Spring 2000
Volume 4 Number 4

President Gillespie attended the service in this twelfth-century cathedral, affirming the close and lasting relationship between PTS and WARC. For though Nyomi is the first African general secretary, his tie to Princeton Seminary is not unique. "Seminaries, particularly Princeton Seminary, have had a historical commitment to WARC since the beginning in the 1870s," says Nyomi. "The relationship is important, and I want it to continue."

John Mackay and James McCord, both former presidents of the Seminary, were also presidents of WARC. William P. Thompson, a member emeritus of PTS’s Board of Trustees and former stated clerk of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church (USA), was president. And Jane Dempsey Douglass was the first woman to serve as president (featured in the winter 1996 inSpire). Many PTS alumni/ae have served and continue to serve WARC on committees, as consultants, and as ministers of Alliance churches.

But more than preserving a historical link, Nyomi hopes that the Seminary and WARC will continue to work closely together on their central mission: transformation. "Men and women who are being prepared for the ministry by seminaries are called to be instruments of transformation," says Nyomi. "WARC is committed to being an instrument of transformation. Therein lies our convergence."

Concretely, Nyomi hopes that PTS will continue to train American and international ministers to give their parishioners a global perspective on ministry, and to prepare people for ecumenical ministries.

With the theme "Breaking the Chains of Injustice," WARC’s current agenda em-phasizes unity, justice for all creation, and partnership in God’s mission. These emphases were affirmed in 1997 at WARC’s twenty-third General Council in Debrecen, Hungary.

WARC’s emphasis on global justice is not new. Among other battles, WARC churches have fought against injustice toward Native Americans in the late nineteenth century, against apartheid in South Africa, and for women’s rights.

The current theme is taken from Isaiah 58:6. "The mandate comes from the Bible," says Nyomi. "We who have been redeemed by God through faith in Christ receive this mandate. In gratitude to God we offer ourselves in service, and we join in what God is doing in our world today. We are committed to God, but stopping only at Christ would be too narrow a focus. Our looking at God must also lead us to look at God’s people. If one has closeness to God, then one is concerned about suffering people. The two must be together."

For Nyomi, this touches close to home; the chains are wrapped tightly around Africa. "I am an African Reformed Christian," he says. "And I come from a part of the world where the evils resulting from socio-economic injustices affect humanity the most. I am aware that I bring a strong sense of identification with people who struggle under all kinds of injustices in the South, the two-thirds world."

One example is the disastrous impact of the debt crisis on Nyomi’s home continent. Speaking of the effects of debt shouldered by African nations, Nyomi believes countries of the South are servicing debts that were unjustly procured. Money was often gained or used in corrupt ways. And now the poorest nations are left to service the debt, which further impoverishes them. Meanwhile people lack food, education, and sanitary living conditions. This is not an abstract economic puzzle. This is a matter of life and death.

To fight such systemic, global problems, WARC voices its concerns both to its churches and to the planet’s power brokers. With its current mandate to break the chains of injustice, the Alliance calls for specific actions by the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and national governments, among others, that WARC believes will alleviate suffering and move the world closer to socio-economic justice.

These actions include recommendations that: governments and other organizations review their actions in light of their effects on the most vulnerable countries and people; the International Monetary Fund attach humanitarian conditions to future loans; the United Nations establish international codes of conduct for transnational corporations with regard to labor standards, product safety, and environmental protection; and the global community find a comprehensive and lasting solution to the debt crisis.

WARC views these matters as much more than just a ministry or a continuation of its tradition. "The quest for economic justice touches upon the integrity of our faith as churches and as individuals," reads its statement on Reformed Faith and Economic Justice.

Thus framed, churches from the North (or "developed nations" in the northern hemisphere) stand to benefit as much from "the quest for economic justice" as churches from the South because it is not just about redistributing wealth, but a matter of "the integrity of our faith." Robert Dykstra, assistant professor of pastoral theology at the Seminary, has been a friend of Nyomi’s since they were both Ph.D. students at PTS. Asked about how churches in the North will gain from Nyomi’s appointment, Dykstra says: "Setri will bring a prophetic edge. He comes from a different world with different problems than ours. This will be helpful [to the churches of the North]. He can show us who we are by bringing us a different perspective."

Giving people the right perspective through education is precisely what Nyomi considers WARC’s most important role in this effort toward justice. The effects will have local and global impact: "After learning more about the situation, I think people will ask the basic question, ‘What does God now call us to do?’ Then we realize that we cannot stay silent, but must act. Sometimes this awareness will lead to action in local communities, for example in inner-city America. It could also lead people to rise up and demand from their powers that they cancel debts because this is a matter of life and death in places like Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. There are actions to be taken and advocacy roles to be played."


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