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WARC Wackiness

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Contained in this year’s Christian Reformed Church 2005 Agenda for Synod (PDF), which will be held June 11-18, is a report from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches recent General Council in Accra, Ghana (pp. 257-63). The agenda states, “A reading of this document will make it clear that, while all participants appreciated the common Christian concern regarding issues of poverty and the oppressive structures that contribute to it, not all delegates were comfortable with either the decision-making process or the ideological positions expressed by the General Council” (p. 235).

Also contained is an English-language version of the text, “Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth,” (pp. 264-68) the resulting “declaration” to come out of the WARC assembly. In many ways this document represents a defeat for the radical factions in WARC. Over the last decade we have seen the push for WARC to enter a status confessionis, and prepare a binding confessional statement on matters of the environment and the economy. As noted above, however, the “ideological positions” of those behind the push has precluded a more general acceptance of their plan.

Here’s what the 2005 Agenda for Synod has to say about the WARC document:

This statement addresses significant issues of economic injustice and ecological destruction. Members of the Interchurch Relations Committee have serious reservations concerning the document. The use of illdefined and often technical jargon not only makes for difficult reading but also the obstruction of the meaning of the document. Because the process of debate and discernment at the General Council was flawed, some of the ideological positions and strongly worded conclusions do not adequately represent the voices of many participant churches. Although the document is called a “confession,” it is important for us to remember that it is not meant to be understood as “a classical doctrinal confession” (section 15), and it does not require the official endorsement of WARC participant churches. For that reason, the document is being passed on by the IRC to synod for its information. Hopefully the weakness of the statement will not prevent us from seeing “the urgency of an active response to the challenges of our time” (section 15).

For a more in-depth look at some of the statements and positions in the run up to and including the General Council in Accra, see this Acton Commentary, “Ecumenical Economics: Confessing against the Empire.” We can be thankful that cooler heads prevailed at this last WARC assembly, but the effort raises questions about the method and purpose of such ecumenical activities.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty, where he also serves as executive editor the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary. He has authored articles in academic publications such as The Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, and Journal of Scholarly Publishing, and has written popular pieces for newspapers including the Detroit News, Orange County Register, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2006, Jordan was profiled in the book, The Relevant Nation: 50 Activists, Artists And Innovators Who Are Changing The World Through Faith. Jordan's scholarly interests include Reformation studies, church-state relations, theological anthropology, social ethics, theology and economics, and research methodology. Jordan is a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), and he resides in Jenison, Michigan with his wife and three children.