GEM School grounds economic justice biblically

Photo: World Communion of Reformed Churches

WCC- The Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics, and Management for an Economy of Life—GEM School—is a program within the New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) project.

“The pandemic underlined yet again the need for a new economic and financial architecture that meets the needs of all people regardless of class, gender, or race and sustains the whole world of creation,” said Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). 

“In particular we are highlighting feminist economics and ecological economics, as they are particularly critical as we reflect on how to build a different financial and economic architecture,” said Athena Peralta, WCC programme executive for Economic and Ecological Justice.

The 30 participants from more than one dozen countries are ecumenical and church leaders, justice advocates, economic activists, ministers, and theological students. 

“GEM School provides us with a concrete way to learn from each other together—theologians and lay, economic experts and social advocates, multi-generationally,” said Sivin Kit, programme executive for Public Theology & Interreligious Relations with the Lutheran World Federation.

“The GEM School recognizes that our economics has to be contextual. A lot of our NIFEA work is rightly focused on providing a critique on our advocacy. We also need to see where these alternatives can take root and create change,” said Rev. Dr Peter Cruchley, mission secretary for Mission Development with the Council for World Mission.

As part of its contextual focus, students will visit the Brot für die Welt offices in Berlin, as well as with two women’s advocacy organizations, Women in Exile & Friends and Respect Berlin.

“Social holiness and personal holiness have to come together, without neglecting the hard work in the political arena to effect economic and social change,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, Geneva secretary of the World Methodist Council.

Sessions will include introductions to feminist economics; ecological economics, including de-grown and post-growth approaches; foundations for global financial and economic transformation; and advocacy tools for economic justice, using the Zacchaeaus Tax Campaign as a case study.

Bible studies during the week will be on “Land, Labour, Capital, and Technology” and “New Creation and New Earth.” 

“I think it’s fantastic that we’re able to meet in person from so many places from around the world. I’m very curious to learn from your perspectives and your contexts,” said student Helena Funk from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Saxony.

“I am looking forward to absorbing as much as I can and then to apply it when I return home, along with building networks here to tap into to expand the work of God,” said student Westonio Sarien from Ebenezer Congregational Church in South Africa. 

“In the US, we have spent a lot of time on focusing ministry as therapy, just to help people deal with the woes of a global broken narrative instead of working on the broken narrative itself. We live in this narrative that was designed by a handful of white men, and we need a narrative that was designed by God,” said student Russell Meyer from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

In welcoming remarks, Peter Jörgensen, of Religions for Peace Europe and a Baptist pastor in Berlin, noted that both “ecumenical” and “economic” come from the same Greek root—oikos—and said that “ecumenical” in German means a common house. “You will learn how an economy could be shaped to care for the common house so that all people can find protection and care in it, can live well in it; in other words, can lead a good life in this house that is common for all,” he said.

The GEM School began with a session on “Economic Justice at the Heart of Faith.”

“God measures societies by what they do to the poorest and marginalized in a society,” said Metropolitan Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, in his keynote. “An economy of life is one that considers the welfare of the poor as the basic index of the economy. It puts the sovereignty of God above those of mammon and money.”

“Ecological and economic science are always connected,” said Thandi Soko De Jong in her keynote address. “A central role must be given to God’s shalom. Wanton consumerism should not carry pride and prestige. The earth should thrive as we thrive. This should be our attitude towards God’s creation.”

The GEM School runs 4-8 July in Berlin, Germany.

NIFEA is a cooperative effort by the Council for World Mission, Lutheran World Federation, World Communion of Reformed Churches, World Council of Churches, and World Methodist Council. It is supported by funding from Otto per Mille through the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

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