Join us July 17, 2024 for a free virtual conference on "Walking in the Congregational Way."

The Theological Commission of the International Congregational Fellowship (ICF) and the Congregational Library & Archives are delighted to sponsor a virtual half-day conference seminar, planned for 17 July, on the theme, “Mission and Transmission: Walking in the Congregational Way.” The conference will be held on Zoom so that participants around the world can take part.

The Congregational Way is an expression of Christianity in every part of the world. For some, it spread through the mission agencies of the USA and UK. In other places, it was transmitted through shifts in population as a result of persecution and conflict, or exploration and seeking new lives. But it has also arisen as a natural response to the Gospel, as God calls communities to express their lives in freedom.

This virtual conference marks the legacy of the International Congregational Journal, which recently ceased publication after a nearly two-decade print run. Through the years, it published many articles reflecting on the mission and transmission of the Congregational Way.

We are delighted that Brian Fiu Kolia, an ordained minister of the Congregational Christian Church Samoa and a lecturer in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Malua Theological College, has agreed to be our Keynote Speaker, and we will provide other resources to conference registrants, including relevant published articles from the International Congregational Journal.

Brian's keynote, titled "A Changing Church but an Unchanged Bible: Congregationalism in Samoa and the Diaspora," will look at how the Samoan Congregational Church has changed face from its traditional form in Samoa to its form in diasporic communities, becoming spaces for the maintaining of Samoan culture and language while fostering communities and networking, a somewhat decolonised version of the Samoan Congregational Church. Yet despite this, reading and interpretation of the Bible and its subsequent theologies have remained subdued under the tight colonial grip of traditional Western applications and methodology/ies. Such Westernised readings fail to recognise Samoan concerns and questions of identity in diasporic lands. Brian's talk will explain the need for decolonial readings that reflect the changing decolonising church, which seeks to embrace Samoan native-ness in reading and interpretation.

Scroll down the page for the full Conference Program and information on how to register for each session.

 

CONFERENCE PROGRAM

 

11:30 AM BOSTON

4:30 PM LONDON

 

INFORMAL PRE-CONFERENCE CHAT

Hosted by Rev. Dr. Janet Wootton (International Congregational Fellowship)

 

Register here to attend the pre-conference chat.

12 PM BOSTON

5 PM LONDON

WELCOME AND KEYNOTE

Brian Fiu Kolia (Malua Theological College, Samoa): A Changing Church but an Unchanged Bible: Congregationalism in Samoa and the Diaspora

 

Register here to attend the Keynote.

1:15 PM BOSTON

6:15 PM LONDON

PANEL 1: MISSION MOTIVATION

From Wales to Wisconsin to Washington: The Travels and Travails of Rahel o Fôn, Efengyles, Evangelistess   
Richard Cleaves (Retired, Congregational Federation, Wales)

Agnes Fenenga   
May Cornelia Grant (Central Congregational Church UCC, Providence, Rhode Island)

A Missional Pilgrimage   
Chris Surber and Ephram Surber (First Congregational Church of Naples, Florida)

 

Register here to attend Panel 1.

2:45 PM BOSTON

7:45 PM LONDON

PANEL 2: PRACTICAL CONGREGATIONALISM

Butterflies and Beasts: Mission as Chaos in the Congregational Way   
Graham Adams (Northern College/Luther King Centre, Manchester, England)

God Invites, Does Not Coerce   
John H. Thomas (Retired, United Church of Christ)

The United Church of Christ in Black and White   
Sloan T. Letman, IV (Independent Scholar)

 

Register here to attend Panel 2.

4:15 PM BOSTON

9:15 PM LONDON

WRAP UP WITH THE PANELISTS

Rev. Dr. Janet Wootton (International Congregational Federation)   
Dr. Kyle Roberts (Congregational Library & Archives)   
Rev. Dr. Charles Packer (Pine Hill Congregational Church, Michigan)

 

Register to attend the wrap up with the panelists.

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES


Rev. Dr. Janet Wootton, International Congregational Fellowship

One of the aims in setting up this virtual conference, co-sponsored by the Congregational Library &  Archives in Boston and the International Congregational Theological Commission, was to draw on the scholarship represented in the International Congregational Journal over the life of the publication. We have chosen here three items which were originally given as talks or sermons at international events, so they are each speaking from their own context to an international audience at a particular time and place. Each of the contexts is also intersectional, as can be seen from the descriptions below. Their own stories are complex and diverse.

