religious minorities, people with different sexual orientations and gender identities, the Adivasis, the Dalits, the tribals, migrants, borderland people, children, the environment, and others. Forest dwellers, migrants, and borderland people are consigned to “zones of abandonment,” and are often under disciplinary forms of surveillance where living amounts to mere surviving. The secular and pluralist character of the state and society is under unprecedented strain. The right to free speech can no longer be taken for granted as can be seen in the many instances of incarceration and detention of those who merely voiced dissent and critique. Nevertheless, the fact that a good many voices of conscience, including those of women’s groups, students and the elderly are still being raised across the land offers hope that progress is possible. Constructive criticism is absolutely vital to the health and progress of democratic societies. There have also been quite a few laudable judgements by the judiciary, stepping up to protect democratic rights. These are rays of hope. The human ability to resist the empire and to seek fullness of life points us towards the resurrection event. It challenges us to move beyond the HOUR, and embrace the resurrection as much as we embrace the cross. For churches and Christian institutions the resurrection event gives us the grace and the determination to seek a new beginning in and through Jesus Christ. It points us towards a future of possibilities, unveiling the meaning of a human existence that is life affirming. It reveals the righteousness of God and the reign of justice. The righteousness of God and the reign of justice inaugurate a societal site in which the structural, institutional and corporate sins including unjust laws and practices that threatens the existence of the powerless are transformed. Through the resurrection event and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us “our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)
We are therefore urged to “be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord,” (1Corinthians 15:58) and seek right ways of living. This involves ‘going back to Galilee’ and not wallowing complacently in the resurrection event. It is about going to where the masses are and being one of them- in service, love and “compassionate solidarity.” This entails practicing our faith in and with the people in their struggles, confessing Christ in the street as the covenanted and resurrected church.
Jesus’ words to his disciples after his resurrection “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go and therefore make disciples, of all nations…” speaks of God’s power and reign and the actualization of eternal life here and in the age to come. Therefore, this hour is the hour for the church to live out its faith and practice its ekklesial mandate of being a witnessing community, a community called out to live like Christ. This involves rethinking our missional agendas, making positional shifts and realigning our solidarity journey. This hour is a salvific hour because it is the time to unleash the startling possibilities of living an “abundant life’ in the light of the hope that Jesus Christ enacted though his redemptive act. Jesus’ call “to get going” entails that the churches in India do not let the anguish and the turmoil of the hour overwhelm it but in wisdom, discern the will of God. The General Assembly 2023 looks towards reconfiguring a prophetic Indian church that moves ahead imaginatively with resilience marked by discipleship and hope. This is the HOUR to affirm life in the face of death in and through the resurrected Christ and his transforming power. The HOUR has come, let us get going…
The Assembly Team