Why A Just-Peace Church?
The Synod of the Covenant has refined our identity as a JUST-PEACE CHURCH. We will not continue to obsess with doctrines and politics of the 16th century that birthed and shaped the European Reformation and Presbyterianism. Precisely. Our world has evolved, our realities have shifted. Today’s context and realities have changed. It is not possible to serve today’s society with tools and technologies from the Middle Ages.
Why do we focus on SOCIAL JUSTICE? Why can’t the church contend with corporate worship, inward renewal, and membership growth? While there is nothing inherently sinful in such endeavors, TODAY’S CHURCH needs to ask the following critical questions: What is EVANGELISM if it does not transform all humanity? What is DISCIPLESHIP without social witness, Justice, and corporate responsibility? What is WORSHIP that is limited to rituals and ceremonies in isolation from daily realities and in withdrawal state from the world?
Because the medieval doctrinal wars are over and all warring factions have lost, it is about time to rethink Christian and Reformed/Presbyterian theology. With more than 39,000 Christian denominations, church institutions are the richest in history, yet the world remains under the spell of violence, disease, and suffering. Corruption and addiction to power, cultures of violence and oppression have become the norm in our broken and wounded world.
It is unjust for church and for society to benefit from cheap and slave labor, and from systems that are founded and supported by unjust business practices and legislative action that sustains poverty. It is immoral for Christians and unethical of the church to shun the disadvantaged and ignore the marginalized. Even when we implement acts of compassion or disaster relief, we cannot do so in isolation from the socio-economic and geopolitical root causes of poverty, refugee crises, migration, and other disruptive realities of people. The church must work to demonstrate, teach, and promote a just-peace as well as help end and defund war and militarism.
The Synod of the Covenant is active in social witness and devotes resources and programs focused on social justice. Since 1972, the Cabinet on Ethnic Church Affairs (CECA) has been a prominent and unique ministry in the church. The Mobile Health Fairs (MHF), the Mission to the USA (MUSA), the partnerships with the Self Development of Peoples (SDOP) and with Presbyterian Women (PW) have shaped and guided the mission of the church in this region.
The Synod of the Covenant seeks to live out its calling as a Just-Peace church prayerfully and faithfully in partnership with the General Assembly, its presbyteries, congregations, ecumenical partners and relevant community agencies, in order to affect social justice.
To paraphrase a famous saying: If not us, then who, and if not now, then when?
The gospels clearly demonstrate how Jesus loves, welcomes, and heals all and especially those who are marginalized and disadvantaged. From the biblical prophecies to preparing the way for Jesus (by John the Baptist) God calls the religious establishment, the elite and the humble alike, to repentance and reconciliation. The disciples, and followers of Jesus throughout the ages, are admonished that encountering the vulnerable and the weak is the same as encountering Jesus himself, and that in relating to one another we are in fact dealing directly with Jesus.
At the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the holistic ministry of healing and reconciliation, of evangelism, discipleship, social justice and witness, and peacemaking.
The focus of the church is not on holy sanctuaries within walls of temporal geographic locations, or on administrative routines and ordered ceremonies. We are called to help focus the mission of the church on all aspects of life, the market place, capitol square, societal institutions, and the individual’s soul and the family. We truly encounter God not in mystical rituals but in the everyday ordinary places and daily human realities regardless of church membership and religious or non-religious affiliations. The church encounters Christ in the true sacramental body experiencing death while seeking life beyond the experience of the font and the table. The mission of the church does not explain the Word and Sacraments to the world, rather it is the Word and Sacraments which explain God’s transformative presence that continues to unfold in the world and calls us to die to ourselves in order to live out the unity and communion with God and neighbor.
A Just-Peace Church lives out the mandate of our Lord and Savior:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 Luke 4:18-19, NRSV)
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me … Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-36, 40, NRSV)
We claim a just-peace church because the Kingdom of God is near. We must repent and correct our ways because the Kingdom of Heaven is within us and in our midst.
Raafat Zaki, Synod Executive