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Volume 54, Nos 3-4, September-December 2004
Editor Odair Pedroso Mateus
Editorial: Join us in Accra! ..........................……………………………................................ Earth democracy, living democracy - Vandana Shiva ......................................…………....... Globalization’s threat to human dignity and sustainability - H. Russel Botman ..................... The mission of the church in contexts of crisis - Ofelia Ortega .......................................... Dangerous undercurrents of globalization - Natalie Maxson ......................................…... From the ends of the earth - C. S. Song .................................……………………………… Mission renewal in the context of globalization - Philip Wickeri ...................................…… Mission section plenary report - WARC ..............................………………………………… Covenanting for justice: The Accra Confession - WARC ...........................………………… Hearing the cry for life in our joy and our pain - WARC ...........................………………… Letter from Accra: message of the WARC 2004 general council - WARC ..................….... Threats and challenges to life – an African woman’s perspective - Fulata L. Moyo .............. Threats and challenges to life: biblical perspectives - Susan E. Davies ......................……….
Reformed World is published quarterly by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches 150, route de Ferney, PO Box 2100-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland www.warc.ch
113 115 127 133 138 146 155 164 169 175 181 185 198
Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick Mr. Helis H. Barraza Díaz, Rev. Dr. Henriette Hutabarat-Lebang, Rev. Dr. Gottfried W. Locher, Mrs. Marcelle Orange-Mafi, Rev. Dr. Ofelia Ortega, Rev. Prof. Lilia Rafalimanana Geneva Secretariat Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi - General Secretary Ms. Yueh-Wen Lu - Youth Rev. Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth - Partnership of Women and Men Ms. Jet den Hollander - John Knox-WARC Mission in Unity Project Mrs. Renate Herdrich - Finances Mr. John Asling - Communications Rev. Dr. Seong-Won Park - Cooperation and Witness Rev. Dr. Odair Pedroso Mateus - Theology
© Copyright by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Geneva. Except where otherwise stated, the writers of articles are alone responsible for the opinions expressed. No article may be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.
Join us in Accra!
No sooner had the 24th general council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches come to the end than the WARC offices in Geneva were approached by Reformed Christians from different countries. Some had been in Accra, Ghana, where the general council was held. Others had learned about that unique worldwide Reformed gathering through different media. They were concerned with the ways in which Christians and Christian churches should best bear witness today, in the power of the Spirit, to the good news of God’s reign made uniquely manifest, especially to the poor and marginalized, in the life, ministry, struggle, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. They were interested in the ways in which WARC member churches spoke together, amidst lively debates, about today’s world, Christian mission, and church renewal and unity for the sake of God’s mission and, therefore, for the sake of repentance, conversion and life in fullness within the earth community. The following pages respond to their willingness to read and reflect on the main findings, conclusions and recommendations that the general council addressed not just to an organization called WARC but first and foremost to 215 churches in 107 countries that are called to realize over and over again that the contemporary missional challenges are too big to be faced separately and in disunity. As they go through this selection of texts in the order in which they are presented, it will be somewhat like leaving the Legon University campus after coffee break, getting on yellow buses to go downtown or to the GIMPA conference hall, joining plenaries, issue groups, and sections, and praying, singing and learning from and with Reformed sisters and brothers from the whole inhabited earth.
living and working in fellowship rather than isolation. the Pauline call that we do not let ourselves be conformed by this world. sometimes in rather strong language. Odair Pedroso Mateus 114 .2). to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. rather than alone. but be instead transformed by the renewal of our minds. It therefore does not come as a surprise that its voice has echoed. there is little doubt that our willingness to discern the will of God today can be better served by a sense of mutual vulnerability that pushes us as Christians and churches from north and south to seek firmly to listen together. so that we may discern what is the will of God (Rom 12. The strong language sometimes used by the general council was certainly not the most consensual part of that unique gathering. to seek church renewal as a service to that promise in different difficult contexts and to discern what WARC member churches can do better by praying. However.The 24th general council met to celebrate the evangelical promise of life in fullness.
Politicians. . culminating in extremism and terrorism. the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). move to political agendas of exclusion to garner votes and stay in office. We witness violence and war on a global scale. My book Violence of the Green Revolution was an attempt to understand the ecology of terrorism. A new worldview in which it is not greed but compassion that is globalized. The forces unleashed by globalization are killing democracy along with people’s economic security. with no limits to its reach. cultural. robbed of the power to ensure that people’s basic needs are provided for. A physicist and social activist from India. other species and future generations. justified sometimes as a clash of civilizations. fundamentalism. ecological and social crises resulting from corporate globalization are inviting us to a new way of thinking and being on this planet. ecological and economic. water resources and ecosystems are under assault by a predatory global economy. The 115 The rise of terrorism. Democracy is being eroded and undermined in every society. Biodiversity. its exploitation of nature’s wealth. Humanity seems to be in free fall towards disaster. fundamentalism and police states A new politics of hatred and intolerance is arising from growing economic insecurity and a sense of shrinking space for survival. The unfolding destruction is militaristic. violence and war spread like a planetary contagion. or its use of violence and coercion to appropriate resources from communities. Representative democracy loses its base in economic democracy as decisions move out of countries into the boardrooms of global corporations and into global institutions like the World Bank. mindful of what our actions and our consumption cost to other humans. sometimes as a war against terror or an “axis of evil”.Earth democracy. Terrorism. I have witnessed conflicts over development and conflicts over natural resources mutate into communal conflicts. a new consciousness in which we are not reduced to consumers of globally traded commodities. political. but see ourselves as planetary beings with a planetary consciousness. Democracy emptied of economic freedom and ecological freedom Over the past two decades. Vandana Shiva presented this paper at the keynote event of the 2004 WARC general council. living democracy Vandana Shiva The economic.
Fear and violence have come to dominate our lives. The destruction of resource rights and the erosion of democratic control of natural resources. or the AntiTerrorism. a teacher or a nurse. culture is reduced to a negative shell where one identity is in competition with the “other” over scarce resources that define economic and political power. it tears communities apart. and assaulting the political freedoms of citizens. In a democracy. deepening and widening democracy has become a survival imperative for the human species. Crime and Security Act in the UK – these new laws created after Sept 11 2001 are not just laws against terrorists. Rejuvenating. The result is fundamentalism. which fills the vacuum left 116 by a decaying democracy. eroding cultural diversity and identity. With identity no longer coming from the positive experience of being a farmer. which are being trampled upon by the forces of globalization. It provides fertile ground for the cultivation of fundamentalism and terrorism. the IMF or the WTO. “We” have been unjustly treated.lessons I have drawn from the growing but diverse expressions of fundamentalism and terrorism are the following: Undemocratic economic systems that centralize control over decision-making and resources and displace people from productive employment and livelihoods create a culture of insecurity. freedom from denial of basic needs. Economic globalization fuels economic insecurity. Globalization is creating a global culture of insecurity. and means of production undermine cultural identity. The only cards left in the hands of politicians eager to garner votes are those of race. trade and consumption. freedom from violence. religion and ethnicity. Every policy decision is translated into the politics of “we” and “they”. Reinventing freedom in our time requires freedom from fear. “they” have gained privileges. the Prevention of Terrorism Act in India. When the economic agenda is hijacked by the World Bank. states across the world are making laws to shut down democracy and freedom in the name of fighting terror. Instead of addressing the root causes of terrorism and fundamentalism in the growth of economic insecurity and the collapse of economic democracy by ensuring that people’s needs are met and their livelihoods protected. the economy. the economic agenda is the political agenda. and freedom from nonsustainable and unethical patterns of production. They are laws against citizens’ democratic defence of their fundamental freedoms. Instead of integrating people. democracy is undermined. Positive identities mutate into negative identities – “I” am not the “other”. The Patriot Act in the US. a craftsperson. Centralized economic systems also erode the democratic base of politics. and annihilation and extinction of the other is necessary for my security and survival. Rule through fear and violence is becoming the dominant mechanism for .
their seeds and biodiversity. Ecological destruction. A great leap backwards? Globalization was projected as the next great leap of human evolution in a linear forward march from tribes to nations to global markets. with economies. their means of production. species are pushed to extinction. erosion. their economic security. ecological and economic levels. water and living resources. political. Globalization is deepening poverty and underdevelopment by robbing the poor of their sources of livelihood in land. highways and ports. As the globalization project has unfolded. biodiversity and genetic resources are patented and land is taken over by force for industry. And as predatory and non-sustainable models of economic development spread worldwide. just as in the earlier phase of state-driven development they were supposed to have moved from the local to the national. their food and water. water and biodiversity as their primary capital. They live in an economy with land. The bankruptcy of the dominant world order is leading to social. rivers and glaciers are disappearing. Corporate globalization is enabling corporations to steal from the poor their last resources. Markets were offered as an alternative to states for regulating our lives. political. societies and ecosystems disintegrating and breaking down. Two-thirds of humanity depend on natural resources for their livelihoods and meeting basic needs. our role as custodians of our natural and cultural heritage are all to disappear or be destroyed. Water is privatized. it would have been described as the rise of fascism. or privatization of these vital resources translates into poverty and underdevelopment. pollution. Deregulated commerce and corporate rule were offered as the alternative to centralized bureaucratic control under communist regimes and state-dominated economies. our identity as members of communities. The case of India Gandhi rejuvenated the concept of swaraj (self-rule) as a core 117 The privatization of resources The philosophical and ethical bankruptcy of globalization stems from . economic and ecological nonsustainability. Our identities and context were to move from the national to the global. with the totalitarianism of corporate control over markets combining with the totalitarianism of militarized states.governance. In another period. not just our economies. reducing all aspects of our lives to commodities and shrinking our identities to that of consumers in a global marketplace. their land and forests. it has exposed its bankruptcy at the philosophical. and millions are uprooted from their homes and displaced. Our capacities as producers. mines. taking away from people their fundamental rights and freedoms.
however. but their dissent was converted into assent by destroying the accounts of their proceedings and preparing false records. including the power to approve or reject development plans and programmes. Most of the central and state laws remain to be suitably adapted. The Land Acquisition Act (1894) is the most dreaded and draconian relic of British rule and has been responsible for uprooting not less than 30 million people after independence. In the case of land acquisition. the assembly of the people.3 The four gram sabhas concerned rejected the proposal. consultation with the gram sabha. “all state legislation on the panchayats that may be made shall be in consonance with the customary law. As a result of the Extension Act. As the law stated. India passed the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act. were enshrined in the constitution through the Extension Act. and conflict resolution. This democratic process was scandalously subverted in Nagarnar. 2 recognizing the local community in tribal areas as the highest authority in matters of culture. is now a constitutionally mandated precondition before starting land acquisition. where the state government proposed to allow the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) to acquire land to build a steel plant. which ironically took a new turn after independence.element of freedom. 1996. Chhattisgarh. social and religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources. their cultural identity. village communities (gram sabhas) were granted legal acknowledgment as community entities. would cease. . Movements in postindependent India struggled to enshrine deep democracy in the constitution. Village communities retained a number of powers. Gram sabhas were also given the authority to grant land. resources. With honourable exceptions. the rulers in India – both civil servants and political executives – have not taken kindly to these provisions that make the gram sabha fundamental in governance at the village level.” After the natural rights of the community to self-governance. Bastar District. For the first time since India’s independence. including command over 118 resources. community resources and the customary mode of dispute resolution. The Extension Act accepted the traditions of the people and their cultural identity by honouring their traditional relationship with the natural resources in their homeland. more than half of them being tribals. guidelines for consultation have been issued by the union government and also framed by some state governments.” Control over community resources was recognized as not only an economic necessity but a touchstone of cultural identity: “Every gram sabha shall be competent to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people. since the mandate is specific. it was expected that the unfortunate confrontation between the tribal people and the state. For instance.
ecological and economic impacts of this commodification of life. including the District Collector and the Chief Executive of the NMDC. The NMDC forcibly took possession of land on the strength of an award that was manipulated through criminal deeds. had conspired to commit criminal offences. Price Waterhouse.5 million World Bank loan for water privatization has largely financed the consultancy fees of an international accounting firm. Other guidelines also have not been followed. On the contrary. in society. like Sarvoday leader Siddraj Dhaddha. The officials did not respond. storage and use of carbon monoxide is being used. The Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) is privatizing the biological and genetic commons through patents. Dada Tukaram Geetacharya (a great saint). one of the poorest Indian states. a $2. the senior journalist Manimala and I were also invited but were refused permission to attend and forced to go back. and in the corridors of power to have the patents on Neem and Basmati revoked. No application for environmental clearance was made before the land was acquired.5 We have had to struggle over years in the courts. which now costs 10 times more than before and is destroying agriculture. terror was let loose on the people. Breaking all the conventions of civil dialogue. This raises several questions about the proposed plant. An untried technology that involves the manufacture. The four gram sabhas scheduled a joint assembly in March 2002 to discuss the plant and invited the state and NMDC officials to dialogue with them.4 In Delhi. This is just one of many examples. were beaten up. Globalization is a break from all earlier stages of human relationship with the earth and her resources. the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) are using northern taxpayers’ money to privatize irrigation water. A reign of terror prevails ever since. transforming commons into commodities to be traded freely for profit – with total indifference to the ethical. but its recommendations were not even acknowledged. National figures. forcing them to accept cheques in compensation for the land or face brutal beatings and jail. The National Commission found that in the absence of mandatory consultation. It is based on enclosure of the remaining ecological commons – 119 .6 “Lives” and “live nots” Globalization is rewriting our relationship with the earth and her species. In Orissa. on the basis of an enquiry under Article 338 of the constitution. the only livelihood of the poor.The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. water and biodiversity from local communities. the land acquisition was ab initio null and void. hooligans blocked all the routes to Nagarnar and hundreds of those invited. alienating land. mostly women. came to the conclusion that senior officers.
nor does it disappear when the protective functions of the state with respect to its people start to wither away. transnational corporations and international agencies promote the separation of community interests from state interests and the fragmentation and division of communities. We need a new movement that allows us to move from the dominant and pervasive culture of violence.biodiversity. We need a new paradigm to respond to the fragmentation caused by various forms of fundamentalism. water and air – and the destruction of local economies on which people’s livelihoods and economic security depend. State sovereignty by itself is not a sufficient counterweight to corporate globalization. The transformation of commons to commodities is ensured through shifts in governance and through new property rights built into WTO trade agreements that transform people’s resources into corporate monopolies. and has led to economic 120 and political bankruptcy. Instead of acting on the doctrine of public trust and principles of democratic accountability and subsidiarity. • The TRIPs agreement was based on central governments hijacking the rights to biodiversity and knowledge from communities and assigning them as monopoly rights to corporations. The old polarization of “haves and have nots” is mutating into a new polarization of “lives and live nots” as the very basis and fabric of life is commodified and privatized. Rights move from people to corporations through increasingly centralized and unaccountable states acting on the principle of eminent domain – the absolute sovereignty of the ruler. has fuelled corruption. destruction and death to a culture of non- . and local communities. Communities defending themselves always demand such duties and obligations from state structures. • The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) takes decisions and ownership over water from the local and public domain to the privatized. This undemocratic process of privatization and deregulation has concentrated power and ownership. Earth democracy: beyond the rule of terror and greed We need once more to feel at home on the earth and with each other. The reinvention of sovereignty has to be based on the reinvention of the state so that the state is made accountable to the people. Decision-making is taken away from communities and countries and given to global institutions. Sovereignty cannot reside only in centralized state structures. The new partnership of national sovereignty needs empowered communities that assign functions to the state for their protection. • The Agreement on Agriculture was based on taking decisions away from farming communities and regional governments. On the other hand. global domain. regional and local governments. governments usurp power from parliaments.
race. and without justice there can be no peace. and have no purchasing power in the marketplace. When the intrinsic worth and value of every life form and every human is recognized. The second is the indivisibility of justice. Earth democracy recontextualizes humans as members of the Earth family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam). without discrimination on the basis of gender. instead of the dominant notion of mastery. of 121 . That is why in India we started the Earth Democracy movement. development against the environment. not just humans – and definitely not just humans privileged through class. justice and peace by reorganizing relationships. gender and religion. It establishes corporate rule through a policy of divide and rule. As we face the double closure of corporate globalization and militarized police states. creative peace and life.violence. restructuring constellations of power and revitalizing freedom and democracy. earth democracy creates an obligation on us as humans to take their wellbeing into account. It transforms diversity and multiplicity into oppositional differences. The first is the continuum of freedom for all life on earth. religion. and creates competition and conflict between different species and peoples and between different aims. our challenge is to reclaim our freedoms and the freedoms of our fellow beings. Re-embedding humans in the ecological matrix of biological and cultural diversity reopens spaces for sustainability. control and ownership.7 This defines our human responsibility as trustees and stewards. Earth democracy embodies principles that enable us to transcend the polarization. one religion. and people against one another in a new culture of hate. Diversity signifies freedom. divisions and exclusions that pit the economy against ecology. Corporate globalization ruptures these continuities. Earth democracy privileges diversity in nature and society in form and in function. The Earth Democracy movement embodies two indivisibilities and continuums. people against the planet. one race. class and species. Since other species do not vote. Monocultures are an indication of coercion and loss of freedom. fear and insecurity. biological diversity and cultural diversity flourish. peace and sustainability – without sustainability and just sharing of the earth’s bounties there is no justice. Earth democracy is democracy for all life. Earth democracy also nourishes diversity by going beyond the logic of exclusion. and for all humans. Monocultures result from exclusion and dominance of species. by breeding fundamentalisms through spreading insecurity and then using these fundamentalisms to shift people’s focus from sustainability and justice and peace to ethnic and religious conflict and violence. We are being ruled by terror and greed. and as members of diverse cultures in the mosaic of cultural diversity that enriches our lives. one variety. cannot lobby. race. Freedom implies diversity.
for us. However. instead of “either/or”. The two tendencies that we demand of the economic system – localization and alternatives – need to be central to people’s politics. they change according to the context. They are not given by states. or by corporations. The Living Democracy movement is reclaiming people’s sovereignty and community rights to natural resources. of “either/or”. The social and ecological costs are externalized and borne by others who are excluded from diecisions and from benefits. It is in the included middle that diversity and creativity flourish in nature and in culture. and even the false clash of cultures. Planting multiple crops in a mixture will have low yields of individual crops. not undermine it. At the heart of building alternatives and localizing economic and political systems is the recovery of the commons and the reclaiming of community. of nature vs culture. since yields and productivity are theoretically constructed terms. It allows for the forest farm and the farmed forest. and monocultures increase yields and productivity. It transcends the false polarization of wild vs cultivated. A myth promoted by the onedimensional monoculture paradigm is that biodiversity reduces yields and productivity. with rights flowing from responsibility instead of the dominant paradigm of rights without responsibility and responsibility without rights. Earth democracy is based on those who pay the price having a say. from global institutions and centralized governments to local communities.apartheid. The separation of rights and responsibility is at the root of ecological devastation and gender. nor can they be extinguished by states. The law of the included middle also implies multifunctionality. must strengthen the local andj national. of “us” and “them”. and implies a shift in iour interpretation of sovereignty. The global. Earth democracy puts responsibility and duties at the core of our relationships. attempts are being made to alienate people’s rights to vital resources of land water and biodiversity. Corporations that earn profits from the chemical industry or from genetic pollution 122 resulting from genetically modified (GM) crops do not have to bear the burden of their pollution. Rights to natural resources are natural rights. Without them. As members of the earth family – Vasudhaiva . but will have high total output of food. Yields usually refer to production per unit area of a single crop. It recognizes that biodiversity can be preserved and also support human needs. This shift is also an ecological imperative. the WTO. class inequality. This implies decisions moving downwards. forces for change cannot be mobilized. of the law of the excluded middle. even though under globalization. This creates the need for direct or basic democracy. the logic of “and”. Planting only one crop in the entire field as a monoculture will of course increase its yield.
Earth democracy is not dead. It creates security. They are not given or assigned. Democracy is dead when governments no longer reflect the will of the people but are reduced to unaccountable instruments of corporate rule under the constellation of corporate globalization as the Enron and Chiquita cases make so evident. The eminent domain principle inevitably leads to “all for some” – corporate monopolies over biodiversity through patents. Under globalization. Survival requires guaranteed access to resources.Kutumbhakam8 – we have a share in the earth’s resources. both by subverting democratic structures of constitutions and by promulgating ordinances that stifle civil liberties. Earth democracy is based on maintaining life on earth and freedom for all species and people. It is a permanently vibrant democracy. It is not just about elections and casting votes once in three or four or five years. the clothes we wear. It combines economic democracy with political democracy and ecological democracy. Commons provide that guarantee. our production systems and consumption patterns from the poverty-creating global markets to the sustainability and sharing of the earth community. the WTO and global corporations. The Sept 11 tragedy has become a convenient excuse for anti-people legislation worldwide. They are recognized or they are ignored. This shift from global markets to earth citizenship is a shift of focus from globalization to localization of power from corporations to citizens. Governments everywhere are betraying the mandates that brought them to power. The most basic right we have as a species is survival. Politicians everywhere are turning to xenophobic and fundamentalist agendas to get votes in a period when economic agendas have been taken away from national levels and are being set by the World Bank. It is everyday life and decisions and freedoms related to everyday living – the food we eat. and natural rights to the conditions of staying alive. the livelihoods of the poor and small. They are centralizing authority and power. Corporate globalization operates to create rules for the global. Privatization and enclosures destroy it. the IMF. national and local markets that privilege global corporations and threaten diverse species. local producers and 123 . Rights to natural resources for needs of sustenance are natural rights. It creates positive economies. Corporate globalization is centred on corporate profits. it is alive. positive politics. The earth democracy movement is about living rather than dead democracy. democracy even of the shallow representative kind is dying. positive identities. the water we drink. Earth democracy is about life. And earth democracy is the movement to relocate our minds. Localization is necessary for recovery of the commons. corporate monopolies on water through privatization and corporate monopolies over food through free trade. the right to life.
mindful of what our actions and our consumption cost other humans. The earth Corporate globalization globalizes greed and consumerism. they protect people’s livelihoods and provide basic needs to all. Natural rights to sustenance – All members of the earth community. Earth democracy is exercised through decentralized coexistence. Earth democracy and living economy – Economic systems in earth democracy protect ecosystems and their integrity. Earth democracy offers a new way of seeing and being earth citizens. nor can they be extinguished by state or corporate action. Corporate globalization is exercised through centralizing. No state or corporation has the right to erode or undermine these natural rights or enclose the commons that sustain all through privatization or monopoly control. other species and future generations. Diversity in nature and culture – Defending biological and cultural diversity is a duty of all people. caring and sharing. a source of richness both material and cultural.businesses. The economic. Earth democracy operates according to the ecological laws of nature. power and peaceful other people. Earth democracy: principles 1. a value. They are not given by states or corporations. a new consciousness in which we are not reduced to consumers of globally traded commodities. destructive power. No humans have the right to own other species. not objects of manipulation or ownership. to security of ecological space. Ecological democracy – We are all members of the earth community. through which we can create peace. humans and cultures have intrinsic worth. other people or the knowledge of other cultures through patents and other intellectual property rights. and limits commercial activity to prevent harm to other species and to people. Intrinsic worth of all species and peoples – All species. No humans have the right to encroach on the ecological space of other species and 124 . They are subjects. 3. 5. Diversity is an end in itself. they are birthrights given by the fact of existence on earth and are best protected through community rights and commons. to safe and clean habitat. sustainability and justice in our volatile and violent times. including all humans. 4. We all have the duty to protect the rights and welfare of all species and all people. These rights are natural rights. but see ourselves as planetary beings with a planetary consciousness. ecological and social crises resulting from corporate globalization are inviting us to a new way of thinking and being on this planet. 2. In the earth economy there are no disposable or dispensable species or people. or treat them with cruelty and violence. have the right to sustenance – to food and water. A new worldview in which it is not greed but compassion that is globalized. Living democracy globalizes compassion.
should be produced non-locally and traded long distances. All humans have a duty to share knowledge. Earth democracy is living democracy. Balancing rights with responsibility –In earth democracy. pluralistic systems that protect nature and people. living knowledge. Living knowledge is a commons: it belongs collectively to communities that create it and keep it alive. for the benefit of the common good. resilient local economies that support national and global economies. creatively. cooperation and compassion instead of dividing them through competition and conflict. efficiently and equitably achieved at the local level. Earth democracy globalizes compassion. It is based on sustainable. It is not abstract. Those who bear the consequences of decisions and actions are the decision-makers. It is also living knowledge in that it is embedded in nature and society. 8. are chosen by people. Living knowledge – Earth democracy is based on earth-centred and communitycentred knowledge systems. having the highest authority on decisions related to the environment and natural resources and to the sustenance and livelihoods of people. 9. using local resources and local knowledge. not war. Living economies are built on local economies – Conservation of the earth’s resources and creation of sustainable and satisfying livelihoods are most caringly. diverse. 6. Authority is delegated to more distant levels of governance on the principle of subsidiarity. No person or corporation has a right to enclose. reductionist and anti-life. 7. Only goods and services that cannot be produced locally. Living democracy – Earth democracy is based on local living democracy with local communities. Localization of economies is a social and ecological imperative. not greed. care and compassion – Earth democracy connects people in circles of care. 125 . Globalizing peace. Living knowledge is knowledge that maintains and renews living processes and contributes to the health of the planet and people. or exclusively own as intellectual property. The global economy does not crush and destroy local economies. monopolize. and peace. organized on principles of inclusion and diversity and ecological and social responsibility. Earth democracy is based on vibrant. patent.economy is a living economy. 10. rights are derived from and balanced with responsibility.
