Written by Gregg Brekke
Representatives of member churches from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) have agreed to recommend merging as a global "communion" - a move they believe will have a direct and positive impact on local congregations worldwide.
During meetings in Geneva last week the joint executive committees of the two organizations approved the draft constitution of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).
"For churches in Switzerland, a country which is so encased that it is not even a member of the European Union, being in communion offers the chance to make the worldwide Reformed family visible in parishes through liturgy, perhaps by creating intercessional prayers for the concerns of member churches," says WARC's vice-president for Europe, Gottfried Locher of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches.
WARC's vice-president for Asia, Henriette Hutabarat-Lebang says being in communion sets an important example for Christians living in pluralistic societies such as her native Indonesia. "The idea of being in communion can inspire Christians to use that model to work together with good people from other religions, ethnicities and cultures."
Victor Pillay, a member of the REC executive committee from South Africa, imagines WCRC empowering congregations to respond to local needs by twinning congregations from the Global North and South. "This will increase the church's credibility," he says.
Astrid Hardtke, an Argentinian chemical engineer with a passion for social justice sees WCRC stimulating local churches to play a mediating role in congregations which are divided by differing perspectives on local economic development.
"The church can call business people, government representatives and human rights advocates together to seek new solutions, recognizing the needs of each group."
Salome Twum, an administrator in a rural university in Ghana, imagines WCRC building on WARC's mission initiative called the Making a Difference Project in order to encourage young women to move into leadership positions in their local churches.
"In South Africa, young women learned to write their names. This made a difference in their lives. They learned to speak and say this is who I am."
Oliver Patterson also sees a role for the WCRC in encouraging literacy. Patterson, a WARC executive committee member, suggests WCRC study the model offered by small congregations in the Queens district of New York City which are launching projects to encourage literacy through the creative arts.
"Arts are central to the development of our children. Young people are being encouraged to tell their own stories. As Christians we need to understand kids and build on who they are," says Patterson.
The United Church of Christ is a member of WARC and has pledged its support in the formation of WCRC.