The Church of the Nazarene hosted the fifth Global Theology Conference in Pilar, Argentina, with some 250 participants from around 65 countries taking part. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the event was the diverse nature of the global conversation: all the proceedings took place in four languages, and seeing vigorous debate between representatives of all six regions of the church – whether in small groups, or on the main stage – was a joyful example of how to wrestle honestly with profound questions, yet discover how much we had in common: to talk, to pray, to listen to each other.

The theme of the conference was ‘In the Power of the Spirit’, and the three days were shaped around three subthemes: The Holy Spirit; Holy People; Hope of New Creation. Each day saw two main papers on each theme, with four responses, and these triggered conversation and engagement in the fertile setting of small groups, which in turn fed questions back to a further plenary session, when presenters responded to and engaged with those questions. Those papers are all available to be read here.

The Eurasia region was well represented, despite some visa issues meaning that some delegates were unable to attend (and the Indian and South Asian delegates getting their visas confirmed at – literally – the eleventh hour). The 27 delegates who did attend were from all across the region, with Dr Svetlana Khobnya starting the conference with the first of the main papers: ‘In the Power of the Spirit: Holy Spirit.’

The conference was the first to be hosted on the South America region, and the venue, the Seminario Teológico Nazareno del Cono Sur, in Pilar, gave the delegates the warmest of welcomes: a group of 20 volunteers from Peru had been preparing the campus for weeks, and it was a beautiful setting that embraced all the participants as honoured guests. Dr Jorge Julca, president of the seminary, and regional education coordinator for South America, said that he felt it was a landmark event for the region, showing it was fully recognised as a partner in the global Church. For those of us from the West, it was the vigour and enthusiasm of the Church of the Nazarene in the global south that was so refreshing. As Deirdre Brower Latz commented, “the level of engagement by the global church outside the US was impressive: the Church shone.”

What is the outcome of such a conference? Well, it is important to realise that this conversation is not designed to ratify a common statement or position, but (as one of the planning team put it) “to stir up the conversation, spice it up with different perspectives, and then send the participants back to their 65 countries and 6 regions to continue the conversation.”

And here are some reflections from our Eurasian participants: Sharon Tigga (India) wrote, “I had the privilege of attending my very FIRST Global Theological Conference in Argentina! And I am truly grateful to the Church of the Nazarene for creating a platform where diverse voices from around the world can freely share their theological perspectives shaped by their unique contexts. [This] has been incredibly enriching, pushing me to both learn and wrestle with my own understanding. One thing I can say for certain is that this conference has, in many ways, broadened and even affirmed my vision of serving the church.’ Seyran Vardanyan (Armenia) commented, “From the first ceremony I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit because I was surrounded by God’s people, especially educated Nazarene elders. Every single Session was from God, because it was useful and helpful for our future Local Churches and Learning Centre visions. Once more I felt part of God`s international community and it was wonderful.” Andrey Khobnya (UK/Russia) observed, “I enjoyed the small group discussions. I was pleasantly surprised that even though there were three spoken languages used in our group, it still worked very well.“

Please pray for the conversations to continue as the participants return home – and, particularly, for our three regional theological colleges (EuNC, NTC Manchester, and SANBC) in their task of working with our churches and districts to shape leaders to serve the kingdom. You’ll be hearing a bit more about a planned ‘Education Sunday’ coming up in June, so ‘watch this space.’


-article written by Peter Rae