[Ed] 3 Formerly part of Madhya Pradesh state. See Vandana Shiva. 1991). 2000). set up a three-tier structure of panchayats at village. composed of all the adult residents. “All beings have a right to wellbeing and happiness. 7 As His Holiness the Dalai Lama said on his 60th birthday. London: Zed Books. the 1996 act extended these provisions to the tribal areas of states such as Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh (Schedule V areas). ecology and politics (London/New York/Penang: Zed Books/Third World Network. introduced intellectual property rules into the multilateral trading system for the first time. A gram sabha is the general assembly of the village. Patents: Myths and reality (New Delhi: Penguin Books India. Violence of the Green Revolution: Third world agriculture. The Constitution (Seventy-third Amend. Pollution and Profit (London: Pluto Press. Chhattisgarh became a separate state on November 1 2000.” 126 . 2002).” 8 “The whole world is one family. 1992. 2001). 2001). Stolen Harvest: The hijacking of the global food supply (Cambridge MA: South End Press. with gram sabhas at the village level. 2 Henceforth. Water Wars: Privatization.Notes 1 Vandana Shiva. 4 See further on this subject. 5 The WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Vandana Shiva. negotiated in the 1986-94 Uruguay Round. 1999. intermediate and district levels. republished as Protect or Plunder? Understanding intellectual property rights (London: Zed Books. A panchayat is an elected body representing one or several villages. 6 See further. the Extension Act. Vandana Shiva. We have a duty to ensure their wellbeing.ment) Act.
eg. The term “household” reminds us that “history is bound up with community. Bauman. since he places risk at the centre of his analysis of contemporary social change. social and ecological side-effects that come with the increase of wealth. medical. 3 and Ulrich Beck 4 view the reorganization of risk to humanity and the ecology as central to any understanding of economic globalization. Among the risk-thought scholars. Russel Botman contends that the notions of oikos (household) and covenant are fundamental to theological reflection in the context of globalization. Among the many approaches to and thought forms engaging the idea of economic globalization. One’s life becomes that of a nomad by virtue of one’s existence in this age. It is not the hazards that are novel but their social constitution and distribution. belonging and life together”. Zygmunt Bauman has given most direct thought to the “human consequences” of economic globalization. can be regarded as the foremost exponent of this risk thought. The risks are constituted by the side-effects of economic globalization. community and the very being of humans. while it also connects human beings to one another.1 Malcolm Waters. The author is vice-rector of the University of Stellenbosch and president of the South African Council of Churches. Ulrich Beck claims that human beings now are forced to live “risk biographies” as a result of widespread fragmentation. living democracy”.5 He sees a deconstruction of 127 . a number of scholars use risk thought in their analysis. humanity to creation and current generations to future generations”. “Covenant” calls for “a universalist interpretation of God’s initiatives in human dignity. Anthony Giddens and Will Hutton. has done extensive research into the human consequences of economic globalization. Globalization presents consequential risks to society. webs of relationships. a political sociologist and emeritus professor of sociology at the Universities of Leeds and Warsaw. the German sociologist. The side-effects constitute risks and are also unevenly distributed in the world. Ulrich Beck. Russel Botman In his response to Vandana Shiva’s “Earth democracy. One is forced to live in a certain “polygamy of place” in the networked reality of globalization. These scholars all use different metaphors to express the particularity of their risk-understanding. the ecology.Globalization’s threat to human dignity and sustainability H. 2 Zygmunt Bauman.
However. The oikos: biblical context of life I have argued elsewhere that the crucial theological discourse in the context of economic globalization is the oikos discourse. As a theological metaphor. It has an . The legislators also had a second principal tool to set the code of choosing – education. Education provided codes of conduct and also established values that would guide the exercise of choice. In the interest of the human being and social needs. He argues that economic globalization is geared towards the tourists’ dreams and desires rather than those of the poorest locals. He also argues that the rich.politics in the realities of economic globalization. Only after legislation could individuals exercise their choices. he argues. ie. the sustained existence of the oikos as we understand it? The term oikos. It reminds us that history is bound up with community. says Bauman. In the classical phase of modernity. The oikos is a God-given space for living. lawmakers could reduce the range of choices open to individuals. political institutions everywhere are currently abandoning or trimming down their role in agenda. by making laws that would provide incentives for the restoration of human dignity or disincentives for actions that could hamper such a development. evokes neighbourliness and living for the other rather than for mere greed and self-interest. webs of relationships. legislation was the principal tool for setting the social agenda of a nation. oikos supersedes the narrow vision that sees history as the central category of interpretation.6 The term economy derives from the Greek oikos-nomos (the regulation of the oikos). Legislation restricted unbridled choice by allowing legislators to exercise the first and primary choice on behalf of the collective and in relation to the responsibilities established in the constitution. namely those of the market. belonging and life together. It enables relationship. in any of its constructs. This means that these two principal functions of political institutions are now being ceded to nonpolitical structures and forces. perhaps. Economics (oikonomia) is essentially the interest in the nomos (the administration) of the oikos. focuses attention on the worldwide household of God. These three arguments impact on the way in which governments are positioned to act in the context of globalization in meeting their social responsibilities. Education was meant to teach us the distinction between the right reasons for according preference and the wrong ones. the great and the famous people of a society no longer aspire to pastoral power. they no longer see themselves as shepherds of their flocks or their people. Education would form in human beings the 128 ethical inclination to follow good impulses and resist the wrong reasons for choosing.and code-setting. Is it perhaps possible that we are facing a single-minded interest in the nomos that has the capacity to threaten the very wellbeing of the oikos or even.
ecological structure that displays boundary and openness. to Israel.8) or that Israel is “God’s house” (Hos 8. the weakest. thus becoming the guarantor of the ordinances and life of the household. The reason for this was not the option for covenant. JPIC failed to rise to the theological and historical challenges of its time. It is true that recent attempts to revitalize the notion of covenant in the context of human dignity. It is given in creation and unfolds in Israel as the oikos of God. The first church is depicted as a household of life. God dwells among the people. It opens with the claim that in Jesus Christ. reconciliation (covenant and recreation) and oikos (covenant and life) in discerning the dignity of humanity and the related integrity of creation in the context of economic globalization. Where the Spirit is present the group becomes a household. justice and the integrity of creation have been abortive. sons and daughters. Ecumenically the failure is a result of an inability to overcome the historical and theo-nationalistic conflict in the interpretations of the notion. Jer 12. The aim is to sustain their relationships and their humanity within the household. The New Testament equally breathes the centrality of the keyword. Covenant calls for a universalist interpretation of God’s initiatives in 129 . in a special way. the house rules are meant to protect the humanity and the livelihood of the weakest and poorest in the oikos. They eat a common meal in the oikos. independence and relationship. sharing and cooperation. God’s house rules are given to all humanity and also. the exploited. Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) programme of the World Council of Churches has been botched. God covenants with Israel. which permits all creatures to live and dwell in peace. Whilst reclaiming covenant as its theological centre. It refers to the restored order of the household of the whole creation. This is the meaning of the promise that God “dwells in Israel” (Ex 25. but the failure of theologians and church leaders to deal with the integrative dimension of covenant. For this reason Sabbath becomes an important notion in the oikos. The Justice. And they all say: Abba! Father! Covenant: divine initiative and dignity I would like to propose that the theological construct God-covenanthumanity is a working model (not alien to Reformed faith!) for integrating the discourses of equality (covenant and creation). Again. The Hebrew Bible is underpinned by the notion of the oikos.7).1. Above all else. This keyword also opens up a new status for the children of God: from being slaves to being free persons. the familiar and the alien and rest and movement. They pray together for that common meal. and the poorest are preciously protected within the household.
the cooperation. Covenant is both a noun and a verb. one can extrapolate all kinds of abstract and universal speculations about life and present them in a Universal Bill of Rights. which can only be received in grace. Human beings now represent God in the care of covenantal living in creation and the economy. the friend of the foreigner. A critical engagement of the notion “covenant” as a basic notion or referential category for faith must overcome the divide between those who see the covenant as something to be “cut” between two equal. reconciliation . The Bible is specifically alert when vulnerable life is at stake. and the God of the widow. contracts. humanity’s existential interactions. The former helps us overcome the idea of a competition between God and humanity by giving priority to God’s initiative. From a creational point of view. namely vulnerable life. This is how we came to know God as the father of the orphans. theological discussion can supersede traditional theological loci by rooting its economic and political critique for human dignity in a more biblical and progressive theological hermeneutic. this-worldly partners and others who regard it as God’s initiative and gift. while it also connects human beings to one another. while the latter emphasizes the co-workership. In God’s covenant. we should focus on the status of vulnerable life in the system. When that relationship is intact. The immediacy of the relationship between God and humanity is nowhere more profoundly expressed than in the idea of the covenant. Every human being shares that relationship equally with other members of humankind. treaties and communities are authentic. In the connection covenant-creation we learn that humanity is created for relationship with God. It deals with who we are and with how we act. When we speak of life in relation to global economic realities. between two or more covenantal partners.human dignity. Covenant is the referential category of human dignity that sustains anthropology theologically throughout the Bible. especially before the introduction of sin in human history. humanity and the earth are embraced and addressed by the promises of a loving God. 130 It is crucial that we tighten the focus on life in theological language to its authentic postcreational foundation. humanity to creation and current generations to future generations. Covenantal-acts and covenanting-beings manifest the integration of the discourses of equality (covenant and creation). Within the notion of covenant. A historical investigation into the rise and fall of covenant as a consistent theological notion shows that attempts often divided into a stream focusing primarily on the one-sided or unilateral disposal by God over humanity and a second stream based primarily on the dual-relational meaning of the notion. It is precisely from here that the idea of God as the God of the helpless evolved.
The risks impact the integrity of creation and the dignity of humanity. WARC cannot avoid the question: Is the integrity of the oikos and the covenant of God with the earth and humanity at stake in the current reality or praxis of economic globalization? 6. “Covenant” is not only an anthropological reflection of their acts. 5. Human beings do not only enter into covenants with one another.(covenant and re-creation). such occurrences do not exhaust the possibilities of confession. Given that faith in the covenant of God with humanity and the earth represents the framework of the biblical witness and the critical base of Reformed faith. “covenant” requires institutions within the context of the oikos. However. there are confessions that occur as a result of the declaration of a status confessionis and as such originate from a charge of heresy relating to such a doctrine of a church. 4. 2. as well as its sustainability. This was the experience of the Alliance at the 21st . 3. The critical question whether Christians are faced with a matter of faith in the context of economic globalization turns on whether a matter presenting itself as “merely ethical” can be judged in the light of faith. before it can be made. but also a confessional reflection of their being in the oikos. These institutions are called covenants. “Covenant” remains an important hermeneutical and referential category for re-imaging human dignity and the integrity of creation. they are covenants and they live in covenant with the earth and each other. oikos (covenant and life). No doubt. Yes. This raises the further question whether a confession requires a doctrinal deviation or a false doctrine of a church to occur. They express the ways and forms in which humans contract among each other within the framework of the oikos in the interests of the latter’s integrity and the worth of its inhabitants (read: living organisms). Other examples of confession in the world indicate that the critical question is whether such a confession gives expression to the faith that lives in the heart of the people (Barth’s idea of faith that exists on the street). 1. then our faith in the divine gift and task in sustained 131 Conclusion The following conclusions can now be drawn from an integrated theological model for the discussions at this 24th general council. general council (Ottawa 1982). As a confessional notion. If the answer to the central question whether the sustainability of the oikos can be faithfully maintained within the context of the current economic globalization is “No”. Is it possible to treat an ethical issue as a matter of confession? We have at least two examples of such confessions: Barmen and Belhar. economic globalization brings risks of great ethical importance.
Sameness and Difference: Problems and potentials in South African civil society. that for him pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering. the poor and 1 the wronged and that he calls his church to follow him in this. 1998). 1992). Then the Christian community is compelled to confess its faith in unity. so that the world will come to know our faith in the God of the covenant (John 17). 7 “We believe that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among men. On the Edge: Living with global capitalism (London: Jonathan Cape. 1999). that he wishes to teach his people to do what is good and to seek the right. I (Washington: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy. that in a world full of injustice and enmity he is in a special way the God of the destitute. that he brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry. 4 Ulrich Beck. protects the stranger. His political argument is exposed in Bauman’s book In Search of Politics (California: Stanford University Press. 3 Zygmunt Bauman. and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. that he frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind. eds. 2001). that he supports the downtrodden. What is at stake is the Christian faith or affirmation that God who created this world in covenantal relationships. that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.” 132 . namely against injustice and with the wronged.covenantal relationships within the oikos is at stake. which implies. eds. that the church as the possession of God must stand where he stands. 2000). Globalization (London: Routledge.58-108. Therefore. that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need. pp. 2000). so that justice may roll down like waters. among other things. helps orphans and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly. that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice. and also his Globalization: The human consequences (New York: Columbia University Press. we reject any ideology which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel. continues to sustain it and its living organisms. I would like to suggest that the fourth article7 in the Confession of Belhar is an adequate although not sufficient basis to develop a confession in the face of the covenantal risks endemic to economic globalization. Risk Society (London: Sage. 5 Zygmunt Bauman. Globalization: The human consequences (New York: Columbia University. South African Philosophical Studies.269-279. 1998). 1996). pp. Notes Will Hutton and Anthony Giddens. Community: Seeking safety in an insecure world (Oxford: Blackwell. 2 Malcolm Waters. Cochrane and Bastienne Klein. 6 See my paper “The Oikos in a Global Economic Era: A South African comment” in James R.
the more they owe The more they receive. the less they get paid” Eduardo Galeano As Dr. living democracy”. and exclusion are constant. war. Our mission is “to go on opening ‘niches’ or ‘paths’ through which we can break with the absolute imperial powers that use violence and war to achieve their purposes…” Rev. Ofelia Ortega holds that “our missionary activity takes place in a historic setting of displacement. Ortega was the President of the Seminario Teológico de Matanzas. That reality is expressed in the document “Together in Mission” in very concrete descriptions from the WARC consultations in Yaoundé. Guyana. • Missiological thinking and practice in 133 . the destruction of nature. Cuba. where poverty. Vandana Shiva establishes. and common to all contexts. despair and crisis. Georgetown. the destruction of nature. Indonesia. • Mission should be an invitation to life. Cameroon. “The System: With one hand they steal what the other hand lends Its victims: The more they earn. unemployment. Beirut. • Effective mission means understanding the gospel in a holistic manner and rejecting a dichotomy between gospel and culture. the less they have The more they sell. Brazil. it is clear that our missionary activity takes place in a historic setting of displacement. where poverty. and several documents from European consultations. She is one of the newly elected WARC vice-presidents. • Healing and the restoration of the whole of life (including creation) is the concrete mission task today. São Paulo. war. despair and crisis. • Life in fullness should be a focus of mission in the face of neoliberal economic globalization. and exclusion are constant”. Middle East. The consultations clearly affirmed that: • People and life are the pivot of mission. unemployment. Bali.The mission of the church in contexts of crisis Ofelia Ortega In her response to Vandana Shiva’s “Earth democracy.
theological biblical emphases. We should not allow ourselves to be intimidated by economic globalization and cultural imperialism. will conquer the empires with bestial faces (Daniel 2-7). So. The Christian demands related to God’s sovereignty are opposed to the totalitarian pretensions of the market economy. As Walter Brueggemann affirms: We have to be capable of organizing areas of life apart from. The resistance of the apocalyptic literature feeds on the hope that the kingdom of God. the mission of the church could be to withdraw recognition from the institutional forms of the empire and create alternative institutions of economic cooperation. political. Strategically. the threat of totalitarianism. with a human face. from our 134 II. education and health care. Our mission is to go on opening “niches” or “paths” through which we can break with the absolute imperial powers that use violence and war to achieve their purposes of totalitarian and excluding interference. The messianic demands of the market and consumer lifestyles are in conflict with the Christian confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. the key is to say No where everyone says Yes. we have to strive more and more to examine the meaning of the gospel and its values vis-à-vis the destructive forces of globalization and the market. • The “lived missiology” of Reformed churches in Europe is deeply marked by the present and future challenge of secularization. but we should confront “the centres of power” with the power of the gospel. our opposition to any idolatry or absolutism of the market. 2002). The invitation is to “open spaces” in front of the closed character of the globalized world. art and the media. Without any fear we declare. • Mutual learning for the renewal of mission.1 I. Daniel 3 tells the story of three Jewish men who refused to bow before the golden statue that was the incarnation of absolute. economic and ideological power. or in contrast with. • We need a fresh understanding and engagement in mission (new study on mission by the Alliance. In its most extreme version. We have to perceive specific strategic questions that allow us to confront the totalitarian elements of the systems of dominance. Aruna Gnanadason calls our attention to the need to move our theological reflection to the concept of “earth community” and “earth ethics” based . in order to cultivate a human environment that is not subjected to the imperial domain.the 21st century must take the interfaith dimension seriously. Mission and agape Dr. • Recognition and integration of women in mission. A vision of faith for economic justice We are called to use all the small opportunities inside our political and social systems to live out examples of alternatives.
She also challenges us by calling our churches to refuse a reformist approach to change: We have little choice – we are destroying the earth at an unprecedented pace.on the wisdom of the oikos (habitat earth) and the oikumene (the whole inhabited earth) as the basis for ensuring that life continues. to put an end to weapons and destructive industries. and from other parts of the world have constantly warned against the dangers we pose not just to future generations but to ourselves and more importantly to the poor of the world. just. and participatory communities.”4 The call is to practise the “ethics of the common good”. to care for the life of the planet. The same affirmations are stated by Ivone Gebara: Mission in the 21st century is the common responsibility of persons and groups all over the world in order to help our life to grow in an honest way. If it is true. Mission is to make flesh our relatedness and our interconnectedness by actions that can be seen in our lives… This challenge needs different behaviours and different institutions to meet it using new references and new models of organization. nor does it respect the fact that reform cannot legitimize wasteful lifestyles or consumerism – often this is the basis. and have it abundantly” (Jn 10. Ethics of common welfare To try to find alternatives. Our strength is found in resistance. possibilities for transformation and change.10). The ethics of the common good makes us repeat together with Jesus: “I came that they may have life. 135 . but to nurture sustainable. A reformist approach refuses to acknowledge this urgency.5 This ethical approach is a call to resist and confront the system that questions this ethics approach.3 III. So as to not disrupt our arrogant abuse of the resources of the earth we seek reforms. A reformist approach which would lobby for legal changes and for a change of heart will just be too late. social and political decisions which affect them. Each one needs to do her/ his part. In the ‘worldwide forum’ we called out that ‘we believe that another world is possible’. is trying to keep hope and love alive as values that sustain our daily life. Mission is looking to the wellbeing of actual faces. this belief needs to be cherished and strengthened. The aim of economic life should be not to impose on everyone a onesize-fits-all model. intervention and transformation. Scientists from the US. we need to acknowledge that “every practical proposal regarding alternative institutions and actions is to be checked and judged by whether it is de facto useful to real life and whether anyone was excluded from the process of devising it or would not benefit from the consequences. we need to intervene in this system and transform it.2 A new vision is needed that is demanding from us “Alternative Globalization Addressing People and Earth” to ensure the full participation of all people and all communities – especially those marginalized by poverty and disempowerment – in the economic. questioning.
6 In a letter to all the member churches of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches its general secretary. Dr. • That this new situation of despair. immense deficiencies and privations. with the important benefits and lamentable distortions of Christendom. politically. • That pluralism (with its narratives of hope) strips the church of inherently triumphalist claims. must in future practise its mission of “telling inside” and “enacting outside” with a due sense of humility. even if this lack of hope marks and assails different communities in their different circumstances in very different ways. encourages us to work together as a community of Reformed and United churches. the economy and the church play an important role everywhere in defining and distinguishing the diverse and yet common contexts of despair in all the world’s regions. • That the old notions of “mission” are deeply saturated with ideologies of domination. • That the church cannot practise hope as an evangelical antidote to despair in a triumphalist manner. • That the church. so that we may sense a congruity between the oldest triumphalist notions of mission and the newest modalities of globalization. more recently. and militarily in the new globalization of wealth that allows an immense concentration of power and wealth and correlatively. the church is entrusted with a special disposition to serve as an alliance in hope with other believers and with those of goodwill who live on the margin of the “believing community”. We need to clarify theologically the missionary projects of our different contexts. as one of its ecclesial marks. In Cuba. with deep roots in a spiritual crisis. Setri Nyomi. That humility is rooted in an awareness that distinguishes between its own mission as a gift of God and the mission that takes place not only in and through the church’s mission but also before.Concluding remarks We have been unfolding some convictions that could guide our deep searching for alternatives: • That the world church. • That the old patterns of European and. informed by the truth of the cross. and even against the church itself when it is disobedient. shows itself economically. Nyomi when we affirmed that the challenges for mission are so huge that we cannot assume them alone. striving . we held an encounter about the challenges of mission for the 21st century and in that consultation we agreed with Dr. And we are not only talking about economic resources. outside and alongside the church’s best obedience. rather. both of which call for repentance and emancipation. faces a new context for ministry and a new opportunity for mission. but needs a sense of 136 vulnerability. in each and all of its parts. a context marked by a despair that is shared as much by the “haves” in the northern hemisphere as the “have-nots” in the southern hemisphere. USA domination in the state.
