The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) joins its ecumenical siblings around the world in mourning the passing of Omega Chilufya Bula, who passed away on 31 January from heart complications after a long battle with cancer.
“Omega leaves an incomparable legacy of ecumenical leadership in the struggle for racial, gender, economic, and social justice in her home country of Zambia, across the African continent, in The United Church of Canada (UCC), and globally,” said a statement from The UCC, with which she served for many years.
While working for The UCC, Bula was also very active with both the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and WCRC. She was an active contributor to the gender justice and economic/ecoological justice work, including serving as a consultant at the 24th General Council in Accra, Ghana, in 2004.
“Omega Chilufya Bula was a special gift to the ecumenical movement,” said Setri Nyomi, former general secretary of both WARC and WCRC. “I have known her since we were both colleagues as executive staff of the All Africa Conference of Churches in the 1990s as a talented woman committed to facilitating how churches will be more faithful in being God’s agents of transformation—exposing injustice and living out God’s value for justice in the world. She did this remarkably wherever she has served in Zambia, Kenya, and Canada.”
“Having Omega on board in any projects, you knew that you had a colleague, a friend, and a partner that you could always trust,” said Yueh-Wen Lu, WCRC vice-president 2010-2017. “Having her on board meant outcomes would be far better than we expected. Having her in the Communion was a blessing and grace from God.”
“Without a doubt, her physical presence, her capacity for discernment, and her loyalty to justice are needed today more than ever. It remains for us to give meaning to her absence by renewing our fidelity to the gospel that inspired her life and that calls us, as the song announces, to ‘give bread to those who hunger and hunger for justice to those who have bread,'” said Dora Arce Valentin, AIPRAL executive secretary and former WCRC executive secretary for justice and partnership.
“Omega was a force to reckon within the ecumenical space and she always pushed her agenda with a lot of grace,” said Veronica Muchiri, a member of our Executive Committee.
“As a member of the Ecumenical Panel on a New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA), she brought an incisive feminist and intersectional perspective and never turned her back on the socio-economically marginalised,” said Athena Peralta, World Council of Churches programme executive for economic and ecological justice. “A woman of great faith and courage, she inspired many to speak truth to power including to international financial institutions.”
“Omega leaves an incomparable legacy of ecumenical leadership in the struggle for racial, gender, economic, and social justice in her home country of Zambia, across the African continent, in The United Church of Canada, and globally,” said Jerry Pillay, WCC general secretary and former WCRC president. “The global ecumenical movement has lost one of its greatest leaders, and Omega will be deeply missed.”
Bula served in The UCC’s General Council Offices in the Division of World Outreach as Area Secretary for Southern Africa and Gender Justice, as the first-ever Racial Justice Minister, and as Executive Minister of the former Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations (JGER) and Partners in Mission Units (PIM).
The United Church of Canada is hosting an online space on Zoom (meeting ID: 894 6575 5856, password: 672972) on Monday, 6 February at 8:00 a.m. (EST) where those who knew Omega Bula can gather to pray, to remember her, and to sing her soul to rest with God.
Allan Boesak, Dora Arce-Valentin, and Omega Bula discuss the impact of the Accra Confession in 2014.
(The World Council of Churches contributed to this story.)