On August 10, the delegates to the 24th general council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) – a gathering held once every seven years – accepted and presented a report on globalization and its impact on world missions.
“The groaning of creation and the cries of the poor and the marginalized are calling us to conversion for and recommitment to mission,” the statement began.
“Economic globalization challenges Christian mission and the integrity of the church. However, globalization is no longer an adequate term to describe the threat to life in fullness.
“As we look at the consequences of globalization for the most vulnerable and for the earth community as a whole, we have begun to rediscover the evangelical significance of the biblical teaching of empire,” the report states.
The council, which represents churches from the poorest to the richest nations around the world, debated on the paper, especially on the report’s nation of ‘empire.’
The empire, as stated by the report, is “the convergence of economic, political, cultural and military interests that constitute a system of domination in which benefits flow primarily to the powerful.
“Centred in the last remaining superpower, yet spread all over the world, empire crosses all boundaries, reconstructs identities, subverts cultures, overcomes nation states and challenges religious communities.”
Delegates from Europe cautioned against using the term “empire” because it may seem too fundamentalist.
“Using those words, we are not a far cry from being a fundamentalist body,” said Bastiaan Plaisier of the Netherlands.
However, North American and Latin American delegates urged for the language, saying it was an important aspect of the mission of Christ.
“We can’t understand Jesus’ teaching, healing and proclaiming if we don’t do it in the context of empire,” said Chris Ferguson of Canada.
Noberto Spengler of Argentina said he did not want to see the references to empire or globalization watered down in the statement.
“We want to speak more strongly,” said Spengler.
The statement clarified that the mission ‘empire’ was not in reference to the wealthier countries’ attempt to establish an ‘empire’ through economic globalization.
“We need to draw a clear distinction between Christian mission and the forces of domination, patriarchy, racism and institutional injustice that are associated with empire,” the statement says.
“This will involve a new Christian vision, rooted in apostolic faith, that stands for the fullness of life in a world of worsening poverty, environmental degradation, the HIV/Aids pandemic, terrorism and war.”
Swedish delegate Jenny Dobers said, however, that globalization – if used correctly – can be used to connect churches from around the globe together.
“Our common calling moves us to pray that we might grow into fuller communion with one another, in obedience to the God who calls us to be in mission,” the report stated.
Globalization and empire should also mean better collaboration with other faiths, the statement says. “In a world of globalization and empire, we need interfaith solidarity in mission so that we can work together on issues that affect us all.”