Three full communion partners -- the Episcopal Church, the Old-Catholic Church of the Union of Utrecht, and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church) -- have begun a three-year ecumenical project to explore ways to transform the harmful effects of globalization.
Church representatives at the "Theological Conference on Catholicity and Globalization," November 6-11 in Maarssen, The Netherlands, began an "exciting mixture of traditional ecumenism with 21st century political realities," said the Rev. Dr. J. Robert Wright, professor of Ecclesiastical History at the General Theological Seminary in New York, who attended the gathering.
The meeting, convened by the Most Rev. Dr. Joris Vercammen, Archbishop of Utrecht, represents the first time the three full communion partners "are considering not just ecclesial matters but are also considering the implications of being catholic churches for the sake of a major problem in world economics and politics and sociology, namely globalization," Wright said.
Vercammen first proposed the gathering after he celebrated Holy Eucharist at General Convention 2006 in Columbus, Ohio, Wright said. "He had visited the Philippines earlier and had seen some of the disastrous effects of bad globalization."
The Very Rev. Eleuterio J. Revollido of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), living in exile in Switzerland after receiving death threats, described for participants the consequences of globalization. The IFI represents about 6 million people, many of who are among the poor whose jobs have been either eliminated by technology or outsourced elsewhere. IFI broke with Rome in 1948 and has been in full communion with the Episcopal Church (TEC) since 1961.
Revollido also cited the October 3 murder of the Rt. Rev. Alberto B. Ramento, ninth Obispo Maximo of the IFI, a peace and human rights advocate and an outspoken critic of globalization and Philippine governmental policies. Ramento was stabbed to death at his rectory in the Parish of San Sebastian, Tarlac City on October 3. International faith communities, including the Episcopal Church, have called for an investigation into his death. The group, which dedicated its report to Ramento, also discussed efforts to canonize him.
"The churches and their members, whether they like it or not, are all participants in globalization, linked by networks of technology, communication, language, education, conceptual understandings, and travel as well as by economic forces" which led to an agreement to transform globalization from within, using its own tools, according to the report.
"We are commissioned to preach God's love to the world; we are the extension of the incarnation of Christ, the voice of the poor, the exploited, and the deprived. Our catholicity is seen if we become a community of people who struggle for life and dignity, a community that cares for the poor and fights against the exploitative structures of the global society in her pursuit to build the Kingdom on earth, where peace based on justice reigns," the statement said.
Others who participated in the meeting included: Prof. Marsha L. Dutton of the University of Ohio (TEC) and the Rev. Prof. Franz Sebers and the Rev. Dr. Peter-Ben Smit of the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht. TEC and the Old-Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht have been in communion since 1931.
The group discussed ways to understand and evaluate globalization and its effects politically, sociologically, culturally, and ethically.
Eventually, the project aims to include ways to take moral and intellectual action against globalization, such as: attempting to shape shareholders' understandings of the consequences of corporate decisions; buying products from non-exploitative companies instead of those who exploit the poor, and helping others understand the negative consequences of globalization. Creating a common page on the websites of all three churches to offer information about possible responses was also discussed.
At its next meeting in New York City in the fall of 2007 the group will consider: what it means to be catholic today amid increasing globalization; agents of change as the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); responses of catholic churches to globalization and how to reconfigure understandings of catholicity.
The MDGs is an eight-prong declaration that includes halving extreme poverty and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by the target date of 2015. Further information about the MDGs is available at http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals.
Hopefully, a third meeting will be held in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, in 2008, Wright said. The tri-lateral partnership may be regarded as a turning point in ecumenical relations, he said.
"What it says is goals like the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, as important as they are, are secular goals which hopefully all people of good will can agree upon. But this says there is a basis in the Gospel and in our response to being Catholic Christians that calls for closer ecumenical collaboration for the sake of dealing with these kinds of questions.
"It has further implications that go way beyond simply the Philippines," Wright added. "Globalization is worldwide. This poses the possibilities for seeing ecumenical efforts in a much broader context, of dealing with major world problems in an ecumenical way."