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Section II: Spirit of Truth - Set us Free!


"For freedom Christ has set us free... For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters..." (Gal. 5:1,13).

Christian witness to the liberating Spirit of God

36. Freedom is a gift of the Holy Spirit. By the action of the Spirit in Christ men and women are set free from sin and from captivity to the principalities and powers of this world, from the forces of evil which tempt all human beings to do injustice to others. The Holy Spirit frees us, opens us to new possibilities, and calls us to work for the freedom of others.

37. "When the Spirit of Truth comes he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). The Spirit of Truth in bearing witness to Jesus Christ convinces the world of sin. Sin has brought division, discord and confusion into the created universe. Truth is often not told and is often hard to tell; but we need to know the truth before we can be truly free. The Spirit of Truth re-establishes and restores the integrity of both persons and communities. By the Spirit we are able to know the truth and this sets us free to live a life based on love, which resists unjust dominations of all kinds.

38. As individuals and as churches we have at times forgotten our Christian vocation to witness to the gospel of freedom and truth. The Holy Spirit calls us to recognize our responsibilities for the divisions in the church and in the world and to follow the path of repentance. Metanoia and te' shuvah, the biblical terms for repentance, mean a radical change of mind, a transformation. Such repentance is the way leading to reconciliation, sanctification, and salvation in Christ.

39. The Spirit of freedom and truth moves us to witness to the justice of the kingdom of God and to resist injustice in the world. We manifest the life of the Spirit by striving for the release of those who are captive to sin and by standing with the oppressed in their struggles for liberation, justice and peace. Liberated by the Spirit we are empowered to understand the world from the perspective of the poor and vulnerable and to give ourselves to mission, service and the sharing of our resources.

40. our theological perspective convinces us that we need to affirm tile vision of an inhabited world (oikoumene) based on values which promote life for all. As Christians we seek a world of social and economic justice. We believe that the WCC and its member churches can witness to the liberating Spirit of God by joining their efforts with those of national and international organizations which strive for justice and freedom, and against the abuse of human rights. We believe that the gospel calls Christians to be active in the promotion and defense of human rights: the rights of women and children, the rights of minorities, the rights of those oppressed by racism and economic injustice. We are especially concerned about the human rights of young people who so often suffer disproportionately the effects of war, poverty, racism, unemployment, drugs and other social problems.

Towards a world in which justice prevails

41. Through the six preceding assemblies the World Council of Churches has called attention to the need to renew the international economic order. The ecumenical process on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) confirmed the view that prevailing models of economic growth and world trade do not create conditions for a just and sustainable world society but rather destroy the ecological systems of the world, provoke massive migrations and lead to wars. The organization of the international market in ways which would promote life and justice for all remains a major challenge. We look for a review leading to more accountable and just economic and monetary structures, within the jurisdiction of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. The creation of a just world economic order may require the creation of new international organizations.

42. Closely linked to the present economic order and the organization of the international market is the ongoing debt crisis which, since the end of the 1970s. has meant the impoverishment of the most deeply-indebted nations of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific. The debt crisis also threatens the economic prospects of the former "canberist" nations of Eastern Europe and is introducing tensions, financial instability and economic recession in North America, Western Europe and Japan. In this very serious situation the WCC and its member churches are called to share their energies and resources with those who suffer the effects of the world economic system. The critical reformulation of this system must be one of our Priorities.

43. As Christians we seek a world of social and economic justice. This includes the empowerment of the victims of injustice and respect and care for those who are vulnerable, oppressed and dispossessed. The networks of concern that churches and Christian communities can build together and with other organizations can play a positive role in this process.

44. Racism, one of the terrible sins of humankind, is incompatible with the gospel of Christ. It is not simply exercised through personal prejudice but is also embodied in the structures and institutions of society. When members of one race or group seek to dominate those of another they are not truly free but are enslaved by their own fear and desire for control. Being oppressed and being an oppressor are both spiritually disabling. We see the need for both individual repentance of the sin of racism and for changes to abolish structural and institutional racism. The liberating voice of the Spirit calls us to embrace all our sisters and brothers in love and with justice.

