World Council of Churches
The same week that President Donald Trump was meeting with Pope Francis in Rome, another historic event was taking place, as the Global Christian Forum facilitated a groundbreaking encounter with the major global bodies representing most every part of world Christianity.
The Jungle is an informal camp for refugees in Calais, France. It currently houses nearly 7,000 people who live under tarpaulins and in tents. They are fleeing war-torn areas, economic collapse, and climate change in countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Sudan, and Ethiopia. There is no drainage in the camp, so when it rains it is a mudbath, there are a few toilets and standpipes.
The journey to The Jungle camp has been dangerous and exhausting for most of them, and new arrivals have often worn out their shoes walking across Europe, some have lost so much weight they need a new size of clothing when they arrive. People arrive traumatized and afraid.
About 30 global religious leaders working in their churches and organizations on environmental justice and advocacy for climate change met last month for the World Council of Church’s (WCC) Working Group on Climate Change in Wuppertal, Germany.
This group tackled the urgent issue of climate justice — as there are environmental problems caused by rich nations that affect others. This includes, for example, the great Pacific garbage vortex and depletion by U.S., Japanese, and Norwegian fishing of species, such as cod, on which smaller countries depend for sustenance, creating conditions that affect vulnerable communities around the globe. Climate change is affecting those in Africa as it dries up their land and enlarges the size of the Sahara desert. It affects Asia as huge storms flood broad areas of coastline, devastating homes and lives. Climate change is affecting the most vulnerable populations, which live near vulnerable croplands and shorelines and depend on farming and fishing for their livelihood. Climate change creates weather that takes lives and destroys communities.
Climate change workers realize that those who have contributed the least to CO2 emissions are (and will be) suffering the worst consequences.
Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who died Thursday, had a deep connection with religious institutions.
Mandela was educated, first at Clarkebury and then at Healdtown, Methodist boarding schools that provided a Christian liberal arts education.
“Both were important influences on his life,” said Presiding Bishop Zipho Siwa of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. “Indeed, after his time at Clarkebury, the young Mandela said his horizons had been broadened.”
In Cape Town, retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Mandela was mourned by South Africans, Africans, and the international community as a colossus of unimpeachable moral character and integrity.
“He preached a gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation,” Tutu wrote in a tribute on Allafrica.com.
A global leader in ecumenical movement has alerted participants to the forthcoming World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, to be aware that they meet in rapidly changing times for world Christianity.
He says there are consequences for all church institutions, including the WCC itself.
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in a book timed to coincide with the gathering, says so fundamental are the changes now shaping the Christian world that the WCC will need to "commit to deep change."
It they don't, he says, they could remain largely isolated from the dynamic and growing parts of the church, especially from the global South.
His perceptions are likely to strike a chord at when the World Council of Churches meets in Busan from Oct.30 to Nov. 8 for its 10th Assembly, the highest decision making body of the grouping that represents some 560 million Christians.
Granberg-Michaelson, is a former member of the main governing body of the WCC, its central committee, and worked on the staff of the organization for six years, originally as director of the Church and Society programme.
He says the book, From Times Square to Timbuktu, is an attempt to describe the "growing gulf" occurring in world Christianity, primarily between the burgeoning Pentecostal and evangelical churches in the global South and the declining churches of the global North.
Albania was perhaps the most closed society in the world during the Cold War, with absolutely ruthless persecution of all religion. Churches were destroyed in every corner of that country. Clergy were eliminated. Worship was outlawed. And enforcement was brutal.
When Communism fell, and the country opened for the first time in decades, the Albanian church began a miraculous process of rebirth. We heard the moving story of the Albania Orthodox Church, rebuilding countless church structures, but even more importantly, restoring faith in the hearts of its people. I've known its leader, Archbishop Anastasios, from past encounters at the World Council of Churches, and he surely is a saint. The revival of religious faith in Albania and its compassionate service to those in need is a magnificent story of the church's witness, and the Spirit's power.
[Editors' note: Rev. John Stott, one of the world's most influential evangelical figures over the past half-century, died this Wednesday at age 90. Rev. Stott served as a contributing editor for Sojourners magazine, when we were known as The Post American, and wrote this article for the November/December, 1973 issue of the magazine. We will always remember Rev. Stott for his profound contributions to our community and the Church.]
It seems to be a characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon mind to enjoy inhabiting the "polar regions" of truth. If we could straddle both poles simultaneously, we would exhibit a healthy balance. Instead, we tend to "polarize". We push some of our brothers to one pole, while keeping the other as our own preserve.
What I am thinking of now is not so much questions of theology as questions of temperament, and in particular the tension between the "conservative" and the "radical."