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Penang and Prague

PENANG: March 2000
The conference was based at the Bayview Beach Resort, Penang, and was attended by about 250 people from 25 countries, including about 40 who came from all over the world for meetings of the ICCOWE Advisory Council.

The Advisory Council members and some others gathered for a two-day prayer vigil. Interspersed with powerful sessions of prayer were presentations dealing with the major themes of ICCOWE: Renewal, Evangelisation and Unity. The speakers were Oswill Williams (Pentecostal), Rev Kalevi Lehtinen (Lutheran), Prof. Matteo Calisi (Roman Catholic), and the preacher at Sunday morning worship was Fr Tom Forrest.

At the main conference, participants included regional leaders and members of Roman Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal and non-denominational churches, mainly from India and South-East Asia. Main speakers came from Singapore (Rev Derek Hong), the Philippines (Fr Bart Pastor), USA (Bp Oswill Williams), Finland (Rev Johan Candelin), Italy (Rev Thomas Michel) Germany (Kim Kollins) and UK (Charles Whitehead). There was much emphasis on the suffering church, which is a reality on our world today.

Music was provided by a Roman Catholic group from the Community of God's Little Children, Philippines. Evening rallies, organised by local Christians from various churches, were held on consecutive nights in Georgetown, Penang, with speakers Fr Tom Forrest (USA), Pastor Colton Wickramaratne (Sri Lanka) and Rev Alfredo Cooper (Chile). Many new contacts and friendships were made during this time, and local Christians were encouraged to meet fellow-Christians from all over the world.

Bishop Oswill Williams, of the Church of God of Prophecy, wrote:
"I am convinced that the prayer vigil set the tone for the rest of the conference. The start of the main conference on the first evening was a particularly poignant moment for me. As the opening speaker, I was struck by the unusual setting and the different peoples and Christian streams I would be addressing. It seemed that the Spirit specifically called for me to emphasise the unifying power of the cross of Christ. With the knowledge that Pentecost, as it pertains to the coming of the Holy Spirit, took place after the cross, it is clear that we are all children of the cross before we became children of Pentecost. Cross-carrying Christians, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, cannot and will not accommodate the traditional divisions that have plagued Christendom for hundreds of years"

Bishop Hamish Jamieson, of the Anglican Church in Australia, wrote: "It was a good conference with excellent addresses, a building of friendships, and a releasing of the work of the Holy Spirit. We are to be Cross-carrying Christians, and in that fact we will find unity."
Prague was the chosen venue for an historic conference, which brought Christians together from eastern and western Europe, and from many different Christian churches and communities. It was the tenth anniversary of that memorable summer of 1990 in Prague, the first since the collapse of communism the previous year. There were about 260 participants; they came from 30 countries (mostly European, including 11 eastern European countries) but the largest delegations came from the United Kingdom and Romania. About twenty came from Moscow, and there were also delegates from other parts of Russia.

The conference was jointly sponsored by ICCOWE (International Charismatic Consultation on World Evangelization) and ECC (European Charismatic Consultation). The participants were invited to “Celebrate Jesus 2000" and the main focus was on the Incarnation of Christ - His birth 2000 years ago, and the many ways in which He is now manifesting His life through Christian people.

The workshops were designed to express several different ways in which Christ is manifesting Himself in Europe. Roger Simpson from York introduced the world famous Alpha course, helped by David Payne. Carl-Erik Sahlberg from Stockholm, Sweden described his work in a parish in that city, where the ministry specialises in helping drug addicts, prostitutes and street people. Father Vasile Mihoc from Romania led a moving workshop on the Cross and how the experience of suffering under Communism has strengthened the Church. Pete Greig, assisted by Justin Blake, shared about planting churches in the youth culture.

Mike Bickle, Kim Kollins and Salvatore Martinez spoke about various models of prayer initiatives which have been developing throughout the world with great intensity in the last year or so.

The theme of reconciliation was movingly presented by Peter Kuzmic, Ralph del Colle (representing Kilian MacDonnell, who could not be present) and Giovanni Traettino. Peter spoke of the recent troubles in his native Croatia, while Ralph, a Roman Catholic layman from the United States, and Giovanni, a Pentecostal pastor from Italy, both asked forgiveness of each other, regarding the treatment of Pentecostals by Roman Catholics and Roman Catholics by Pentecostals.

On the opening evening Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Prague, had warmly welcomed the delegates. He was followed by Fr Tom Forrest who roused the conference with his talk focused on hope . One of the evenings was led by Scandinavians, the main address being given by Berit Simonsson, wife of a Swedish Lutheran pastor. The morning speakers, addressing various aspects of the Incarnation, were David Pawson, Bishop Kallistos and Mel Robeck.

At the same time as the main conference, theologians were meeting and focusing on The Incarnation in Trinitarian History . Papers were read by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia (UK, Orthodox), Dr Edmund Rybarczyk (USA, Pentecostal), Dr Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Finland, Pentecostal), Dr Ralph del Colle (USA, Roman Catholic), and Father Hilarion Alfeyev (Russia, Orthodox).

The worship was led by Wellspring, a UK based music group, and a choir from the Lord’s Army, an Orthodox group from Romania.

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