Theology and liberation forum gives Anglican participants ‘greater sense of mission’

Published April 9, 2009

(L to R): Rev. Holly Ratcliffe, pasteur Anglicane at Sorel, Quebec, Steve de Gruchy professor of Theology and Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and Maylanne Maybee, eco-justice co-ordinator of the Anglican Church of Canada’s partnerships department.

Two Anglicans who attended the Third World Forum on Theology and Liberation in January said they emerged from the meeting with a greater sense of looking at mission and transformation from within their Canadian context.

Rev. Holly Ratcliffe, a priest at the diocese of Montreal’s Sorel Mission, said she appreciated the conference’s “beginning process of reflection” where participants were asked to identify their “social location” and “what it’s calling you to do.”

Rev. Maylanne Maybee, eco-justice co-ordinator of the Anglican Church of Canada’s partnerships department, said that one of the things that struck her was that North American churches often look at how liberation theology fits in missions overseas when the same question ought to be asked within their own contexts. “How does liberation theology fit into our North American context? What do we need to do to change our lives?,” she asked. “We need to be aware of our own history in our own context.”

Liberation theology, which has roots in the Roman Catholic church in Latin America, asserts that God champions the cause of the poor and it is the duty of Christians to help fight for their rights and welfare.

Ms. Ratcliffe said that the conference helped her respond to a question that often haunts her as a priest, “How do mission and justice go together in francophone Quebec?”

The conference, held Jan. 21 to 25 in Belem, Brazil, included an expedition to Terra Firme, one of the poorest and most violent areas of the country, to visit an ecumenical project funded by six churches from different confessional traditions.

“The project is aimed at providing better medical services for the community and I thought, ‘This is what God would be doing in the local context,” said Ms. Ratcliffe. “It’s a small step with a large consequence.”

Ms. Maybee and Ms. Ratcliffe also noted an address delivered by Steve de Gruchy of the University of KwaZulu-Natal which drew a connection between the sewage system and ecological accountability.

“Our thinking about sustainability must deal with sewage because we have to live with our waste. It cannot leave the globe. It hangs around and it comes back to haunt us,” said Mr. de Guchy in his speech. “Previous civilizations may have got away with flushing the problem downstream, but in a globalized world there is no downstream, or more correctly, we all live downstream.”

The World Forum on Theology and Liberation was held in advance of the Eighth World Social Forum, a diverse gathering of non-governmental organizations “engaged in concrete actions towards a more… democratic and fair world.” To present itself as an alternative to “exploitative globalization,” the forum is usually held at the same time that global financial and political leaders convene for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.


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