Dear participants, dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, We began this consultation by putting it in the hands of God; we have introduced ourselves and repeated what are our main aims in meeting here. This consultation has a unique character thanks to your presence from so many countries and continents, and in particular from Latin America and the Caribbean. My intention now is to remind us that we are not the first to meet to share experiences and try to understand the healing power of the Spirit and the mission of the church. Some of us have already met in similar consultations. I will not go into details now (1). I will, however, quote some meaningful affirmations from recent dialogues. I will refer to a consultation held in London in 2002, and another that took place in Accra, Ghana, in December last year. In Ghana, we were hosted by the Church of Pentecost, which is the largest denomination in that country after the Roman Catholic Church. We experienced a balanced participation between Christians from Pentecostal and charismatic churches, and Christians from mainline churches, with some participants representing both. We had, however, no participant from Latin America and only one from the Caribbean. That is why this meeting is so important.
Let me now attempt to summarize some results and open questions from the London and Ghana dialogues. Please receive the following considerations as my own way of formulating issues and questions. My intention is to introduce a dialogue, not to make any final statements.
Faith and healing: Points of some convergence
I. Healing and health
To experience healing is not just to experience freedom from sickness and illness, or problems and suffering. Healing is a sign of what the Old Testament calls "shalom" (peace, salvation) as the establishment or restoration of right and reconciled relationships, now and at the end of time. Healing in this encompassing sense includes a spiritual dimension (the experience of God's presence and of a healing community), a physical dimension (long life), a mental dimension (feeling well), a missionary or service dimension (living with and for others), and an ethical/moral dimension (living in obedience and righteousness).
The WCC had attempted to formulate this when it adopted the following definition:
Health is a dynamic state of well being of the individual and the society; of physical, mental, spiritual, economic, political and social well being; of being in harmony with each other, with the material environment and with God. (2)
Healing is experienced when people are reconciled with themselves and with other human beings, and meet God in their lives. Full healing, however, is always ahead of us. Fullness of life can only be experienced partially in the present conditions of the human predicament when somebody is cured, when broken relations are re-established, when healing of memories takes place, etc.
Perhaps I can best summarize that definition by a quote from one of the group reports of the December 2003 consultation in Ghana: "Healing is a journey into perfection of the final hope but this perfection is not always fully realized in the present".
2. Diversity healing experiences
"God heals through prayer today", wrote one of the groups in Ghana. Such an affirmation can be considered a consensus statement. The group also added, "A multi-disciplinary approach is necessary". There is increasing recognition of the diversity of approaches to health, healing and curing within Christian churches and mission networks. This variety is a gift of God. No approach to healing or curing should be considered as the only possible one. Another group in Ghana formulated this thought in this way:
Healing comes from God. God has a variety of means or approaches in healing. These must be used together …