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World’s Population and the Church’s Response

The creation of the world out of chaos into order is the initial biblical witness. In this witness is the affirmation of the freedom and responsibility of humankind. We affirm God to be the Creator, the one who grants us freedom, and the one to whom we are responsible.

God's ongoing creative and re-creative concern for the universe was expressed through Jesus Christ, who has called us to find the meaning of our lives in dual love of God and neighbor. In this context, we live responsibly before God, writing history by the actions of our lives. The imperative for the individual Christian and the Christian community is to seek patterns of life, shape the structures of society, and foster those values that will dignify human life for all.

We are living in an age of possibility in which we are called under God to serve the future with hope and confidence. Christians have no alternative to involvement in seeking solutions for the great and complex set of problems facing the world today. These issues are: hunger, poverty, disease, lack of potable water, denial of human rights, economic and environmental exploitation, overconsumption, technologies that are inadequate or inappropriate, rapid depletion of resources, and continuing growth of population. None can be addressed in.

Nor can hunger, poverty, disease, injustice, and violence in the world be simplistically blamed on population growth. The rapidly swelling numbers of people, however makes addressing these issues more challenging. The world's population is estimated to reach 9.2 billion by 2050, with the least developed countries having the highest fertility and population growth. The populations of those nations are expected to triple in the next 50 years, from 600 million to 1.8 billion. With each passing day we are discovering more and more connections between population and with sustainable development. As the population grows, it has an obvious impact on land use, water consumption, and air quality. Communities are called to be responsible stewards of all these resources. How can we protect God's gift of the natural environment and at the same time provide a place of sustainability for humans?

The high rates of malaria and HIV/AIDS diminish life for many of God's children. According to UNAIDS, it is predicted that by 2010 more than 80 million persons will have contracted the AIDS virus. And today malaria is found throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world and causes more than 300 million acute illnesses and at least one million deaths annually. (World Health Organization, 2001-2010 UN Decade to Roll Back Malaria)

Gender inequality in parts of the world exacerbates these complex issues. We know that in many nations, women are considered property and lack basic human rights such as protection under the law and access to education, housing, and jobs. Women compromise 70 percent of the world's poor and many are captives (knowingly or unknowingly) within patriarchal structures, policies, and practices.

We also recognize the growing numbers of elderly in the world's population. Many of them are among the world's most poor. According to the United Nations Population Fund, there are almost 400 million people over the age of 60 in the developing world, and the majority are women. While just 8 percent of persons in developing countries today are older than 60, the proportion will jump to 20 percent in the next 50 years. As communities engage in sustainable development, it will be important for the needs of the aging to be considered, such as economic sustenance, health care, housing, and nutrition. We must also insure the elimination of violence against older persons and provide support and care for the many elderly who are caring for their children and grandchildren, including those affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

As people of faith, we are called to educate ourselves about the interconnectedness of life's critical concerns and live as responsible stewards. The church can address these complex population-relatedissues on several fronts. We call on United Methodists to:

  1. access educational opportunities that focus on the issues of population and its inter-relatedness to other critical issues such as poverty, disease, hunger, environment, injustice, and violence, and to promote these opportunities in the local church;
  2. urge that the United Methodist medical and mission facilities and programs provide a full range of reproductive health and family planning information;
  3. take the lead in upgrading the status of women in societies and include women in all development planning and processes. One such action would be advocating for the United States to ratify the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment;
  4. implement programs within The United Methodist Church that provide and/or enhance educational opportunities for girls and women, making it possible for them to achievelevels of self-sufficiency and well-being;
  5. call upon governments to give high priority to addressing the malaria crisis and HIV/AIDS pandemic and urge adequate funding to eradicate and prevent these diseases;
  6. call on the US Congress and legislative bodies of the developed nations to recognize the crucial nature of population growth and to give maximum feasible funding to programs of population, environment, health, agriculture, and other technological-assistance programs for developing nations. International assistance programs should be based on mutual cooperation, should recognize the diversities of culture, should encourage self-development and not dependency, and should not require "effective population programs" as a prerequisite for other developmental assistance;
  7. call on governments and private organizations to place a high priority on research aimed at developing a range of safe, inexpensive contraceptives that can be used in a variety of societies and medical situations. Promote greater understanding of attitudes, motivations, and social and economic factors affecting childbearing; and
  8. call on governments to implement systems of social insurance and support for older persons to ensure adequate economic sustenance and housing, and quality health care and nutrition.

ADOPTED 2004
RESOLUTION #159, 2004 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS

See Social Principles, ¶ 162K.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2008. Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

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