Thursday, September 3, 2009

The World Communion of Reformed Churches: A new religious organization with worldly intentions?

A new organization is forming out of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC.) The new organization the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and the documents being used to form its emergence are reminiscent of other eras in church history when church leaders sought for authority with questionable intentions.

On the WARC site
Documents for all meetings for the Theological Consultations of 2009 hold troubling statements. Some are directed at Evangelicals, Israel and not surprisingly at capitalism.

There are documents for each region but the ones that concern me are the documents for all meetings. Most of these documents hold contempt for capitalism in any form. (The document
EN CEC Globalization is one that is more balanced) But more importantly they hold contempt for orthodox and evangelical faith. They also hold contempt for Israel. (Funny how those two entities, evangelical faith and Israel, often appear together as objects of institutional loathing.)

One of the documents is probably familiar to most Reformed Churches. That is the new (2004)
Accra Confession. This confession is itself politically slanted. But from another paper, Covenant economic justice Cape Town there is this:

“The USA made every effort – openly (as in the Rockefeller Report) and through covert action – to develop and strengthen the religious right, the theology of capitalism and prosperity, as well as religious groups promoting the American gospel, not only in the Americas but all over the world through institutes and broadcasting institutions. Many Charismatic and Evangelical Christians, and many churches, have not been aware of the fact that they have been politically and economically instrumentalised as they proclaim an individualised faith and salvation.”

Yes, we, as Christians, are a body, a community. However, as Christians we come to Jesus Christ one by one. Even if a whole community comes to Christ within a short span still it is each person being grasped by the redeeming hand of God. Each individual person is important to the Triune God.

But there are worse papers then these two among the list; the
Background documents. They are all from the “World Social Forum.” This is where Israel gets bashed. Israel is bashed badly in Belem WSF final decl. But first the introduction:

“We the social movements from all over the world came together on the occasion of the 8th World Social Forum in BelĂ©m, Amazonia, where the peoples have been resisting attempts to usurp Nature, their lands and their cultures. We are here in Latin America, where over the last decade the social movements and the indigenous movements have joined forces and radically question the capitalist system from their cosmovision. Over the last few years, in Latin America highly radical social struggles have resulted in the overthrow of neoliberal governments and the empowerment of governments that have carried out many positive reforms such as the nationalisation of core sectors of the economy and democratic constitutional reforms.”

They are writing, I believe, of the various social revolutions in Latin America including Venezuela where Hugo Chavez just recently did away with
freedom of the press.

But here is their take on Israel:

“In the context of the present crisis the rights of peoples are systematically denied. The Israeli government’s savage aggression against the Palestinian people is a violation of International Law and amounts to a war crime, a crime against humanity, and a symbol of the denial of a people’s rights that can be observed in other parts of the world. The shameful impunity must be stopped. The social movements reassert their active support of the struggle of the Palestinian people as well as of all actions against oppression by peoples worldwide.”

The Social Forum’s goals include and this is also in the document:

“The social emancipation process carried by the feminist, environmentalist and socialist movements in the 21st century aims at liberating society from capitalist domination of the means of production, communication and services, achieved by supporting forms of ownership that favour the social interest: small family freehold, public, cooperative, communal and collective property. Such an alternative will necessarily be feminist since it is impossible to build a society based on social justice and equality of rights when half of humankind is oppressed and exploited.”

In light of these various papers, and in particular the World Social Forum ones, the first one in the whole list,
Communion o Mateus, is of great interest. It is speculative and looks at the idea of what it means to move from an alliance of churches to a communion of churches. (This is a very long paper which deserves to be analyzed within its own context but it is placed with all the other papers and simply adds to the concerns about them.[1]) The paper focuses on both the need to discipline member churches and yet how to embrace greater diversity.

The idea of communion rather than alliance supposedly opens the door to better strengthen the organization to discipline its members. The one example given of when even the WARC was able to discipline is the removal of the two white churches in South Africa who refused to abandon apartheid.

While those Church’s were indeed in a state of sinfulness, in light of the content of the rest of the papers in this cache the desire to be more than an alliance and to discipline churches does not bode well for the future of WCRC or of the churches that will make-up the new organization’s membership.

[1] This paper has one paragraph using Joe Small’s description of communion. That part is excellent and helpful for all. But it fits better a Church not an institution that is more concerned with political issues than proclaiming the faith of the Church.


Anonymous said...

Viola: Thank you so much for putting in the time and effort to wade through this bilge. It really is incredible.

I haven't had time to look at everything, but I did read through the Belem final declaration. It could have been written directly by Hugo Chavez, even containing some pet phrases of his (it also reminds me of the kind of rhetoric that emanates from the Communist front group International ANSWER). It's essentially a blueprint for achieving every socialist's fondest wish, and the consequences for the world's economy, and especially the poor, be damned.

The part about Israel was especially telling. Israel alone is singled out for its conduct--no mention of Sudan, China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, or any other systematic violators of human rights. There is no effort, no pretense, of balance, with the Palestinians held up entirely as victims and the Israelis as evil oppressors. That's not surprising, given the tendency on the far left to think in strictly black-and-white terms, but it hardly makes for something that Reformed Christians should take seriously.

Viola Larson said...

Yes, Chavez has often been one of the speakers at the World Social Forum. And I cannot understand why the forum papers are needed as background material. The Confessions, the history of Christianity, etc. should have been background material.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but that might suggest that the WCRC was meant to be an ecclesiastical, rather than political, organization. Can't have that, now.


David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA