Over 550 Presbyterians of all ages gathered at the Pacific Lutheran University in Washington for the 2004 Presbyterian Peace and Justice Conference, August 3-7, 2004. While the intergenerational event was not meant to produce a purely unified voice on resolving justice and peace issues such as hunger, environmental concerns, economic justices and the war in Iraq, it allowed members to explore their roles a “peacemakers and caretakers of the earth in the time of global poverty, environmental degradation and warfare.
While much of the conference was centered on inter-personal dialogue, worship, workshops and plenary sessions, several guests and speakers led the symposium under the theme, “Hope for a Global Future: Let’s Pray, Let’s Act.”
According to the Presbyterian News Service, the conference leaders emphasized that “God made all creation, including humankind, good. But that creation has become broken, fractured by such scourges as hunger, poverty, war, injustice and environmental abuse.”
Thus, as Christians, the gatherers were encouraged to support sustainable development and environmental and economic justice in helping the creation maintain its health.
“It is our goal this week for everyone to grow as an inclusive intergenerational family and explore how scripture in a Reformed tradition informs and inspires in us a reverence for God’s sacred creation,” said Doug Grace, conference co-director and former associate for domestic issues at the Presbyterian Washington Office.
“What does it mean then to live in a sustainable world where we don’t have hunger?” Grace asked in reference to the conference focus. “Where we’re working to feed everyone and making sure the pollution problems and Global Warming is taken care of? All of the problems that ail the earth and God’s creation have broken us from creation. Put us back together into that healing and wholeness,” she continued.
The Rev. Agnes Norfleet, co-worship leader, recalling the beauty and goodness of the earth as astronauts viewed it from space.
“We are instructed by God to be creative caretakers of all this goodness,” said Norfleet, pastor of North Decatur (GA) Presbyterian Church. “The problem is unlike the perspective from the distance of standing on the moon. We see the earth up close and we are deeply troubled by what we see. We see too much bloodshed. We see too many bellies swollen from hunger. Too many bombs exploding, too many guns firing, too many young human images of God falling, too long an Israeli wall going up.”
Ultimately, Norfleet said Presbyterians must become “a politically engaged community of believers whose reverence for God will propel us into the environment. The children of the world need the followers of Jesus Christ to shed our possessions, to give to the poor …”
Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s newly elected General Assembly moderator, Rick Ufford-Chase, offered his viewpoint on the economic injustice that exists in Central America – a region he had served for decades through mission and outreach.
Ufford-Chase mentioned that people earn an average of $6 to $7 a day in Nogales, Mexico, where a gallon of milk cost $3.30.
“You have to work for five-to-six hours to make enough money to purchase that gallon of milk,” said Ufford-Chase, co-founder of BorderLinks, a binational organization on the U.S./Mexico border whose mission is to connect and educate people of faith from both sides of the border.
“We will never ever be secure until the following is true,” continued Ufford-Chase. “A secure world is a place where a day’s wage is enough to provide for the basic need of one family, period. No exceptions. We need a secure world. That will only happen when my use of the world’s resources is appropriate and modest. So that I am not destroying the environment where someone else lives.”
The event was co-sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, the Environmental Justice Program and the Self-Development of People Program - all ministries of the Presbyterian Church (USA).