Message of NCCI XXVIII Quadrennial Assembly
We, the delegates from 30 Member Churches, 17 Regional Christian Councils, 17 All India Christian Organizations, 7 Related Agencies and 3 autonomous bodies gathered for the XXVIII Quadrennial Assembly of the National Council of Churches in India that met in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh India. It was hosted by Jabalpur Diocese of Church of North India from 27-30 April 2016, deliberating on the theme “Towards Just and Inclusive Communities”.
The cry for Justice and Inclusivity arises from the context of socio-political, economic, cultural and other challenges in the country. Lack of social protection undermines the spirit of inclusive society. A vast majority of people in our society have no ability to raise voices to express their opinion on how the societies they live in, should run. One gets the impression that the present Government of India has the agenda of making the whole country a Hindu nation in which the adherents of minority religions are marginalized. It is a great threat to the democratic values of our country. Unfortunately, this traditionally peace-loving country is plagued by communal problems. Even food culture has been violated in the name of religion. Exclusive marginalisation continues on an increasing scale; various sectors in the society keep on being victimized because of such marginalization. It is a negative impact which hinders growth. In the cries and struggles of the marginalized for justice, there is hope for the realization of inclusive communities within the Church and society.
Today, Injustice and Exclusiveness have become the bleeding wounds of all creation. There is suffering, darkness and hopelessness all around. It is against the very act of creation which bears witness to God’s loving and creative inclusion. This creator God loves all without discrimination (Matt 5:44-45). The original vision of harmonious relationship between God-Humans-Nature needs to be reaffirmed, reconciled and restored.
In the emerging global order there is rising economic and social inequality. God’s creation is groaning under the pressure of greed, selfishness and endless pursuits of affluence by a miniscule minority of the human race, based on exploitation of nature and human race, meant to meet the basic needs of all the creatures of the world.
The keynote address delivered at the Quadrennial Assembly highlighted that there is a cross in every resurrection, and raised the question “Is there a resurrection in every cross?” in the context of the myriad sufferings in the world. Human beings tend to be so overwhelmed by their sufferings that they do not discern the resurrection hope in suffering. We have to experience the cross and the resurrection.
The phenomena of injustice in the world also leads to the sin of exclusivity. However, God who has created us diverse and unique, upholds the principle of inclusivity. Diversity should be celebrated and respected, leading to integration of all creation. Jesus, in the prayer for his disciples (Jn. 17:21) asked God that “they may be all one” crossing all barriers of culture and tradition. We should have the same concern for our co-creation. Human beings should likewise break down all dividing walls of injustice and hostility. In the conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4, Jesus challenges all of us to break the walls of ethnicity, caste, class and gender, so that we all become one in God. Bearing the image of God, we are all called to review and renew our relationship with one another based as the principle of justice and peace.
The contemporary context challenges churches in India and the ecumenical movements to review their present mission paradigms. They would have to collectively discern the signs of the times, identify the needs and challenges of creation, critically examine their diaconal engagements, and commit themselves to relevant, liberative, just and inclusive expressions of the Gospel.
In the Indian context, the church needs to urgently respond by seriously reflecting on the following:
- Remembering Christ in all walks of life;
- Revisiting Hospitality to establish Inclusive communities;
- Reaffirming Life for Justice.
Specific issues based on Biblical reflection in the Indian Context
Life gives opportunity to identify and to name the spaces of injustice and exclusion. Death does not allow us to recognize and to name. Jesus has given us life in abundance, which gives us power to name and recognize the problems/issues/concerns for leading abundant life.
We have found the way towards resurrection and hope, but we are not ready to participate in the journey …. The Church needs to mend its ways so that it can participate responsibly in God’s Redeeming Work. Failure to mend leads to being vulnerable to marginalization and consequent victimization in society.
Following are the areas of mending which the church needs to reconsider for action:
- Jesus said, ‘the Kingdom of God belongs to children… those accepting little ones accept the Kingdom of God’. Regrettably, though children hold kingdom values, homes / churches / societies do not give them space in the mainstream of life. The children of our land are asking for space and recognition in our homes, churches, and societies.
- Jesus as a dynamic youth, actively participated in the church and society of his time. Today youth of the church are in need of being inspired by the life and witness of Jesus for active participation.
- Theologies of lives affirm the importance of holistic fellowship. Hence there is the need to cross diverse margins and to meet, interact, mutually edify and challenge.
- Jesus, even in the moment of betrayal and death, washed the feet of his disciples. A similar principle and practice is evident in the people’s Diakonia. The Church needs to adopt this service model of Jesus in its ministry.
- Acts 8 talks about the Ethiopian eunuch entering the fellowship of believers through baptism. The church should be concerned about including people with sexual diversities to complement the mission of God.
- The Nazareth Manifesto is a prophetic call of Jesus to work with the ignored, rejected and broken people in the society. Dalits and tribals should constitute the main mission concern of the Church; they should not be relegated to the sub-mission of the Church.
- Jesus used relevant modes of communication to preach and motivate. Today the church needs to reconsider its communication for promoting life and dignity for everyone.
- The birth, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus remind us of the role of women in his life. Jesus encouraged and motivated a woman to be an apostle to the apostles. In the light of Jesus’ example, the Church is challenged to respond to women / gender issues sensitively and responsibly.
- Being aware of his civil rights as a citizen, Jesus addressed civil and political issues of his time. Therefore, individuals and Churches need to be encouraged to participate in the democratization process in our country that helps to deepen social political and economic democracy at the grassroots.
- John 15 highlights that ‘through Jesus all the branches are connected to bear fruit’. The disabled too are branches and are rightfully members of the body of Christ that bears fruit. The church needs to recognize this vital relationship.
A Call to…
- Being an ecumenical space for all the orthodox and protestant churches and ecumenical movements in India, it needs to facilitate stronger relationships among member churches and all Christian communities at large.
- To promote Just and Inclusive communities which practise Christian values and ethos.
- To engage in protecting the constitutional values of the Republic of India.
- To get rid of practices of injustice and exclusion, and to extricate its mission from aligning with financial and political powers, and to purge itself of corrupt religious and socio-economic systems and structures. Hence we will have to practice and promote caste-free, classless, gender-equal churches as just and inclusive communities.
- To restore the beauty and integrity of God’s creation.
- To cease practicing exclusiveness in our day to day life, to repent and to seek forgiveness from God and all creation.
- To seek the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, to stand firmly for the values of Justice and equality.
- To bear witness like Christ in suffering and to be committed to fullness of life.