“We’ve got big problems," says United Church of Christ Minister of Economic Justice Sekinah Hamlin in a commentary for Labor Day 2020. “We need bigger dreams.”Read more
Minister for Economic Justice
700 Prospect Ave
Cleveland, OH 44115
Repeating the word “now,” scores of people took to computer and TV screens June 20-21 instead of marching in Washington, D.C. Featured in the Poor People’s Campaign’s “digital justice gathering,” they called on America to take up an economic vision inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and “invest in the welfare of all.”Read more
The speakers in a June 9 United Church of Christ webinar said they get that some Christians feel sad and frozen in the face of today’s police violence, coronavirus and other problems – but then offered them a way to turn those emotions into action. The Poor People's Campaign's planned mass assembly on Saturday, June 20, has moved online. People can register here.Read more
Our Faith, Our Vote Issue Webinars and One-Pagers
To prepare for the 2020 elections, the United Church of Christ D.C. Office, with the help of ecumenical friends and partners, has been busy working on issue specific resources for you to use and to share with your congregations and communities! We are in the midst of a critical election year, and it is important that we consider some of these major topics and how our faith informs our vote.
We hope these videos and resources help you learn about these topics vital to the upcoming elections, allow you to view the topic through the lens of your faith, and to guide you to action.
Topic: Climate/Environmental Justice
Topic: Economic Justice
Topic: Reproductive Justice
Topic: Health Care
Topic: Racial Justice
Topic: Gun Safety
Topic: Human Rights
Paying the Price for Being Advocates for Peace: A Letter from JUSTAPAZ in Colombia
UCC 24th General Synod Resolution “Support Colombian Churches and Leaders Under Attack”
Kairos Palestine Letter “A Cry for Hope”
UCC 31st General Synod Resolution on Rights of Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation
UCC 26th General Synod Resolution “A Call for Solidarity with the Persecuted in the Philippines, and an End to Extra-Judicial Killings and other Human Rights Violations.”
COVID-19 Updates and Resources
Messages of Solidarity for Racial Justice
Global Ministries Southern Asia Initiative
Global Advocacy and Education Associate, Rebekah Choate
Topic: Voting Rights
One-Pager about Voting Rights - Coming soon!
Topic: Just Peace
Topic 11: Disabilities and Mental Health Justice
This summer, with a grant from the United Church of Christ’s Neighbors in Need offering, 24 high school students from an economically challenged Houston neighborhood learned about activism and carried out a local campaign for a $15 minimum-wage law. "It sparked something inside of me," one of the students said.Read more
As a congregation discerns whether to become an Economic Justice Church, it can be helpful to learn about some of the economic injustices that millions, even billions, of people face every day. Or, once a congregation decides to be an Economic Justice Church, it may want to explore various topics to discern the justice work it is being called to do.
This section of the Economic Justice Covenant Program is intended to give readers small amounts of important information about a number of economic justice topics. Don’t be overwhelmed. Browse through these issues and see what touches your heart, what touches the heart of the congregation. What are you being called to work on at this time?
Each topic area provides links to more resources and suggestions about ways to get involved and begin to change unjust conditions. In addition to the resources and organizations found in these links, there are probably local or state-based organizations working on these issues closer to your church. You may prefer to work close to home through these groups.
Congregational Resource: Restoring Justice and Democracy in America
What faith communities can do. A six session congregation-based educational program prepared by UCC members in the Northern California/Nevada Conference. Download.
Issues to ExplorePublic Education & Economic Justice
“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing, and does not give them their wages; who says, ‘I will build myself a spacious house with large upper rooms,’ who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar, and painting it with vermillion. Are you a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me?” says the Lord. Jeremiah 22:13-16
Scripture reveals that the struggle to achieve economic justice for all is an imperative of the Christian faith. The Bible contains many passages related to the poor and matters of economic justice. It makes clear God’s deep concern for the last, the lost, and the least. As illustrated in the Gospel stories where Jesus and the disciples feed thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread and fish (Matt 14:13-21; 15:32-38), God’s economy is a gift of grace that is not for sale in the marketplace. God’s economy of life provides abundantly for all God’s people.
We are called to share with our neighbors out of the abundance that God gives to the world. The poor and marginalized are special members of God’s community and we are called to put justice for “the least of these” at the center of the community of life and the mission of the church (Matt 25:40). The Bible tells us that rules devised to benefit some segments of society should not stand if they also disadvantage or harm the poor. “Hear this,” warns Amos (8:4) “you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land…” indicating that manipulating markets, cheating, and exploiting the poor are violations of the vision of God.
God’s envisions a world where all God’s children have everything they need to thrive, live lives of wholeness, and be the people they were created to be. To make God’s vision a reality, God calls the Church to action, to “loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6). Let us answer God’s call to be co-creators with God of a world of justice.
