We live in a global world and the impact that we make on each other is getting greater and greater. Therefore it is important to dialogue and be in conversation with churches, church members/leaders and theologians around the world. IGCS is such a forum. This is a blog written by John Kenyon who is the Founder/Director of IGCS.
How the IGCS Began
During the 1990s I worked out of New York as an activist in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. We traveled to South Africa and hosted speakers from South Africa to come to the United States to share their stories and to rally support for Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. It was a cause that united churches and nations from around the world.
The South Africans we hosted shared much in common with the activists in the desegregation movement here in the United States, seeing their struggle as one and the same.
During this time we all began to see specific glimpses of the struggles of people in a larger, global context. Christians from the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and Asia were also talking with the South Africans. We began to ask questions. How did the struggle of the church in India mesh with the struggles of the church in Palestine and Syria? How did the struggle of the church in Taiwan correlate with the struggles of the church in South Africa and in other nations? What did the rise of the religious right in Lebanon share with the rise of the religious right in the United States? Were these concerns only for the experts in high office or were they concerns for everyone?
These issues stayed with me when I left New York for Puerto Rico. But here I felt lost in the forest of the local.
One day in 2003 I envisioned a website with a page for every nation in the world and a page for every global issue. I envisioned a forum where pastors, laity, activists, professors and students could network and share their stories. I envisioned sponsoring multiple, continuous study-tours of international make-up traveling to other nations, worshipping together and learning together. I envisioned an on-line shopping center made up of the fair trade marketers. I envisioned a graduate program focused on how the church was responding to globalization. I envisioned annual conferences.
How the IGCS Crashed and Burned
The lowest estimated cost of this website was $50,000. Undeterred, I turned on my Microsoft Front Page website designer and got busy. About two months later I went online with a website that was around 250 pages long. As I began to reach out, looking for IGCS representatives in every nation of the world, I was amazed at how many well educated, serious professionals volunteered to represent the IGCS in their nation. The IGCS was soon in Africa, Asia and Europe when things began to unravel. Microsoft Front Page went defunct, and I could no longer update it. I could not pay the IGCS representatives, and the work load was serious. I needed to make a living, too. Global Christianity was a huge, unwieldy topic that could easily overwhelm anyone. It overwhelmed many. Recruiting people to join study tours demanded a large pool from which to draw. The IGCS was still too small and too unknown. It needed to incorporate as a not-for-profit. My strength was not fund raising or being a corporate executive.
Why the IGCS Continues
The Institute for Global Church Studies (IGCS) continues because many people from around the world share this same generic vision. International networking among Christians is in high demand. Whether via the IGCS or other organizations, the more connected one is on the global stage, the better one can tell their story and share the stories of others. Politically it is necessary for the safety of Christians in many nations, despite the risks.
With the demise of the first effort, I put up a forum on-line. Today the IGCS is the only website dedicated to studying the impact of globalization on the Church and how the church is responding. We have over 200 Members and average 150 viewers at all times. On the forum, the huge topic was broken down nationally and by subject matter. Our Members come from every continent and from the across the economic, ecclesiastical and professional spectrum, many of them pastors or professors, but many
laity, thank God. Still, our forum is technologically primitive.
The vision lives and continues to grow step-by-step. Given our name, many imagine our “Institute” as a well financed modern physical complex with lots of office space staffed with researchers from around the world monitoring international events, having insightful discussions, publishing papers and sponsoring support programs. Not so. I am merely a retired pastor working on a computer in a small home-office in a small town in Aquada, Puerto Rico. But what is happening online is the great thing. I wish even the 200 Members of the IGCS could better appreciate one another. I am working on this. It is a unique, talented, highly interested international group representing the great demand for networking globally on our topic. Log on and register for free. You are most welcome. Or just log on and read. Have a bottle of aspirin at hand. http://www.igcsforum.org
John Kenyon, Founder/Director