2013/10/07

Social Principles Conference


On Saturday, the 5th of October, I went to the Social Principles Conference of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, where we listened to "The Social Principles: Our Call to Action" by Jim Winkler, of the General Board of Church & Society, followed by a series of workshops. Nancy Tkacs later told me she was also there, though I didn't see her at the time.

I attended the Climate Change and the Implementing the Social Principles in Your Church workshops.

The sermon by Pat Hoerth of the Perry First United Methodist Church of Perry, OK, has a good run-down on the challenges faced by the people of this planet (Pat gives facts and figures about Global Warming starting on page 10 of the PDF) concerning the enormous amount of carbon dioxide that industrial society is pumping into the air and the effect that all that carbon is having. Unfortunately, Hoerth reports that we might reach 399 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere (275 ppm is the proportion that we all enjoyed in ages past, 350 ppm is the maximum safe limit) by the end of this century and 350.org reports that our air is already at 400 ppm. And yes, certainty that Global Warming is caused by humans has now reached 95%, meaning we as a race, are long past the point where action became necessary.

The official Methodist position on Global Warming is contained in the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church - 160.D Global Climate Stewardship:

We acknowledge the global impact of humanity’s disregard for God’s creation. Rampant industrialization and the corresponding increase in the use of fossil fuels have led to a buildup of pollutants in the earth’s atmosphere. These “greenhouse gas” emissions threaten to alter dramatically the earth’s climate for generations to come with severe environmental, economic, and social implications. The adverse impacts of global climate change disproportionately affect individuals and nations least responsible for the emissions.  We therefore support efforts of all governments to require mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and call on individuals, congregations, businesses, industries, and communities to reduce their emissions. 

The introduction to the Implementing the Social Principles in Your Church module makes it clear that supporting social justice goals requires both justice and charity. If you don't work to perform works of charity (and thus perform direct services for those who are unable to provide those services themselves), then there's no guiding purpose behind your actions. If you don't perform those actions for the cause of serving justice (and thus press for social change that will provide more permanent solutions), then you might grow to eel superior to those you're helping.

The Methodist Church has Peace with Justice Grants, money for pursuing various goals:

  • Objective 1: Assist United Methodists in understanding and responding to violence and militarism.
  • Objective 2: Involve United Methodists in efforts to end conflicts and violent aggression around the world.
  • Objective 3: Promote just national and international policies and actions (governmental and non-governmental) seeking to restore communities and respond to the disproportionate effect of injustices on racial and ethnic persons.
  • Objective 4: Support policies that promote systematic economic justice and the self-development of peoples.
They also support groups like Equal Exchange, a program that sees to it that small-scale farmers are paid fair, honest and reasonable prices for their produce.
What does The Bible say about paying a living wage? A Methodist Church pamphlet lists four passages supporting living wages and quotes the 1908 Social Creed, which calls for “A living wage in every industry. The highest wage that each industry can afford and for the most equitable division of the products of industry that can ultimately be devised.”
The UMC statement on the government shutdown appears a bit too even-handed and “both sides are to blame” for my own tastes, but it calls attention to both the Federal employees and the regular people that are being hurt by the shutdown and contains no arguments that oppose the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, the ostensible target of the shutdown.
All in all, a good and useful gathering.

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