The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. —Psalm 24:1
The creation belongs to God. We have been given responsibility to care for it, lovingly tend it, and responsibly use it. When, in our brokenness, we hoard resources, violate and plunder the earth carelessly and greedily; when we take more than we need at the expense of others, it violates God’s intention for the human community.
In an increasingly interdependent world economic order, unfair systems are working to benefit some and hurt others. The global economic order has created an increasing disparity, in which a relative few are hoarding an increasingly large amount of the world’s resources, while over two-thirds of the world fall further and further into miserable, grinding poverty. The church has a responsibility to speak on behalf of, and stand with the poor, oppressed and marginalized.
Major economists are, finally, opposing “free trade” agreements.
Lawrence Summers — former Secretary of the Treasury, President Emeritus at Harvard University, and former free trade supporter — writes in his blog that the international trading regime must be re-written from the bottom up. “[T]he promotion of global integration can become a bottom-up rather than a top-down project. The emphasis can shift from promoting integration to managing its consequences. This would mean a shift from international trade agreements to international harmonisation agreements, where issues such as labour rights and environmental protection would take precedence over issues related to empowering foreign producers. It would also mean devoting as much political capital to the trillions that escape tax or evade regulation through cross-border capital flows as we now devote to trade agreements. And it would mean an emphasis on the challenges of middle-class parents everywhere who doubt, but still hope desperately, that their kids can have better lives than they did.”
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has long opposed our current “free trade” efforts. See his Tricks of the Trade Deal: Six Big Problems with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These six short pieces clearly show why Congress must oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You may be especially interested in Why the TPP is a Bad Deal for America and American Workers.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Debate Continues
- Fast Track to the Corporate Wish List by David Dayen, The American Prospect, Summer, 2015
The Text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is Final:
Congress Must Oppose this “Free-Trade” Agreement
On October 5, 2015, negotiators from 12 countries, including the United States, announced they had reached agreement on a final text of the trade agreement. The text has not yet been released but leaked documents and statements made by negotiators have given us insights into the treaty’s provisions. Read more.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership
The U.S. is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among 12 Pacific-Rim nations. It is being written in secret. While the exact details of the draft agreement are unknown, its general outlines are familiar. Leaked information has revealed that it is based on, and extends, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the 1994 treaty between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico that has harmed all three countries. The TPP, and all other NAFTA-based trade agreements, must be stopped. Read more about the TPP and why we must convince Congress to oppose it.
Fast Track Legislation
Before Congress considers new trade agreements (and two are currently in the works) they will first seek to pass “Fast Track” legislation to markedly curtail the usual oversight process and ease passage of the FTAs. Previous similar trade agreements have harmed, not promoted, the common good. Congress must thoroughly and carefully evaluate these agreements. Congress must not pass Fast Track. See Greasing the Skids to Deeper Economic Distress via Fast Track.
What is Fair Trade
Small farmers produce 70% of the world’s coffee and significant amounts of other food products. Worldwide, this includes over 20 million small farm households, more than 125 million people, who depend on agriculture exports for their livelihoods. Fair Trade contributes to sustainable development and improves the lives of small farmers in the global South. More.
Support Authentic Fair Trade
The fair trade movement is in crisis. The fundamental purpose of fair trade – to support small farmers in ways that are good for them, their communities, the environment, and consumers – is being challenged. One part of the fair trade movement is supporting weaker, broader standards that would allow even plantation-growth coffee to be certified as fair trade. The other part of the movement wants to maintain standards that will preserve the movement’s original purpose of helping small farmers. Read more about the crisis and how you can support authentic fair trade.
Globalization We Can Grasp A web-based curriculum on globalization
Globalization We Can Grasp is a five-week, web-based curriculum package exploring economic globalization. The series is based on the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth which the UCC’s General Synod commended to the church for study, reflection, prayer, and action. The downloadable printed materials and 15-minutes videos examine problems arising from our system of globalization and feature people who are responding to these problems and making a difference. The curriculum was developed by the North American Covenanting for Justice Working Group, affiliated with the World Communion of Reformed Churches. WCRC is a transnational ecumenical body to which the UCC belongs. There are five modules:
Globalization and the Churches’ Response;
Global Climate Change: Renewing the Sacred Balance;
Farm workers, Low Wage Jobs, and Living into a New Economy;
Environmental Justice and Human Rights; and
Faithful Purchasing and the Global Sweatshop Economy.