Lee Sung Ock (2007) For a Time Like This: The Korean Church and the Privatization of Religion, talk given at the 5th NACCC Symposium in Wauwatosa, USA. Lee, a member of the Korean Puritan Movement, was at the time studying for her PhD at the Lebanese University in Beirut.

Collin Cowan (2012) Missional Congregations: Towards Life-Affirming Communities Reflections on our Journey, one of the keynotes at the Quadrennial Conference of the International Congregational Fellowship in London, UK. Collin was at the time the General Secretary of CWM (Council for World Mission) and former General Secretary of the United Church of Jamaica and the Grand Cayman Islands.

Haroutune Selimian (2016) Talks and Sermons given as part of a visit to the UK during the 2016 war in his home town of Aleppo, Syria. Haroutune is President of the Armenian Protestant Church of Syria, and a regular speaker at ICF Conferences.

We hope that these papers will interact with the breadth of our keynote, and the specificity of the panelists’ contributions in creative and challenging ways. While there are concrete points of comparison, for example, Aleppo, Syria and the Armenian genocide, or the place of a mission agency such as the Council for World Mission, the wider value of these additional resources lies in interaction with crucial contemporary challenges.

Both "mission" and "transmission" are loaded words. The ICJ articles describe how transmission of Christianity brought with it, often unrecognized, cultural overtones, such as the place of secular thinking, or assumptions about the "ownership" of Christianity. Lee draws attention to the roots of a business model and measurements of success in some of the Korean Churches. Selimian comments wryly on evangelistic missions to the places where the Christian faith is older by several centuries than the mission organizations.

In the background of mission is the vast history of patriarchy, colonization and empire, perhaps the greatest intersectionality of all. This runs like a thread through the power structures which underlie many of the panel contributions, and rings out in the keynote lecture.  

Meanwhile, the Congregational Way offers a unique intersection between corporateness and freedom, the large and small scale. It allows for openness to change without reliance on large structures, but also permits us to ignore the challenges of institutional critique. We have freedom to pioneer creative change, but also to hide in insularity, or, worse, simply to ignore serious issues. Cowan tackles the points of tension. What does it mean to be a missional congregation in creative, global fellowship? It’s great when it works!

All three articles conclude with a challenge. Cowan puts it most starkly: "where do we go from here?" (my italics). He calls us to do the work of exploration, analysis, contextualization, and ask ourselves what we are doing in our own very specific circumstances.

We hope that the juxtaposition between keynote, panelists, and these additional resources will provide the opportunity for participants to bring their own experiences to the table. We pray that the Holy Spirit will speak through all, and that we will take back with us plenty to reflect on, and a call to action.

About the Sponsors

The Theological Commission of the International Congregational Fellowship (ICF) was founded in 2001 with the mission to promote and provide the means for the development of theological reflection and expression in the context of the living Congregational Way. It published the International Congregational Journal from 2001-2020. Commission members have included Christian brothers and sisters in South Africa, South America, the Middle East, Pacific, UK, and USA over the years. As well as publishing a global range of articles a global range, it has supported ICF Quadrennial Gatherings with speakers, workshops, Bible studies, and facilitated seminars in many parts of the world, where there are not the resources to host larger scale international events. The ICF’s aim has been to bring many voices together, especially hearing what the Spirit has to say to churches that are often silenced or rarely heard. Through the years, political situations have shifted and changed, and the ICF has had to be sensitive to those whose Christian faith or international connections may endanger them. In all cases, it continues to uphold its brothers and sisters on prayer. Learn more about the ICF on its website: http://www.internationalcongregationalfellowship.org.

The Congregational Library & Archives (CLA) is located in Boston, Massachusetts. Established in 1853, the CLA’s mission is to foster a deeper understanding of the spiritual, intellectual, cultural, and civic dimensions of the Congregational story and its ongoing relevance in the twenty-first century. The CLA does this through free access to a research library of 225,000 books, pamphlets, periodicals, and manuscripts and a digital archive, with more than 110,000 images, many drawn from its New England’s Hidden Histories project. Throughout the year the CLA offers educational programs and research fellowships for students, scholars, churches, and anyone interested in Congregationalism’s influence on the American story. Learn more about the CLA on its website: www.congregationallibrary.org.

 

Conference Committee

Rev. Dr. Charles Packer, International Congregational Fellowship, USA

Dr. Kyle Roberts, Congregational Library & Archives, Boston, USA

Rev. Dr. Janet Wootton, International Congregational Fellowship, UK