Departamento de Comunicaciones del Consejo Latinoamericano de Iglesias.181. Costa Rica. Geneva. Mora. paper presented in a consultation organized by the Mission and Evangelism Programme of the WCC. 2001. ed Walter Brueggemann.329-331. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 3 Ivone Gebara.for a continuing dialogue of love and mutual interchange that will enable us to obtain the full and abundant life in the manner of Christ. not for Profit: Alternatives to the Global Tyranny of Capital. Ecuador. Alternative Globalization Addressing Peoples and Earth. Hinkelammert. March 2004. “Sustainable Earth and Earth Community: An Ecumenical Response”. paper presented in the Agape workshop. 2 Aruna Gnanadason. Leiden. pp. p. Mercado y Reproducción de la Vida Humana. (ed) 2001: Convocados a la Esperanza. Coordinación Social del Trabajo. Quito. DEI.161. 2004. 4 Ulrich Duchrow and Franz J. June 21-24 2004. 137 . p. 6 See the book “Hope for the World: Mission in a Global Context”. Louisville. San José. 5 See the book of Franz J. Notes 1 W. Brueggemann. Hinkelammert and Henry M.15. World Council of Churches Publications. Property for People. 2001.
a 19th century British movement that continues to be relevant in North America. its oppressive patterns will be uncovered. I want to encourage all of us to examine our role in reversing these oppressive political trends.” (Mt 6. To pick up on Vandana Shiva’s call for an “Earth Democracy”: we must think of what democratic decision-making and governance means to us as churches and as followers of Jesus. Maxson argues that some political ideologies that shape globalization as we know it “are rooted in a specifically Protestant Christian tradition”. Maxson. in love.24) Who benefits from current trends in globalization that cripple the world’s most vulnerable people. tilting the balance of power in favour of poor communities. living democracy”. from Canada. One of the most dangerous features of contemporary globalization is the way in which the major powers claim to be spreading “democracy” around the world. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers in speech. This project is not only ethnocentric but works under the banner of “democracy” as a justification for war (the “war on . namely “Muscular Christianity”. In her response to Vandana Shiva’s “Earth democracy.Dangerous Undercurrentes of Globalization Natalie Maxson “I have been threatened by police and kicked out of shopping malls” writes Natalie Maxson. “for singing anti-consumerism songs to the tune of Christmas carols to educate shoppers about our gluttony in the West and the exploitation we rely on to have cheap consumer products in the name of free trade”.12) “You cannot serve both God and money. We need to distinguish between a corporate globalization that leads to multinational corporate control of the global economy and a democratic 138 globalization that can foster the spread of human rights. social justice and cooperation. in faith and in purity. It takes hold “in our state institutions today with a new character and new fervour”. beings and ecosystems? Who gains? Once we begin to address this question and scrutinize the power dynamics in globalization today. in life. is the newly appointed World Council of Churches Youth Secretary.” (1 Tim 4.
and an agenda to maintain its economic. Some of the political ideologies that shape globalization as we know it are rooted in a specifically Protestant Christian tradition. I believe that the current world order cannot last. royalty and business). Muscular Christianity can also help us scrutinize the churches’ own complicity in colonization.4 This insecurity 139 . speak out. scientific discoveries.and middle-class Christian men). as absence of terrorism. The nation-state system is unstable so long as people are stripped of their rights to participate. queer and nonwhite. British identity became increasingly unstable and selfconscious in its exposure to other cultures and ways of life. in addition to the domestic changes already mentioned. We must also look to the ideological thrust behind globalization in its current forms and its roots in Christian thought.3 Authors like Hughes and Kingsley shared with others a fear that Britain was becoming too effeminate.1 Christian manliness was promoted by authors like Thomas Hughes and Charles Kingsley who saw these social shifts as threatening to British identity. If the earth’s people do not change the current destructive trends of globalization then the earth will not be able to sustain us any longer. a tightly knit web of allied western powers. Muscular Christianity Christian manliness started in Britain as a movement heavily rooted in literature and culture in the mid-to-late 19th century and the early 20th century. theories that justify wars. “England discovers its essential self through an interdependent relationship with the Other. During the Victorian era. colonization in “exotic” areas of the world. In the eyes of many who enjoyed privilege in British society (white upper.terrorism”) and a means for the powerful to control resources like oil in various regions. military and political power. The world’s powers (the United States in coordination with other powerful states and elites in poorer countries) form an empire with an intricate logic. dissent and have their voices matter. We must trace oppressive political systems to their source. Both authors had ties with people in positions of power (elites in society. class polarization.” 2 Other literary theorists and historians point to Protestant movements away from a Catholic tradition they demonized as idolatrous. and social upheaval and strife as women campaigned for greater equity and rights. The world is unstable so long as our governments bomb their way to peace – peace in a limited definition. government. Britain went through many domestic changes due to industrialization. and nation-state ideology. The movement called muscular Christianity or Christian manliness can help us understand one of the dominant themes in a competitive and often cruel globalization. “Democracy” provides a facade for rampant capitalism and a nation-state system that operates with seeming legitimacy while quashing dissent.
Jesus needed to become a symbol that would fit into this script and serve as a rallying force for middle-class men (and their families) to further Britain’s imperial adventure while maintaining their privileged positions in society. fraternity and unity under God. and mystical Jewish prophet. 6 Christian churches drew on “masculinist” images of Jesus as strong protector to banish “the notion that you must sink your manliness if you become Christian”.threatened Britain’s manhood and imperial domination. Colonization was justified in the name of spreading this “manly” creed to “effeminate” areas of the world that would benefit from Britain’s “manly” rule.7 Christian manliness continues to be relevant in North America. in his symbolic Air Force jacket. national pride. Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘Rough Riders’ unit which fought in the Spanish American War in 1898. liberty. Consider George Bush Jr. through a hegemonic masculinity descended from British colonial origins. British rule satisfied a lust for British manliness by expanding the nation-state’s political and economic authority and power. 9 This manliness takes hold in our state institutions today with a new character and new fervour. “At any time. addressing the people of the United States from a helicopter landing pad as he blesses US troops on their mission to defend the homeland in the name of democracy. in any . Britain’s social climate of white supremacy. religious morality and legitimacy. Young boys were also socialized through a flood of colonial 140 adventure literature. racism and imperialism was saturated in hegemonic masculinity. such as the works of George Alfred Henty or the “Empire Annual for Boys”. published in London well into the 1900s. Muscular Christianity fortified notions about manliness by placing Jesus as a strong manly figure (prince of peace and war) and God as a sovereign king.10 In Joane Nagel’s words. which combined physical prowess through sport with manly Protestant codes of honour to revamp Britain’s manly identity. passionate rule breaker. a variety of boys’ and men’s lodges and fraternal organizations”.8 “Scholars document a resurgent preoccupation with masculine ideals of physique and behaviour around the turn of the century which became institutionalized into such organizations and institutions as the modern Olympic movement which began in 1886. Bush seeks to epitomize the manly use of force to defend an ego – an image of the USA as undefeatable. Christian manliness was institutionalized through organizations like Boy Scouts and the YMCA. The project of Christian manliness had to do with building a strong identity based on rationality. enraged social outcast. Hegemonic masculinity is an “essentialist” definition of masculinity. 5 This view of Christianity attempted to free Jesus from effeminization and to contest interpretations of Jesus as vulnerable healer.
How can Canada claim to have authority over land that it has stolen? Many states are in the same position. Both men and women suffer from the ideologies of hegemonic masculinity and we must work together to find alternatives. We see this in the long history of imperialism. race and historical time) 12 insofar as states are primarily designed and governed by men. The nation-state system has failed to accommodate heterogeneity. Dominant ideas of masculinity inform what a strong man is and what a strong state is. rationality. however. Both are coupled with ideas of honour. When the nation-state is wedded with democracy popular consent is assumed. In my context this is one of the biggest lies of colonization. Hegemonic masculinity is more than an ‘ideal’. rather than sheer brutishness. maintaining order within those borders and 141 The nation-state system A nation is a group of people with a common past or history or language or culture. however. Nation-states govern a world divided by borders to a large extent arbitrarily drawn by colonizers. She argues that it is important to understand hegemonic masculinities (which will undoubtedly vary according to geographical place. control and civility. it is assumptive. defending borders.”11 Nagel claims. The nation-state. The defining tasks of a nationstate include security. and has the quality of appearing to be ‘natural’. war and globalization. dissent. It has come to claim legitimacy worldwide as a valid political actor.13 Hegemonic masculinity is not simply “maleness”. but spreads conflict. that there is no consensus among all women and men in various countries as to what an ideal man is. class. Gender is a complex idea through which we organize our world. live illegally on indigenous peoples’ land not legitimately handed over to the Canadian state.place. 14 Competitive nation-states display hyper-masculinized traits in order to assert their economic and political authority. widely held. Within the context of the modern nation-state model. war and suppression of human rights that persists in an era when many powerful countries claim the values of democracy and claim to be spreading such values in the name of God. as thousands of Canadians (especially on the west coast) . Hegemonic masculinities and muscular Christianity provide a point of departure to analyse the ideological foundations of the contemporary nation-state. Both men and women are affected by prescribed gender codes and what it means to live in a body labelled as male or female. consensus and nonviolence. as some hoped. thinking and action. globalization does not guarantee peace and justice through increasing interconnectedness. there is an identifiable ‘normative’ or ‘hegemonic’ masculinity that sets the standards for male demeanour. is a culturally specific system born in Europe and spread or imposed by colonization.
Democratic values can be and are slowly dismantled in the name of “national security”. “The tasks of defining community. they entered the base. Collective social identity is founded on opposition towards an “other” (typically based on race. Jackie Hudson) protested against the production and use of nuclear weapons by the US government. They do so out of anger but also out of a profound compassion for their enemy. many of us struggle to live on the remnants of a once famous social security. peaceful demonstration and dissent. history. and read scripture from Isaiah that says. and spears into pruning hooks” (Is 2.16 In contrast. expression. freedom of speech. as Vandana Shiva suggests. hammered on the heavy cement lid of a nuclear missile silo. and a vision for the future tend to emphasize both unity and ‘otherness’.4). healthcare and education system. In our protest against the government we are met with great force by the police (and pegged as “threats” or “terrorists”) and stripped of our rights to free speech. and direct participation in issues that concern us. but a call to recognize that our many different and essential ministries make the whole. democracy is based on ideas of dissent. The project of establishing national identity and cultural boundaries tends to foster nationalist ethnocentrism. There they awaited arrest.”15 As a family of churches we are not governed by nationalism and borders but by Christ’s radical message to love one another and join together as one body in Christ. “There . In my context of Canada (a self-identified democracy). Long-time Christian activist Liz McAlister says. “They shall turn their swords into ploughshares. This is based on the notion of “we the people”. I also don’t believe democracy can be imposed on another community from the outside or by force or from the top down. two Dominican nuns from the United States. poured their own blood over the silo. and the opportunity for people to represent their needs and interests. a homogenous and governable group of people to be mobilized for economic activity and military defence. What we need is more than just electoral democracy but an “Earth Democracy”. I see a new earth In June 2003 I met Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert. They feel it is their duty to challenge the US government. Democracy is at best in tension with a nation-state system based on opposing fundamental values. debate. that will encourage community-building. prayed. control over local resources in an era of free trade and 142 globalization. Dressed in white uniforms with “CWIT” [Citizen Witness Inspection Team] written on the back. This does not mean sameness or assimilation into one monolithic church. which they see as immoral and out of control. I asked about their decision to enter a military base in Colorado in October 2002 where they (along with a third sister. class or gender).competition with other states (often leading to war). of setting boundaries and of articulating national character.
stigmatized and oppressed peoples and to the preciousness of God’s earth. sexuality. These nuns. counter the ideals of hegemonic masculinity and are part of a social undercurrent often overlooked in nationalist meta-narratives of history. I have access to a relative amount of privilege that many people do not have. I have been threatened by police and kicked out of shopping malls for singing anticonsumerism songs to the tune of Christmas carols to educate shoppers about our gluttony in the West and the exploitation we rely on to have cheap consumer products in the name of free trade. This does not feel like the kind of democracy I want to live in. This is what “Earth Democracy” looks like to me from a Christian perspective. How will this affect your ability to listen to another participant at this conference who may be from a very different background? What blinders might you wear? How can you challenge people coming from a similar background to yourself? I must make the disclaimer that I speak only as one young person coming out of a specific context and not for all youth. I do however bring ideas and challenges from young people in my home community and from those I have met from various parts of the world. My friends have been battered and beaten by the police for sleeping in abandoned buildings or for nonviolently demonstrating against government cuts to social services. our democratic rights to free speech and protest are eroded in the name of “national security”. on your social location in the world. challenge to authority and the attention and love that is due to the most vulnerable. The sisters are role models for a radical vision of Christian faith and action based on the gospel message of nonviolence. I have nervously slept in vacant city buildings alongside anti-poverty groups in hopes of bringing homelessness and poverty to the attention of the government. It is often the way of young people to look with fresh eyes at systems that are irrelevant or oppressive and to expose and reject the lies of previous generations. age and ability. The following month.is not going to be any real disarmament until there’s a disarming of hearts. marginalized. This courageous faith subverts the warmongering and the false ideals of “strong and proud” nations. resistance to empire. class. 33 and 41 months in a federal prison. gender.18 As 143 Through the eyes of a young person As a young woman living in North America. I challenge all of the participants here at this conference to examine the privilege you may have based . three women of 50 to 60 years of age.”17 When I saw Ardeth and Carol they were out on bail to say goodbye to their friends and families and the activist community in Baltimore. In my context of Canada. I have a responsibility to examine and scrutinize the particular privilege I gain from a system that marginalizes people according to ethnicity. the three sisters were sentenced to serve 30.
the government in my province made several deep financial cuts to programmes in our communities (including welfare. measured and warrior-like. The Catholic Worker community is just one example of intentional Christian communities that serve the most poor and marginalized in a humble yet radical way through their awareness of the root causes of the poverty and injustice that exist both locally and globally. The stakes are high for young people who voice their dissent. Jesus’ ministry is based on intimacy. It wasn’t until a good majority of the churches in our communities mobilized and spoke out that it decided to reduce the cuts it had initially set out to make. As a young Christian woman my faith is a major catalyst for my involvement in radical social justice movements and provides the basis for my perspectives on economic justice. Before the invasion and occupation of Baghdad last year millions of people all around the world mobilized to say “no” to George Bush’s war plans. Could this be the trend of a social globalization and an “Earth Democracy”? How can the World Alliance of Reformed Churches support. joy and laughter. my Christian faith is a great tool and privilege to use in political demonstrations because the church is seen as a legitimate social actor.19 Jesus used his body to heal the lepers and reach out to the oppressed and outcasts. Through his passion he preached a message of nonviolence which challenged the Roman Empire of his day and subverted ideas of hegemonic masculinity. Never before has a global movement responded so quickly. My theology is based on my activism in my community. encourage and create movements that counter current political . young people become vulnerable in their striving for positive futures. financial cuts in education. As Lisa Isherwood describes. in land theft and the erosion of non-European cultures. As a young person I am desperate for role models in the church and society and for alternative ways to live out my faith. My faith and spirituality inform my commitment to nonviolent protest. unemployment. political resistance and preferential treatment for the poor and oppressed. temptation. In my activism. military recruitment. civil disobedience. loss. It is out of this tension that my faith tradition claims some of its history and I must come to terms with the negative ways Christianity has been moulded by human hands. He felt rage and passion for justice. in colonizing indigenous peoples. pain. simple living. 144 as Christian manliness would claim.the political ideologies of security and neoliberalism scourge the world. poverty and violence. He used his body to overturn the money changers’ tables in the temple. In April. education bursaries and health care). We are also particularly vulnerable to HIV/Aids. He was filled by and overcome with the spirit but not in a way that is rational. I continue to learn more about the slippery history of the churches in Canada – their role in the state.
pp. p.60. We must make room for and really listen to the voices of young people all over the world in our building of a globalization that will allow for all to have life in fullness. or. Ethnic and Racial Studies 21/2 (1998). 15 Nagel. 19 Lisa Isherwood. p. 9 10 145 .17. 13 Nagel. True to the Old Flag: A tale of the American War of Independence. Laffin. Swords into Plowshares: A chronology of Plowshares disarmament actions 1980-2003 (New York: Rose Hill Books. Redskin and Cowboy: A tale of the western plains. Robert Connell. Introducing Feminist Christologies (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press.7.248. p.26. Notes Donald Hall. Henty wrote a plethora of books with such titles as: Roving commission. 2003). Manly States: Masculinities. and gender relations (New York: Columbia University Press. 2002).76. p. 1996). or. 5 Hall. The Sinews of the Spirit: The ideal of Christian manliness in Victorian literature and religious thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 14 Hall. a liberatory theology must be shaped by men and women and take into account the many intersections of class. 19371988 (Durham. how can we use our voices both locally and internationally to curb economic and political devastation to our communities and the earth? For me. p. ethnicity and ability. Through the black insurrection at Hayti. p. Those of us who follow Christ’s message know that God works through us. Fifty-Two Stories of the Brave and True for Boys.trends in globalization? As a family of churches. but we also know that we are not gods ourselves.68.244. p.33. 1994). ed. We must humble ourselves to the earth and to the most marginalized voices in our communities. and the Xavante Indians. 2001). p. 16 Seth Garfield. p. “Masculinity and nationalism: gender and sexuality in the making of nations”.247. for instance.4. 18 To realize. p. 245.A. NC: Duke University Press. Through the Sikh War: A tale of the conquest of the Punjab. 8 Joane Nagel. p. 2 Hall. With Clive in India. 7 Norman Vance. p. 1 Ibid. 3 Ruth Vanita. 17 Arthur J. 4 Hall. Sappho and the Virgin Mary (New York: Columbia University Press. gender.243. frontier expansion. p. p. Muscular Christianity: Embodying the Victorian Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. The beginnings of an empire. 1985).36. 6 G. Masculinities (California: University of California Press.8. Indigenous struggle at the heart of Brazil: State policy. Ghana than anyone should exhaust in their entire lifetime. 1995).26. 12 Charlotte Hooper. that I have exhausted more fossil fuels by flying to Accra.12. p. 2001). age. 11 Nagel. international relations.
The West today is secularized. Out of the estimated 2 billion Christians in the world today. writes the Asian theologian C. strive for open communities.2 Is this not also reflected in the membership of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches? Two-thirds of our member churches are found outside Europe and North America. especially in Europe. Judea and Samaria and spread to the ends of the earth to become a world religion. enabling them to communicate with “one language and the same words” (Gen 11. French. Asia. How can the World Alliance of Reformed Churches be God’s instrument in today’s world? According to Song. We are already speaking in tongues! Thank God. The centre of gravity of Christianity “has shifted to the continents of the world outside the West”. with 821 million in Europe and North America. in all Judea and Samaria. Simple arithmetic will tell us that the centre of gravity of Christianity has shifted to the continents of the world outside the West. Song. The gap will widen even more if we take the numbers of 554 million Christians in Europe to be inflated. international church We do not have to look very far to see this clearly. Do you notice the gap that already exists in these two numbers? 146 . German and Spanish. WARC’s president between 1997 and 2004. of course. Latin America and Oceania. History has reversed itself. There are more brown faces and black faces than white faces. 1. the answer lies in the work of the Holy Spirit in the person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. in the cafeteria and in the dormitories! There are many more other languages spoken than English. Just look around this general council hall.246 million are to be found in Africa. change its ecumenical agenda and “work with its member churches and Christians to equip them as healing communities”. “living in Europe and the Americas are Christian. S. German or A shift in the centre of gravity “Most people. Christianity left Jerusalem. and this is also true of the other organizations. our primordial ancestors did not succeed in building a city with a tower reaching the heavens.From the ends of the earth Choan-seng Song The tide of history in our times “has changed its course dramatically”. be it English.” 1 The observation. Two thousand years ago a handful of Jesus’ followers received the power of the Holy Spirit to become his witnesses “in Jerusalem. is not accurate. and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.1). And the languages we speak to each other in the dining halls. Look at the persons sitting next to you and around you. French.8). A WARC in the power of the Spirit should engage in community rebuilding. The tide of history in our time has changed its course dramatically.” it is said.