Each module includes background materials, a downloadable video, study questions, Bible study, and closing liturgy. Download the series.
Trade Week of Action
Each year during the Trade Week of Action, usually held during October, people all over the world mobilize in support of fair trade and in opposition to “free” trade. Most recently, the particular focus of the Week’s activities was the right to food. Resources including background information, facts, people’s experiences with food security and trade are collected in the Trade Week of Action booklet.
The International, Ecumenical Church and Globalization
The Accra Confession
The World Communion of Reformed Churches (formerly the World Alliance of Reformed Churches) has been engaged in a multi-year process of conversation, prayer, study, and discernment around the issues of economic justice, climate justice, and empire. During this Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth process, member churches from around the world have met together to explore these topics and have issued a number of insightful and moving reports that are available on the WCRC’s Covenanting for Justice webpage. In 2004, some 15 years into the process, the 24th General Council of the WARC, meeting in Accra, Ghana, adopted the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth. The full text of the Confession plus background information and a “Letter from Accra” to the churches is available in English. WCRC delegates believe that the economic and environmental injustices of today’s global economy require the family of Reformed and United churches to respond as a matter of faith and engage injustices as an integral part of our churches’ witness and mission.
The Accra Confession declared that working to create a more just global economy is essential to Christian faith: “We believe that the integrity of our faith is at stake if we remain silent or refuse to act in the face of the current system of neoliberal economic globalization.” WARC is composed of 214 denominations and faith bodies of Reformed and United churches, including the United Church of Christ, with a combined membership of some 75 million people in 107 countries.
From the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth
We believe that God is sovereign over all creation. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24.1).Therefore, we reject the current world economic order imposed by global neoliberal capitalism and any other economic system, including aboslute planned economies, which defy God’s covenant by excluding the poor, the vulnerable and the whole of creation from the fullness of life. We reject any claim of economic, political and military empire which subverts God’s sovereignty over life and acts contrary to God’s just rule.
World Council of Churches’ AGAPE Process: Poverty, Wealth, and Ecology
The World Council of Churches is engaged in a study/action process about globalization called Poverty, Wealth and Ecology: Impact of Economic Globalization. This process “encourages churches to explore and advocate for alternatives to economic globalization. It is an attempt to bring churches and ecumenical partners from North, South, East and West together to reflect and act together on finding new and creative ways to use global wealth to eradicate poverty.”
The WCC process has produced many powerful and informative documents, and sparked important dialogues and action. The AGAPE (Alternative to Economic Globalization Addressing Peoples and Earth) process is particularly important with a focus on issues such as just trade, debt cancellation, financial markets, tax evasion, public goods and services, livelihoods and decent jobs, life-giving agriculture, power and empire, and ecological debt.
The WCC brings together 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 560 million Christians.
General Synod Resolutions and Pronouncements on Globalization, Trade, and Debt
In 2003, General Synod XXIV adopted a major statement on economic globalization: A Faithful Response: Calling for a More Just, Humane Direction for Economic Globalization.” This Pronouncement describes the impact of economic globalization on people and countries in both the global North and South and outlines ways that all settings of the UCC can respond. A Study Guide can be used to facilitate a discussion of these issues. The Pronouncement was developed in response to a General Synod XXIII Resolution adopted in 2001.
More General Synod Resolutions and Pronouncements addressing economic justice and immigration
More Educational Resources
The educational resources just below examine various aspects of economic globalization. Each resource provides an informative discussion of a single issue, a short list of related materials, and a prayer.
- What is Economic Globalization provides an overview of this multi-faceted topic.
- Jubilee and the International Debt Crisis addresses the problem of third world debt and the need for debt cancellation.
- Jobs in a Globalizing Economy examines the movement of jobs from the U.S. to the global South, and the impact on workers in the U.S. and around the world.
- Intellectual Property addresses the issues of patents and intellectual property rights within a globalizing economy.
End Sweatshops: Abusive sweatshop working conditions, in the U.S. and abroad, must be eliminated.
Strong Roots, Fragile Farms – an award-winning DVD hosted by Willie Nelson, describes the impact of globalization and agribusess on family farms in the U.S. and around the world.
- Troubled Waters – hosted by Lynn Redgrave, explores the critical issue of water shortage through the lens of faith and from the perspective of people in Bolivia, Malawi, the Middle East and the United States.