45. Some specific aspects of racism which concern us are: the suffering of the black diaspora within predominantly white societies, the increased racial tensions occurring as the result of massive migration of peoples, and the disturbing currents of racism in many regional conflicts, including the present conflict in the Middle East. We need also to recognize the particular vulnerability of women and children. who often suffer double discrimination.

46. The ethnicity which is newly emerging in Europe poses another challenge to our churches as ethnic groups are often defined in religious terms as well as by language and origin. Christianity runs the risk of being a divisive rather than a unifying force within the new political situations, and here dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church is essential.

47. At this assembly in Australia we are particularly conscious of the struggles of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters for a recognition of their history, culture, spirituality and land rights. We affirm the efforts towards justice and reconciliation made by some churches and other groups. We support all those who seek justice for indigenous peoples in Australia and in other countries.

48. The Spirit of truth calls us to know and to tell the truth about our histories and to repent of racism in the past as well as in the present. Anniversaries, such as the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus in the Americas in 1992, are a particular opportunity for churches to reflect soberly on their history in the light of the gospel, and to consider what actions are appropriate to achieve reconciliation and justice.

49. Communication in the light and power of the Spirit supports and sustains the building of a community of justice and equips us to challenge the powers which are opposed to the Spirit of truth. Our communication as Christians must be prophetic, serving the cause of justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. We are to communicate with one another in love, speaking the truth and listening to hear what is truly being said, rather than what we want to bear.

50. The mass media are powerful means of control, where the truth is often not told and we are unable to exercise an informed and free judgment. Control may be exercised by governments, the market, or the dominant culture. We are specially concerned about the influence on children of the media's promotion of violence, pornography and obscenity. Churches can seek ways to educate people to be discerning listeners, viewers and readers and to develop people's participation in communication. We encourage our churches to find ways to develop communications for liberation, to promote good interpersonal communication and the telling of the stories of the people. We encourage individual Christians who work in the field of communications to exercise their Christian witness in the work-place.

51. The search for lasting peace and meaningful security presents different challenges in the various regions of the world. The Seoul covenant (from the JPIC process) with its four interlocking elements of protection of the environment, alleviation of debts, demilitarization of international relations and the rejection of racism, provides us with a helpful framework for our Christian commitment to peace with justice.

52. We affirm the roles of the United Nations and the international Court of Justice, and believe that these and other constructive international instruments for peace and security need to be developed and strengthened.

53. Churches are called to serve as examples of peace-making, not least by making peace among themselves. They must resist the use of religious factors to cause or exacerbate conflict, and we urge that they strengthen their regional solidarity in work for peace. The World Council of Churches could play a greater role in education for peace and in working for reconciliation in situations of conflict between churches and states.

54. The relationship between men and women is fundamental to the human condition although there are major cultural differences in the expression of such relationships. Sexual difference is a gift of God in creation but our human societies are often distorted by sexism (that is, discrimination based on gender). Specific aspects of sexism which concern us are the economic injustice experienced by many women and the growing phenomenon of the feminization of poverty (in other words the fact that increasingly the poor are women). In the work-place women are not only frequently underpaid and exploited but also are often forced to participate on male terms, which take little notice of their special needs and responsibilities. At work, at home and in society generally it is common for women and children to be the victims of male violence.

55. The Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women is an urgent call to the churches to give creative support to women's movements and groups which challenge oppressive structures in the global community and in the local community and church. The form which solidarity with women will take depends very much on local circumstances and on the needs and aspirations of women themselves, but we are sure that the full participation of women in our churches and societies will encourage the renewal of community.

56. As we affirm that "in Christ there is neither male nor female" (Gal. 3:28) we call on Christian communities and families to strive for equality in relationships, for mutual respect, a sharing of tasks and responsibilities and new models of caring and sharing. We acknowledge that churches differ in their approaches to the question of the ordination of women. Some see it as an issue of justice while others do not. In this situation we urge mutual respect for the other's position in the spirit of love and understanding.

57. Facing situations of tyranny and oppression, striving for justice and peace, we often tend to lose heart and hope. As Paul exhorts the Galatian Christians not to give in to the desires of human nature, so we are called to stand fast in the freedom of Christ, to be obedient to the truth, and to walk by the Spirit. All this is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.


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