Clifton Kirkpatrick, the newly appointed World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) president, urged members of his home church, the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), to work toward reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.
Kirkpatrick’s statements followed his return from Accra, Ghana, during which he was elected president before 400 delegates.
Global economic disparities are “not just some problem somewhere but are destroying our churches,” said Kirkpatrick, who was also re-elected to the Stated Clerk post of the PCUSA>
“That the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and that the global economic system is the fundamental cause, is the context in which the church is trying to minister all over the world,” Kirkpatrick continued. “This issue is at the core of the problem of trying to proclaim the gospel while the world is destroyed. What was clear in listening to our Presbyterian brothers and sisters around the world is that if present trends continue, there’s not much future for the world.”
Kirkpatrick also said he believed his election was a testimony to the PCUSA’s commitment to the poor.
The election shows the “appreciation for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for our standing with and for the poor over many years. There was also appreciation for our commitment to world mission and justice,” said Kirkpatrick.
According to Kirkpatrick, the mood of the Council was “not anti-U.S., but anger and resentment directed against the ‘North’ for impoverishing the ‘South.’ There was no anti-American ‘groundswell,’ but a firm conviction that policies must change.”
On the issue of homosexuality, Kirkpatrick said the unity of the WARC was not shaken.
“Of course we acknowledged that churches are in very different places. But we took no action on ordination or ministry,” Kirkpatrick said. “And we made two commitments: that we would be open to hear each other, and that this is not our most important priority and will not be a church-dividing issue.”
Therefore, Kirkpatrick said the WARC is “probably the healthiest organization in the ecumenical movement.” A vast majority of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches in the world are WARC members, a particularly healthy sign given that “splintering is characteristic of Reformed churches throughout history.”
In following his theme, Kirkpatrick told the PCUSA member that the WARC struggles financially, and that Presbyterians could try to find ways to help the churches that are growing elseware.
Presbyterians can’t do everything, Kirkpatrick said, “but we can find ways to live more simply, to exercise better stewardship, to resist consumerism and to work together to change the world. Me? I’ve been thinking about trading in my 10-year-old Honda. Now I’m going to drive that thing until it flat dies.”