The General Synod has repeatedly spoken about the need for economic justice. Two Synod pronouncements are especially informative:
- Christian Faith: Economic Life and Justice [pdf 11.4 MB], approved by General Synod XVII in 1989, saw the struggle to achieve economic justice for all as an imperative of the Christian faith and made a commitment to a guaranteed national minimum income level, universal health care, full employment, affordable housing, and quality education for all.
- A Faithful Response: Calling for a More Just and Humane Direction for Economic Globalization, approved by General Synod XXIV in 2003, describes the impact of the past 25 years of “neo-liberal” economic globalization and calls for fundamental changes in the rules and institutions that shape the process of globalization.
Important resolutions include:
- Affirming Democratic Principles in an Emerging Global Economy (GS XXI, 1999) calls us to support unions, and advocate for just, democratic, participatory, and inclusive economic policies.
- For the Common Good (GS XXV, 2005) calls for fair taxes, public institutions and services, full employment, living wages, adequate income for each person, affordable housing, public transportation.
A listing of all General Synod resolutions and pronouncements that address economic issues since 1999 and selected ones before that date.
The Rev. Felicia Walker-Wilson of New York City and the Rev. James H. Hamett of Carlsbad, Calif., at the UBC/MRS-EJ meeting. UBC photo by Carmen Muhammed
Exciting, inspirational, invitational, and instructional, and interactive! That's how 110 ministers and seminarians described the gathering of United Black Christians in Birmingham, Ala., from July 11-15. The UBC meeting was held alongside the first Pastors Conference of Ministers for Racial, Social, and Economic Justice (MRS-EJ). The theme of that conference was "A Healthy Clergy for a Healthy Church." During this event, the second largest gathering of ministers in its history, the ministers led workshops and gathered with UBC for joint "Theological Reflections and Biblical Interpretation" and late night worship.
The setting of this year's MRS-EJ convocation in Birmingham "helped contextualize the event," says the Rev. Art Cribbs of San Diego. He points out that Birmingham, often referred to as "Bombingham, Alabama," remains "a stark reminder of the long, murderous contention against civil rights for black people in America." He also was moved by the statistics on Africans living with AIDS/HIV, especially with the presence of an international guest from Ghana. "It tore the depths of our souls as we realized that more than 25 million men and women in Africa will die in the coming years," he says.
The multi-cultural/multi-racial, intergenerational community of faith was graced with the presence of the Collegium and blessed with new and veteran voices, with the Late Night Worship topping the agenda for newness. It was designed to give the gathered community of faith (1) exposure to women and seminarians; (2) an alternative means of fellowship, (3) closure in community with God, (4) identifiably talented preachers, and (5) support and encouragement for new voices.
The preachers and their subjects were Rose Wright Scott, "Raise the Roof, Jesus is in the House;" the Rev. Robert Eddy, "In Everything Give Thanks;" the Rev. Francina Parrett, "To Be Determined;" and seminarian Raymond Reid, "Down but not Out."
At the UBC's Women's Luncheon, facilitated by the Rev. Felicia Walker Wilson, persons honored for their contributions in church and society were Bernice Powell Jackson, the Rev. Yvonne Delk, Edith Guffey, and the late Marilyn Adams Moore and Mary McLeod Bethune.
During the minister's business meeting, in the African tradition, the Rev. Paul Sadler was lifted up as the man of the year and the Rev. Felicia Walker-Wilson was officially crowned and named "The Reverend Queen Mother" of the Ministers for Racial, Social, and Economic Justice.
"God's Spirit was present in a powerful way in Birmingham, beachhead of the civil rights movement, when UBC gathered for worship, Bible Study, and to hear key note presentations," says Karna M. Burkeen.
For the Rev. James E. Fouther, Jr., the highlight of the MRS-EJ Pastor's Conference was the focus of the president, officers, and convention leaders on worship. "I deeply appreciated the strong connections between the lay members of the UBC, MRS-EJ, and the youth attending the Harambee event," he says.
For Yoruba Siddiq, the MRS-EJ Biennial Convocation 2000 was "an exciting, spiritual, educational, and cultural experience." As a parish nurse and a seminarian, I was inspired and energized, body, mind, and spirit, to continue my work as an advocate for a healthy Black Church and Community."
Dory Lingo of Florida was elected the UBC's12th president. Other elected officers are Charlene L. Higginbotham of Ohio, Vice-President; Ashley Ekham of North Carolina, Second Vice- President/Youth; Arleathia Crocker of Virginia, Secretary; and Charles Brown of Ohio, Treasurer. There are 278 predominantly black churches in the UCC with more than 71,000 members.
