THE World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one Eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, ‘so that the world may believe’ (John 17:21)
Ecumenism started among protestant churches in the 1800s with a purpose of unity among denominations. Some say the ultimate goal is a Universal Church which others doubt. I think it is a movement that tries to respond to the concerns of Christians living within the demands of a moral society with all its ills and challenges.
The Baguio Benguet Ecumenical Group (BBEG) started as a gathering of mainline Protestant churches with Bishop Joel Pachao of the Episcopal Diocese of North Central Luzon (EDNCP) as the President. It has moved on from then and included the Roman Catholic Church and independent churches. However, this coming year, BBEG will be missing Bishop Carlito Cenzon as he leaves the Diocese. It is noticeable that the Bishop has been an active part of the movement in response to social issues affecting the Baguio Benguet communities.
Years ago, I was asked to talk in churches because some do not see a response to social issues as a ministry or a mandate. But because of my training and experience in community development and cross culture missions, I have come to the commitment of making others come to a realization that response to social issues is a Christian duty and ministry. Some churches believed that is secular and they are only to deal with the spiritual needs of their congregation. But that is no longer the case here.
Through the years the churches joined others and stood against gambling – legal or illegal - and won. But these recent years, the advocates seem to have lost as we see gambling of various forms in Baguio and Benguet.
In imperialistic Manila, protest has been raised over the Libingan ng Bayani burial of the past President Ferdinand Marcos. People’s views are differing and clash of ideas have been aired, but the will of the “persons that be” are supreme, and this is the Philippines where justice is short of supply.
In the land of the free and home of the brave, we see the massive support being gathered by the Standing Rock Sioux protestors; it has become a movement to stop an imminent future danger to the people and their environment. People from all over have come to camp out with them in solidarity against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, a $3.7 Billion investment to move 477,000 barrels of domestic crude oil through four states. This has become a catalyst of bringing together all sorts of people supporting the protection of ancestral land and tradition as well as the environment and Mother Earth. Most recently is a call of US Veterans to march on towards the protest lines. This will make them face to face with other peace keeping forces that are pushing for the project. It is a scenario where those who fought for the country are pitted against those fighting for the country.
These present day occurrences are the willingness of people to converge and support each other towards a worthy cause – be it a religious, environmental, cultural or otherwise. There is a central idea which captures the hearts and mind of people towards a better future. Many times these movements suffer set back because of the danger that overtakes their cause, even the sacrifice of work, limbs and life. Our country is on the verge of another political and financial upheaval, we seek God’s mercy and grace.
Let the voice of the people be heard, and the movements accomplish their purposes.