Peter VanderMeulen, coordinator of the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Social Justice, says a recent meeting of some 60 church leaders from the soon to merge World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) surpassed expectations.
VanderMeulen says the meeting in South Africa helped to inform new participants from REC about the Accra Confession and moved representatives from both organizations forward on a more unified path toward seeking economic justice for all people.
"I believe this was an excellent meeting and has moved the Covenanting for Justice process forward considerably," says VanderMeulen.
"We worried that we might concentrate on our differences, but instead we discovered our deep agreement about the basic substance of this confession and our shared faith."
Peter Borgdorff, president of REC and executive director emeritus of the CRCNA, also attended the meeting and agrees progress was made.
Organized by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the consultation built on the organization’s statement on global economic justice, known as the Accra Confession – Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth.
The Accra Confession, issued in 2004 during WARC’s General Council in Accra, Ghana, declares the make-up and approach of "economic systems are a matter of life or death."
The Accra Confession continues to spur action and debate among Reformed churches on how they can interpret and respond to the impact of the current global economic model. The dialogue in Johannesburg brought together churches whose understandings differ in order to seek common ground in charting how WARC can continue to address economic and environmental issues in the future.
In addressing issues of concern, WARC has published a guide to the Accra Confession that points to the declaration’s importance to Christian ethics in the contemporary world. Choose Life, Act in Hope, authored by Puleng LenkaBula, a South African academic, was launched as part of the program.
Clifton Kirkpatrick, WARC’s president, calls the book "a wake-up call to Christians not only in Africa, but also around the world, to the fundamental ethical calling of the Christian faith in our time."
The study resource offers questions for discussion at the end of each chapter and encourages WARC members to popularize the Accra Confession and find ways to apply it in daily life.
"I enthusiastically recommend this book to every Christian who seeks to faithfully follow Christ in our world today," says Kirkpatrick.
Borgdorff said that a spirit of harmony developed at the conference. "Participants … discussed both their differences and agreement on how the Christian community must respond to a deepening global economic crisis that enslaves millions of people whose lives are marked by poverty."
This discussion must continue, Borgdorff said, and be followed by specific action so that "the prophetic voice of the church will be credible and faithful to God’s calling to care about the poor and the earth."
Mohau Pheko, a South African businesswoman and economist, said that the current global financial crisis is a golden opportunity for a movement for economic justice.
Pheko, coordinator of the African Gender and Trade Network, said the current crisis is "a spectacular failure" of the current system and calls for a radical reconstruction of the global economy.
She told delegates the need for change is urgent, especially in Africa where there is not the money to weather the ill effects of the crisis due to cuts made as part of austerity programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund.
For more information on the Accra Confession, including the full text, see: Accra Confession, pdf file.
WARC brings together 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches in 107 countries - united in their commitment to making a difference in a troubled world. The WARC general secretary is Setri Nyomi of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana. WARC's secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
WARC and the Reformed Ecumenical Council, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., will merge into the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The Uniting General Assembly is planned for next summer at Calvin College.