CGMB resolution on Globalization and Just International Relationships
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for God founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” Psalm 24:1-2
Global Ministries partnerships are based on trust, mutual respect, common visions for a just creation, and shared faith in God. Through our relationships with global partners we become aware of the realities of life for communities around the world. We share mutual concerns with our partners when the integrity and dignity of creation and of the communities our partners inhabit are compromised.
We have long heard our partners speak about the significant impact of globalization in their communities. In recent years they have conveyed with urgency the rapidly accelerating rate of globalization. Through their written and spoken reflections in this gathering, our partners have shared with us how globalization has increased opportunities for their local communities to engage with others worldwide. However we have also heard their protests against the ways that economic and political powers have taken advantage of local communities worldwide through these widening avenues of global engagement.
Our Theological Lenses
We have reflected in this gathering on three theological lenses, drawn from scripture, which inform how we perceive what are just global relationships in the economy or household (oikos) of God. First the Psalmist reminds us that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1). We affirm that we are one creation; we are all made in the image of God and all share in the blessing of God that calls all creation “good” (Gen. 1:31). As humans we have the responsibility to be wise stewards of the created world (Gen. 1:26). No person or part of creation should be desecrated or exploited for the exclusive benefit of some, but rather we should seek the sustainability of the earth and the public good.
Our next lens is shaped by Jesus ministry to the poor and marginalized. Jesus gave special care to the outcast and dispossessed, who he tells us have a special place at the banquet table in the reign of God (Lk. 14:15-21). Like the prophets before him Jesus says those who exclude or mistreat the oppressed or who are self-righteous in their good fortune will be judged. Jesus claimed Isaiah’s prophetic witness to bring good news to the poor and freedom to the captive (Isa. 61:1-2; Lk. 4:18-19). It is out of this gospel mandate that the church calls society to care for the poor and most vulnerable among the human family. Our economic rules and structures must neither allow nor rely on the capacity of the wealthy and powerful to reap profit from the needs and wants of the poor.
The last lens considers the biblical principal that there will always be enough for all when we seek to ensure that all have enough. With faith we affirm that God provides for our needs even as we care for one another, just as God provided manna to the Hebrew people in the wilderness (Ex. 16) and to the multitude on the hillside that Jesus fed with the few loaves and fishes (Mk. 6:30-44). Jesus urged his followers to demonstrate this trust and mutual concern as they formed their early community of believers (Acts 2). God’s grace, sufficient and freely given, urges us to establish relationships where we meet each other’s needs for mutual security and sustenance, instead of acting in self-interest and distrust based on the belief that resources are valuable merely because of their scarcity (Lk. 12:22-34). Even so, our global partners from communities whose prayer for daily bread is desperately real caution us against a too-comfortable theology of abundance that expects prosperity from God, which may only serve to comfort the conscience of the affluent.
We are informed by these theological understandings of God’s blessings and grace that we share with all of creation as we engage in reflection with our global partners on globalization and the state of our human economy.
Globalization is a diffuse term, but is generally used to describe the advancing integration, interdependence, and homogenization of the world, trends very often measured in economic terms. Social and economic development is essential for many nations to emerge from situations of persistent poverty and societal distress. In 1990 more than 189 United Nations member states pledged to work toward achieving by 2015 a set of Millennium Development Goals, a framework of benchmark advances addressing global needs in eight areas of basic human development, including poverty reduction, heath care, education and women’s rights.
In recent decades the development and applications of technology have increased greatly, spreading far into rural communities. At the same time international corporations and financing institutions have accelerated investment into previously underdeveloped societies and non-privatized sectors of their economies. These rapid expansions of international society and economy have created jobs and increased the ease of communication, travel, and commerce across borders. Previously insulated communities can now see, talk with, and exchange goods and ideas with people around the world.
