Pathways to Economic Justice
Growing economic inequality in the world is a challenge to the conscience of all followers of Christ. Fed by markets that value profits over people and a culture that sanctions and encourages personal greed, the increasing disparity between those who live on the economic margins and those who amass vast riches threatens to further tear the social fabric of our global community.
In a world where over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day and the richest five individuals have wealth surpassing the combined economies of the poorest 37 nations,1 the church must stand in this gap and proclaim a new economic order grounded in justice.
The church is set in a world of growing inequality. Even in the United States where there are 268 billionaires, a large percentage of all children live below the poverty line. The richest 1 percent of Americans had as much income in 1999 as the bottom 38 percent combined. In many poor countries in Africa and Asia, the poverty is deeper and the gap between rich and poor exceeds the gap that existed in life between Dives and Lazarus. In such a situation, the church must decide whether its mission to preach good news to the poor is good news only for their spiritual life or whether it is good news to the whole person.
From the beginnings of Methodism, we have always been a movement that sees the whole person, body and soul. Wesley's class meetings emphasized both acts of piety and acts of mercy. He organized and used the class meetings to support groups like sewing collectives, that helped those who didn't have much money, bring their resources together to start small businesses that would be a witness to God's abundance in the midst of poverty. The church has many opportunities to continue that witness if we make the commitment that Wesley made: every congregation not only gives to mission, but has an opportunity to use its assets for the building of a more just economy.
Drawing on the teachings of Jesus and the prophets, the writings and example of our founder John Wesley, and on an analysis of current economic conditions, we can discern pathways leading to a more just and equitable sharing of the riches which God has given us as a human family. These pathways are personal, local, and global.
Personal Pathways to Economic Justice May Include
- Support locally based businesses.
- Model sustainable living by recycline waste products and avoiding the use of disposable products.
- Buy organic, locally produced foods and/or fairly traded goods.
- Invest personal savings in stocks and mutual funds which are socially screened.
- Buy "sweat-free" clothing and other articles rather than those manufactured by child labor, sweatshop, or slave labor.
- Engage in Bible study on economic justice.
- Take part in study groups on economic issues, using materials available from general agencies and community-based organizations.
Local Paths to Economic Justice May Include
- Support local initiatives to ensure availability of moderate and low income housing.
- Support policies of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity employment.
- Open your church to house the homeless and feed the hungry.
- Commit as a congregation a tithe (10 percent) of its budget to promote economic justice and care for those living on the economic margins.
- Support full rights for farm workers, especially the right to organize and bargain collectively.
National and Global Paths to Economic Justice May Include
- Support efforts by annual conferences and Conference United Methodist Women organizations to take up at least one specific action project for economic justice in the next quadrennium.
- Make every annual conference staff racially and ethnically diverse at all levels.
- Support the right of governments to limit the international flow of capital.
- Deny Most Favored Nation Trade Status to nations which permit sweatshop, child, or slave labor, do not permit workers to organize, and do not guarantee workers a living wage by accepted international standards.
- Strengthen campaign finance reform laws that prevent corporations and special interest groups from dominating elections and the legislative process.
- Support public sector job creation to build highways, schools, and housing when the private sector is unable to provide jobs for all who need them.
- Support policies that encourage the use of renewable resources and limit the destruction of nonrenewable resources, leading to a sustainable environment.
- End the fiction that the corporation is a "person," a doctrine never envisioned by the founding fathers.
- Support Jubilee USA and Jubilee Debt Campaign through living out their spirit and principles in the life of the community.
The church has too often neglected the full call of the gospel and left economics in the hands of government and business. The kingdom of God is a form of economy that calls forth from each of us a commitment to the abundance of God in our midst. It is a call to renounce the politics of greed and acquisitiveness which dominate the institutions of government and business and reclaim their true calling in the service of people. Economy is how we order our lives, our politics, our world. It is time that we manifest gospel values in the economic order. It is after all, our calling.
- World Bank/Forbes 2007
revised and readopted 2008
resolution #208, 2004 Book of Resolutions
resolution #199, 2000 Book of Resolutions
See Social Principles, ¶ 163D and E.
From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2008. Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.