The Rev. Pamela June Anderson of Columbus, Ohio, is Vice President of UCC Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he asks them to donate money to poor Christians in Jerusalem. He writes, “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, ‘the one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little’” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).
Paul instructs the Corinthians on the importance of a “fair balance,” where no one has either too much or too little. May we have ears to truly hear Paul’s message today at a time when, in the United States and around the world, there are a few, extremely wealthy people, far too many poor, and many in the middle who are struggling to avoid sliding into poverty. As Paul said, a fair balance is needed. One person’s abundance is for another person’s need. There is plenty for all if we share. The Church is called to work for a world where there is a “fair balance” between abundance for a few and the needs of many.
As UCC advocates, we understand our responsibility to care for the poor and vulnerable. Our General Synod has spoken repeatedly on issues of economic justice, reaffirming time and again our commitment to raising and keeping people out of poverty.
Inequality -- It doesn't have to be this way
Growing inequality is not the inevitable consequence of globalization, technological change, an aging population, or anything else. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle is disappearing as a direct result of policy decisions made by policymakers in Washington, DC, and state legislatures. Read more in this Thanksgiving-themed commentary.
Learn about Economic Inequality
A Fair Balance: Reducing Inequality in the U.S. and around the World
The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and those in the middle struggle to stay there. Rising inequality is bad for all of us. A Fair Balance: Reducing Inequality in the U.S. and around the World, a new resource from JWM, explains what is happening, describes how inequality harms all of us, and outlines how to reverse this trend. A study guide facilitates group discussion and reflection.
Two short videos give excellent overviews of wealth inequality in the U.S. and globally.
Wealth Inequality in America (6 minutes, 24 seconds)
Global Wealth Inequality - What you never knew you never knew (3 minutes, 51 seconds)
Child Poverty and Inequality Resources on inequality and children from JWM.
How Inequality Hollows Out the Soul by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. "One of the well-known costs of inequality is that people withdraw from community life and are less likely to feel that they can trust others. This is partly a reflection of the way status anxiety makes us all more worried about how we are valued by others. Now that we can compare robust data for different countries, we can see not only what we knew intuitively — that inequality is divisive and socially corrosive — but that it also damages the individual psyche."
|Articles on Inequality
from the news media
In a recent article, Pulitzer-prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston powerfully illustrates our nation’s inequality. Using analyses of IRS data made by two highly-regarded economists, he first notes that in 2011, average income among the bottom 90% of taxpayers was up just $59 compared with 1966. He represents that 45-year rise of $59 as a line just one inch long. Johnston then uses this measure -- one inch representing $59 -- to compare the gains of the bottom 90% and higher-income groups.
The gains of the top 10% of taxpayers, whose incomes rose by 84% over the 45 years (up $116,071 to $254,864), is a line 163 feet long. (By illustration, this is longer than the width of a typical 8-lane freeway with an inside median.) The difference between 163 feet and one inch is quite extreme but it gets worse. The gain in average income among the top 1% (up $628,817 over the period) is line 884 feet long. The top 1% of the top 1%, whose 2011 income averaged $23.7 million (up by $18.4 million compared with 1966) would require a line nearly five miles long. All these amounts are before-tax dollars, adjusted for inflation. Over the 45 years, the average amount of tax paid by the highest-income households has also declined.
The American Dream of moving up the economic ladder through education and hard work is largely a myth. And those who are at the top reap huge rewards, not primarily due to their talent, but to the ways in which our current political process helps the rich at the expense of everyone else. We need political reform and greater equality in opportunities for education for all. More.
Inequality is bad for our national economy. In addition to moral and ethical concerns about inequality, experts now think it is also bad for the economy. Evidence is building that inequality slows economic growth and causes less stable economic expansions, that is, we can expect slower growth of the economic pie and more recessions and economic crises like the one we are still trying to recover from. Experts even suggest that narrowing the inequality gap may be more economically beneficial than other factors – like boosting trade and foreign investment – that feature prominently on the political agenda. More.
Charts Illustrating the Growth in Inequality
Growing Inequality in Income, Wealth, and Life Expectancy [pdf 552 KB], charts compiled by Edith Rasell, JWM's Minister for Economic
A Prayer for Economic Justice
Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it:
a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love.
Give us the inspiration and courage to build it, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Your congregation has been on a journey of discernment. You have engaged with our faith, the Holy Spirit, and with the community both within and outside your walls, and you have learned about issues of economic justice. You have covenanted with God and with each other to be a congregation working for economic justice. And you have given some thought to what this will mean for the life of the congregation going forward. You are now ready to live out that faith-based commitment to being a congregation that seeks economic justice.
