Over 400 leaders representing 200 Presbyterian, Reformed, Congregational and United churches in over 100 nations gathered in Accra, Ghana, for the 24th General Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, July 30, 2004. The two-week-long council, which meets only once every seven years, is the Alliance’s highest governing and representative body.
This year, the delegates adopted the theme, “That All may have Life in Fullness” from John 10:10, to reflect “on the threats and challenges to life while seeking God’s will for our response.”
Prior to the gathering, the WARC enlisted several topics of discussions that will be centralized at the Accra event: Healing of HIV/AID; Honoring diversity among ethnicities and faiths; Inclusiveness and participation for people of all age, gender, ethnicity and disabilities; Peace at times of international conflict, civil war, urban and domestic violence; Gender justice and renewing the partnership between men and women; Creation and becoming better stewards for the earth; and Economic justice and relinquishing debt and corruption.
Following these themes, the WARC’s incumbent president Rev. Dr. Choan-Seng Song reminded the delegates to rebuild the community through the spirit of God.
“Community rebuilding! This must be what the Spirit is asking the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, its member churches and Christians to do at this juncture of history,” Song said to the 400 delegates.
“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,” said Song.
Song pointed out that religions that “preach peace, love and salvation” often create “fear, hate and destruction” through fundamentalist actions.
“Has not Christianity, in the name of mission and in its zeal to save the souls of ‘pagans,’ often broken up community, impaired relationships, caused social unrest, 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.
“Communities undermined by sociopolitical and religious-cultural forces have to be reconstructed. Community rebuilding must be what the Spirit is calling the World Alliance to do today, mobilizing us, its member churches and Christians, to take an active part in it in the coming years,” Song said.
At that end, Song said the role of the WARC is to help make churches become more open to the outside world and to unite the churches of the West with that of the developing 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, racial and gender justice. Justice alone cannot rebuild a community,” said Song.
“For the Alliance and its member churches and Christians justice with healing, and not justice for justice’s sake, must be the goal. This must be what the Alliance has been learning to hear as it listens to the churches from the ends of the earth,” Song said.
“The healing word of the gospel is the word that heals divisions within Christianity, the word that heals hatred among people of different religious and cultural traditions, the word that heals the spirits and souls of people, men and women, young and old, and the word that heals the conflicts among nations and peoples.”
Song said the Alliance must turn to the Holy spirit to inspire the members in becoming a part of Jesus’ ministry.
“To be God’s instrument in the world today? Easier said than done. Look at the world in which we live. It is a topsy-turvy world, a world in turmoil, a world dominated by greed, hatred and senselessness. How can we serve God and humanity in such a world?” Song asked.
“It is the Spirit that inspired, motivated and empowered Jesus that needs to be activated in the member churches and Christians of the World Alliance,” he replied. “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. It is the Spirit that motivated us to rededicate ourselves to be part of Jesus’ ministry of God’s rule. Who says the World Alliance lacks the Spirit?”
The Accra gathering will end on August 13.
WARC links about 75 million Christians in more than 200 Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed and United churches around the world. 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. The two organizations merged in Nairobi in 1970 to form the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (Presbyterian and Congregational).