A church-sponsored conference designed to generate ideas for a new international economic system is set to occur Sept. 29-Oct. 5 in Brazil. The conference opens at a time of growing concern about the impact of the financial crisis on humanity and the environment.

“There is an urgent need for a new financial system to alleviate poverty and environmental destruction,” says conference coordinator Dora Arce-Valentín of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). “We in the church intend to be part of creating that new system, of ensuring that it meets the needs of all God’s people and of all of creation.”

The Global Ecumenical Conference on a New International Financial and Economic Architecture will take place in Guarulhos, Brazil. Delegates and speakers include economists, social scientists, theologians and representatives of organizations working on alternative economic models. More than 70 participants are expected to attend.

Conference organizers claim current market practices are unjust and contribute to poverty and environmental destruction. Their objective is to work towards a new system built on “justice” (equitable sharing) rather than uncontrolled profit-making.

“The aim is to create a concept for a system that serves the real economy, responds to social and ecological concerns, and sets limits to greed, ” says Arce-Valentín who is responsible for WCRC’s Justice and Partnership program.

Churches are seeking strategic alliances with economists and social scientists in order to gain entry to financial decision-making bodies such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

“We believe we are called by our faith to ensure the voices of the voiceless ― the world’s poorest people ― are heard in the places where changes can be made. It is part of our responsibility to care for the economy of the household of God,” says Arce-Valentín, a Cuban pastor and theologian.

The meeting comes at a time when the European Union is struggling with the impact of the debt crisis on member countries and the United Nations is pushing the world community to meet its Millennium Development Goals for freeing people from “extreme poverty and multiple deprivation” by 2015.

WCRC is working with the Council for World Mission and the World Council of Churches to plan the event with participation from the Lutheran World Federation. Buddhists and Muslims have been invited to take part in the programme that includes visits to projects in the area around Guarulhos – a suburb of São Paolo – that are experimenting with new models for the exchange of goods and services.

Plans call for the conference to conclude with a statement that defines the principles of a new model of economic exchange that shares wealth more equitably and takes account of the need to limit consumption of non-renewable resources.

A small panel of people with connections to financial and economic institutions will be convened following the conference to take the principles into the forums where decisions about the global economic system are made.

WCRC represents 80 million Christians in 108 countries. Its member churches are active worldwide in initiatives supporting economic, climate and gender justice, mission, and cooperation among Christians of different traditions.