WCRC recommits to the Accra Confession

November 25, 2014

Darío Barolín (center) at the WCRC’s Accra global discussion.

Darío Barolín (center) at the WCRC’s Accra global discussion. —courtesy WCRC

HANNOVER, Germany

A recent global consultation marking the 10th anniversary of the Accra Confession is recommending that the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), its member churches and ecumenical partners should work to address economic and environmental injustices “in a more integrated manner that analyzes and responds to these unjust social, political and economic realities.”

The consultation, held here Nov. 3-5, was the culmination of a months-long series of meetings re-engaging the membership of the WCRC with the Accra Confession.

The Accra Confession, a prophetic statement on economic and environmental justice, was created in 2004 by the then World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC). The WARC has since become a part of the WCRC, and the Confession was re-affirmed at the 2010 Uniting General Council.

“The Accra Confession is saying that the world today is not how God intended it to be,” said Chris Ferguson, general secretary of the WCRC.

“If anything, the Accra Confession is more needed now than it was 10 years ago,” said Jerry Pillay, president of the WCRC. “We need to reclaim the vision of the Accra Confession and ask ourselves what we are doing to address issues of economic injustice and environmental injustice.”

The global consultation brought together representatives from the WCRC’s regions that had held their own consultations, as well as other church leaders. All shared both stories of the impact of the Accra Confession and suggestions for better utilizing it in the future.

“The Accra Confession shows our responsibilities as being partners with God in this world we are in,” said Yueh-Wen Lu, a vice-president of the WCRC.

“We still believe that another world is possible,” said Darío Barolín, presenting the perspective of Latin America. “Because at its center is Jesus Christ, we believe the Accra Confession is calling us to a radical love.”

“All over the world people are rising up against this scandalous world, and they are giving their lives in seeking to challenge and change it,” said South African Allan Boesak. “They are working for a world where dignity and justice will become a reality.”

The regional consultations found that while the Accra Confession’s priorities continue to resonate with members, the confession itself had only been used sporadically over the last decade. Thus while the confession’s calls for economic and environmental justice are being both embraced and lived out by many churches, it is often without realizing the source.

“Do we want them to quote the Accra Confession or do we want them living out the Accra Confession?” asked Roberto Jordan.

And while many churches have been inspired by the confession, “at the same time, certain concepts within the confession challenged member churches, particularly language around empire and neo-liberalism, confession and communion,” stated the consultation’s report.

Read the report: Accra Confession: Ten Years Later.

It was also noted that the world has changed in the last decade: “Neo-liberal economics, race and patriarchy have entangled in legion manner. Economic inequality has increased exponentially and the obstinate persistence of racism and racial tensions escalate.”

The WCRC is thus “called to respond in new ways to the signs of the times in this new day…called to faith in God, faithfulness to the Word of God and action according to the principles laid out in the Accra Confession. We recognize that the present social and economic crisis and the state of endless war constitute a crisis of faith and therefore needs a response of faith to witness to the God of Life.”

“A confessing church deals with the question of how to be present in the world,” said Boesak. “How do we confess Jesus as Lord when the sanctuary is moved to the streets?”

“This process was not only to celebrate and re-engage churches in the Accra Confession,” said Dora Arce-Valentín, a Cuban Presbyterian and the WCRC’s executive secretary for justice. “But it was to check ourselves and our commitment to justice.”

“You cannot have a true communion without justice, because a communion can only be true when it is just,” said Pillay.

To these ends, the consultation’s report recommends a series of commitments be adopted by the WCRC’s executive committee:

  • We commit ourselves to openness to the challenges of the Accra Confession itself as new crises arise and call for new understandings of our own prophetic faithfulness.
  • We commit ourselves to liberation and resistance against all forms of domination.
  • We commit to work together with partners and social movements with whom we walk this journey of justice.
  • We commit to deep listening to voices on the margins and those we have silenced, as well as to the voice of the Spirit as she speaks to us through other religious communities.

A number of “action areas” are also recommended to give impetus to the principles of the Accra Confession: critical reading of scripture and creative resources for congregations to witness to the God of Life, caste, climate change, gender and sexuality, human trafficking, immigration and migration, the New International Financial and Economic Architecture, racism and the theology of enough.

Each of the regional councils present also committed to specific work that will bolster the Accra Confession’s calls against injustice.

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