GENEVA (WCC NEWS) / CHIANG MAI (CCA NEWS): In a historic joint pastoral statement released on 26 March 2020, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Regional Ecumenical Organizations (REOs) including the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) affirmed the urgency of standing together to protect life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the first time ever, all regions in the ecumenical movement around the world are standing together with a common message that urges both prayers and action for one world to protect life.
The text of the statement was prepared, discussed, and adopted by the General Secretaries during two virtual meetings facilitated by the WCC General Secretary, in which all REO General Secretaries participated irrespective of their physical location around the world.
“We urge people everywhere to give highest priority to addressing this situation and assisting in whatever ways we can in our collective efforts to protect life,” reads the statement issued by the General Secretaries.
For the sake of God’s love, “it is important and urgent that we adapt our modes of worship and fellowship to the needs of this time of pandemic infection, in order to avoid the risk of becoming sources of viral transmission rather than means of grace,” stated the global ecumenical leaders.
The ecumenical leaders recalled that ‘our faith in the God of life compels us to protect life’, and continued, “Let us manifest God’s unconditional love in safe, practical ways that protect life, alleviate suffering, and ensure that churches and public services do not become hubs of transmission of the virus.”
The General Secretaries of the global and regional ecumenical organisations affirmed that physical distancing did not mean spiritual isolation, and they urged churches all over the world to review their role in society by safely ministering to, providing for, and caring for the poor, the sick, the marginalized, and the aged – especially all those who are most at risk due to COVID-19.
The General Secretaries further stated, “People in many parts of the world have become homebound these days. Being homebound does not mean that we cannot experience a deep spiritual solidarity with each other, by virtue of our baptism into the one body of Christ.”
The statement suggests praying at home, giving thanks to God for strength, healing, and courage. “We can show our love for God and our neighbour by not gathering in person for public worship,” reads the text. “Many congregations can share their worship gatherings online or digitally. Members and pastors can also stay in touch with each other and provide pastoral care by telephone.”
The novel coronavirus pandemic has reached all the regions of our planet, the text continues. “There are fear and panic, pain and suffering, doubt and misinformation, about both the virus and our response as Christians,” the text reads. “Amid stories of suffering and tragedy, there are also stories of simple kindness and extravagant love, of solidarity and the sharing of hope and peace in innovative and surprising ways.”
The General Secretaries also urged all to consider the needs of the most vulnerable people in the world. “In the midst of this grave crisis, we lift up prayers for those providing leadership and for governments around the world, urging them to give priority concern to those who live in poverty as well as to the marginalised and refugees living in our midst,” the statement concludes.
The CCA General Secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara observed, “The statement of the WCC and REO General Secretaries is timely and reminds churches around the world at this time of crisis to not be mere spectators or helpless bystanders.”
“At this crucial time when people need mutual solidarity and support, churches in Asia together with other faith communities must come forward to cooperate with governments and health workers when they struggle hard to change the trajectory of this pandemic,” urged the CCA General Secretary.