8). the World Alliance has made great efforts to catch up with the world that has run ahead of it. This has to be at the heart of all our reflections. have to be commended for the dedication and discipline with which they have gone about their work. During the seven years since the 23rd general council in Debrecen. the world that has left us churches and Christians far behind. “confusing their language and scattering them abroad over the face of all the earth” (Gen 11. And thank God too. It has issued calls for peace and reconciliation in a world torn by ethnic hatred. It has tried intentionally to make youth an integral part of the Alliance of today and tomorrow. We must survey the terrain and take stock of what we have done during the past few years. conversations and deliberations on the council theme “Life in Fullness” in the coming two weeks. both lay and clerical. The executive committee members and its officers. the general secretary and all the staff who work as a team. We owe them heartfelt thanks. knowing that they have had to work with 147 From Debrecen to Accra We must regress a little. forward.Spanish. It has inspired women and men in many churches and places to build together a community in which human dignity is respected and gender equality is practised. the world has gone ahead full speed with a shift of gravity driven by a globalized economy and geopolitics? There is so much for us to catch up as churches and Christians in our local communities and there is also so much for the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to catch up in the world today – a world dramatically different from the world in which we began in London more than a century ago. It has sought to revitalize and renew the training of church leaders. in 1997. It is from over the face of all the earth that we have travelled to Accra for the 24th general council. It has pushed hard to shift from endless bilateral and multilateral dialogues on traditional church doctrines to the issues that beset most churches and Christians in the southern parts of the world today. In order to move . we must step back. religious tensions and geopolitical conflicts. who is infinitely wiser than our ancient forebears. But are you aware that the shift in its centre of gravity that has overtaken Christianity is part of a wider shift that has been taking place in the world since the end of the second world war? Are you aware that while the churches and Christians are reacting at a snail’s pace to the shift of gravity in Christianity. like the athletes of the high jump and long jump.3 How are we to understand the state of Christianity in the world today? How are we to interpret it? And what conclusions are we to draw from it? Answers to such questions have enormous implications for the future of the World Alliance and for this general council in particular. Hungary. The Alliance has called us its member churches and Christians to covenant together for justice in the economy and the earth and to strive for human rights.
anxiety and fear. It is by the Spirit of God that he “cast out demons” (Mt 12. “the Holy Spirit descended on him” (Mk 1. both material and human. How can we serve God and humanity in such a world? But is it not in such a world that Jesus was born. not all the Alliance has tried to do during the past seven years has been accomplished. Of course. We have not done enough to make our Reformed theological voice heard in the international arena of the church and the world. a world dominated by greed. I have also to commend the staff’s efforts to replace in the Alliance’s publications a Geneva-centred ecumenical language with friendlier language. who are not schooled in the language of the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. In the face of the And the Holy Spirit! To be God’s instrument in the world today? Easier said than done! Look at the 148 . and died on the cross? We think of our daily life. anxiety and fear? But was not Jesus’ lot much worse than the lot of most of us? Why was Jesus able to serve God and people in his turbulent world in spite of the fact that his own life was filled with uncertainty.10). carried out his ministry of God’s reign. I use the word “activated” advisedly. Covenanting for justice in the economy and the earth on the part of most Alliance member churches and Christians still has to be made. He was “filled with the power of the Spirit… and began to teach in synagogues” (Lk 4. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer in the river Jordan. How can we serve God and humanity when our own life is beset with uncertainty. Sexual discrimination within our churches still needs to be removed.1-2). It is the Spirit that “led him in the wilderness” where he was tempted by the devil (Lk 4. We are selective in our condemnation of the violation of human rights by some nations and our criticism of geopolitical aggressiveness exhibited by some powers. eventually bringing all of us here to Accra. political and economic power. anxiety and fear? What is the key to his life of dedication and his ministry of service? That key is the Holy Spirit. more intelligible to most of us. hatred and senselessness. It is a topsy-turvy world. that we are the World Alliance of Reformed Churches because we are called by God to continue to be God’s instrument of faith. hope and love in the world.28). motivated and empowered Jesus that needs to be activated in the member churches and Christians of the World Alliance. All this reminds us that there is a tremendous amount of work still lying ahead of us. world in which we live.extremely limited resources. a life at the mercy of those who hold military. motivated by the Spirit and empowered by the Spirit. The life and ministry of Jesus was a life and ministry inspired by the Spirit. a world in turmoil. It is full of uncertainty.14-15). And we are all witnesses and beneficiaries of the gathering process that started two years ago to involve the Alliance’s member churches and Christians in the preparations of the general council. It is this Spirit that inspired.
we are none other than the gates of heaven. We are reminded of how Jacob at Bethel woke up from his dream saying: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God. The Spirit is there. either alone or in a group. The Alliance needs to help us all realize that we do not have to resort to charismatic churches to be the house of God and the gates of heaven. for all its efforts and activities. It is there in the recesses of our community. Who says the World Alliance lacks the Spirit? Who tells us the Spirit is absent from the Alliance? Yet we must humbly admit that the Alliance.17). the Spirit is there in the midst of us. has still to develop ways in which it can help activate the Spirit in us its member churches and Christians. The Spirit. These questions and problems are not yours only. waiting to be roused to action. It has to find ways to enable us to say that we are none other than the house of God. the Spirit is at work in us. trying to discern what God’s will is for us as individuals and as a Christian community. You may be asking yourself how you become aware of the Spirit in the depths of your being and at the centre of what you do in Sunday worship and in your daily life. hidden in the depths of our spirits. How can we be united as the World Alliance to strive for the reconciliation of women. are deep in silence. and this is the gate of heaven” (Gen 28. equality and reconciliation. the Spirit is working in us. for we do not 149 .charismatic churches. There is nothing for us to be defensive and apologetic about. The Spirit. When we inspire those in distress and fear to have faith in a power greater than them. is available to all of us. How could the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in the past few years have done what it has done without the Spirit? It is the Spirit that inspired us to covenant for justice in the economy and the earth. Is it a comfort for you to know that the Apostle Paul also had the same questions and the same problems? In his letter to the Christians in Rome he writes: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. It is the Spirit that motivated us to rededicate ourselves to be part of Jesus’ ministry of God’s reign. It is the Spirit that compelled us to strive for human rights. When we put the wellbeing of those in pain and suffering ahead of our own wellbeing. if it is of God and from God. we Reformed churches and Christians have become first defensive about the Spirit and then apologetic about it. if it is of God and from God. When we as the Alliance and as its member churches and Christians speak out for God’s justice. is not something secret available only to those who profess to speak in tongues and to work miracles of healing. biding its time to become active. who can say the Spirit is not in the midst of us? How does the Spirit help us? You may be wondering how this Spirit of God that worked in Jesus works in you also. men and children in our religiously and politically polarized communities unless the Spirit is active in us? And as we.
but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8. Open community The World Alliance is urged to engage its member churches and Christians in rebuilding Christian communities open to people around them and outside them. that we are saying what we say because of the Spirit. intensifying fear and adding to the 150 insecurity in many societies. We should be able to say to ourselves and to others that we are doing what we do because of the Spirit. Community rebuilding! This must be what the Spirit is asking the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. What kind of Christian community is the Spirit calling us to rebuild? Let me try to give some suggestions. its member churches and Christians to do at this juncture in history. Has not Christianity. to take an active part in it in the coming years.know how to pray as we ought. impaired relationships. its member churches and Christians. Community rebuilding must be what the Spirit is calling the World Alliance to do today. Christians have become aliens in their own society not only physically but spiritually. and demolished indigenous cultures? Christianity that has expanded to the ends of the earth from the West and caused conflicts and disruptions in the wake of its expansion now has to listen to the heartbreaking stories beginning to be told by the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth.26). Ghana. Did not Jesus say that “those who are well have no need for a physician. Now we have to talk with . but those who are sick” (Mt 9. we talked passionately about breaking the chains of injustice. They already know what to do. Today religious fundamentalism is on the rise. caused social unrest. Strong and confident Christians think they do not need the Spirit. mobilizing us. even though what they do often contradicts God’s will. hatred and destruction in the world. This Spirit is urging the Alliance to help its member churches and Christians organize and rebuild to be of better service to God and the human community. love and salvation create fear. The community that Christian missions helped converts to build in their society tends to be a closed community. It is an irony that religions that preach peace. isolated from the community that surrounds them. often broken up community. At the general council in Debrecen seven years ago. in the name of mission and in its zeal to save the souls of “pagans”. In recent years we have seen how the human community has been torn apart by bloodshed and conflicts caused not only by political and economic forces but also by religious forces. We need the Spirit because we are weak and unsure. Communities undermined by sociopolitical and religious-cultural forces have to be reconstructed.12)? Rebuilding community I hope this Spirit will become a clear focus of the work of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in the next stage of its journey after the general council here in Accra.
Without doubt the charismatic Christian communities are onesided in their understanding and experience of the Spirit. concerns and issues for the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth. Can the Alliance dedicate its resources to help undo the mistakes of the past and enable its member churches and Christians to rebuild their communities so that they are open to the outside world? Can the Alliance also help its member churches and Christians in the West to appreciate the painful experiences of churches and Christians from the ends of the earth? The “ecumenical” agenda The World Alliance of Reformed Churches should reformulate its “ecumenical” agenda. The “ecumenical” agenda defined by the churches in the West fifty years ago are no longer the “ecumenical” agenda of the churches in the rest of the world today. have to be thankful to the charismatic movements that continue to arouse passion and exert influence in most parts of the world. But at least they are able to respond to the restlessness of the human spirit and the vulnerability of human life in today’s world. have changed.equal passion about breaking the barriers of ignorance. the agenda. Do we not have to admit that we too. should not the Alliance be persuaded to re-order its “ecumenical” agenda. Beyond question their grasp of the working of the Spirit tends to be selfserving and biblically and theologically flawed. If this is true. And for this we. The “ecumenical” agenda. Open community needs a different “ecumenical” agenda. The “ecumenical” issues that preoccupied the Western missionary churches and agencies have ceased to be the “ecumenical” issues for the Christian communities from beyond the Western world. concerns and issues of the people of this whole inhabited world. churches and Christians of the Reformed family. indeed. The churches and theological seminaries of Reformed 151 . are also confronted with restlessness deep in our spirits and with vulnerability in our lives? These are the “ecumenical” agenda. concerns and issues of most Christians today – “ecumenical” in the sense that they are not merely the agenda. concerns and issues of the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth but also the agenda. in order to serve its member churches and Christians better? Healing community The World Alliance of Reformed Churches should work with its member churches and Christians to equip them as healing communities. The “ecumenical” concerns to which most ecumenical leaders from the West dedicated their time and genius are not necessarily the “ecumenical” concerns of the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth. concerns and issues of the churches and Christians from which Christianity spread to the ends of the earth. misunderstanding and tension created by the insensitivity of Christians to the spiritual universe of their own people who practise different religious faiths. the ecumenically committed mainline churches.
creating spiritual fatigue at home with a decline in membership and vitality? In contrast. But is this not fundamentally the prophetic ministry of the prophets in ancient Israel? Above all. The healing word of the gospel is the word that heals division 152 within Christianity. young and old. Is this not perhaps the reason why we find many healing stories in the Gospels? His ministry of the reign of God is healing ministry as well as prophetic ministry. For the Alliance and its member churches and Christians justice with healing. Justice alone cannot rebuild a community. must be the goal. What is happening to the old bastions of Christianity seems to be parallel to what is happening in the globalization of the market economy. men and women.backgrounds have emphasized the word of God as a prophetic word and a judgmental word. The world from which Christianity has spread to the rest of the world is exhausted both numerically and spiritually. perhaps more a healer than a prophet and reformer. is this not the heart of Jesus’ ministry of the reign of God? Challenges and responsibilities Let us once again look around this general council hall. racial and gender justice. Christianity in the rest of the world . the forgiving word. Healing of peoples and nations – this is the great challenge for the World Alliance of Reformed Churches as it continues to strive for justice within the church and in the world. and not justice for justice’s sake. But this is not all that the word of God is about. This is a tall order. prophet and reformer. And the world needs to be confronted with God’s word as a prophetic and judgmental word. Let us remember Jesus is a healer as well as a teacher. The word of God is also the healing word. In search of cheap labour to bring down the cost of products and enable them to become more competitive. This must be what the Alliance has been learning to hear as it listens to the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth. Has mainline Christianity in the West too “out-sourced” and “off-shored” its resources from the West to the rest of the world. The Alliance would do well to ask how it may enable its member churches and Christians to be engaged in the healing ministry of the word of God while it encourages them to strive for economic. the word that heals the spirits and souls of people. and the word that heals the conflicts among nations and peoples. the redeeming word. the word that heals hatred among people of different religious and cultural traditions. both the world that expanded to the ends of the earth and the world from which two-thirds of our member churches have come. Look at the people sitting next to you and around you one more time. companies and corporations have been “out-sourcing” or “off-shoring”. The world needs a healing word and healing actions. moving jobs from the developed nations to the developing nations. creating unemployment in the industrially developed nations such as the United States of America.
Not only has this not worked. This poses many and various challenges and responsibilities. The world in which the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth live is a culturally and religiously plural world. Can the World Alliance assist in the practice of faith and the shaping of theology of its member churches and Christians. Is not the World Alliance. The responsibility is to develop our own self-understanding as churches and Christians in relation to our particular historical location and experience. No two nations have the same historical past or the same historical destiny. The challenge is for us to come to terms with this diverse historical reality. then. with its strong emphasis on theological excellence. a politically and socially volatile world. well suited for this responsibility? The world in which the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth live is historically differentiated and diverse. Just as the future of the world economy depends on the nations and peoples from the ends of the earth. This poses an enormous challenge both to the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth and to those in the rest of the world. in its historical past and its historical destiny may be different from God’s purpose for the historical past and destiny of Ghana. Let me mention just a few. and not as a world alienated from God. Is not. the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth will play a decisive role for the future of Christianity. an economically exploited world. The challenge is for us to accept this culturally and religiously plural world as God’s world.shows unmistakable signs of vigour and growth. Christian missions have sought to turn this pluralistic world into a monolithic world. mostly in charismatic churches but also in some mainline churches. it has created confrontations and conflicts. The challenge is for us to discern God’s purpose for us in each of our nations and not to impose a certain Christian past and future on it. dominated by Christianity. What is God’s purpose for Sweden. for example. the world from the ends of the earth is by and large spiritually vibrant. But in comparison with the economically affluent world. The responsibility is for us to see that this world of God’s is not required to adjust itself to the faith and theology developed by the churches in the past but to reshape our faith and theology in the light of this pluralistic world of God. the responsibility of the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth to enrich their Christian spiritual experiences with the spiritual universe of their world? Can the World Alliance help the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth to share these spiritual resources and experiences with each other and with the churches and Christians in the rest of the world? 153 . a practice and shaping that take into serious account their historical location and experience? The world in which the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth find themselves is a colonially abused world.
is a never-ending struggle.682-683. How can we then have financial resources to spare for the World Alliance of Reformed Churches? But do you remember the story of “a poor widow [who] came and put in two small copper coins. a developing world. Is not Jesus’ arithmetic wrong? No. not by power. we will have more than enough for the advancement of God’s reign in the world. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance. 2003). Johnson. Jesus hit the nail on the head. As we as the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. to put daily bread or rice on the table. all she had to live on” (Mk 12. it is not wrong. These statistics “were prepared by David B. then. but by the Spirit of God!” Notes 1 See Encyclopedia Britannica Almanac 2004 (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica. It is.41-44). not by power. which are worth a penny” into the offering box? Seeing what she had done. Barrett and Todd M. heard the Lord say to him: “Not by might. whether out of our abundance or out of our poverty. But we remember Zechariah. and will appear in Britannica Book of the Year 2004” (p. The two organizations merged in Nairobi in 1970 to form the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (Presbyterian and Congregational). merely to make ends meet. If all of us from the ends of the earth contribute to the ministry of our churches and the World Alliance. pp. moving out to the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth to be in solidarity with them in abundance or in poverty. As we know too well. From the ends of the earth! The stakes for the future of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and its member churches and Christians are high. Merely to live is a great challenge for many of us. 154 . with some exceptions. most of us who live in this part of the world. 2 For the statistics referred to here see Encyclopedia Britannica Almanac 2004. while the way is long” (ren chung tao yuan).The world in which the churches and Christians from the ends of the earth make their home is.682). says a Chinese expression. this poor widow put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. the responsibility of the Alliance to be creative and adventurous for the next stage of its history and ministry. burning with zeal to rebuild the temple. prophet of the 6th century BCE.6). Zechariah. Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I tell you.681b. what is at the heart of our thoughts and prayers must also be these words: “Not by might. but by my Spirit” (Zech 4. but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had. 3 The Alliance of the Reformed Churches throughout the World holding the Presbyterian System was founded in London in 1875. The International Congregational Council first met in London in 1891. its member churches and Christians poise ourselves to set out on a long and arduous journey in the years to come. p. overwhelmed by the economic and political forces working against us. coauthors of the World Christian Encyclopedia. “The load is heavy.
We can only understand the church in the light of its mission. then we need to see mission in ways that are peoplecentred and life-centred. In this situation. indeed the whole cosmos. Empire. The AIDS pandemic. and particularly for the witness of women. role in the mission of our churches. globalization: the present world context accentuates the crisis of world Christianity and the emerging challenges to Christian mission.9). for all that God has done to bring us here today. the “war on terrorism”. justice and peace. Christians and churches are called to repentance and the renewal of mission. in word and deed. For the churches of the Reformed family especially.” John 10. seek to proclaim the gospel of reconciliation and salvation. “I came that they may have life in all its fullness. the reign of God is expressed as Jesus’ message of life in all its fullness. Wickeri. In our letter to the churches we affirmed our thanksgiving to God who has called us to be partners and co-workers in mission (1 Cor 3. in fellowship with the wider ecumenical family. Mission is the life of the church in the world. mission has always been at the centre of our understanding of what the church is. a foretaste of the promise offered unconditionally to all peoples. We also give thanks for the witness of the churches of the Reforming tradition that. worsening poverty and environmental degradation have put the very survival of many peoples and cultures at stake. 155 . But we live in a time in which the majority of people in our world have not even a partial sense of what life in all its fullness means.10 We begin with a profound expression of thanksgiving. argues that mission renewal should be based on the biblical images of kenosis (self-emptying) and oikos (household). what does mission as the life of the church in the world mean? If the gospel is the “Good News” for the peoples of the world. healing and wholeness. a former missionary in Asia now teaching World Christianity at San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union (USA). The world. who have played a significant. is the arena of God’s mission. In John’s gospel. but often unacknowledged.Mission renewal in the context of globalization Philip Wickeri War on terrorism.
The vision of the early church was a vision of life for the whole inhabited earth, a vision that was a creative reinterpretation in their time of Jesus’ announcement of the reign of God in his life on this earth. This vision was and is fundamentally different from the new vision of globalization and Empire. In Jesus’ time, as in our own, there are a variety of global visions, secular and religious, dominating and democratic, imperial and liberating. The contrast between the Christian vision for the world and the vision of Empire and globalization challenges our churches to respond anew. At many points in our history, the church has been challenged to reinterpret God’s mission in new and creative ways. In the transition from Jewish to Gentile Christianity, the church was challenged to be more inclusive. In the fourth century, the church was challenged to maintain its prophetic role as it became the religion of the Roman Empire. In the fifteenth century, our forebears in Europe were challenged to give new life to their communities by relying on the Word alone. As the missionary movement spread all over the world, churches were challenged to rethink the gospel in radically new cultural and religious situations. In the last century, churches were called to respond once again to the challenge of ecumenism, so that the world might believe. The churches have not always been faithful to these challenges, but, semper reformanda, our churches continue to respond and be changed through and in the message of Jesus Christ.
There have been many turning points and situations of crisis in the history of our churches. We are facing a new crisis and a new turning point in Christianity today, brought on by globalization and Empire.
Globalization and Empire
The Christian vision of the world stands in the sharpest possible contrast to the dominant ideology of globalization and Empire. The driving force of globalization is the application of market criteria to all areas of life, a movement towards a unified market that is directed by countries of the North and by international financial institutions, through which nation states and the world economy become increasingly integrated and linked to one another. Globalization is facilitated by new communications technologies and democratization, but it is directed by neoliberal economics, which affects politics, societies, cultures and religions everywhere. There is a totalizing aspect to globalization through which the market becomes the master category. The neoliberal ideology of globalization results in a global fragmentation and a “clash of civilizations” which, in the words of Samuel P. Huntington, is a clash between the West and the Rest. However, globalization is not self-validating, nor is the market really free. The “hidden hand” of the market requires an “iron fist” of political and military power (Thomas Friedman). That power is now wielded by one country and one country alone, the United States of America. My
country casts a long dark shadow in our world. It is no exaggeration to say that the United States of America is the centre of a new Empire with a vision for the world closely linked to neoliberal globalization. The US is the only government in the world operating on a global scale. I use the word Empire, not figuratively or metaphorically, but politically, economically and militarily. A wide range of analysts, from across the political spectrum in every part of the world, are urging churches and other NGOs to consider the vast implications of Empire and its important implications for our understanding of globalization at a new stage. This is a different kind of Empire than empires of the past. There is no inside and outside of Empire. Empire has penetrated the internal political, economic, cultural and social structures of the world. Empire reconstructs identities, crosses all boundaries; it overcomes nation states and reproduces cultures. The United States is the centre of Empire, its financial organizer, political arbiter and military enforcer. But you can be a good citizen of Empire in Nairobi or New Delhi just as easily as you can in New York or Los Angeles. When Empire perceives itself to be threatened, its leaders will not hesitate to use whatever means necessary to bring things under control and extend its influence. The “war on terrorism,” therefore, is an extension of Empire, globalization by other means. In the words of President Bush, “the United States will ‘use this moment of
opportunity’ (ie, the war on terrorism) to bring democracy, development, free market and free trade to every corner of the globe.” The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places have direct consequences for every country in the world, and for the mission of the church. Empire is shaping, structuring and dividing world Christianity. In the United States, my own context, a few theologians and ecumenical organizations have begun to criticize the new American “theology of empire”, which connects our foreign policy to a religiously inspired “mission” that we now promote all over the world. But we need the help of the world Christian community. Churches overseas from a very wide range of theologies and traditions (and including WARC) have been raising questions about our country’s role as world policeman and “protector” of religious freedom. Is this an aspect of American foreign policy, or a genuine concern for peace and the religious rights of all? The world is watching us in Accra to see what more we will have to say. Churches involved in global mission can choose to ride the coat tails of Empire or criticize the project of Empire, but they cannot remain neutral. Neither can our choice be taken lightly, for it will inevitably lead to polarization of the Christian community.
