Past and Present, The Church Speaks on Economic Matters and New Challenges

Appendix B

1.  Vocation is a lifelong response to God in all aspects of one’s life. Work, paid and unpaid, is an integral part of the believer’s response to God’s call. One’s vocation may include multiple careers, volunteer opportunities, and should involve continual spiritual growth in every step of the life-journey to which God calls us.

2.  The social policy of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should seek to change work from a burden to a glad and collaborative response to Jesus’ transformative life and work of redemption. Such good work contributes to the creation as well as to the economy, by providing not only the means for subsistence, but also a way to honor human dignity and participate in community life.

3.  The church must seek to become a model employer by providing workers with adequate compensation, meaningful opportunities for participation in decision making, leisure time in which to participate in family and community life, and by developing a “. . . reasonable relationship between the highest and the lowest salaries paid to all church employees.”

4.  The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should provide educational materials so that its members can become informed voters and advocates for economic policies that will serve to alleviate poverty, empower marginalized groups, and generate environmentally sustainable economic growth around the world.

5.  All sectors of society—including labor, management, and government—must be engaged in the task of economic renewal of our life together. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should play a significant role as a catalyst for conversation among these sectors.

6.  The social safety net that supports individuals, families, and communities suffering from economic dislocation must link both private voluntary agencies and the public sector. The church alone cannot provide an adequate safety net.

7.  The foundation upon which all just employment policies are built is access to employment at a level of compensation that allows people to live in dignity and security. In a market economy, the private sector provides the majority of jobs, supported by local, state, and federal government policies designed to ensure that there is sufficient employment for all willing and able to be in paid employment. The cost of such policies must always be weighed against the cost to society of allowing high levels of unemployment or underemployment.

8.  Inequalities in compensation and working conditions demand the strictest scrutiny.  As our workforce becomes increasingly diverse, these concerns become even more urgent.  Employment for persons who have suffered the injustices of prejudice and bias is the object of laws requiring affirmative action….

9.  All conditions of paid employment, including compensation and working conditions, should sustain and nurture the dignity of individuals, the well-being of households and families, the social cohesiveness of communities, and the integrity of the global environment.

10.  Justice demands that social institutions guarantee all persons the opportunity to participate actively in economic decision making that affects them. All workers—including undocumented, migrant, and farm workers—have the right to choose to organize for the purposes of collective bargaining.

11.  Domestic economic policies should be judged in the light of their effect on the most vulnerable groups of people in the society, including racial ethnic and national minorities, women, older and younger people, and persons with disabilities.

12.  International economic policies should be judged in the light of their ability to raise the standard of living of the world’s most vulnerable groups, the human rights of workers, as well as of their effects on the global environment.

Chris Iosso is the coordinator of ACSWP and editor of Unbound. He is only now grad­u­at­ing to cyber­space, hav­ing been ordained (Eliz­a­beth Pres­bytery), inducted into Gen­eral Assem­bly Mis­sion Coun­cil ser­vice in NYC, and edu­cated (Johns Hopkins—BA, Princeton—Mdiv, and Union—PhD, Sem­i­nar­ies) in the print dis­pen­sa­tion. After serv­ing as a pas­tor and par­ent of three in Westch­ester County, NY, he returned to the new GAMC as Coor­di­na­tor of ACSWP. He is mar­ried to pas­tor Robin Hogle. Beyond books, he enjoys run­ning, kayak­ing and soccer.
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[1] Minutes of the 218th General Assembly (2008) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), (hereafter simply “Minutes, 2008”).  Minutes since 2006 are also found on-line in the searchable data-base of Assembly actions called,, organized by the Committees working on given topics prior to plenary action.

[2] Andre Bieler, The Social and Economic Thought of John Calvin (World Council of Churches, 2006).

[3] Hall, Cameron and Ward, Dudley, eds. Series: Ethics and Economic Life, New York: Harper Bros., 1947-1965. This series included a popular summary: Caterer, Douglas, Ethics in a Business Society, New York: Harper Bros., 1965.

[4] 1979, Minutes, Part I, pp. 250-255, 257.

[5] 1972, Minutes, Part I, pp. 58, 198, 658. 1982, Minutes, Part I, “Resolution on Military-Related Investment Guidelines,” pp. 261-264. 1984, Minutes, Part I, “Study of Divestments,” p. 59, and “Mission Responsibility through Investment,” p. 178. 1985, Minutes, Part I, “Divestment for South Africa: An Investment in Hope,” pp. 209-232.

[6] In 1976, the PCUS developed its corporate responsibility program which began to coordinate with the UPC committee as the 1983 reunion approached.

[7] This Report includes significant debate among high level corporate executives and critics of their “global reach” from the US and overseas, and provides a solid analysis of “The Church in Economic Affairs” that frames the institutionalization of justice tactics in the 1970s. 1983, Minutes, Part I, pp. 94, 116, 208.

[8] Among its fine annexes are papers by Jane Dempsey Douglass (“Calvin’s Relation to Social and Economic Change”), John C. Bennett (“Protestantism and Corporations: Reflections on the Ecumenical Teaching of the Church”), and James Kuhn (“The Emergence of the Transnational Corporation”).

[9] The 1972 and 1974 citations are found on pp. 13-14 of Economic Justice Within Environmental Limits, Church & Society, September-October, 1976.

[10] The proposed dialogue was to be organized in five sections, with contrasting readings provided on each topic, including a section on “global interdependence” introducing the United Nations’ initiatives toward a “New International Economic Order.”

[11] The statement was to contain “(1) a theology of economic justice from a specifically biblical perspective, (2) a critical analysis of economic systems such as capitalism and socialism, (3) a theological and ethical appraisal of economic choices… (4) a discussion of the global context …, with special attention given to transnational corporations, a more equitable international economic order, and the relationship between economics and environmental concerns worldwide.” See 1984, Minutes, “Committee on a Just Political Economy,” pp. 61-2, 355, 361.

[12] While copies went to every minister in the denomination, it was reportedly used in approximately 75 congregation and presbytery gatherings. Participants in the Teleconference (styled, a Presbyterian “Town Meeting”) returned 911 questionnaires largely appreciative of the venture, though concentrating on general affirmations of the need for full employment and the perception that military spending was “too high.”

[13]  Specific note of the two environmental policies is made on p. 11 of the printed report. The expert work of two economists, chair James W. Kuhn and task force member, Gordon K. Douglass, and the eco-justice contribution of William Gibson, should be particularly noted on this project.

[14] Examples of this would be the proposal of a different set of criteria for “structural adjustment” by the IMF, a critique of “free trade,” and the recommendation (adopted) that the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy continue to monitor trade and aid policies.

[16] 1977, Minutes, Part I, pp. 34, 114, 232.

[17] Just Globalization, which originally contained a recommendation for a study of taxation, was approved by the Assembly, simply to: “express continuing concern for social inequities in the current U.S. income tax system and support equity-based reforms…” The 2008 Social Creed calls for “tax and budget policies that reduce disparities between rich and poor, strengthen democracy, and provide greater opportunity for everyone within the common good.”

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