We hope the covenant you adopted will be posted in a prominent and highly visible location. Please consider adding the designation “An Economic Justice Church” to signage, church letterhead, the Sunday bulletin, and other places both as a witness to the world and to remind the congregation of the commitment it has made.
We hope, as you may also, that the covenant will become part of the ongoing life of the church. Making the commitment to be an Economic Justice Church means the congregation’s witness and work in the world will be different, going forward. To ensure that, there are some steps you can take.
Implementing the Covenant
To implement the goals that are outlined in your congregation’s covenant, consider creating an economic justice committee or task force. This could be a totally new body within the church or it could be an existing body (such as a social justice committee) that takes on this new ministry.
The committee’s first steps
The committee/task force’s first task would be to carefully read the covenant in order to clearly understand the congregation’s intentions for the covenant going forward. Then the group can construct a one- to two-year plan of implementation that include a range of activities focused on economic justice such as worship and prayer, study, and activities – both advocacy and “on-the-ground” engagement – in the local community, the nation, or world. The draft implementation plan could be shared for review and comments with the governing body and others within the church, then distributed to the congregation.
Begin at home
Don’t forget to begin at home. Churches must work to ensure their own employment guidelines are fair, equitable, and humane. If policies and practices within the church are unjust, how can the congregation engage with integrity in economic justice work in the wider community? A thorough reflection on internal practices and values should always precede external actions.
Explore the list of General Synod resolutions that address issues of economic justice.
Ways to Engage provides additional resources and suggestions for engaging in ministries of economic justice.
Keeping It Fresh
Mark the anniversary
Each year the congregation can mark the anniversary of the decision to become an Economic Justice Church by re-reading the covenant together during worship and engaging in other activities to re-commit to and celebrate the decision. At that time, events and activities related to the commitment that happened during the course of the year can be lifted up and celebrated.
Share what you are doing with the wider UCC and your community. Put stories and photos on your web page. Share them with others in your association and conference. Encourage other churches to discern their call to do economic justice. Reach out to the local media, as appropriate. Let us at Justice and Witness Ministries also know what is happen by emailing stories and photos to email@example.com.
There are many ways to engage in ministries and sustain the work. The suggestions offered in Ways to Engage can be used as they are or adapted to fit the needs of your congregation, community, and area. You may also already have ideas for what your congregation will do as an Economic Justice Church. Be led by God and the interests and gifts of the congregation to determine the work you are called to do.
Sustaining the Struggle
At some point, the members of the committee or task force assigned to lead the work of being an Economic Justice Church may hit an emotional and spiritual wall, either individually or as a group. The issues will seem too big. It will seem like conversations need to be repeated over and over. Work may come to a standstill or the group may meet resistance in the church or elsewhere. Group members may feel anxious or maybe even embarrassed about what seems like a lack of progress. Or they may feel angry, sad, or powerless at this moment. As a group or individually, you may wonder if this is the time to quit or quietly fade away.
Anyone who has been involved with social justice work for any length of time has had an experience like this at one time or another. There’s not a way to skip this experience. It’s a normal and natural result of hard work and honest assessment.
However, there’s another side to this, too. This is usually what we’ve experience right before a significant break through. There is an invitation from the Spirit in these moments, an invitation to go deeper. The five very simple things to do offered below are profoundly important. If Jesus needed time to pray, a community of allies, and conversations with others, certainly we do, too.
1. Take some Sabbath time: Sabbath is a time to rest and to get some perspective. It’s a time to realign ourselves with God, reflect on deeply held values and beliefs, remember “who we are and whose we are,” and remember the stories that inspired us to do this work in the first place. Sabbath is a time to focus on some of those things we are most thankful for. Whether Sabbath time is taken individually or with a wider group of folks from your church or other churches, it can be a good way to renew dedication and commitment.
2. Intentionally listen: The initial plan decided on by the committee or task force may no longer be working, or it may not have been as successful as it could be or moved a number of people to that deeper place. Take some time to intentionally listen to folks within your church and community to assess where they are and hear where they think you all may be called to go.
3. Celebrate what’s working, let go of what’s not: Sometimes we get so focused on a way of doing something that we lose the “why.” One size does not fit all and situations change along the way. Make sure the members of the committee/task force are intentionally working to balance out hopes and expectations in a way that the goals you have are reasonable, doable, and effective for the “why” you’re working towards.
4. Remember that not everything can be perfect but everything can be better: Although this faith walk of ours sometimes has some large leaps in it, most of our progress will be made in small steps. Honor each step your community takes towards living into the calls for economic justice. The success of this sort of work is rarely as suddenly evident as it is gradually evident. Remember the big picture as you focus on some of the smaller details.
5. Commit to supporting each other: Part of building a community is to start being one. What kind of support and accountability might be needed to continue your work?