The crisis in world Christianity
Globalization, Empire and the “war on terrorism” have a direct connection to what many people in different contexts are calling
a crisis in world Christianity. There is a fragmentation in the Christian community, as well as in the world as a whole. There are gross inconsistencies between what we say and what we do and terrible injustices committed in the name of Christian mission. We are living in a time of fundamental change in the shape and structure of the Church as we have known it. For the past three or four decades, the historic (or mainline) Protestant and Roman Catholic churches of Europe and North America have been in decline, whether this is judged in terms of numbers of adherents, institutional vitality or social and cultural influence. In Russia and central Europe, the Orthodox Church and other historic churches have been facing serious institutional challenges in their own societies, especially since the dissolution of the Soviet Union fifteen years ago. At the same time, indigenous churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America have been growing faster than ever before. In almost every part of the world, there has been a rapid rise of Pentecostal movements, postdenominational churches and other informal networks of Christian communities. Roman Catholic and Protestant churches continue to grow in the southern hemisphere, and among ethnic minorities and new immigrants in the North. All over the world, churches are confronting challenges posed by globalization, Empire and the American-led “war on terrorism”. These challenges, set alongside changing patterns of institutional renewal and decline,
define the contours of our new ecumenical situation. This crisis represents a turning point. It is a crisis in our understanding of the issues raised by “globalization” and Empire, as well as a crisis in the church and mission. It has deep theological implications, calling us to raise fundamental questions about Christian faith and mission. The word crisis – dangerous opportunity in Chinese – has an urgency about it that accurately describes our situation. It suggests a tension between fear and hope, danger and opportunity, in whatever we do. It also suggests the need for Christians to make a choice about their vision for the future of the world. The crisis in world Christianity has a direct and immediate impact on ecumenical institutions. Globalization has not been kind to the nonprofit sectors or to the churches. Although many international Christian organizations in the North have made great new strides in “marketing” their products, they have often done so at the expense of churches and Christian organizations in the South. Everywhere, the ecumenical movement is facing a serious economic crisis, and ministries of justice, advocacy and solidarity are particularly hard hit. This is sometimes understood as a struggle for institutional survival that provokes costcutting measures and downsizing in many churches, denominations, ecumenical organizations and theological seminaries. How easily we adopt the language of the corporate world. Church leaders worry about stock market decline, interest rates and
We need to work for change in the structures of which we are a part. The divide between North and South in the world economy is reflected in a similar divide in our churches. political and economic crisis that confronts us. for in many quarters we hear predictions of a radical reconfiguration of churches as we know them. for what we have done and for what we have left undone? It is not without reason that in the Reformed pattern of worship. The gospel frees us to respond in new and creative ways to the crisis we face. cultural. Churches in the South have argued that the commitment to global justice in the churches of the North is disappearing. We are in need of more flexibility and decentralization. forgetting Christ’s teaching that whosoever would save his life must lose it. It teaches us to be open to the movement of the Spirit. The central challenge that globalization and Empire pose for us is the issue of justice and unequal power relations. We are caught up in the global market economy. and thus easily manipulated. our prayers of confession often come right after the 159 . As institutional forms of Christianity experience decline. however. This means more than the revitalization of institutions. Churches pay a steep price for their participation in globalization. Mission has been obscured by a survival mentality. the end of the church tax in Europe and fluctuations in investments. often results in attempts at selfpreservation. various Pentecostalisms and a flourishing of spiritualities are evident in most parts of the world. Post-denominational mega-churches. and we are affected by the increasing privatization of social programmes.currency fluctuations. It forces us to ask once again: if we are part of one worldwide body of Christ. but many still feel there is no other choice. even as they issue statements critical of globalization and commit funds for mission and development. Globalization and Empire have confronted churches with the realization that we are too institutionalized. as we seek to hold onto a declining “market share” in existing institutions. What we need is a renewal of life for all. The crisis in world Christianity. We may be witnessing only the tip of the iceberg in terms of institutional decline. non-institutional forms of Christianity are on the rise in many places. The call to repentance The credibility of our message is at stake if we as a global community of churches do not respond to the religious. how do our churches relate to one another and engage in mission for peace and community-building in the world today? Are we prepared to change? Are we prepared to admit that we have not been faithful to the missionary calling in our new situation? Are we prepared to begin with confession and repentance. We are in need of reform and revitalization. rather than leading to new and creative initiatives.
a call to life in all its fullness. mission as peacemaking in confronting the “war on terrorism”. mission as reconciliation in the movement towards Christian unity and interreligious understanding. Mission has too often been practised in a one-dimensional way. Evangelism has often been reduced to proselytism vis-à-vis other Christian churches. It is a hopeful vision for the difficult . We have not clearly distinguished between the vision of global mission and the visions of globalization and Empire. More specifically. Mission has been reduced to something that some people do to others. Mission has too often been a current flowing only in one direction: North to South. and mission as evangelism where women and men need Jesus Christ. We have practised mission in narrowly understood ways that emphasize institutional church growth or narrow individualistic agendas. so that in many contexts. If the gospel is 160 “Good News” for the peoples of the world. the marginalized and the excluded. We have been content with the survival of our institutions. rather than losing ourselves in God’s mission to the world. rather than a call to the continuing conversion of all and the proclamation of God’s reign. The renewal of mission Mission is renewed through acts of repentance. We have not spoken up in situations of injustice. from the White to the Black.thanksgiving that we give to God. rather than a mutual sharing and participation in God’s mission of love for the whole world. Faith in Jesus Christ presents us with a vision of life in the oikumene which is an alternative to globalization and Empire. having given thanks for what God has done. from the male to the female. So too in mission. from the powerful to the powerless. from the West to the Rest. We have resisted attempts at revitalization in our churches because they come from unfamiliar sources. nor have we sufficiently committed our resources and energies to efforts for renewal and change. mission as restoring creation in a world of environmental degradation. we are also called to repentance. we have not adequately committed ourselves to mission as healing in the face of the AIDS pandemic. Mission has often been understood and practised in domineering ways. then we need to see mission in ways that are more peoplecentred and life-centred. We have often been content to leave things as they are in our churches rather than respond anew to urgent challenges and participate in what God is doing in the world to make and keep life human. mission as development in a world of worsening poverty. Christian mission is perceived as the religious face of Western colonial domination yesterday or of globalization and Empire today. emphasizing an overly spiritualized salvation to the neglect of systemic threats to the life of the poor.
If we are truly to be servants and co-workers in God’s mission of creation and redemption. Over against the enforced unity of globalization and Empire. lest deliverance is seen from another quarter and our world perishes (Est 4. Kenosis (self-emptying). Ours is the mission of the people of God among all God’s peoples. WARC is a movement of healing. we are called to speak out and live out Jesus’ message of life in all its fullness. the marginalized and the excluded (Mt 25). We need to envision creative alternatives to the ways in which churches relate to one another. a mission that enables us to see God’s priority for life in all its fullness and how it is to be lived. not power. This entails the transformation of the current practices and understandings of Christian mission. in the relationships which our churches maintain with one another. In such a time as this. we see signs of God’s reign that indicate where we should be going. The power of the gospel is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12. peacemaking. so that together we can be part of a movement that shakes up church and society and calls both to renewal. in our cultural and religious plurality. The renewal of mission must be based on a kenosis of mission. The general council of the Alliance is a unique opportunity to vigorously push forward what the executive committee has called “the renewal of our churches [through] a fresh understanding and engagement in mission… a focus on mission that will produce fresh missiological thinking and energy in response to the new contexts in which Reformed churches find themselves at the beginning of the 21st century”.14). development. for churches in the South and in the North. restoring creation and evangelism. Jesus’ promise that all may have life in fullness suggests the new direction needed today. then we must see mission as that which offers healing and wholeness to a divided world. A kenosis of mission is required in our identification with the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 8. 161 . reconciliation. Our task here in Accra is how the renewal of mission might be worked out in our new situation. a mission entrusted to us as gift and task. peace and the integrity of creation.9). in the many programmes and mission projects in which we are involved.times in which we live. What might all this mean for the Alliance as a community of churches in mission in partnership with the wider ecumenical family? Let me suggest here two images for the renewal of mission. A kenosis of mission involves both empowerment and self-emptying. In this sense mission begins with powerlessness. In our life in the church. a vision derived from a biblical understanding of justice. as well as the path to mission renewal. and this follows from our thanksgiving and confession. We need to reclaim lost ground. we reassert the importance of particularity and locality in a relational and reconciling understanding of unity within the body of Christ.8-9) and therefore with the poor.
Our common household is embedded in particular household cultures. . Others on various and neglected New Testament commissions which emphasize the power of weakness (for example.” Sharing in mission is a two-way street that involves both self-emptying and empowerment. inclusiveness and gratitude are all related to this image. Some draw on the understanding of mission as midwifery.” was the reply. ecumenism. interfaith solidarity. stewardship. Still others draw on sections of the Hebrew Bible such as Micah 4. ecology. the language of “all in each place” was adopted to speak about unity in diversity and mission and witness. partnership. They are derived from practice and reject domineering and power-centred missiologies of the past. “All in each place” recognizes both global and local dimensions of life in all its fullness.1314). Jn 12. It is not that we have something to give and others have something to receive. Our common household is a gift from God. A household missiology embraces three fundamental aspects of our lives whose names have their root in the same word oikos or household: economy. Phil 2). hospitality.5 or Amos 9. “Nothing. There are different ways of speaking of kenosis in mission. Yet it can be an understanding for “all in each place”. At the New Delhi Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1961.14-17. but it is now in disorder and in need of rebuilding and repair. “Then we cannot accept these bicycles. The household image emerged from women in one of the early meetings of our mission study. and it speaks eloquently to the people of God sent to all God’s peoples. against ecological destruction and against the walls of yesterday and today that prevent Christian communion. and so they offered the church several hundred bicycles. Lk 1. The church was delighted with this offer. They were told that the Sudanese pastors were in need of bicycles to make their rounds to the churches. and they asked what the church in the Sudan could do for Britain. “All in each place” is different from “one in all places” which is the end result of neoliberal globalization and Empire. a group of British development workers was visiting the Sudan. It draws on women’s insights and mission understanding. A household missiology embraces the evangelical struggles against economic injustice. This is one source of mission renewal. following Galatians 4.38. Some years ago. and can never be summed up in a generalized understanding imposed from above. as they draw on the need for self-emptying in mission. Communion (koinonia). We associate mission in Jesus’ way with a range of images 162 related to the household of life (1 Pet 2).19. Household (Greek: oikos). human fellowship. but that there should be a “fair balance” (2 Cor 8.Mission above all means sharing. All of these suggest possible new understandings of mission and missiology.7 that provide new perspectives on relationships with other religious traditions.
The idea of household is always plural. Household missiology expresses itself in stories and folk tales. Let us work on giving further shape to this here in Accra. In my own experience of being a missionary for almost 25 years in East Asia. It also means that we must respect the household. Mission implies neighbourliness. household and hospitality. Emptying and empowerment. as we take off our shoes and enter in. Becoming part of the household is becoming part of a wider family. and I have received much more than I have ever given. food and friendship. as well as a willingness to receive hospitality in other places. so that wherever we are. This will require what some have termed a “redrawing of boundaries” between Christianity and other religious traditions. friendship and hospitality among households. and because they need to be developed further. we are at home with our brothers and sisters. between Christianity and other religious traditions. art and song. Thank you. 163 . between what goes on inside and outside the house.In contrast. we do not discriminate between the private and the public spheres. are needed for renewal in a world dominated by globalization and Empire. between the centre and the margins of the world. offer what we have and pitch in to help when we are asked. for the renewal of mission and the renewal of our churches. We must accept what we are offered. In our image of household. “all in each place” means a willingness to extend hospitality to others in our places. I have been welcomed into many households. The welcome that missionaries receive is essential for whatever work we can do. for households exist alongside other households. We lift up the images of kenosis and household because they can be related to each other in theology and practice.
(…) The mission of Jesus is our mission.Mission section plenary report “The God of the covenant with the earth community was in Jesus of Nazareth. globalization is no longer an adequate term to describe the threat to life in fullness. engage with Pentecostalism and Neo-pentecostalism. 1. It seeks to respond to the search for mission renewal by calling for missiologies of life which are aware of Empire. we define Empire as the convergence of economic. we have been challenged to rethink our understanding of mission. Dan 2. As we have gathered in Accra for the 24th general council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. to reconsider the ways in which we participate in God’s mission in our different cultures and contexts. and military interests that . we have been mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (Rom 1. The groaning of creation and the cries of the poor and the marginalized are calling us to conversion for and recommitment to mission. Our commitment to mission has been strengthened in our fellowship together and through the stories of hope we have shared. This is related to the Exodus. cultural. Today. In this report. Eph 3. Luke 13. we wish to share 164 with all our churches what we have learned in Accra and the implications of our sharing together for the future of our common witness to the gospel. Jesus was a prophet who resisted Empire and domination of every kind.1 Economic globalization challenges Christian mission and the integrity of the church. Mission in the context of globalization 1. and seek greater fellowship within the Reformed family itself. As we look at the negative consequences of globalization for the most vulnerable and for the earth community as a whole. Mission is at the heart of our understanding of God and the church. and to strengthen our relationships with one another as we engage in mission. Ps 137. a priest who comforted those who were powerless and broken. Hos 7. In Accra. However. sharing in the fullness of life (Jn 10. to reflect upon new challenges for mission. engage with other religions. we have begun to rediscover the evangelical significance of the biblical teaching about Empire. the Babylonian captivity and the Macedonian and Roman occupation of Palestine (Ex 3-12.” This text emerged from a lively debate on mission renewal today held in the framework of the World Alliance’s 2004 Accra general council. Hab 5. political. impoverished and marginalized.10) with sisters and brothers from churches all over the world. Rev 12-13).12). a king who became a Servant who saw the other side of Empire.
1.2 Empire is reshaping the ways that churches relate to one another. In different ways. churches and individual Christians are being attacked. Empire and Christian mission. Missiologies of life are Spiritcentred missiologies. In many countries in the world. a King who became a Servant who saw on the other side of Empire. a priest who comforted those who were powerless and broken. rooted in apostolic faith. This will involve a new Christian vision.12). In some instances.18) and proclaiming the gospel to all peoples. Christ is at work 165 . and war. We have experienced how global communications technologies have enhanced our relationships with one another. Jesus was a prophet. who resisted Empire and domination of every kind. Empire crosses all boundaries. The God of the covenant with the earth community was in Jesus of Nazareth. racism and institutional injustice that are associated with Empire. Centred in the last remaining superpower yet spread all over the world. and challenges religious communities. globally and locally. expressed in stories and experiences drawn from our own contexts. in dialogue with the Word of God.1 Mission is embodied in the life of the people of God among all God’s peoples. overcomes nation states. Mission in the fullness of life: towards new missiologies of life 2. that stands for the fullness of life in a world of worsening poverty. God’s mission is plural and can no longer be expressed in any single missiology. we hear inspiring stories of mission renewal through involvement and hospitality. and our experiences of personal. 1. they are suffering because of the seeming identification of globalization. We have seen irrefutable evidence that gross injustices have been committed in the name of Christian mission in Africa and other parts of the world. In many of our congregations. 1. impoverished and marginalized. patriarchy. 2. terrorism. bearing witness to Jesus Christ in the life of the Holy Spirit.constitute a system of domination in which benefits are forced to flow from the weak to the powerful.2 Missiologies of life are a continuation of the mission of Jesus in announcing God’s reign (Lk 4. we see glimpses of this vision (1 Cor 13. corruption.3 We need to draw a clear distinction between Christian mission and the forces of domination. social and ecclesial transformation in the living practice of God’s mission to the world challenge the context of economic globalization and Empire. Our stories of suffering and hope. environmental degradation. Our recommitment to mission renewal must be accompanied by repentance and forgiveness for what we have done and what we have left undone. 2. reconstructs identities. subverts cultures. Many of our sisters and brothers are suffering for their faith. and we are in solidarity with them. both today and in our earlier practices. the HIV and AIDS pandemic. these continue to be reproduced today.4 In the stories of hope and our sharing of experiences with one another.
healing in the Body of Christ afflicted with 166 . New life means the healing of memories of injustices. deliverance from the powers that continue to enslave our peoples. and calls churches to mission renewal in local and global contexts. a movement from a religious to a non-religious world of meaning.1 Pentecost is a gift and a calling of the whole church. mutuality. Household focuses on the ecumenical mission of all in each place.3 The mission of Jesus must include a continuing emphasis on evangelism and evangelization.9) and the promise of new life in Christ (1 Cor 15. We need to learn from each other in our efforts in evangelization. In Europe. secularization has been a political and cultural process. 3.4 Continuing the mission of Jesus is related to a range of images centring on mission in the household of life (1 Pet 2. affirms life in fullness. Some of our churches have done far more in integrating evangelism and proclamation in their mission practices than others. 3.22). healing of our relationships with other religious traditions. accountability are all related to the image of household. a complex and multifaceted trend. for we believe that the message of Jesus Christ is a message of salvation and hope. hospitality.5). Healing brings the waters of life (Ez 47. Patriarchy imposes limitations upon women in the household. the results of which we believe can be used by member churches in relationships in their own contexts. The mission of Jesus is our mission. In other parts of the world. challenges our churches in many parts of the world. 3. The growth.today in establishing inclusive and open communities of renewal and hope among us. induced by the Enlightenment. Mission in the life of the Spirit: engagement with Pentecost and Pentecostalism 3. reconciliation among churches. offered poverty. adaptability. 2. Mission in the fullness of life includes gender justice and the participation of youth and is available to all women and men. 2. We have heard many stories of the ways that Reformed spirituality resists evil. solidarity. spiritual exuberance 2. HIV and AIDS. unconditionally to all peoples. partnership. Mission as communion. and it limits the participation of youth. secularization has represented a challenge brought on by modernity and globalization.2 Secularization. stewardship. Households are everywhere and the flow of mission is everywhere. and a withdrawal of the church from the public sphere. and the healing of the earth community.3 The World Alliance of Reformed Churches is engaged in a dialogue with Pentecostals. The gift and calling of Pentecost challenges us to find new ways of doing mission in the face of such challenges. the church and the public sphere.5 Missiologies of life emphasize healing and wholeness in our divided and broken world. We need to develop further what this means for theologies of the Spirit that can inspire new ways of doing mission in various contexts.
Our common calling moves us to pray and grow into fuller communion with one another. 167 .1 We are called to proclaim the Good News in a time in which the historical challenges seem overwhelming to our churches. theologies of life in fullness will complement more traditional theologies of salvation. gender justice and teachings about a gospel of prosperity. Dialogue with Pentecostals has also compelled us to reconsider the sources for spiritual renewal for mission in our traditions. but we also need new forms of interreligious engagement to address issues of interreligious conflict. 4. For example. Christians are living in the midst of people from other religious communities. 4. and lay leadership can all contribute to our own life of worship and mission. for some Pentecostal mission practices are problematic for our churches. In our attempts to understand interfaith solidarity. This involves interfaith listening and programmes of sharing and exchange. In our encounter with people of other faiths. we must also discern the Spirit in different contexts. religious persecution and interreligious conflict pose new challenges for churches and religious groups in many parts of the world.4 There is much we can learn from the Pentecostal movement.3 Christians are disciples of Jesus who are the people of God among all God’s peoples. 3. 4. 3. dialogue are both needed. Engagement with other religious communities 4. and yet our churches increasingly find themselves in multireligious contexts demanding new responses. and the wider ecumenical family. ethnic and political tensions for the powerful. All over the world. Towards a fellowship of Reformed churches covenanting together in mission 5. participatory forms of worship. as we learn from and listen to others’ unique religious teachings. For example.5 At the same time. and our churches must be engaged with them. we have serious differences on such issues as proselytism. in obedience to the God who calls us to be in mission. Mission and 5. we need interfaith solidarity in mission so we can work together on issues that affect us all.4 We need to develop processes of contextual discernment in relating to other religious communities. we witness to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.and networking of Pentecostals (and NeoPentecostals) worldwide challenge our churches to new forms of engagement in mission. In this situation.1 Religious communities are today facing divisions and contradictions between peoples and nations as globalization and Empire manipulate cultural.2 Reformed churches have not developed an adequate approach to religious plurality. 4. their emphasis on the Holy Spirit in mission. In a world of globalization and Empire.
5. we are required to ask ourselves whether our mission relations are fair and effective. Whether we are churches in poor or in rich countries.4 Mission means covenanting together. for mission is not to gain power. but to share the power of love. 2 Cor 8).2 We are called to be a fellowship of churches in mission. 5. We must move towards new ways of sharing. Mission means both self-emptying and empowerment in the sharing of resources (Phil 2. partnership. mutual vulnerability and accountability. We therefore call on our churches to prayerfully consider and carefully discuss what it might mean to see the World Alliance of Reformed Churches as a fellowship of churches covenanting together in mission. whether they are captive to the powers of this world or sharing the power of love. developing in dialogue with one another new missiologies of life. 168 .3 We must confess that Reformed mission has often been an individualistic and entrepreneurial or bilateral effort lacking accountability. Our new missiologies must be reflected in the structural relationships we maintain with one another as churches. Sharing is expressed by such terms as solidarity.5. This has caused church division in many places. whether they are unilateral or multilateral. whether they lead us to financial dependence or mutual interdependence. and exploring together new patterns of sharing for our common calling. mutual dependence. mutual vulnerability and mutual accountability. New disciplines of mission that embody a practice of unity respecting the unique role of churches in each place are needed. interdependence.
The integrity of our faith is therefore at stake. and confession (processus confessionis)”. The cries of “never again” are 169 . Further. Introduction 1. education. nine member churches have committed themselves to a faith stance. claiming sovereignty over life and demanding total allegiance. for the general council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. Hungary. Since then. and others have studied the issues and come to a recognition of the depth of the crisis. sold and subjected to the horrors of repression and death. In response to the urgent call of the Southern African constituency which met in Kitwe in 1995 and in recognition of the increasing urgency of global economic injustice and ecological destruction. an ideology that makes the false claim “that it can save the world through the creation of wealth and prosperity. includes the Accra Confession. we visited the slave dungeons of Elmina and Cape Coast where millions of Africans were commodified. the 23rd general council (Debrecen. as they heard the cries of brothers and sisters around the world and witnessed God’s gift of creation under threat.000 people die each day from poverty and malnutrition”. 2. Additional consultations took place with churches from the South in Buenos Aires (2003) and with churches from South and North in London Colney (2004). which amounts to idolatry”.6 “…break the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice. 3. from Seoul/Bangkok (1999) to Stony Point (2004). and 24. some are in the process of covenanting. and let the oppressed go free”. stemming from the WARC 2004 general council section on Covenant. 1997) invited the member churches of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to enter into a process of “recognition. The policy of unlimited growth among industrialized countries and the drive for profit of transnational corporations “have plundered the earth and severely damaged the environment”. Ghana. in partnership with the World Council of Churches. the World Alliance of Reformed Churches has engaged in consultations in all regions of the world. the Lutheran World Federation and regional ecumenical organizations. The churches reflected on the text of Isaiah 58. This crisis “is directly related to the development of neoliberal economic globalization”. This document. Gathered in Accra.Covenanting for justice: the Accra Confession Ours is a “scandalous world” in which “the annual income of the richest 1% is equal to that of the poorest 57%.
6.22). Resource-driven wars claim the lives of millions.put to the lie by the ongoing realities of human trafficking and the oppression of the global economic system. 9. poverty on less than one US dollar per day continues to increase. The policy of unlimited growth among industrialized countries and the drive for profit of transnational corporations have plundered the earth and severely damaged the environment. which is based on the following beliefs: • unrestrained competition. Climate change. Reading the signs of the times 5. livelihoods are lost. the depletion of fish stocks. The root causes of massive threats to life are above all the product of an unjust economic system defended and protected by political and military might. affecting the poorest where generic drugs are not available. Communities are disrupted. and the unrestricted movement of capital will achieve wealth for all. The HIV and AIDS global pandemic afflicts life in all parts of the world. In 1989. • the ownership of private property has no social obligation.000 people die each day from poverty and malnutrition. We live in a scandalous world that denies God’s call to life for all. in bondage. unrestricted access for foreign investments and imports. Today we come to take a decision of faith commitment. Economic systems are a matter of life or death. The annual income of the richest 1% is equal to that of the poorest 57%. We are challenged by the cries of the people who suffer and by the woundedness of creation itself. and by 2000 it was one every hour. High levels of radioactivity threaten health and ecology. and storms increase. The majority of those in poverty are women and children and the number of people living in absolute 170 . deforestation. privatization of public utilities and national resources. 8. waiting for its liberation (Romans 8. The signs of the times have become more alarming and must be interpreted. The debt of poor countries continues to increase despite paying back their original borrowing many times over. liberalization and deregulation of the market. • capital speculation. We see a dramatic convergence between the suffering of the people and the damage done to the rest of creation. coastal regions and Pacific islands are threatened with inundation. and 24. one species disappeared each day. 4. and threats to fresh water are among the devastating consequences. and the unlimited economic growth and accumulation of wealth is the best for the whole world. lower taxes. Life forms and cultural knowledge are being patented for financial gain. This crisis is directly related to the development of neoliberal economic globalization. We have heard that creation continues to groan. soil erosion. 7. cosumerism. while millions more die of preventable diseases.
while excluding the majority of the people and treating nature as a commodity. claiming sovereignty over life and demanding total allegiance. 14. through the transnationalization of capital. Jesus has told us that we cannot serve both God and Mammon (Lk 16. World Trade Organization) use political. We recognize the enormity and complexity of the situation. It affects and captivates us all. states began to regulate markets and provide for the welfare of people. Faith commitment may be expressed in various ways according to regional and theological traditions: as confession. We see the dramatic convergence of the economic crisis with the integration of economic globalization and geopolitics backed by neoliberal ideology. as confessing together. In classical liberal economics. The government of the United States of America and its allies. economic. cultural. World Bank. Confession of faith in the face of economic injustice and ecological destruction 15. and relationships between people. protection of the poor and the weak. This is a global system that defends and protects the interests of the powerful. political and military power that constitutes a system of domination led by powerful nations to protect and defend their own interests. We do not seek simple answers. which amounts to idolatry. we see that the current world (dis)order is rooted in an extremely complex and immoral economic system defended by empire. It makes the false promise that it can save the world through the creation of wealth and prosperity.13). neoliberalism has set out to dismantle the welfare functions of the state. This is an ideology that claims to be without alternative. as being faithful to the covenant of God.• social obligations. trade unions. 11. Under neoliberalism the purpose of the economy is to increase profits and return for the owners of production and financial capital. or military alliances to protect and advance the interest of capital owners. 13. We choose confession. As markets have become global. Since the 1980s. Through the struggles of the labour movement. so have the political and legal institutions which protect them. 12. In using the term “empire” we mean the coming together of economic. the state exists to protect private property and contracts in the competitive market. not meaning a classical doctrinal 171 . As seekers of truth and justice and looking through the eyes of powerless and suffering people. 10. together with international finance and trade institutions (International Monetary Fund. demanding an endless flow of sacrifices from the poor and creation. as faith stance. are subordinate to the processes of economic growth and capital accumulation. in biblical terms such a system of wealth accumulation at the expense of the poor is seen as unfaithful to God and responsible for preventable human suffering and is called Mammon. Further.
