Latin Americans encourage embracing Accra Confession

The latest in a series of consultations marking the 10th anniversary of the Accra Confession concluded with a covenant to “recuperate a proper spirituality that will challenge a culture of consumerism and individualism.”

The Accra Confession, a prophetic statement on economic and environmental justice, was created in 2004 by the then World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC). WARC has since become a part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

Members of the WCRC’s Latin American regional body, known as AIPRAL by its Spanish acronym, drafted the “Barranquilla Declaration” at their consultation that, among other items, calls:

  • for “processes to educate and encourage all member churches to include the Accra Confession in their books of confessions or catechism”
  • for the placement of “the principles of the Accra Confession in public forums such as world banks, governments and other international organizations”
  • to “participate [in] and support community efforts that build economic, cultural and political alternatives that place human dignity and care of the environment at the forefront”
  • to “make stronger alliances with our sister ‘northern churches’ to develop new economic systems that give God honour and glory for the welfare of all of God’s people”

The “Barranquilla Declaration” answered a question posed by Helis Barraza Diaz, a WCRC vice president and rector of the Reformed University in Barranquilla, Colombia, the host site for the consultation: “The Accra Confession gives value to the WCRC and other church bodies. Our question for this convocation should be: What are we going to do with the Confession?”

Chris Ferguson, the incoming WCRC general secretary commented, “Accra is saying that the world today is not how God intended it to be.”

Maria Ramirez, representing the Venezuelan Presbyterian Church and director of AIPRAL’s women ministries, said that the Accra Confession is still today “God’s answer to the excesses of economic globalization.” The question is, “Would the ‘rich north’ be willing to adopt the Accra Confession – a primarily global south document – as their own?”

She challenged people to adopt a “theology of sufficiency” instead of the current practice of hoarding material things that create scarcity in other parts of the world.

Dan Gonzalez Ortega, from the Comunidad Teológica de México, said that the Accra Confession should not be seen as a “doctrinal document like other confessions that become something to defend or memorize, but it should be a dynamic document for our times for prayer, education and above all, practice.”

Delegates to the consultation took the opportunity to see first-hand the impact the current global economic system is having on people. They visited El Tamarindo Community, composed of people from other parts of Colombia, displaced by fighting between government troops and guerrillas.

This group of “campesinos” had settled in unclaimed, vacant land just outside Barranquilla, where they have farmed for up to ten years. When the property became a “duty free” zone because of the free trade agreements between Colombia and the United States, the local police and army forcibly evicted the families, bulldozing their homes, destroying their crops and in some cases even killing their animals.

Authorities and other sources estimate there are more than five million such internally displaced people in Colombia. The AIPRAL consultation participants reiterated that this dislocation of families is a direct result of the economic globalization and injustices highlighted by the Accra Confession.

The “Barranquilla Declaration,” which will be presented to a global consultation in the fall, reminds all that, “the Accra Confession unmasks the ideal of the ‘human being’ from a capitalist system that excludes many, and is also characterized by exploitation and selfishness. The Confession exalts humanity as an object or means to rescue the biblical idea of the human being created in the image of God.”

The consultations are organized by the Justice and Partnership Programme Office of the WCRC in dialogue with the regional councils. For more information, please contact Dora Arce-Valentín:

(with reporting from Antonio (Tony) Aja)

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