The Challenges Ahead: Reconciliation and Unity are Needed Urgently in our Church and World
The World Council of Churches Assembly is being held in Karlsruhe, Germany, this coming September. The theme, Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity, caused me to think about the many ways that reconciliation and unity are needed urgently in our church and in our world.
Here are some of the challenges that I think the ELCIC needs to respond to.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their final report in 2015. Now, seven years later, we are still not much farther on the road to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.
This past year, over 1,100 unmarked graves have been found at several Indian Residential Schools. Indigenous Peoples are over-represented in the prison population, many northern Indigenous communities do not have potable drinking water, and there is an ongoing scourge of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
How can Christ’s love move us to reconciliation as a church and as a nation?
Canadians like to think we do not have problems with racism. Yet we must acknowledge the systemic racism and colonialism that is part of our relationship with Indigenous Peoples. In 2020, when George Floyd was killed in the United States, there were many gatherings in Canada proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter. We also have a history of racism with Black Canadians.
During the COVID pandemic there were many attacks on Asian individuals and communities. Sadly, all persons of colour in Canada experience racism.
Our church has a task force on Anti-Racism, White Supremacy and Racial Injustice, and it is very apparent that racism exists within our church as well.
How can Christ’s love move us to reconciliation between races in our church and as a society?
The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change reports that the window to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial averages is rapidly closing. We know that God calls us to be reconciled with all of creation and yet human behaviour is causing degradation to the environment and is a threat to all of creation.
Last year saw increased forest fires, a heat dome, increased flooding and drought in Canada. Extreme weather conditions have become more and more frequent. Our country also has a large resource extractive industry. Sometimes environmental and economic concerns put people at odds.
How can Christ’s love move us to reconciliation with creation, including the climate and include those of differing perspectives?
We are learning more and more about the issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. We participate in the #ThursdaysInBlack campaign to end gender-based violence, but we do not see gender as a male-female binary.
Transgender, Agender and Nongendered persons are also our siblings in Christ. Yet we know that in many other places such gender diversity is not recognized and may be persecuted.
How can Christ’s love move us to reconciliation between all expressions of sexual orientation, gender diversity and gender expression?
The COVID pandemic has revealed many injustices in different communities. One of the stark issues has been the contrast between those who have stable economic means and those who live in poverty, those who are homeless or housing insecure and those who are underemployed.
We still see an increasing gap between the richest people in the world and the poorest. Access to COVID vaccines has been another indicator of the discrepancies between the rich and the poor in Canada and around the world.
How can Christ’s love move us to reconciliation between the wealthy and the poor?
I was heartened to read in the Assembly materials this vision:
In this fragmented and fractured world, the assembly theme is an affirmation of faith that Christ’s love transforms the world in the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. Against the powers of destruction and sin, the assembly theme affirms that the love of the compassionate, crucified and risen Christ is at the heart of this world.
It is a radical call to the churches to work together unceasingly and with people of other faiths and all those of goodwill for just peace and reconciliation.
It is a call for the visible unity of the church to become a prophetic sign and a foretaste of the reconciliation of this world with God, and the unity of humankind and all creation.
May this vision give us courage and hope to respond to the challenges ahead.
Rev. Susan Johnson
ELCIC National Bishop