We live under the promise that Jesus Christ came so that all might have life in fullness (Jn 10. All creation is blessed and included in this covenant (Hos 2. We believe that human beings are called to choose God over Mammon and that confessing our faith is an act of obedience. 18. and military empire which subverts God’s sovereignty over life and acts contrary to God’s just rule. which defy God’s covenant by excluding the poor. Therefore. we reject the current world economic order imposed by global neoliberal capitalism and any other economic system. We believe in God. political. 22.1). the vulnerable and the whole of creation from 172 the fullness of life. Therefore we reject the unregulated accumulation of wealth and limitless growth that has already cost the lives of millions and destroyed much of God’s creation. who calls us as partners in the creation and redemption of the world. We believe that God has made a covenant with all of creation (Gen 9. 16. but to show the necessity and urgency of an active response to the challenges of our time and the call of Debrecen. the general council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches affirms that global economic justice is essential to the integrity of our faith in God and our discipleship as Christians. We believe that any economy of the household of life. 23.10). 21.18ff). We invite member churches to receive and respond to our common witness. is accountable to God. We believe the economy exists to serve the dignity and wellbeing of people in community. We believe that the integrity of our faith is at stake if we remain silent or refuse to act in the face of the current system of neoliberal economic globalization and therefore we confess before God and one another. . given to us by God’s covenant to sustain life. Creator and Sustainer of all life. because the World Alliance of Reformed Churches cannot make such a confession. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24. God has brought into being an earth community based on the vision of justice and peace.1).confession. We believe that God is sovereign over all creation. or any other system. It is an economy of grace for the household of all of creation. including absolute planned economies. within the bounds of the sustainability of creation. Speaking from our Reformed tradition and having read the signs of the times. 20. Guided and upheld by the Holy Spirit we open ourselves to the reality of our world. and calls us to put justice for the “least of these” (Mt 25. 17. 19. Therefore we reject the culture of rampant consumerism and the competitive greed and selfishness of the neoliberal global market system. We reject any claim of economic.8-12).40) at the centre of the community of life. The covenant is a gift of grace that is not for sale in the market place (Is 55. which claims there is no alternative. Jesus shows that this is an inclusive covenant in which the poor and marginalized are preferential partners.
and walk in God’s way (Micah 6. disability. love kindness. 34. We believe that we are called in the Spirit to account for the hope that is within us through Jesus Christ. 26. so that the reconciliation to which Christ calls can become visible. Therefore we reject any theology that claims that God is only with the rich and that poverty is the fault of the poor. does not care for all creation. the poor. 33. We know what the Lord requires of us: to do justice. We believe that God calls men.7-9). 28. 31. or caste. In a world of corruption.24. rich and poor. the stranger.8). We believe that God is a God of justice. kill and destroy” (Jn 10. Therefore we reject any church practice or teaching which excludes the poor and care for creation. and privatizes those gifts of God meant for all.10) rather than following the “Good Shepherd” who has come for life for all (Jn 10. such an ideology in the name of the gospel.11).18). exploitation. We believe that God calls us to hear the cries of the poor and the groaning of creation and to follow the public mission of Jesus Christ who came so that all may have life and have it in fullness (Jn 10.24). 32. and the abused (Psalm 146. women and children from every place together. class. and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5. to uphold the unity of the church and its mission. too. We commit ourselves to seek a global covenant for justice in the economy and the earth in the household of God. We humbly confess this hope. and greed. God is in a special way the God of the destitute. knowing that we. We reject any theology which affirms that human interests dominate nature. we recognize that this includes both churches and members of our own Reformed family 173 . God calls for just relationships with all creation. the wronged. he supports and protects the downtrodden. and believe that justice shall prevail and peace shall reign. Therefore we reject any ideology or economic regime that puts profits before people. giving comfort to those who come to “steal. 27.10). Therefore we reject any attempt in the life of the church to separate justice and unity. 29. race. the orphans and the widows. “so that justice may roll down like waters. We reject any teaching which justifies those who support. We believe that God calls us to stand with those who are victims of injustice. in its mission. stand under the judgement of God’s justice. he frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind (Lk 4. the exploited. 30. • We acknowledge the complicity and guilt of those who consciously or unconsciously benefit from the current neoliberal economic global system. or fail to resist. Jesus brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry. We reject any form of injustice which destroys right relations – gender. We are called to stand against any form of injustice in the economy and the destruction of the environment. 25.
By confessing our faith together. The general council urges member churches to implement this confession by following up the Public Issues Committee’s recommendations on economic justice and ecological issues. Jesus is Lord. we covenant in obedience to God’s will as an act of faithfulness in mutual solidarity and in accountable relationships. confession and action.52f). some churches have already expressed their commitment in a confession of faith. and restoring the economy and the earth. Covenanting for justice 37. the community of other faiths. 40. 38. through education. who has “brought down the mighty from their thrones. • We acknowledge that we have become captivated by the culture of consumerism. Other churches have already begun to engage in this process. To those other churches. • We confess our sin that our disunity within the Reformed family has impaired our ability to serve God’s mission in fullness.and therefore we call for confession of sin. to deepen their education and move forward towards confession. that the church is called to confess. We join in praise to God. Spirit.19). This binds us together to work for justice in the economy and the earth both in our common global context as well as our various regional and local settings. 39. we urge them on the basis of our mutual covenanting accountability. on the basis of this covenanting relationship. including taking actions and we urge them to engage further. This has all too often permeated our very spirituality.18ff). • We confess our sin in misusing creation and failing to play our role as stewards and companions of nature. The general council calls upon member churches. lifted up the lowly. 42. the ecumenical community. The general council commits the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to work together with other communions. filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands” (Lk 1. our time and our energy to changing. Creator. and the competitive greed and selfishness of the current economic system. to undertake the difficult and prophetic task of interpreting this confession to their local congregations. so that we and our descendants might live (Deut 30. civil movements and people’s movements for a just economy and the integrity of creation and calls upon our member churches to do the same. witness and act. and punishment and suffering be the consequence (Acts 4. Now we proclaim with passion that we will commit ourselves. We believe. which are still in the process of recognition. in obedience to Jesus Christ. choosing life. 41. 35. 36. renewing. urge them to continue to translate this confession into concrete actions both regionally and locally. even though the authorities and human law might forbid them. We 174 . On this common journey. Redeemer.
God’s presence flowing into all aspects of our life and world. We are churches who want to live more gently on earth. Redemption Song The 24th general council has been faced with a deeply spiritual as well as theological and missiological task: we are being confronted by the cry for life. celebrate the life we have. the challenge of becoming “examples of the change we are seeking” raises the question of our understanding and practice of spirituality. Thus. as we wait for God to make us his children and set our whole being free” (Romans 8. This council gathering invites us to experience our unity in Christ. The deeper our spirituality the deeper our capacity to face and overcome that which is unjust. like the pain of childbirth. The spirituality section has explored spirituality as the gift that gives us the capacity to struggle. This text stems from the WARC 2004 general council section on spirituality. the council has been considering the issues that our theme and our sharing pose to Christian spirituality. We have experienced a creative and deep sense of God’s Spirit at work in all of life and have felt this Spirit leading us to 175 . God’s cry for life within us and within our world and God’s cry from those who live with poverty and injustice. who want “to care for and care about those who suffer and those who celebrate”. This is “God’s cry for life within us and within our world and God’s cry from those who live with poverty and injustice”.22-23). However. We have all said how much the experience of African spirituality has revealed to us a holistic and engaged spirituality. a community that walks the way of Christ enabled by his Spirit.Hearing the cry for life in our joy and our pain We are being “confronted by the cry for life”. celebrate and feel for others in the midst of everything we face. But it is not just creation alone which groans. we who have the Spirit groan within ourselves. and feel for our neighbours near and far. “Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom? For all I ever have: Redemption Song” (Bob Marley). Spirituality is our chief means to discern and hallow the presence of God breaking out in all things. “All of creation groans with pain. for our being in Christ together propels us into becoming his new creation.
soothe our memories. Our discussion of spirituality revealed that we have often failed to see spirituality as wider than worship. Yet so many of us spend so little time in worship. found something inspiring and strengthening. and the worship we engage in often fails to address the issues of our day. We look. but we are not all able to practise this understanding because we have not been open to the world beyond worship. But we see how it can also witness to a separation of worship from life and a flattering of our egos rather than a deep engagement with the will of God for our world and lives. We look to the stories of our contemporaries and the stories of our time. We found ourselves wondering: “Are we really providing people with the deep resources they need to live their lives and to live their lives fully in the light of God’s promise?” In the section. It seems to us that it looks like life in fullness: life that is lived generously for others. We heard stories of those who were living with pain and loss and were held up and empowered by the church. nor does it engage us at any deep level. We have not fully grasped and expressed what life in the Spirit looks like. . Section discussions admitted how our theology has emphasized the head over the heart. We also heard stories of those confronted and excluded by mean-spirited attitudes and an unwillingness to be open to people. life that sees itself connected to the whole of our created and political order. But especially we look to the deepest well of spirituality.life in fullness. to all the creative arts and traditions of our cultures. but always it was difficult to leave worship as the fundamental expression of our spirituality. the mind over the body. We affirmed spirituality as flowing from all of life and connecting us to the Holy Spirit. Key issues in our theological task It seems that we have not sufficiently developed and honoured our understandings of the action of the Holy Spirit in the challenges of our day. So this is a summary of some of the implications spirituality has for our task as Reformed churches. This indwelling Spirit transforms and sanctifies us inwardly and outwardly. We heard stories of those who. in many directions for inspiration in our spiritual life and expression. We are very clear how our practice of spirituality can enable healing of our personal and political hurt. this is a theology growing increasingly stale in the diverse cultures and environments we inhabit. Our discussions ranged widely as to the nature of spirituality. varying and conflicting stories were told of people who felt lifted up by the church and others who felt cast down. The Spirit speaks with a prophetic voice that often we stifle through the many concerns of our lives and even stifle through the shallowness of our worship. during time of war in their country. the Scriptures 176 themselves and to Christ himself whose life and love is the summation of life in fullness and the inspiration to live and struggle for it. then. and enable us to move on.
many churches in Europe and North America are left with a voice that no longer speaks to many of their contemporaries. or our theology at a level that moves and compels us to the struggle for life in all its fullness. more to consider how we might change our lifestyles and our economic policies. We continually need to be seeking ways to help people connect with God. Spirituality reveals to us a deepening sense of the God who cares for all living things. word and silence. Even where churches in the South are discovering their own cultural voice. their 177 Key issues in our missiological task Covenanting for life We are churches who want to engage with the struggle for justice and covenant for life. We are hearing such distressing stories and statistics about the nature of poverty and economic injustice that it threatens to overwhelm us. an invitation that is discovered in worship but practised in living and enabled by the Spirit. the determined way rich nations and corporations run the world economy for their advantage points us to a long struggle before justice and fullness of life can prevail. Communicating the gospel Churches planted during the period of colonial mission are still using models that reflect Europe and North America of that particular time. drama. We are churches who want to live more gently on the earth. These cultures are not always sure how to renew themselves and lift the burden of this heritage. but our increasing sense of spiritual connection with our groaning creation pushes us more and . 19th century European models of worship have been imposed on all sorts of cultures. and fatalism. This hampers us in our evangelistic and celebratory tasks as churches. are called to exercise and sustain. our faith. But we need still to practise this ecologically responsible discipleship and see it inviting us into deeper partnership with Christ and the many who share this concern with us. images. prayer. cynicism. if indeed it still speaks to them. ecosystem and habitat could be facing us with more profound changes than the earth has experienced in millions of years. too.We are often not expressing ourselves. worship. yet we spurn God’s sovereignty and the earth’s sacredness by treating so much of life as simply a commodity. How can we sustain this struggle if we do not develop the spiritual resources that keep us connected to the cry for life from our God and our neighbour? Otherwise we will simply give in to fatigue. We could be missing Christ’s invitation to a deep sense of communion with him and with our sisters and brothers. and biblical reflection. We have allowed ourselves to plunder the earth unchecked. a care we. The degradation of the planet’s resources. The sovereignty of God calls us to treat the world as sacred. We have shared in a rich variety of spiritual expression: music. The burden of debt. All need to take their place in our life of witness.
and churches adapting liturgical celebrations like the Eucharist to their context. not least when they suffer. This can be done out of the deep wells of Scripture. compassion. if we genuinely share together! Yet our worship can often assume that everyone is at the same place in her or his spiritual journey. Many young people lead their lives away from the church but do so searching for meaning and caring deeply about the issues of our world. to invite an outlook on life that is always expectant of God’s presence there and a practice of justice. All this draws on and deepens spirituality. We have been moved and frustrated by the many stories we have heard about people and communities facing HIV/Aids. and solidarity that guides our work and our play and our shopping. We also know how risky and tiring it can be. How much we can receive from children and young people. and especially from the promise of our Reformed vision that always looks expectantly to God to be acting. We know how powerful concern for others and dialogue with others can be in enabling transformation and evangelism. a deeply rooted component of human identity. and experience. Loving our neighbour We are churches who want to care for and care about those who suffer and those who celebrate. Thus our spirituality needs to be shaped by our biblical reflection on God’s life and the life of the world. Our worship needs to sit where people sit. Key issues in our ecclesiological task Spirituality and the Bible We can see a danger for spirituality to be a form of selfcentredness. to be a comforter at times when we need to be challenged. Our neighbours from other communities. their culture. We see ourselves building communities of hope. Healing is a very important theme in spirituality. We also see the increasingly fresh ways people around us in the worldwide church . churches engaging in the struggle for justice. We know that people do search for meaning. Our spirituality needs to sustain us in this joyful duty. It requires us to develop worship life beyond Sunday. often have ideas and experiences to challenge and refresh us. It can make us feel that our needs and issues are central to the world and to the reign of God. Nevertheless.humanity. We see churches doing this and rejoice. We do see churches finding new ways to express the promise of God. This is both a pastoral and a prophetic task. We are reminded of the need for churches to be more readily open to these seekers. The search for meaning in life Spirituality seems to be something common 178 to all peoples. yet we often cut ourselves off from our neighbours and our communities. churches are not always places of consolation. giving us points of reference beyond ourselves. addressing the issues and concerns of our daily lives through the rich stories and insights of our faith. other faiths.
as many women. celebrate. we see it calling us once more into a passionate. insights. We have heard how those with disability. and indeed spiritualities of the peoples who make up our churches. participation.are reading the Bible. We see it as one of the most special components of our worship. and peoples with disabilities will testify. We are also particularly concerned to see that discrimination rather than discernment marks our church life. and not be inspired to seek fullness of life? Far from allowing communion to divide us even within the Reformed tradition. for as we share we are supposed to be drawn into mission and unity with Christ and each other. We wonder what there is for us to learn from these churches. especially. Challenge and opportunity of free and lively worship Many of our churches around the world feel overshadowed by the free style of worship offered in many Pentecostal. churches who use communion as a means to exclude others from the core life and story of the church. as if for the first time. 179 . We are still failing in this task. Achieving the full potential of this idea means the practice of community that makes room for new models of leadership. indigenous peoples. generous. We heard stories of our congregations losing their young people to these churches. then. with those disciples. and service. How can we remember Jesus at that table. that there are churches refusing to ordain women. charismatic and evangelical churches. Stories that so often have been read against certain groups are beginning to be re-read and transformed by many of those thought unworthy of this task. Eucharist is still being used as a weapon to exclude others Our celebration of Communion featured often in our discussions. on that night. But we are reminded that if we are to achieve the Reformed vision of being a church that is always reforming it needs the diverse gifts. The Holy Spirit is at work in all people. Yet we know. and joyful way of life together. that the Bible really is a profound resource for our spirituality. There needs. it is our central resource. people are resisting the necessary changes to enable their full participation. are not fully honoured in the church. as we discern and hallow God’s cry for life. This is an aspect of our worship that can most powerfully equip us to resist. Many of us are discovering. Once again we heard the conflicting stories of those who were finding that room was made for their particular and distinctive voice and of those who all too painfully were kept silenced. worship. young people. and feel for others in the midst of everything we face. Spirituality and reforming our life We are churches who seek to make room for the gifts and leadership of the whole priesthood of believers. to be a searching for the powerful questions to bring to our text and world. but so many people’s lives and gifts go unheeded. still. Indeed.
and biblical resources and approaches. but we want to affirm that using drums is not a sin. Some felt there were dangers of disintegration if we have different services for different groups. while raising up different worship models. WARC facilitate processes of worship renewal within and between the regions in which we also face the questions of how we immerse our worship and spiritual life in the forms of our own culture. We especially encourage an interchange of all our creative methods. WARC develop and document a theology of worship to speak to the diverse needs of our membership that honours 180 . but others felt it had worked when done sensitively. WARC remind member churches of the need to dialogue across theological divides within faith traditions and between them. But also we want to affirm the role of silence and meditation. We need to remember we must become examples of the change we are seeking. Sometimes these were resisted by groups within congregations. 5. We ask WARC to raise with member churches the issues shared here about divisive and exclusive practice at the Eucharist. stories and experiences to deepen our spirituality and its capacity to equip us to resist. Recommendations: 1. if we are to enrich our spiritualities and our sense of Christ’s Spirit at work amongst us. in fact all the modes of expression we could use. WARC begin a serious study on Reformed perspectives on the Holy Spirit and spirituality to assist us in our journey towards life in fullness. It seems that some churches cannot accept lively styles of worship. We would recommend a practical and creative response be made to the issue of HIV/Aids: a gathering together of resources. sometimes embraced reluctantly. expressing different types: traditional/ contemporary/reflective. We are grateful for all we have received from our Ghanaian hosts. 4. 6. clapping and dance are not disrespectful. Being in Ghana and Africa excited us with so many examples of life-filled and lively worship and spirituality. This needs to be done within the regions but brought together into a global discussion. We note again that in our reflection on spirituality and worship we are sensitive and alert to issues of language and participation. 2. and feel for others in the midst of everything we face. celebrate. 3. and enriches our traditions. of chanting. a sharing of musical. liturgical.Stories were shared of developing alternative styles of worship services. visual.
We have met as 400 delegates in this council from July 30 to August 12 2004. the wealth of the Americas was developed. Grace and peace to you from our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. On this trade in humans as commodities.Letter from Accra: message of the WARC 2004 general council From the delegates gathered from throughout the world in Accra. on your behalf. and others of us are descendants of those who were enslaved. Through their labour. two “castles” on the Coast of Ghana that held those who had been captured into slavery. deliberating on urgent issues facing God’s world. and lamentation. “How could their faith be so divided from life? How could they separate their spiritual experience from the torturous physical suffering directly beneath their feet? How could their faith be so blind?” Some of us are descended from those slave traders and slave owners. We shared responses of tears. Over brutal centuries. and participating in the rich life of local churches in Ghana. worshipping. right under their feet. greetings. intelligence and creativity. and Governor lived on the upper level. as we listened to the voices today from our global fellowship. as they suffered in dungeons waiting for slave ships that would take them to unknown lands and destinies. at the 24th general council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to the congregations of all those churches belonging to this fellowship. At the Elmina Castle. 15 million African slaves were transported to the Americas. while the slaves were held in captivity one level below. we have discerned and experienced. soldiers. suffering. those being sold into slavery languished in the chains and horror of those dungeons. studying the Bible. and millions more were captured and died. And we imagined Reformed Christians worshipping their God while directly below them. sweat. wealth in Europe was built. we discovered the mortal danger of repeating the same sin of those whose blindness we decried. silence. For more than two centuries in that place this went on. Those who are Reformed Christians have always declared God’s sovereignty over all life and all the earth. We write to share with you what. Our most moving and memorable moments came from our visit to Elmina and Cape Coast. We entered a room used as a church. So how could these forbears of Reformed faith deny so blatantly what they believed so clearly? Yet. Ghana. 181 . the Dutch merchants. with words from Psalm 132 on a sign still hanging above the door (“For the Lord has chosen Zion…”). anger. In angry bewilderment we thought.
as a concrete expression of our allegiance to Jesus Christ. Millions of those in our congregations live daily in the midst of these realities. So many suffer! Each day. Rather. just as it was for those worshipping in the Elmina castle. In our discussions in Accra – indeed in the past seven years of reflection since we last met in general council at Debrecen. In Accra we recognized that living according to what we say we believe changes our understanding of mission today.For today’s world is divided between those who worship in comfortable contentment and those enslaved by the world’s economic injustice and ecological destruction who still suffer and die. in Reformed churches throughout the world. and not stand against all that denies the promise of fullness of life to the world? If Jesus Christ is not Lord over all. and global trends show that wealth grows for the few while poverty increases for the many. As those who have met on your behalf in Accra. is embodied in the life of the church in the world. dethrone the false gods of wealth and power. Therefore. By this we mean the gathered power of pervasive economic and political forces throughout the globe that reinforce the division between the rich and the poor. it can be said. 24. it goes to the heart of our confession of faith. he is not Lord at all. standing against all that denies life and hope for millions. this is a grave and serious invitation. Meanwhile. We know that this does not come easily for any of us. Brothers and sisters. Confessing our faith and giving our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ requires our opposition to all that denies the fullness of life to all those in our world so loved by God. That is why we find in the 182 Bible a constant criticism of idolatry. God’s Spirit . emphasized in our Reformed tradition. we invite you. Yet our hope lies in confessing that the power of the resurrected Christ can overturn the idols and the modern gods that hold the world captive to injustice and ecological destruction. we declare to you that the integrity of our Christian faith is now at stake. The economies of many of our countries are trapped in international debt and imposed financial demands that worsen the lives of the poorest. To declare faith in the one true God is to reject divided loyalties between God and Mammon. We recalled that the church was born in a time of empire.000 people die because of hunger and malnutrition. Hungary – we have come to realize that this is not just another “issue” to be “addressed”. How can we say that we believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord over all life. millions of others in our congregations live lives as inattentive to this suffering as those who worshipped God on the floor above slave dungeons. and turn from false promises to the true God of life. Mission. Such a confession also sends us forth with new eyes of faith into the world. to take this stance of faith. We perceive that the world today lives under the shadow of an oppressive empire.
