The World Alliance of Reformed Churches elucidated its earlier statement about condom use, upon the concerns of several of its members, August 10, 2004. In an earlier statement, the delegates to the WARC general council on Accra, Ghana, said the church should not shy away from encouraging the use of condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Condom use and the Christian faith has always been several leagues apart; some fundamentalist Christian groups and catholic charity groups refuse to fund any form of condom-based program to fight AIDS. As expected, the more conservative Reformed denominations expressed their concerns over the recommendation encouraging the WARC to get its member churches to affirm that contraceptive use is not sinful. That recommendation, the members said, may in fact encourage promiscuity through the use of condoms.
In response, however, Rose Teteki Abbey of Ghana explained why condoms had to be accepted.
Too many churches are silent on this subject. I dont think we should leave our women alone on this. Abstinence, being faithful and condoms are all important. If people were following the first two, we wouldnt need the third, said Abbey.
Meanwhile, the council passed several other recommendations to its executive and general secretary, recommendations that will stand as the priority for the councils work until the next international meeting in 2011.
One of the recommendations was one that is even more controversial than condoms: include the rights of homosexuals in its justice works. The recommendation was highly criticized by more evangelical reformed groups who rightly mentioned the difficulties such a statement would pose on the Alliances further work on evangelistic and interfaith efforts.
It will be very difficult to share the gospel with Muslims, said Istafanus Bala Bahago of Nigeria.
Several members of the WARC, including the United Churches of Christ, already support the full inclusion and ordination of open and active homosexuals to their church. Such policies have received widespread criticism from more conservative Christian groups who uphold the biblical condemnation of homosexuality as sin.
One of the moderators of the sessions, Peter Holtrop, was among those in support of such a recommendation.
While sexual orientation is still an issue where there is no consensus within WARC, there have been some statements on human rights for gays and lesbians, said Holtrop.
Holtrops home country, the Netherlands, is among the most liberal in the world. Homosexual marriage has already been legalized in the nation and since then, marriage rates in general have shot down and co-habitation rates have shot up. Many conservatives view Netherlands as the prime example of a country where the legalization of homosexual marriage has lowered the value of the institution of marriage itself.
In other recommendations, the council called on the executives to work on the covenanting process on economic and ecological justice, gender justice and peace.
Programmes need to be geared not just to conferences, papers or events but also to building an ongoing impact with other partners around those concerns, the council said in receiving the report of the policy committee.
Meanwhile, in relation to a more internal recommendation, delegates called on the WARC to strengthen its calls to receive annual membership dues from its member churches. The recommendation to the executive calls on WARC leaders to contact churches that are not paying. Treasurer William McComish encouraged members to try and pay something, no matter how small.
We are not going to exclude anyone because of the lack of financial resources but some major churches could pay more and are not, he said.