However, increased development is also valued in economic terms as integral to the development of new labor, capital, and consumer markets. U.S. trade policy promotes a free-market strategy commonly referred to as the Washington Consensus, which holds to the premise that global economic growth is best achieved through trade and investment liberalization across borders, increased privatization of and corporate investment in public services, and the global redistribution of capital, production, and marketing of goods. Yet dominant economies, which include not just wealthy states but many Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) whose capital worth dwarfs most developing state economies, often control the terms and therefore maximize the benefits from these trends toward growth and greater economic integration. Investment interests often entice or coerce developing states to open up markets and avenues for foreign investment without regard for public well-being. The leveraging of profit motive over human development and security has resulted in a global “race to the bottom,” in which the TNCs and industries influencing trade arrangements compete to find the cheapest labor markets in countries with the least industry regulation.
The consequences of these dramatic economic changes among the world’s most desperate populations has resulted in great societal upheaval: unsustainable migration of peoples, the disruption of traditional economies and small-scale agricultural practices, and excessive environmental impacts, all of which place tremendous strain on family and social structures and the fabric of native cultures. The dynamic forces that have brought our international communities together present challenges to relationships among our nation-states, societies, and faith communities.
As two denominations committed by our resolutions and our commitment to God’s mission, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ must take a stand knowing the concerns of Common Global Ministries= partners throughout the world, while distinguishing between beneficial and harmful globalization. It is clear that globalization affects us all, both positively and negatively. As many of our missionaries from all over the world have reiterated, those with access to money and technology tend to see the brighter effects of globalization while the less fortunate are forced to suffer with its harsh consequences. Often labeled as “contemporary colonialism” and “cultural imperialism,” economic globalization in particular is often seen as oppressive, but it is imperative to realize that many benefit from the jobs and infrastructure created through globalization.
Samia Khoury from Rawdat El-Zuhur in East Jerusalem writes, “Is it morally acceptable to fill the country with hamburger huts, and coca cola stands when there is not enough drinking water and when the basic needs of life are not yet attended to? But then we are told that the justification is creating jobs. Can we not create jobs for people by doing constructive community-building; therefore, the question is not whether to promote or protest globalization, but rather, ‘What kind of globalization should be supported?’” The magnitude and complexities involved in trying to encompass the interrelated nature of societies, cultures, and economies, while recognizing the dominant role of TNCs and trade blocs as well as other pressing consequences such as humanitarian crises, and environmental degradation can overwhelm us. We must find ways to harvest the spiritual, cultural and economic riches of closer relationships across national boundaries, ways that also lift up the whole of humanity.
Rather than endorsing (or resigning ourselves to) the presence of dominant superpowers, imbalances in scales of economies or the forced exploitation and access into other countries’ markets and societies, we should look toward developing stronger economic, social and moral ties among countries, while gradually reducing the dependence of less-developed countries on foreign institutions. Globalization should be a determining factor in establishing just and independent societies that function in accordance to ideals of freedom rather than creating efficient profit-making ventures for TNCs that often equate to oppressive work environments for the least empowered members of society. Our partners have already initiated conversations as to how globalization has affected them in their part of the world and identified as a priority ways of responding faithfully to it.
In January 2004 Global Ministries staff participated in the ecumenical consultation Just Trade Agreements? North America Addressing Globalization, which was co-sponsored by Church World Service, the Canadian Council of Churches and the Centro de Estudios Ecumenicos in Mexico. The consultation was held as part of a series of international forums addressing different aspects of globalization initiated jointly by the World Council of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the international Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. Consultation participants signed an ecumenical statement What Does God Require of Us? A Declaration for Just Trade in the Service of An Economy of Life. Participants affirmed in the Declaration that “We are churches who believe that the economy of God includes ethical and spiritual principles that offer guidance and direction in the search for the very practical alternatives to ensure trade and investment respects the important role of government, advances the common good, and serves an economy of life not death.” Further, the consultation commended participant denominations in a Plan of Action to “develop church-wide policies/practices that ‘live out’ the values being promoted.”