10. as never before. Further. wove itself through the work of the council during these days. testing the depth of our trust. we have experienced a taste of this hope and seek to share it with you. and for that we need our lives to be deeply rooted in the power of God’s Spirit. If confessing what we believe as Christians requires our spiritual and practical resistance to economic injustice as well as environmental destruction. In this council we have focused on current threats to life. then we need new depths of spirituality. it draws us into everdeeper community with one another. God’s mission involves your congregation and each of ours in fresh and challenging ways today. Our churches in central and eastern Europe remind us that for long decades they suffered under the tyranny of another empire. That’s why mission requires us as churches to belong more deeply to one another. and to ask whether Reformed churches in the West heard sufficiently the cry of their sisters and brothers in the East.called forth the church. where Jesus declares the promise “that all may have life in fullness”. This spiritual challenge flows from the words found in John 10. We recognize the need for all of us – East and West – to work through this bleak chapter of our history. Our Christian spirituality opens us to the presence and power of God in all the creation. But there is no other way for us to follow God’s mission. To put it simply. It requires the vulnerability demonstrated in Jesus. But we discovered one more truth in Accra that we want to share. we’re being called to a spiritual engagement against evil. in response to God’s work in the world. This isn’t mere political activism. we need. In today’s world the divisions between the North and the South. Deepening our spirituality can connect us 183 . The challenges we now face in proclaiming the Good News will simply overwhelm us if we confront them as individual churches alone. How can we share the message and liberating love of Christ’s life in those places where suffering and death seem to reign? This much we discovered for certain in Accra: more than ever. in fact. In our inclusive fellowship here in Accra. as a new community bearing witness to a new global reality and opposing the false claims of earthly gods. and building unity for this purpose is one of the practical things the World Alliance of Reformed Churches can make possible. the transformation of our lives promised through Jesus Christ. the rich and the poor. especially economic neoliberalism and the arrogance of imperial power. That biblical theme. The wounds of this past are not yet healed. Being truly mutual and accountable is hard and even painful. overcoming those divisions through the work of God’s Spirit as an evidence of the hope that is offered to the world. faithful mission today requires our connection – really it demands bonds of belonging – between one another as churches. and the powerful and the powerless. grow sharper and seek to isolate us from one another.
And we’ve also included an appendix that gives a summary of the many other urgent issues and concerns from around the globe that received our attention. It draws from the gifts of the culture and sings not only in these enchanting songs. we long for our experience here to enrich and encourage your mission and ministry. As we entered the homes of our hosts on a weekend of visits to churches throughout Ghana and then were carried away by the power of their worship. We also realized more clearly than ever that such spiritual transformation and the community that it creates are only possible as the gifts of women and young people are freely exercised and liberated in our life together. and live in mission with the hope of fullness of life for all promised by our Lord. And may the grace of God. and so embracing of God’s creation. We experienced the warmth of their hospitality and the power of God’s Spirit to 184 bring new life and community. Ghana August 12 2004 . and we long for the spirituality that makes this possible in every one of our congregations. our hearts were filled with hope and gratitude. We’ve included a liturgy that could enable you to share in worship the same confession. so worshipful. so connected in community. The drums and songs that saturate the soul of the African church permeated our worship. Ghana. stand against the powers of evil that threaten life. and political divisions. Accra. We experienced a glimpse of this in our gathering.with God’s power for the healing of personal wounds. be with you now and forever more. as their witness to the fullness of life in Christ. and promises that we have made here at this council. we were blessed constantly with the spiritual vitality and power of the local churches that hosted and received us. We want you to join in the confession and covenant with one another we have made in Accra. Bible study. commitments. As part of the fellowship of those churches throughout the globe that share in common the Reformed tradition of Christian faith. May all of us know the power of God at work in our Lord Jesus Christ to overcome evil and offer to all the world life in the fullness intended by God. but also in their daily lives. May none of us ever live our faith insensitive to brutal suffering and indifferent to urgent cries from our world. We marvelled at offerings given with such dancing and joy from hearts so full of gratitude. and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. presentations to the council. Our prayer for you is that God may reveal to you in fresh ways how our faith is deeply connected to all of life. Because we were in Accra. and leadership roles. And we knew this is the sign of the only power that can sustain us as we confess our faith in Christ. social scars. the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here we tasted a spirituality that seemed so whole. as both women and youth shared so richly in worship.
Moyo. 2002). South Africa. Fulata Moyo questions “some of the Presbyterian Church’s teachings regarding male and female beings in Malawi and the rest of Africa” to argue that “the greatest threat to fullness of life remains patriarchy. 1988 has double significance for me in my sexuality journey. when I went back to the university for my undergraduate studies. The tests revealed that I was suffering from gonorrhoea. She is preparing a doctoral thesis at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. almost apologizing for bothering him with such “triviality”. I was shocked when the medical personnel told me: “Go ask your husband. I thought I might have been infected from common toilet seats at the hostels. which sometimes override the Christian mission to liberate and bring fullness of life. Overwhelmed by the truth of the medical personnel’s charge. which is effectively sustained by some major Reformed teachings”.1 I had to go for some medical tests because of some uncontrollable itching in my precious parts. if anything. In my naivety. Talking with a married Presbyterian Christian sister helped me a lot but it also 185 . coupled with my husband’s seemingly crocodile tears of repentance. The year 1988 is the year that my mother was confirmed as the head of our household when my father died on August 18. it was the year when I had to deal with marital unfaithfulness in my own marriage relationship. Rev. is the secretary of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. Of course my father’s headship of the family was more remote-controlled. I went and explained to my husband what had happened. My husband had to leave for his place of work a day after the burial of my father’s remains. as he had to head two other households. He knows where you got it from!” What shocked me was the confidence with which I was informed. Two weeks after. Rev. as a polygamous husband.Threats and challenges to life: an African woman’s perspective Fulata Lusungu Moyo Starting from true life stories. I had to stay with my mother for a month until she was again allowed to cook and take care of herself according to the Ngoni widowhood traditions (Moyo. a systematic theologian. I joined my husband after the month. especially her own. the need to talk with someone who would understand my sense of being betrayed was evoked in me. This paper was read at the 2004 WARC women’s precouncil. Not totally believing him and hoping that my husband would prove him wrong.
When I confronted my husband. As such. my friend gave birth to a stillborn because of untreated venereal diseases. looking at the conflict raised by the concept of men as heads of families and the double standard practice of church discipline in cases of unfaithfulness. Russell. he bluntly told me that he was surprised that I treated the whole thing as if he had killed someone! Can you imagine such irresponsibility! On a worse note. though. even without real repentance from their husbands. had gone through the same ordeal. Njoroge. The challenge to the Reformed family still remains bringing into its life and witness God’s reign expressed in agape with mutuality and communion. secondly. 1997. my Presbyterian sister’s husband and her friend’s husband “comfortably” be unfaithful. on the socialization through sex education given to women as to how they should treat their husbands as heads and on the whole question of who a man is. for so many women. secretly get treatment (for their sexually transmitted infections – STIs) and not even be obliged to tell us. Some of us had to go through hell before we knew what was wrong. Phiri.3 I want us to reflect on our conception of a man and a woman as we are confronted by church discipline in cases of unfaithfulness. I will envision 186 . 2000). She assured me that I was not alone in this struggle. especially those pertaining to male/female relationship (cf. including her. I intend to problematize some of the Presbyterian Church’s teachings regarding male and female beings in Malawi and the rest of Africa. I intend to deal with these issues by firstly. I will look at the unbalanced emphasis on men’s dignity at the expense of women’s dignity. so I was not alone after all – even within the perimeters of the Reformed ethos of transformed lives? What is it about our husbands’ understanding of themselves and their relationship with us that makes them get away with such aberrant behaviour? How could my husband.raised so many questions regarding the whole conception of the male-female relationship particularly within the marital commitments.” Well. She had this to say: “Thank God you discovered the problem early enough to be treated. they still remained married to them? Were we scared of losing the heads of our families despite their being irresponsible and “murderous” in this HIV/Aids infected generation? In this paper my thesis is that the greatest threat to fullness of life still remains patriarchy. She offered a shoulder for me to cry on as she encouragingly expressed her solidarity with me. 1985. and finally. their “God-given” wives?2 What about our own understanding of being women: how come I was very apologetic even when asking my husband about the whole incident instead of rightfully confronting him? What about my two Presbyterian sisters: how come after that experience. which is effectively sustained by some major Reformed teachings.
2 million were among women (UNAIDS.4 million were in SubSaharan Africa.4 are in 187 . and among them. 2002). I am inviting each one of us to put a face to these realities so that we get the motivation to act. South Africa 20%. 2001). Meanwhile. or lead to stagnation resulting in more death and hopelessness. 2003). 2003). 2002). gender. Of daily new infections. Malawi 15%. NAC. thus inflicting pain on myself. Africa bears this challenge in double portions. In SubSaharan Africa HIV prevalence is estimated as follows according to countries: Botswana 39%.5 million adult deaths. Granich & Mermin. 55% occur in women (NAC. Of the 2. Dube. Moreover. By sharing my own story. Zimbabwe 34%. young and Threats and challenges to life: sex. 1. Men endowed with the duty to make sure that the “right” skills are inculcated so that the community’s health is safeguarded entrust women. estimated to stand at 15% of the country’s total population of 10. The keys are in our hands! Sub-Saharan Africa. And in kinshipbased rural communities especially (Paris: 1985). especially Sub-Saharan Africa. This is not because I enjoy the resurrection of painful memories. but because I refuse to conceptualize the questions I am raising today as if they were abstract concepts. the very images of God that we are dealing with and the response we give will either empower us to dare and envision transformation yielding a more abundant life. Women comprise 56% of the total adult population who live with HIV/Aids in Malawi. 2002). an estimated 60% of the Malawian adults living with HIV/ Aids are between 15-24 years of age (NAC. Swaziland 33%. 2002). Uganda 5% (UNAIDS. As usual I have started with my own journey of faith as a sexual being.a heterosexual relationship based on agape with mutuality and communion as the necessary transformation that the church in Africa has to undergo so as to deal with the current threats to life in order to ensure life in fullness. 2002).5 million (UNAIDS. In Sub-Saharan Africa. 2002. power and HIV/Aids It is no longer a secret to each one of us that while HIV/Aids is a global challenge.8%. accounting for 88-98% of all infections (UNAIDS. Phiri. Of the 42 million adults and children living with Aids. Kenya 15%. It is real people’s lives. 2002. 2002). In Malawi.1 million of the world’s deaths in 2002 were Aids-related deaths of which 2. Such transmission is higher from male to female at a rate of 1:6 (NAC. the infection rate is 6 females to 1 male (NAC. women learn from an early age to subordinate their own wellbeing to the good of the community (cf. 2001. About 3. an estimated 32% of pregnant women are HIVpositive (UNAIDS. Lesotho 31%. Tanzania 7. heterosexual sex is the commonest mode of HIV transmission. 29. 1970. NAC. Mbiti. 2001). it is evident that HIV/Aids spreads more rapidly where women have low status and little decision-making power or education (Gupta. 2002). 1997.
“The church has the responsibility to provide accurate information and allow individuals to make informed choices on … relationships. the church’s view of sex as a means to procreate (Farley. socializes women and men to believe that men are born knowledgeable about sex whereas women must be taught how to have it. as much as men. In Africa. 1997). In particular. Ironically. Moreover. the church’s mission in the midst of the HIV/Aids epidemic is to bring hope (Douglas. it does not challenge the taboo status of sexual issues in Malawi. like chinamwali. or the resulting definition of a “good” woman as one who remains silent and passive when it comes to sexual decisions (cf. Those who determine the “what. 2003). church leaders who encourage women’s participation in chilangizo also commonly offer Christian pre-marital and marital counselling that sustains these same messages. In 188 addition. it teaches women to practise “dry sex” for men’s sexual enjoyment. where and how” of sex are those who have power – in this case. Despite their laudable efforts to inculturate Christianity within local religious idioms. chilangizo. 2000. Baptists. 1999) by reminding everyone that women. In both contexts. Here the question of what is “right” has to do with those skills that equip these women with those values that subject them to the service of men more than what is right according to the gospel of Christ’s liberation for each person: male or female. . Chilangizo subordinates women’s sexual lives to men’s and makes women potentially vulnerable to HIV transmission (cf. Consequently condom use (Nolan.old.” Yet. 2001) is not acceptable even with male partners who indulge in risky behaviour. men feel obliged to indulge in risky sex to prove their manhood (UNAIDS. teaches women to serve men’s sexual needs as if women had no sexual identity or needs of their own (cf. 1997) means that any contraceptive measure is deemed sinful and. Malawian Christians – who comprise 80% of the population (NSOC. sexuality issues are power issues. 2002). men (Gupta. 1999). therefore. 2001) to HIV/Aids. unacceptable among church members. 1999) – have appropriated chinamwali4 for their own ends. Gupta. 1996). Anglicans. 2001). are made in the image of God and therefore deserve life and dignity as much as men (Cannon. like having multiple sexual partners (Keenan et al. This. Catholics and Presbyterians have transformed chinamwali into a Christian rite some call chilangizo (Phiri. 2000). Such limited sexual autonomy makes it difficult for women to utilize information about sex and negotiate safer sex (Amaro. Nicolson. A range of local religious and cultural sexual practices frustrates the mutuality of sexual decision-making between the genders. 2002).. when. Malawians’ general culture of silence around sex (GAIA. As Archbishop Nzimbi (2003) has said. Ross. 1995). Correspondingly. along with a prevailing though deceptive cultural valuing of virginity. Musopole. 1988). the church inadvertently reinforces women’s vulnerability (Banda.
Men as heads and the doublestandard nature of church discipline The increasing reality of female-headed households5. He was always away on business trying to make her economic security more secure. encouraged me to actually let go of this part of life and start treating my husband as if nothing like that had ever happened. According to them. what transformed definitions of men and women do we need to come up with? The concepts we have developed over years concerning the relationships between women and men tint our view of so many issues – even church discipline where it is still practised. To Sigmund Freud’s question. Success and power and status and money. 189 . Her involvement with the other man assured her of what love could give beyond material benefits. what else did she want? She was a very ungrateful person. cars and drivers. I was told of a case of one sister’s unfaithfulness in one of the churches. had made sure that she had everything money could buy: a well-furnished house. not an economically challenged man. If it was a question of what money can buy. One of those days. clothes… and money. I had to forgive although there were so many times when I wished I had some explanations regarding all this. Her husband was told that he was free to do whatever he wanted. She admitted unfaithfulness with a charcoal seller. and divorced and single mothers? How can the church transform the concept of headship so as to encourage mutuality and communion of partners who compliment each other? Within the HIV/ Aids reality in Africa where machismo of sexual aggressiveness yields death. Does her choice of such a man not challenge the assumption that every woman gets into heterosexual relationships for economic security and social status? Her husband had given her all that money could buy but denied her what mutual love gives – his companionship. in families of widows. As already shared above. How do we define men as heads of family. as I tried to avoid being tempted to ask more “whys?”. the Reformed teaching of men as heads of the family and the research findings that HIV/Aids is more prevalent in societies which have gender imbalances. Let us reflect on one church discipline case against my own experience as narrated above. “What does a woman want?” the answer would be clearly: …A woman wants everything a man wants. I would go back to my sisters to talk. she should have found a rich man. raise a lot of questions to the church today. However. What was amazing to me is that these counsellors (or cancellers7) did not even try to analyse the fact that she had chosen a charcoal seller and not another rich man as her lover. Love and marriage and children. her husband.6 When the case was brought to the church. so he thought. Both Christian sisters and brothers who knew about our turmoil. everyone sympathized with the husband and told the wife that she had undone her marriage herself. a businessman. to be involved with. I was encouraged to forgive my husband.
respect and protect your husband’s dignity as heads: what about our dignity. 1991:1) Women are not gold-diggers trying to reap where they did not sow. Some of the characteristics instilled in these girls are: gentleness. yet within patriarchal structures these same supposedly “graces” of the Holy Spirit have been used to sustain gender imbalances as they have been demanded more of Christian women than Christian men. but rather to lie and say that she hit a wall or something. and that anything less than that is as frustrating as it would be to men. These are virtues which are part of the Christian teaching for every follower of Christ. a woman who is a 190 . This has led to the Women. Or the biblical and cultural attitudes expressed in the song: “Wamkulu ndi ndani mbanja (Who is head of a family)? Wamkulu ndi mwamuna (The man is the head of family)!” (Chakanza. Therefore anything that would add up to his losing respect should not be made known to others who might stop respecting him. want genuine love and look for fulfilment in heterosexual relationships. The keeping of such secrets means that the violent husband can still enjoy respect in his community as a respectable man. as otherwise revelation of the truth would mean disrespect and criticism. married women are taught not to reveal their husbands’ failures and abuses. The above demand being a reality in the life of the church. the Holy Head and model of our lives. The latter would be contrary to the general Malawian cultural attitude of “Mwamuna saudzidwa (A man knows all).” (emphasis mine) (Cummings. Consequently. Moreover. FULFILMENT. submissiveness as well as self-sacrifice. violates the very principles of liberation that are inherent in the ministry of the church. who will protect it? Through chilangizo.HAPPINESS. even though they need economic empowerment to fulfil their family responsibilities just as men do. The church should come to terms with the reality that women. For example. just like men. he deserves all the respect. It seems as if the male members demand respect as heads of the family sanctuary while the women implement this by giving the respect and making sure that everyone else is giving it. they have been demanded more of women in their service to men than to God. instead of these being conceived as qualities of Christian character especially expressed as a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in the one who is filled. the community of believers in Christ. Mwamuna salakwa (A man is infallible)”. As the head. girls are socialized in the ways of being proper Christian women. Unfortunately. victim of a violent husband is taught not to reveal that she has a black eye because of beating. most of the time the heavy task of being vanguards of this tradition so as to safeguard this farfetched respect falls totally on women as custodians of community’s “culture” and wellbeing. even in cases where it is not deserved. 2002).
2001. she has neither time nor motivation to ask about her own dignity. there will be a breakthrough in the efforts to bring meaningful healing and transformation. loving companionship in Christian marriages is prima facie. to expect stable. VSO. In Sub-Saharan Africa where the major mode of HIV transmission is heterosexual contacts. Is she not as much of God’s image as the man is? If women start acknowledging their own human dignity as God’s image. One way of doing this will be the need to transform the conception of why women and men get married. particularly in the fight against HIV/Aids (Njoroge & Dube. It seems that even the church believes that men marry so as to offer works of kindness as economic security providers while women. imperatively. have to offer themselves unreservedly in their services to these “kind-hearted” men to whom they are indebted. which have even undermined their God-given human dignity (Phiri. As she is pressurized to safeguard this “dignity” of the other. How can women’s faith liberate them from the traditional patriarchal conceptions that subject them to their male counterparts’ decision-making (cf. 1997:64). The immense concern to protect the dignity of the heads of the families does not take into account the whole question of the woman’s dignity. social status and sexual pleasure are the benefits 191 First seek the reign of agape with mutuality and communion: this is the gospel and the prophets! Given the risks inherent in the ways chinamwali (religio-cultural) and chilangizo (Christian initiations) educate women sexually. women have sustained a lot of abuses. even in the fight against HIV/Aids.adoption of the conspiracy of silence for the same reasons of trying to keep the male leadership respected. how can new faith perspectives help women reclaim their wholeness as equal sexual partners with men. 2002). By keeping silent. 2003)? The church has to transform the above picture and develop a theology of the equality of women and men as the image of God. 2001)? In other words. this paper urges the church to create a new. Christian marriage should be built on agape with mutuality and communion and economic security. and decided to break the silence on abuses in the life of the church. alternative form of sexual education by building on existing efforts to empower Malawian women and men to handle sexuality issues and HIV/Aids. through the evangelistic message that Jesus is their liberator and life-giver (Ross. one of the AIDSprevention interventions that the church has to undertake must involve the role of Jesus’ liberation and life-giving mission in men and women’s sexuality. Dube. The church needs to enhance women’s and men’s spiritual and mental wellbeing . as benefactors of these sponsors. With such shaky and unbalanced bases for marriage. Most of the abuses have subjected them to risk their lives and are added to a lot of injustices that they have suffered.
had it been liberated from its patriarchal overtones of the brotherhood – “I am as a man because you my brothers are well and in control. (cf. Unless this transformation takes place. Both cultural and Christian sex education face the challenge to work towards a sex education that emphasizes mutual love and communion as the basis of any heterosexual relationship and sexual pleasure to be enjoyed by both women and men as a benefit of any meaningful heterosexual relationship. 1995:1-2). We ought to accept the fact that we are sexual beings and that sexual needs are natural to our being just like any other . This power together with the whole woman will help enhance mutual love. But as it is right now. that sustains this spirit and which continues to be the burden of women? The church with its mission geared towards the assurance of a more abundant life for both women and men and based on the fact that both women and men are created in the image of God is the most qualified institution to bring transformation to such a creation-friendly philosophy. if the very command to love unconditionally seems to be a burden for some (especially women) resulting in a lot of self-sacrifice. If anything.of such a meaningful relationship. Central to this empowerment is the power of women to control their own sexual lives as much as men. which it is hoped will bring out mutual faithfulness and healing in heterosexual relationships. 1996:4) especially precipitated by the central ministry of hospitality. so much has to be transformed within the church itself before it (the church) can be an effective agent of transformation. Hall. the empowerment of women is essential to the prevention of HIV/Aids. Research has shown that in HIV/Aids prevention-intervention that targets sexuality. Both men and women should be given the environment that helps them to enjoy Christ’s liberation and encourages them to attain fulfilment as they reach their highest potential in their service of their God. This mutuality would help women to realize that they are not sexual objects at the mercy of men’s sexual prowess but that they are companions and partners in this sex act. and since we are what matters. and thus contribute to the bringing of mutual sexual fulfilment. What can be done in theological and sexual education? Demystify sexuality Sexuality is very central when it comes to defining our being.” How can this be a communitarian spirit for both men and women. the message of the church would have failed its mission of bringing abundant life in a world rocked with so many threats and challenges.8 192 hopefully culminating in HIV/Aids prevention. Conclusion Our African version of agape would have been the ubuntu philosophy (Mbigi & Maree. therefore I safely am. which is a holy gift from God. the time has come for women and men in the church to purposefully release the sexual power of the woman.
then it would do itself well to acknowledge the fact that sexuality issues are explicitly dealt with through the media and other avenues that are available to the youth.hunger-related needs. As such. and African women. was estimated at a pathetic rate of 58% of which women comprise 44%. have been said to have no decision-making power. of the estimated 65. Malawian local languages tend to portray only terminologies that have negative connotations as if sex is necessarily evil. 6. If the church caters for the needs of everyone. Affirm gender equality The church has to acknowledge the socio-economic and religio-cultural realities that put women in situations where they have to be at the mercy of their male counterparts and implement empowerment programmes that will enhance more decision-making power for women. generously defined in terms of having completed the primary school education level. including the youth.2% of literate adults (of 25 years or above). 52% are women who headed 25% of the households. in general. The literacy rate.2% of the 11. Contextualize accurate terminologies of sexuality The church needs to activate sexual terminologies that will reflect their positive theological reflection. The Song of Songs (Solomon) would be a good starting point.10 These poverty analysis indicators can partly explain why Malawian women. So far. that is. There is a need to re-read all the biblical passages that talk of our relationship with God in terms of a lover and beloved and be enriched by them without the pressure to abstractly spiritualize them. Sexual intercourse as a gift from God to be enjoyed between two people who have committed themselves to each other is not taboo. Unlike the Gnostic dualism. This has been emphasized in the area of their sexuality especially regarding 193 . Christian theologians need to develop a theology of mutual love and communion climaxed in sexual pleasure within an acceptable sexual relationship9 as a foretaste of what it will be like to be in God’s (the lover of our souls) presence (eschatological hope). in particular.3% of Malawians who are poor. the church has to avoid creating religious schizophrenia amongst its members (being Christian on worship days and being sexual maniacs on other days when away from the pastor and the church). According to the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). the church needs to transform its understanding of sex as a necessarily sinful evil to the divine understanding that sex as God’s creation is a good creation. If the church decides to use the already existing euphemisms (which fall short of the spirit of breaking the silence) then it should do so being prepared to give accurate explanations when confronted with questions of clarity. Moreover the church should make sure that it develops gender sensitive policies regarding the language use in its theological training institutions as well as in its ministry of Word and Sacrament.
