GEM School: learning to advocate for economic justice

Participants at the ecumenical GEM School explore links between faith and economic justice, learning skills to advocate for a more equitable global economy. Photos: LWF/S. Kit
Participants at the ecumenical GEM School explore links between faith and economic justice, learning skills to advocate for a more equitable global economy. Photos: LWF/S. Kit

Ecumenical training program takes place in Berlin with focus on ecological and feminist economics

(LWI) - The first face-to-face GEM School (Governance, Economics and Management for an Economy of Life) held since 2019 took place in Berlin from 4 to 8 July, with a focus on ecological and feminist economics. The annual training program is part of an ecumenical initiative known as the New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) project. 

Jointly organized by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Council for World Mission (CWM), the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the World Methodist Council (WMC), the training brought together 30 participants from more than a dozen countries. They included ecumenical and church leaders, justice advocates, economic activists, pastors and theological students.

“GEM School provides us with a concrete way to learn from each other - theologians and lay people, economic experts and social advocates, multi-generationally,” said Rev. Dr Sivin Kit, LWF’s Program Executive for Public Theology and Interreligious Relations, who led morning worship on the opening day.

From left, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, Geneva Secretary of the WMC, Isabel Phiri, WCC Deputy General Secretary and Metropolitan Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East

 

“The COVID-19 pandemic underlined yet again the need for a new economic and financial architecture that meets the needs of all people regardless of class, gender, or race and sustains the whole world of creation,” said Isabel Phiri, Deputy General Secretary of the WCC. “In particular we are highlighting feminist economics and ecological economics as they are particularly critical as we reflect on how to build a different financial and economic architecture,” added Athena Peralta, WCC Program Executive for Economic and Ecological Justice.

The week-long program explores the links between faith and economic justice, equipping participants with language and technical skills to address inequalities and advocate for fairer global financial systems. Sessions included the sharing of advocacy tools such as the Zaccheus Tax campaign.

“The GEM School recognizes that our economics has to be contextual. A lot of our NIFEA work is rightly focused on providing a critique on our advocacy. We also need to see where these alternatives can take root and create change,” said Peter Cruchley, Secretary for Mission Development with the CWM. During the week, students visited the Brot für die Welt offices in Berlin, as well as two women’s advocacy organizations, Women in Exile & Friends and Respect Berlin.

Participants at the GEM School which took place in Berlin from 4 to 8 July

 

“Social holiness and personal holiness have to come together, without neglecting the hard work in the political arena to effect economic and social change,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, Geneva Secretary of the WMC. Bible studies during the week explored issues around “Land, Labour, Capital, and Technology” and “New Creation and New Earth.”

In welcoming remarks, Peter Jörgensen, of Religions for Peace Europe and a Baptist pastor in Berlin, noted that both “ecumenical” and “economic” come from the same Greek root [oikos], adding that “ecumenical” in German means a common house. “You will learn how an economy could be shaped to care for the common house so that all people can find protection and care in it, can live well in it; in other words, can lead a good life in this house that is common for all,” he said.

An economy of life is one that considers the welfare of the poor as the basic index of the economy.
Metropolitan Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East

The training began with a session on “Economic Justice at the Heart of Faith.”

“God measures societies by what they do to the poorest and marginalized in a society,” said Metropolitan Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. “An economy of life is one that considers the welfare of the poor as the basic index of the economy. It puts the sovereignty of God above those of mammon and money.”

“Ecological and economic science are always connected,” said theologian, writer and presenter Thandi Soko De Jong in her keynote address. “A central role must be given to God's Shalom. Wanton consumerism should not carry pride and prestige. The earth should thrive as we thrive. This should be our attitude towards God's creation.”

WCRC/P. Tanis 

 

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