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Eco-Justice Resolutions
from the Episcopal Church

Renew and Strengthen Economic Justice Ministry

Final Resolution from the
76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA, July 2009

Resolution C049: Renew and Strengthen Economic Justice Ministry

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention direct the Executive Council to develop a strategic plan with clear designation of authority and accountability to address issues of domestic economic justice and report back to the 77th General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, that the General Convention urge each Episcopal Congregation to build relationships with and among the marginalized of their community as well as form local partnerships with agenices that work with low income people; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention urge each Episcopal congregation to begin or continue to engage in the traditional acts of mercy in which many congregations and Jubilee Centers participate: food pantries, clothing closets, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other programs; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention continue and deepen its advocacy and shall urge dioceses and congregations (often in concert with the Episcopal Public Policy Network) to advocate for legislation that provides adequate levels of support and opportunities for low income people; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention urge dioceses and congregations to promote and participate in church-based community organizing whereby people of the local community exercise the power of numbers and conviction to bring their needs to the attention of and promote effective action by elected officials and governmental bodies; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention support and participate and shall urge dioceses and congregations to support and participate in various models through which low income people and their co-workers can take control of their own lives and meet their own needs: models such as community development corporations, housing corporations and co-ops, small business development, and land trusts; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention encourage at every level loans and deposits to community development financial institutions (community loan funds, community development banks and credit unions, and micro-loan business funds) to support local community development.


Proposer: Diocese of Michigan

EXPLANATION

The Diocese of Michigan led the way in 1988 in response to a call from the House of Bishops in their paper "Economic Justice and the Christian Conscience" (published in October, 1987) for a fundamental reordering of human values "if we are to have any hope of challenging society's present enchantment with overweaning individualism, human avarice and social irresponsibility." They went on to say that

The moral imperative for Christians is not so much to offer simple answers to the paradox of a prosperity that generates poverty but rather to seek understanding of how the growth and extent of such poverty constitutes both a moral contradiction and a systemic social flaw that serves to undermine the very prosperity which helped create it. The special challenge to Christians is to commit themselves to a process of informing the conscience of society at large about this paradox and to suggest a variety of ways by which individual Christians in their personal activity and their church in its corporate life can witness.

On the basis of this statement the House of Bishops voted to encourage dioceses to bring forward to the General Convention of 1988 resolutions for action on economic justice.

The Diocese of Michigan brought the resolution "Taking Action for Economic Justice" to the 1988 General Convention in Detroit, significantly impacting the justice ministry of the Episcopal Church. The resolution was passed by the Convention and many dioceses and parishes took up the banner. Some started community loan funds and credit unions or placed money in already existing investment vehicles. Others created housing development corporations to create low income housing throughout the country. Still others created business incubators and micro-enterprise funds for small business development.
As congregations and dioceses adopted this program, the program itself broadened in scope: Church people involved in service ministries to the poor were often called to an advocacy ministry: to join their voices to those of the poor to demand increased and more effective government and agency services. Congregations joined church-based community organizations through which neighborhood people developed the power to improve their neighborhoods and the services the government provides to them.

In doing this ministry participants discovered that community investment and community development were not as easy as they sounded. They learned that they also needed public support and they needed to do serious advocacy with state and national governments to get that support. They needed to overcome divisions based on race, class, ethnicity, urban, suburban and rural differences. They needed to reach for new levels of cooperation and collaboration. In 1996 they founded the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice to provide the technical assistance and support economic justice ministry.

Recently a call was raised for a revised and strengthened economic justice proposal to respond to the pervasive economic crisis, moral contradictions and systemic social flaws we are experiencing 20 years later. Changes in the world economy are changing the way we do business. Despite rising productivity the wages of working people have not risen in real terms for more than 20 years. Factories and businesses have moved overseas, contributing to an untenable unemployment rate here at home. The safety net that was designed to provide lower income people with basic necessities while they prepared to join or rejoin the work-force has been seriously weakened. The mortgage foreclosure crisis has deeply challenged the recent trend of irresponsible lending and borrowing to offset the lack of income. Many are squeezed by a financial crisis that includes both decreases in income and increases in prices.

The Episcopal Network for Economic Justice (ENEJ) asks the Episcopal Church to enact a new economic justice resolution appropriate to this decade. A background paper Twenty Years Later, recognizes the complexity of the current economic crisis. It describes seven current trends, each with serious ethical implications, that affect all of us: globalization of the economy, transnational corporations with limited local or national accountability, the Iraq/Afghanistan wars and the rise in militarization, immigration, environmental degradation, global warming and energy needs, the reduction of government services, the rise in poverty and the reduction of moderate and middle class income and wealth. The document calls upon the Church to respond both with its prophetic voice and with its action to the deepening economic crisis in which our nation and our world find themselves. The Church may be the only institution that can credibly challenge economic policies which are based solely on market solutions without consideration of the human and environmental costs of our decisions.

Original text available here
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The EpEN is a national network of active lay and clergy persons within the Episcopal Church, USA, who share a common concern for the environment and a common belief in the presence of God in all Creation and who work to make these concerns and beliefs known throughout all Provinces and Dioceses within the church. Members come from around the Episcopal Church USA. The activities of the EpEN are focused on the areas of Reflection, Education, and Action. 

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