2.1 Preamble to Act of Covenanting
From March 5-12, 1990 representatives of many Christian churches, movements
and Christian World Communions from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle
East, North America, the Caribbean and the Pacific met in Seoul, Korea to consider
together their common response to the threats of injustice, violence and the
degradation of the human environment. They summarized their findings in the
following report which is addressed to Christians and congregations, to churches
and movements, in the hope that it will contribute to strengthening wide cooperation
with all who share the same concerns and commitments.
1. God - giver of life
We have come together in Seoul to consider our common response to the threats
the present generation faces. We have come because we share the conviction that
God, the giver of life, will not abandon the creation. We have come in confidence
and hope and at the same time in deep anxiety about the present situation and
the prospects for the future. Humanity seems to have entered a period of its
history which is qualitatively new. It has acquired the capacity to destroy
itself. The quality of life is being diminished; even life itself is in peril.
We are confronted by new and complexly interwoven threats:
- by entrenched and deadly forms of injustice: while a few of the earth's
citizens enjoy unprecedented affluence and power, millions languish in crushing
poverty, hunger and oppression;
- by universal violence in open and hidden conflicts and increasing violations
of fundamental human rights: torture, extrajudicial killings and genocide
have become features of our time;
- by the rapid degradation of the environment: the processes upon which life
itself depends are being systematically undermined; already many species of
animals and plants are lost forever.
The real danger lies in the interaction of these threats. Together they represent
a global crisis. Unless far-reaching changes are made now the crisis will intensify,
and may turn into a real catastrophe for our children and grandchildren.
2. God's covenant
As we face the uncertainties of the future, we remember God's covenant with
humanity and, indeed, with the whole of creation.
- God, who is love, does not dwell in unreachable heights but is present in
the creation as its sustaining power. God is alive in all that breathes and
grows. Human beings, men and women alike, have been created as God's partners,
called to witness to God's all embracing love.
- Though time and again human beings refuse to accept and abuse the status
and role assigned to them, God does not abandon them to themselves. God stands
ready to restore the broken communion. The sign of the rainbow reminds us
of the promise: "Behold, I establish a covenant with you, your descendants
and with all living creatures" (Genesis 9: 9-10).
- Repeatedly people have been chosen to witness to God's saving purpose. Abraham
received the promise to be a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:3). God's covenant
with Israel expected Israel to be a servant to the whole world (Isaiah 42:
- God's covenants were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The promise of a new covenant,
to be written in the hearts of people, was realized in human history through
Christ's incarnation and his death on the cross - the supreme expression of
self-giving love. Through the resurrection of Christ, God's irrevocable yes
to life has become manifest.
- By baptism we have been placed under Christ's covenant; and whenever we
celebrate the Eucharist we hear anew the words: "this cup is the new
covenant in my blood" (I Corinthians 11). The sign of the Eucharist anticipates
here and now God's reign of justice and peace, the new heaven and the new
earth which are to come; it is a meal we share with Christ who identifies
with all who suffer injustice and violence.
- The covenant community is open to all. At Pentecost, walls were broken down.
Through the Spirit a new community is being gathered out of the dispersion
and hostility of nations, religions, classes, sexes, ages and races. Through
the Spirit we all have access to God. The Spirit presses us to recognize and
to rejoice in God's gifts in all people and in all places.
3. Discipleship in a period of survival
What does it mean for Christians to respond to God's covenant at this moment
- Christ calls us to radical discipleship. The threats we are experiencing
today remind us of the price we have to pay for turning away from God's covenant.
God's saving and healing love can only become manifest as we follow Christ
- God's love seeks in the first place the weak, the poor and oppressed. God
never forgets the victims of human violence. We will experience God's presence
and love as we identify with those who suffer and as we participate in their
struggle against oppressive powers which dehumanize people and destroy the
face of the earth. The anger and the rebellion of the oppressed are a sign
of hope for a more human future.
- Given the complexity of modern society and the fragility of peace among
nations, violent conflicts pose a greater danger than ever before in history.
War as an instrument for solving conflicts needs to be abolished. The church
is called to be a force for justice, reconciliation and peace-making.
- God's covenant extends beyond the present inhabitants of the earth to future
generations and to the whole of creation. If humanity is to survive, the rights
of future generations and the intrinsic value of nature must be recognized.
- To give an adequate response to the global threats of today, the churches
need to discover new ways of giving expression to their universal calling.
They need to live and to act as one body, transcending the boundaries of nations
and at the same time breaking down the barriers of injustice by which Christ's
body is dismembered today.
4. Repentance and conversion
As we state these implications of God's covenant we realize how much we are
betraying God's love by our witness and our life. The present impasse is of
human making. If this is to be broken, a radical reorientation is required.
God confronts all of us with a call to repentance and conversion. Be reconciled
with God, the source of life! But this call does not mean the same for all.
Jesus' call to life took many forms - for the rich, it meant to get free from
Mammon; for the sick it meant to believe in God's love and healing power; for
the privileged, it meant to share wealth and power; for the down-trodden it
meant to overcome despair; for the educated, it meant to renounce the pride
of superiority; for the weak it meant to gain self-confidence.
Today, as well, Jesus' call takes different forms. We live in radically different
conditions, and are still far from having understood the implications of these
differences. But at the same time, Jesus' call is addressed to us through today's
threats. Repentance and conversion have become essential for survival.
Who are we before God? We cannot find the answer by ourselves. We are accountable
to one another and need one another to learn who we are before God. A global
communion of mutual solidarity will only grow when we have learned to listen
to one another, to see ourselves through the eyes of the other, to share our
perplexities and to assess our failures together.
5. A community of hope and sharing
Conversion is the door to a new and firm hope - the conviction that the course
of history can be changed. We are easily overcome by doubts: Has not power always
had the last word? Are victims not inevitable? Are not war and hatred part of
the human condition and therefore cannot be overcome? Is it not true that technological
development has its own dynamics and therefore cannot be reversed and mastered?
Christian hope is a resistance movement against fatalism.
We want to share this hope with all people. We want to join with them in the
same movement. We want to learn from their experience and from the hope by which
they are sustained in their struggle.
6. Sing to the Lord a new song
This invitation means more than using a new tune. The Psalmist urges us to
celebrate the new things God is doing in our midst. We are invited to be open
to the future, and ever anew to interpret the signs of the times. As we reflected
together at the convocation on what should be our response to God's covenant,
we realized how quickly the world scene is changing and new challenges are emerging.
There is therefore need to stay together in the process of mutual commitment
to justice, peace and the integrity of creation, and to be prepared for a new
vision, commitments and actions.
At the beginning of his ministry, in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus, quoting
the prophet Isaiah, proclaimed the "acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke
The expression refers to the Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25) which was to be celebrated
by Israel in intervals of fifty years in order to redress injustice and oppression
and to recognize the limits placed on the human claim on God's creation. Jesus
proclaims a permanent jubilee and thereby confronts the church with the constant
task of witnessing to the demands of justice, reconciliation and the dignity
and rights of nature.
The covenant community is a jubilee community in the service of all.