Virtual Voices

The sovereignty of God and WARC

Religion

2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Ecumenical News International reports that the World Alliance of Reformed Churches has found the slave trade's modern equivalent: the economic chasm between the rich and poor.

Clifton Kirkpatrick, WARC president and head of the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s General Assembly, explained in his presidential report: "Human enslavement is being wrought on millions through the process of neoliberal globalization that is driving a dramatic and growing wedge between the rich and the poor." In 2004, WARC adopted a confession that states, "We believe that the integrity of our faith is at stake if we remain silent or refuse to act in the face of the current system of neoliberal economic globalization."

James Berkley, director of Presbyterian Action with the Institute on Religion and Democracy, called WARC's statement "embarrassing" and asked that WARC stick to theology: "They need to stick with what their expertise ought to be, and that should be in the Gospel of Jesus Christ." He added that WARC is trivializing true slavery and misinterpreting the Christian message of freedom: "When Jesus said, 'If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed,' He wasn't talking about economics. He was talking about spiritual matters."

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WARC's general secretary Setri Nyomi admitted that some of WARC's member churches question the enshrinement of economic policy in a church confession. He responded, "We do not separate whether God is sovereign in the mundane and in the spiritual realm. Therefore our stance on social issues is consistent with the doctrinal claim of sovereignty."

Berkley agrees that God is sovereign, but he said WARC is mistakenly equating their beliefs with God's: "Their stance is one stance." Berkley also agrees that the church should make the world a better place, but to "advance our own particular solution as the Christian way is a terrible mistake."

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