“We are in the midst of four pandemics, and they are intertwined. The COVID pandemic has revealed more vividly the pandemics of economic injustice, racism, and climate change,” said Cynthia Moe-Lobeda in her presentation to the 2020 GEM School. “This could be the gateway to far more compassionate, just, and ecologically sane ways of structuring our life together in God’s good garden earth.”

The opening public panel for the 2020 GEM School, held virtually on 20 August, addressed “the economy of life in a time of inequality, pandemic, and climate change” through presentations by Moe-Lobeda and Allan Boesak.

“There is a strange contradiction with this COVID [pandemic] that it has exposed in a merciless and fairly ruthless fashion all of the long existing inequalities entrenched in our societies,” said Boesak. “But COVID also offers us a situation where we can say, now that we know this, now that it is thrown in our faces, now we have to do something about it.”

The 2020 GEM School itself is living with the contradictions of the pandemic. A few dozens students usually attend the school, but with it moving online this year, hundreds more are able to take advantage, attending several public panels. Two more public panels, on the Zacchaeus Tax Campaign and interfaith perspectives, are planned.

Moe-Lobeda began with a reading of the signs of the times, making three points: 1) “we are not all in this the same way,” 2) “these four pandemics—economic violence, racial violence, ecological violence, and COVID violence—are intricately related,” and 3) “all four pandemics reveal with raw and searing force, the deadly fault lines of the present economic order.”

She then presented “four conclusions on embodying Christ’s love in the midst of these intertwining pandemics:”

  1. Seeking to address one of these pandemics without attention to the others is dangerous.
  2. The four pandemics converge in a holy calling to radical economic restructuring.
  3. This face of Christ’s love, the movement toward more equitable and ecological forms of life, is not an impossible dream.
  4. Religion has a crucial role to play. Religious communities can insist that economic and financial policies and practices are moral matters because they determine human’s relationships with others and creation.

“Our call to truth telling calls for revealing and seeing more clearly the social economic realities that have been concealed by lie, demonstrating that more equitable and ecological economies are possible and are in the making, clinging fervently to the true promise that the God of life ultimately will gain fullness of life for all, and that this God empowers humans to be God’s hands and feet in that sacred work,” she concluded.

Boesak built on the concept of global apartheid—“which includes socio-economic exploitation and inequalities, political and social exclusion, racial and ethnic discrimination, as well as gender injustice and heteronormative oppression”—and said, “Our response as churches and Christians, therefore, is not simply to a crisis, but to the whole complex of crises upon us today.”

He offered the Accra Confession as a “solid ground to return to in the … efforts to respond, and to help our churches respond to the multiple crises we are facing. But the urgency is fierce. …Every injustice inflicted upon God’s children, is a wound inflicted upon God. In doing deeds of justice we are then not only healing God’s wounded children, we are healing the wounds of God.”

“Spiritual empowerment, encouragement, and comfort remain as a given for the church, but offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ are for unimaginative politicians who have run out of platitudes,” he said, in calling the churches to action. “We should find ways to join the ongoing revolution. The power and destruction of imperialism and the revolt against it is not a Scylla and Charybdis through which the church must try to sail safely. It is a choice we have to make.  And we should remember: ‘Many are called, but few are chosen. But the chosen shall be known by their choices.’”

Moe-Lobeda teaches social and theological ethics at Pacific Lutheran University. Boesak is a black theologian, liberationist, and anti-apartheid activist.

The Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management (GEM) for an Economy of Life is a joint initiative of the Council for World Mission, Lutheran World Federation, World Communion of Reformed Churches, and World Council of Churches.

The GEM School aims to build economic literacy within churches by equipping participants with the tools and languages to effectively advocate for urgent transformations in the global financial and economic realm.