Resolution on Globalization and Just International Relationships
WHEREAS Global Ministries partners and those who serve with them have reflected thoughtfully and faithfully with the Common Global Ministries Board on the impact of globalization on their communities, lifting up positive effects of globalization in such areas as communication technology, cultural diversity, and the creation of job opportunities, yet decrying the inequitable ways that the benefits and costs of globalization are distributed among members of our human family; naming the ways that economic globalization, as it is currently manifest, resembles their historic experiences of colonialism in the way it transfers power and control from nations and local communities to international bodies which have priorities that do not include human development, human rights, and the nurturing of mutual relationships among nations; and
WHEREAS Global Ministries staff, in their travels around the world nurturing relationships with our partners in mission, have witnessed the impacts of changing economies, international trade policies, and development patterns and priorities are having on our partners; and
WHEREAS previous UCC General Synod and Disciples General Assembly resolutions have called for the Church to seek economic justice, and in particular the General Synod 24 Pronouncement Calling for a More Just, Human Direction for Economic Globalization calls on the covenanted ministries “to be a prophetic voice for local churches and members on issues of economic globalization” and commends Wider Church Ministries, and by extension Global Ministries, to coordinate with the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries a process of implementation of the Pronouncement; and
WHEREAS the Common Global Ministries Board passed a resolution in November 2003 on the “International Situation” intending “to bring attention to the systemic roots of global poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, conflict and other economic, political, and social maladies in an attempt to effect change in the causes and address the symptoms”; and
WHEREAS Global Ministries staff participated in the January 2004 consultation Just Trade Agreements? North America Addressing Globalization; and whereas Church World Service has endorsed the statement What Does God Require of Us? A Declaration for Just Trade in the Service of an Economy of Life and encourages its member communions to do so,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Common Global Ministries Board commits to providing critical presence to our partners as they struggle with the positive opportunities and negative impact of economic and social injustice that globalization effects on their communities; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Common Global Ministries Board, upon recommendation of Church World Service, endorses the principles of the ecumenical statement What Does God Require of Us? A Declaration for Just Trade in the Service of an Economy of Life; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Global Ministries commits its staff and resources to advocate for corporate and consumer activities and policies and practices by the U.S. government and international financing institutions that contribute to healthy and just international relationships; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the staff and Board of Global Ministries be deliberate and prayerful in selecting the companies with which they do business so that these choices encourage and support ethical and responsible business practices around the world; commit to raise awareness through worship, education, and public witness about the multifaceted nature of globalization and its effects on our partners and global communities; and encourage congregations and individuals to be deliberate and prayerful in their choices with regard to these issues by encouraging dialogue about the ways their choices and behaviors impact others in the global community.
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), General Assembly 2000 Resolution No. 9914 Concerning “Jubilee 2000” and the Cancellation of Debts of the Most Heavily Indebted Countries of the World.
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), General Assembly 1994, Study Document No. 9322, International Debt
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), General Assembly 1989, Study Paper on Economic Systems-Their Impact on the Third World.
Church World Service-sponsored Consultation Resources, http://www.cwsglobal.org/for-the-press/resources/educational-resources.html
What Does God Require of Us? A Declaration for Just Trade in the Service of An Economy of Life, https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/public-witness-addressing-power-affirming-peace/poverty-wealth-and-ecology/trade/just-trade-declaration
U.S. delegation background report, Church World Service
MESA tri-national implementation committee, http://www.councilofchurches.ca/social-justice/faith-and-economy/movement-for-economic-solidarity-in-the-americas/
The Economy of Grace and the Market Logic, by Prof. Douglas Meeks http://www.councilofchurches.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/DouglasMeeks.pdf
Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, Trade for People Campaign, http://www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/food/rice/index.html
Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment, Interfaith Statement on Trade and Investment
U.S. Interfaith Trade Justice Campaign
United Church of Christ, General Synod 24 Pronouncement Calling for a More Just, Human Direction for Economic Globalization , http://uccfiles.com/synod/resolutions/CALLING-FOR-A-MORE-JUST-HUMANE-DIRECTION-FOR-ECONOMIC-GLOBALIZATION.pdf
United Church of Christ, General Synod 3 Policy Calls for National Responsibility and International Relations
United Nations Millennium Development Goals, http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/