30-7. Government of Malawi. I think most of us Christians believe that about our human relations no matter how we met. These realities in which women find themselves make hope for the fullness of life very bleak. 5 In 1998. one of over 15 tribes found in Malawi (cf. 1 Chinamwali is a religio-cultural rite of passage practised in central and southern Malawi. Nyambura. Shawa.their heterosexual relationships (Phiri. It is more “cancelling” the marriage in favour of the husband who in all respects must have been having extra marital affairs that kept him away from his wife. women have been socialized and schooled on how to please their male sexual partners so as to ensure that they remain married to them. it was assumed that God meant us for each other. Phiri 1997). 2000.00 am). I was allowed by my family to traditionally join him as my husband but as far as the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian was concerned. 4 194 . whether the woman herself desires it or not (Ross. Of particular interest would be Njoroge. International research has shown that most women have no power to negotiate for safe and mutual sex because of their social contexts (Gupta. we were not married but living in sin until 1987 when we had our marriage blessed by the church. it was estimated that at least 25% of the households in Malawi were femaleheaded. 1999:511). “It was important that a girl learned how to ‘dance’ with her husband when having sex” (Brinkman. Culturally. not only for women but also for the whole church. otherwise life in its fullness is a myth in this life – a dream that cannot be realized! Notes I had to withdraw from my undergraduate studies in the fourth year in 1985 when I became pregnant and only went back to finish my five-year education course in 1987 up until 1989. 6 In Malawi charcoal selling is mainly done by men who burn some trees in rural areas and get charcoal which they carry packed in bags to sell in urban areas. They usually leave very early so as to reach their customers early enough for breakfast (around 6. It is more sexually elaborate among the Yao people. 2002:54). In 1986 when my husband “paid” lobola. Kiama Kia Ngo: An African Christian Feminist Ethic of Resistance and Transformation. those around them cannot either! So the challenge to ensure gender equality is to both male and female members of the church. 7 I fail to conceive what they were doing to this family as counselling. this percentage has gone up by 2004 because of the reality of Aids-related deaths (cf. 2001). 2004. The overriding picture presented of a woman in Africa has been that of her being at the mercy of her husband when it comes to sex. Banda 2001. 2002). Profile of Poverty in Malawi: Poverty Analysis of the Integrated Household Survey. 2 Since our marriages were officiated or blessed by the church. If women cannot enjoy life in fullness. Legon: Legon Theological Studies. 3 Stories from all over Africa and interactions with other African sisters and brothers in the Reformed family seem to echo similar struggles all over Africa.
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the child twirling with delight in the airport waiting room. we will look at the meaning of “life” and “fullness”.Threats and challenges to life: biblical perspectives Susan E. Zoe is babies giggling and women keening and men dancing and families gathering to celebrate: natural human life. and it means eternal life. the One who is alive. dean of students and external relations at Bangor Theological Seminary. the real life that threads through our bodies and our souls. all these have zoe. In this morning’s Bible study. In the New Testament. zoe is natural human life with all its corruptibility. physical life. that your life and mine be “grounded in being loved”. of organic beings. our concerns about finding food and paying the bills and keeping the house clean and preparing sermons and giving birth and finding ways to speak the truth. then. In the Gospel according to John. And zoe is God. USA. Zoe. It is not something that must wait for the resurrection. phoebe” 198 . the ground ivy swamping the garden’s daylilies. and lift up women’s voices about the challenges facing us. She explores the biblical notions of “life” and “fullness” before reflecting on threats to life that exist not “out there” but in the “sheepfold of Jesus” itself. perched in the flowering locusts. Davies is professor of pastoral studies. and it is the very nature of God. and true zoe is what God gives us in Christ. Withal I offer the concept of “justice healing” as a way to move towards God’s life of fullness for all. the “phoebe. The spider ensconced in my kitchen window. Zoe At its core in Greek philosophy and literature. I draw our attention to the Greek words for “life” – zoe – and “fullness” – perisson. but is part of the life of the Word study First then. Davies Jesus came into human story. who is life. By “justice healing” I mean the church’s active participation in God’s ongoing work of justice and wholeness for all of earth’s communities. That means that our daily lives are intimately connected with eternal life. this “real life” has already begun for those who believe. means both our everyday human life. writes Susan Davies. zoe means the physical life. the vitality. outline some of the threats to be found in the sheepfold and the pasture as women have experienced them. animals. humans and plants.
and believers already have the eternal zoe. For the author of John. and connects us with one another though we had never met. 199 . the one that got us here from the airport or the highway or the street. into human history. Jesus says “I am come that they may have life.3 The ecstasies many experience in worship. God’s justice. and sometimes in Reformed worship are merely a taste of the joy that will fill us when we live fully in the presence of God. And in this case. deeply and beautifully active within our hearts and souls and in our relationships with one another. zoe is this present daily life. In John 10.2 Perisson is an essential mark of God. And let us think of the justice healing to which we are called. the places of safety and of danger. Christ. to say nothing of structures which exclude women from leadership beyond the kitchen and the classroom. perisson is translated “abundantly”. This beauteous vision of God’s intended life for all of us. and for the earth itself. Let me tell you a few stories from my own life as a white woman in the US church. Jesus has come into human life. in faith.10. making us one in love and joy. then we need only read the reports of conference ministers and bishops in every denomination to find the records of clergy misconduct with women and children in the parishes. If we think of the fold as the church. for women and men and children. for the marginalized and oppressed.1 In the New Testament it is always used in “contexts which speak of a fullness present and proclaimed in the age of salvation”. washing over us. and the theological dictionaries tell us it means “to be present over-abundantly”. then.4 Threats and challenges This. that our lives might be “grounded in being loved”. into our natural human lives. and have it abundantly. let us consider the sheepfold and the pasture Jesus has been describing. that word we have translated as “fullness” in the English theme for this general council. God’s healing of the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. filling us with glory and wonder and delight.church. We need to change our theologies and our ecclesiastical structures to make room for women and our experiences of God. is the centre out of which our consideration of threats and challenges arises.) Holding that wonder in our hearts. into your zoe and mine. that we might be overflowing with joy. it means the “superabundance of the blessings of salvation which Christ… will give believers”. Perisson Let us turn then to perisson. In the New Revised English translation. Let us think about the coming in and the going out. Christ is life itself. the creative power of God. in fullness”. the voices and tongues spoken in Pentecostal. overflowing. (Let us pause for a moment to image that beauty unfolding in each of our lives. Threats in the sheepfold Women in the US do not have safety in either the fold or the field.
wages still 20% lower than men’s for the same work. who were intending to give me no raise that year despite serious inflation. poverty.) If a woman . 200 one scarcely knows where to begin in the US. is liable for secret arrest. As I entered his home and began removing my coat. in the pasture? Well. they were surprised I had noticed. But they are reminders that the church is not always a safe place for women. Fifteen years later. continued discrimination in employment law and practices. detention. I received the raise. has crossed the Mexican border illegally. abuse and neglect of children. he said. in a secret sweatshop. as the pastor of a congregation in Maine. Another parishioner the next year followed me about town on New Year’s Eve. what she thought the threats were for women. and deportation. on any serious scale of danger to women. Five years after that. he said. harassment at work. was consecrated as Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. or has been imported for the sex trade. which frightened me and which I held silent for decades. Eastern Europe. I went to visit a parishioner whose separated wife had asked me to call on him. That same year. or looks like an Arab. When I pointed out to them they were in fact asking me to take a cut in pay. from which. and his adult children were under police protection. rape and murder by strangers and loved ones. she is likely not to know her rights in our legal system. lack of education. “Abuse”. he was wearing a bulletproof vest. let me take your clothes. I declined the invitation and did not return alone. or public trial under the Patriot Act. homelessness.The first is as a high school student at my home church. lack of food and shelter. I was consulting with the Youth Minister when he made some highly inappropriate sexual remarks and moves towards me. and increasing imprisonment. (As you may know. and an increasingly strong and abusive religious right. “Here. Gene Robinson. and. My stories are relatively harmless.) If a woman is newly immigrated from Asia. the US has the world’s highest number and the highest percentage of its population in prison. very interested in giving me a New Year’s kiss. incest. when I was a single woman and the Assistant Minister in a congregation. he invited me up to the bedroom. is working as a nanny. who is 87 and a very proper Presbyterian. a gay man. When the Rev. under the new regime of the USA Patriot Act. Women in the US of every ethnic and economic status face abuse at home. where I could be his “secretary”. Women in North America face environmental racism.” A few minutes later. a visiting clergyman offered to take me with him on a tour. (US citizens are also subject to secret arrest and detention without legal counsel. public notification. one had the best view of Cadillac Mountain. I needed to face down the all-male trustees. When I asked my Aunt Ruth. without skipping a beat she said. Threats in the pasture And threats to women in the field.
The United States has initiated or supported much of this violence and horror. more inferior and therefore subordinate sex. dowry deaths. on many islands in Indonesia. from lack of education. in Afghanistan. How urgent we need to be about the justice healing of God’s earth and her peoples. filling. into your zoe and mine. into our natural human lives. into human history. and of how they might react to the life into which they have been thrust without any alternative – and then use these fears to justify the crimes they commit with impunity. from unemployment and underemployment. she is often shunted aside. and Diego García. crop destruction.”6 Jesus has come into human life. How far it is from what Musa Dube describes as life in fullness in Setswana belief: “The right to live a whole life. and from the deeply entrenched cultural and religious teachings that reinforce their dismal conditions as the weaker. And if she has any mental or physical disabilities. The revolting photographs from Abu Ghraib have disclosed part of the American Gulag authorized at the highest levels of government. and frequently abused. God’s life itself.is African American. systems that also create fear – fear of them. How strange is this image. If she is a lesbian or transgendered. rape and stoning. in Palestine and Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East. Native American. It can be found as well at Guantanamo. and denied legal rights and standing in many states. from objectification and commodification in the media and work places. she is condemned as a sinner by many churches. “We do not always recognize the cruel strategy of the powerful. surrounding.”5 Women in many parts of Africa. In Margarita Lais Tourn’s words. bombings and torture. These victims and their situation are created by the same systems that deny their existence and their plight. or Hispanic. disappearances and genocide. overflowing with joy. to have healthy and affirmative 201 . women in all these places and more are faced with constant military and communal violence. that our lives might be “grounded in being loved”. in Iraq. In Asia. from poverty. in Afghanistan. poor health and malnutrition. How far it is from the wondrous beauty of life in fullness. in Colombia and other parts of South America. training and selfdevelopment. I am both deeply shamed as a US citizen. that we might be overflowing with joy. whether in the sheepfold or the pasture. who blame their victims or try to hide them from sight and mind. the overabundance of God’s love. harassment and abuse at home and in work places. to name only some of the places which have been publicly identified. and in many cases the torturers were trained at the School of the Americas. and enraged that these obscenities are being done in my name by the current Washington administration. Asian American. women and girls “continue to need healing from violence. and AIDS. she is additionally the object of white racism in all its ugly forms. including some of our own. when juxtaposed with the life so many of us live.
one of which is the religious assumptions about human beings that operate implicitly in a culture. education. almost our religion. as well as the challenge to create and maintain healthy relationships. has meant that all of us in the world are intended to understand ourselves primarily as consumers. Womanist theologian Kelly Brown Douglas speaks of the Black Christ as the one who is “committed to the Black community’s . we need to attend to the theology we speak and embody in our relationships. and help each other construct justice healing systems of resistance and alliance. 1. or age. marital status. in our writing and our speaking. First. sexual identity. Fourth. and faith. political. economic status. of not giving up and of transformation and of constructing a platform for action despite all the forces working against us”. but also seek to define our very beings. so that both the fold and the field might allow us to breathe life in fullness? This morning I hold up four of the many challenges we face as women in our Reformed churches. especially for North American and European women. In Nyambura Njoroge’s words. cultural. combined with resurgent US imperial ambition.relationships in society.10 2. we need to nurture our leadership capacities by attending to our spiritual lives. resistance. physical abilities. that we may come in and go out in safety? How do we build new systems and new relationships. learn to work in solidarity with our sisters. both within the family and wider community. we need to work with one another in solidarity. a basic challenge is to change our “largely unconscious picture of who we are”. our church and community activities.”7 Challenges How then do we do justice healing for the world. telling us who we are (consumers) and what is the goal of life (making money). We must recognize and acknowledge our privileges. Third. we need to “discover women’s theological voices of resistance. Second. and retain our accountability to “ordinary” people struggling to survive with dignity and hope in the face of often demonic economic. 202 especially the happiness of the consumerstyle ‘abundant life’.”9 The economic globalization of the last fifteen years.8 Sally McFague calls these the “world-pictures or world-views… formed by many factors. We must continue the struggle against the economic systems which not only control our everyday lives. The market ideology has become our way of life. rather than as the people of God. although increasingly for people throughout the world. Our current divisions will only be healed when we learn to live justly with one another. For people in the global North particularly. and military forces. The current dominant American worldview… is that we are individuals with the right to happiness. we need to change our selfunderstandings from that of consumers to being women of courage. A second challenge faces those of us who occupy positions of privilege because of our ethnicity.
Wenh-In notes that Asian cultures “prize modesty and self-effacement”. God’s intention for us is the wondrous beauty of life in fullness. includes learning “to pay attention to both the earthbound centredness and receptivity of the yin. that our lives might be “grounded in being loved”.struggle for life and wholeness”. We are more inclined to give charity to others as the objects of our pity than we are to work with others for the justice that brings healing. the overabundance of God’s love. the Christ whom women look for is one who is actively concerned with the lot of victims of social injustice and the dismantling of unjust social structures. so it can be “a real challenge to acknowledge our own leadership”. assertive dynamism of the yang”. striving towards a holistic self.”12 4.”17 Conclusion Jesus has come into human life. A fourth but by no means final challenge for all of us can be heard in WenhIn Ng’s words to Asian women. Thirdly. filling. [Christ] …need[s] to be a concrete and personal figure who engenders hope in the oppressed by taking their (women’s) side. she says. overflowing with joy. to create with 203 . Christ …also need[s] to be on the side of the powerless by giving them power and a voice to speak for themselves. and seeking out and daring to be role models. that we might be overflowing with joy. God’s life itself. into human history. and the proactive.15 c) In “finding and becoming role models and mentors. at least in the US. into our natural human lives. “out of responsibility to the community and for our own spiritual health. “For Christ to become meaningful in the context of women’s search for emancipation. she suggests. surrounding. A third challenge faces those of us who have theological leadership responsibility: to speak and live Christ as Teresa Hinga has outlined. we need to learn how to do this effectively. especially those of younger women. not all women’s church groups do so. into your zoe and mine. to give them confidence and courage to persevere.11 While many community women’s groups do work in alliance with ‘ordinary’ women. Secondly.”13 a) The discernment she suggests includes “cultivating the sensitivity and awareness needed to distinguish” between the various types of leadership styles required by differing situations. She urges them to nurture their own and others’ leadership abilities by engaging in three spiritual practices: “practising discernment. and reminds us that the “womanist Black Christ demands that we remain involved in the lives of ‘ordinary’ Black women in the church and in community organizations and groups”. Each of us has been touched by the justice healing of God. One practical strategy is to lift up intentionally another’s leadership gifts. as well as knowing when the time is right for a certain action and how to choose one’s battles.14 b) Striving towards a holistic self. And we are all called to work for God’s purposes. 16 But. 3. including alternative biblical ones”. in the power of the Spirit.
others life in fullness, to do the justice which brings healing for ourselves, our peoples, the peoples of this earth, and the earth itself,
with all its beings. Let us take up the challenges this day, and move forward in grateful thanksgiving.
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, (eds) Geoffrey W. Bromiley, trans. Ann Arbor: Cushing-Malloy, 1977, Vol. VI, 58. 2 Ibid., 59. 3 Ibid., 62. 4 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. II, 871. 5 Hope S. Antone. “Rooted in Faith and Shared Leadership. “In God’s Image, Vol. 21, No. 1, March 2002, 14. 6 Margarita Lais Tourn. “When Wailing and Loud Lamentation is Prophecy.” Reformed World, Vol. 53, No. 1, March 2003, 15. 7 Musa W. Dube. “Divining Ruth for International Relations.” Other Ways of Reading. Musa W. Dube, ed, Atlanta: SBL Publications and Geneva: WCC Publications, 2001, 182. 8 Sally McFague. Life Abundant. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001, xi. 9 Ibid.
Nyambura Njoroge. “Reclaiming our Heritage of Power: Discovering our Theological Voices.” Her-Stories: Hidden Histories of Women of Faith in Africa. Isabel Apawo Phiri, Devakarsham Betty Govinden, Sarojini Nadar (eds), Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications, 2002, 50. 11 Kelly Brown Douglas. The Black Christ. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1999, 107, 113. 12 Teresa Hinga. “Jesus Christ and the Liberation of Women in Africa.” The Will to Arise. Mercy Amba Oduyoye and Musimbi RA Kanyoro (eds) Maryknoll: Orbis 2000, 191192. 13 Greer Anne Wenh-In Ng. “Leadership in East Asian Women in Asia and the Diaspora.” In God’s Image, Vol. 21, No.1, March 2002, 36. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid., 37. 17 Ibid.
Reformed World - Volume 54 (2004) Index
Articles by author
Botman, H. Russel. Globalization’s threat to human dignity and sustainability .......... Brinkman, Martien and Weinrich, Michael. Justification as reconciliation .................... Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network. Where in the queue are people with disability? ........................................................................................................................................… Davies, Susan E. Threats and challenges to life: biblical perspectives ...................……... Lienemann-Perrin, C. Women’s work in mission: between household and public sphere ....................................................................................................................................................… Mateus, Odair Pedroso. The Alliance, the Christian world communions and the ecumenical movement (1948-1957) ...............................................................…………………. Mateus, Odair Pedroso. Editorial (September-December 2004) ...................………………....... Maxson, Natalie. Dangerous undercurrents of globalization ....…………………………………. Moyo, Fulata L. Threats and challenges to life – an African woman’s perspective .... Nyomi, Setri. Introduction (March 2004) .....................................................................................………. Ortega, Ofelia. The mission of the church in contexts of crisis ....................…………………. Phiri, Isabel Apawo. Life-giving and life-affirming spirituality – a perspective from Africa ........................................................................................................................................................................ 107 Réamonn, Páraic. Introduction (June 2004) ......................................………………………………………….
65 91 113 138 185 1 133 81 76 198 127 69
Shiva, Vandana. Earth democracy, living democracy ...................................………………………….. 115 Song, C. S. From the ends of the earth ...............................................…………………………………………. 146 WARC, Covenanting for justice: The Accra confession ..................................................………….. 169 WARC, Faith stance on the global crisis of life – south-south forum, Buenos Aires
WARC, Letter from Accra: message of the WARC 2004 general council ......................... 181 WARC, Hearing the cry for life in our joy and our pain ....................................................…………. 175 WARC, Mission section plenary report ...........................................................…………………………………. 164 WARC, The time has come, south-north forum, London Colney ...........................………… WARC, Together in mission – a letter on mission renewal ……................................................... WARC, Together in mission – voices from the regions .......................................................………. Wickeri, Philip. Mission renewal in the context of globalization .....................……………….
58 5 12 155
Articles by title
Covenanting for justice: The Accra Confession, WARC.......................................................................... 169 Dangerous undercurrents of globalization, Natalie Maxson ........................................................... 138 Earth democracy, living democracy, Vandana Shiva................................................................................. 115 Editorial (September-December 2004), Odair Pedroso Mateus ...................................................... 113 Faith stance on the global crisis of life – south-south forum, Buenos Aires, WARC …..... 46 From the ends of the earth, C.S. Song ............................................................................................................. 146 Globalization’s threat to human dignity and sustainability, H. Russel Botman.................. 127 Hearing the cry for life in our joy and our pain, WARC......................................................................... 175 Introduction (March 2004), Setri Nyomi ...............................................................................................……….
Introduction (June 2004), Páraic Réamonn ....................................................................................…………. 65 Justification as reconciliation, Martien Brinkman and Michael Weinrich ..........……………. 69 Letter from Accra: message of the WARC 2004 general council, WARC .................................. 181 Life-giving and life-affirming spirituality – A perspective from Africa, Isabel Apawo Phiri ....................................................................................................................................................…… 107 Mission section plenary report, WARC .............................................................................................................. 164 Mission renewal in the context of globalization, Philip Wickeri .................................................. 155 The mission of the church in contexts of crisis, Ofelia Ortega .................................................... 133 The time has come, south-north forum, London Colney, WARC ..................................………… 58 The Alliance, the Christian world communions and the ecumenical movement (1948-1957), Odair Pedroso Mateus .............................................................................………. 91 Threats and challenges to life – an African woman’s perspective, Fulata L. Moyo........... 185 Threats and challenges to life: biblical perspectives, Susan E. Davies .................................... 198 Together in mission – a letter on mission renewal, WARC .....................................................…….. Where in the queue are people with disability? Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network ......................................................................................................................................................… 76 Women’s work in mission: between household and public sphere, Christine Lienemann-Perrin ..............................................................................................................................… 81
Together in mission – voices from the regions, WARC .............................................................………. 12
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