Being "Members One of Another" - The Practical Implications

May 1, 2000

Globalization was a recurring concern at the recent meeting of Primates of the Anglican Communion. One after another our Anglican brothers spoke of the hardships of globalization perpetrated upon the 2/3's world by the West, of which the United States is seen as the particular symbol and active agent.

What is globalization? "Essentially, it is the development of a world market for the benefit of a select few. The decisions to extend the economic sphere beyond national borders, with the attendant economic and cultural upheavals, are taken by powers whose existence we respect but cannot easily identify. This raises ethical questions on the lack of transparency, of justice and of respect for the individual," writes Philippe L'écrivain, S. J. Put more simply, globalization can be understood as a form of domination whereby others are made to bear the burden of our greed, consumerism and unquestioned belief that economic growth is a self-evident good.

Almost everything I wear these days, while bearing an American label, has been assembled often under appalling working conditions in some part of the world rife with poverty. Why? Because it is cheaper for many American companies to export work that was formerly done in the United States. The result is, of course, greater profits for "the select few."

While it may be argued that such is the inevitable consequence of the interactions between the developed and developing parts of our world, the consumption and wealth which we, in this country, look upon as our natural right is out of all proportion to the poverty and deprivation in other parts of the world. Arable land in Ecuador is acquired by Northern interests to provide space for vast greenhouses in which roses are grown for florists in the United States. Meanwhile, the native peoples are relegated to the already eroded hillsides to engage in subsistence farming.

The destruction of rural life and culture in many parts of the world is also a consequence of globalization, bringing with it new forms of poverty: a poverty of soul as well as the body. Religious sects promising release from privation and an abundant future are on the rise in Africa - in many instances financed from the United States. A militant form of Islam is also growing, and promises to stem the influence and power of the West, which is represented by Western Christianity. How are Anglicans to respond? One African primate, said that it is not enough simply to preach the gospel, but that the church must also be able to address the cultural upheavals and dislocations his country is experiencing, not least of which are the drastic, and not fully acknowledged, consequences to family life caused by AIDS.

Because of our rapacious hungers as a nation "this fragile earth, our island home" becomes more fragile day by day. Natural resources elsewhere are depleted in order that we might have the goods we yearn for, often not out of a genuine need, but because they are part of a style of living, an image of well-being and success, that we have been told we ought to have or that we deserve.

One of the ways the evil one works most effectively is to keep us unaware, unquestioning, in thrall to cycles of behavior that keep us fixed upon ourselves and our own self-interest, which is perceived as a natural right and therefore an unquestioned good. A great gift of the Anglican Communion is that it makes each of its 38 provinces (national churches) part of something larger: a vast web of relationships that helps us to overcome our parochialism and nationalistic perspectives, and grasp the fact that we are "members one of another" - not just as members of the Episcopal Church but across the world, our global village.

The faith we proclaim invites us to see all as gift rather than possession. Our faith calls us to give away rather than clutch and cling. Christ invites us to stretch our imagination and open our hearts to the "least," the stranger, the other who is a sacrament of Christ's real presence. We are obliged to acknowledge that "good news" is to be proclaimed not only to all persons but "to the whole creation" which, as Paul tells us, is groaning in travail awaiting the unfoldment of its redemption along with ours.

To be a resurrection people, as we are called to be, is to undergo a renewing of our minds. As a resurrection people we experience a transformation of consciousness in order to have the mind of Christ - a mind liberated from the constraints of a narcissistic culture that thinks only of itself. Our consciousness, renewed by Christ, can embrace the profound relationships that constitute creation. We can recognize the coherence of all things in the risen Christ.

As we celebrate our resurrection in Christ, may we claim the gifts of our renewal and transformation and then truly reorder our lives and our worldly priorities in ways that acknowledge we are members one of another.

The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold
XXV Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA

Tagged in: Globalization