The churches often faced the challenges in the Covid pandemic together, in greater ecumenical collaboration than ever before. That was as true of national responses as local, and one of the fruits was closer ecumenical relationships. Will the same be true as we face this new, unexpected, challenge of European (and global) political instability? The tectonic plates of global security are shifting, and we feel that in the ‘earthquakes’ of sanctions, rising prices, and anxiety about a possible new European, or even, world war.
We had not paid too much attention to this, even as Covid receded, until President Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. The signs were there, of course (small tremors before the destructive earthquake) in the Russian annexation of Crimea, but recent events in the West have served to embolden Putin and strengthen his sense that he was right, and could succeed, creating a much more unpredictable and dangerous world.
All of this is serious for the church. How far should we embrace the need for conflict? What should our message be in the debate about constraining Putin? Political theology has become the most urgent of theologies.
The impact of this war in Ukraine has profound implications for migrants and refugees. Churches have already spoken with a common voice to call for greater compassion in the UK government’s policies. Global food security is challenged, and we work best in response when we do so ecumenically, as witnessed by the work of Christian Aid. It also impacts the climate crisis: the churches spoke with the same voice last year as we contributed to COP26, and that global crisis will become even more urgent, and we need to ask if that voice remains as strong.
It seems almost certain that prices for food will rise. For those already in food and energy poverty, that will bring destitution, including for many in Britain. Here annual energy costs of almost £3,000 a year and increased food and transport prices are making living costs impossible to meet for more and more people. Churches have already been at the forefront of addressing food poverty through the provision of foodbanks, and that need will grow more urgent. And we will need more imaginative ways of working ecumenically to share the burden and care for the most vulnerable.
And throughout it all the churches pray, act in compassion, comfort the anxious and are a prophetic witness to the kingdom rule of Christ. We do all of that best if we do so together. Our response to a fractured world is a more united church; our response must be ecumenical.