Boesak and Karagdag on

Speaches at World Alliance of Reformed Churches conference

Ecumenical News International Daily News Service 07 September 2009 Boesak urges Christians to challenge 'destructive' global system ENI-09-0717
By Hans Pienaar Johannesburg, 7 September (ENI)

'Christians have an obligation to take a stand against a system that pervades the lives of all people on earth, wreaking destruction on societies, in the service of a small number of elites, a churches' meeting in South Africa has been told. Addressing a 3-7 September consultation near Johannesburg organized by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Professor Allan Boesak of Stellenbosch University described this system as "empire". This is an "all-encompassing global reality serving, protecting and defending the interests of powerful corporations, nations, elites and privileged people, while imperiously excluding, even sacrificing humanity and exploiting creation", said Boesak. It is driven, Boesak said, by "a pervasive spirit of destructive self-interest, even greed - the worship of money, goods and possessions". Its gospel is one of "consumerism, proclaimed through powerful propaganda", and it is "religiously justified, believed and followed". WARC groups 214 Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed and United churches in 107 countries, together accounting for 75 million Christians. "Empire" has been described as one of the key concepts underlying a document known as the Accra Confession, at WARC's 2004 general council in Ghana. The Johannesburg consultation organized with the South African Council of Churches assessed the reaction of member churches to the Accra Confession. Boesak, a former president of WARC, described the spirit of empire as being "lordless domination", in the sense that theologian Karl Barth used it, "a spirit lacking in compassionate justice and showing contemptuous disregard for the gifts of creation and the household of life". Carmencita Karagdag of the Peace for Life movement in the Philippines said the Accra Confession's empire discourse was ground-breaking, as it was based on a mandate from people and victims of globalization. "It is the only way to make sense of world disorder," she said. Still, she warned, empires have thrived due to religious sanctification, and the issue of the complicity of the church in empire was raised by several participants in the various discussions that followed. The Rev. Moiseraele Prince Dibeela of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa said the Accra Confession is a double-edged sword. "It recognised that some of us are beneficiaries of empire, and that we have fuelled empire through our theologies," he stated. Martina Wasserloos-Strunk of WARC Europe said in her presentation that "empire" had been discussed at synods, academies and conferences in Germany, and that the concept had proven to be helpful, albeit controversial. "It challenges the church to fundamentally reflect upon concepts such as 'government', 'political structures' and on exactly what is happening in the world." But the concept also proved to be divisive since it was unusual in Europe to criticise empire with theological connotations, she said. "People in the Western context feel accused. They are ... struggling against poverty and economic oppression, but they feel in a position of exculpation for being churches in the North."

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Posted by By Hans Pienaar Johannesburg, 7 September (ENI) - Last updated 14.09.2009