U.S. churches' social platform
enters its second century
York, August 29, 2008 – Labor Day 2008 is sandwiched between two
major party nominating conventions, each of which is generating tens
of thousands of words of tributes to the working people of America.
But this recognition of laboring people has not always translated
into legislation that solved the problems working Americans face.
Three national church leaders meeting in Washington this week urged
the political parties to remember these issues that transcend party
rhetoric and call for immediate action.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National
Council of Churches, James Winkler, general secretary of
the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, and the Rev.
Christian Iosso, coordinator of the Presbyterian Advisory Committee
on Social Witness Policy, cited the centennial of the Social Creed
of the Churches as a major marker in U.S. history.
As this year’s presidential campaign moves into its final kinetic
stages, the leaders said, the church people of America can point
with satisfaction to the commitment that their great-grandparents
made to seek a creedal commitment to humane labor conditions a
century ago, before most politicians saw the need.
The Social Creed of the Churches, first read in 1908 at the founding
assembly of the Federal Council of Churches in Philadelphia, was a
response to the scandal of unbearable suffering in factories and
mines where men, women and children worked up to 12 hours a day
under hazardous conditions, all for less money than they needed to
support their homes.
Last year, an updated one-page Social Creed for the 21st Century,
approved in November 2007 by the General Assembly of the National
Council of Churches USA and Church World Service, sought to cut
through the lofty words of party platforms and to place urgent,
specific social concerns on the national conscience.
These concerns include the need for universal health care, campaign
reform, regulation of global trade, an end to torture and human
trafficking, and a steady increase in the human wage.
In a joint statement issued today, the three leaders said the major
party platforms indicate “the churches seem ready for more serious
change than either of the major parties, particularly on the need to
shift military spending to meet human needs and the need for greater
equality to strengthen democracy.”
As candidates in both parties call for change on the American
landscape, the leaders said, “the Social Creed offers an explicit
recognition that change will not come without serious spiritual and
The leaders called on all Americans, regardless of how they intend
to vote this year, to commit themselves to the kind of change that
will benefit people of every faith, and of all walks of life.
The full text of the Social Creed of the 21st Century follows:
WE CHURCHES OF THE UNITED STATES have a message of hope for a
Just as the churches responded to the harshness of early 20th
Century industrialization with a prophetic “Social Creed” in 1908,
so in our era of globalization we offer a vision of a society that
shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and
equality over domination, and finds security in joined hands rather
than massed arms.
Inspired by Isaiah’s vision of a “peaceable kingdom,” we honor the
dignity of every person and the intrinsic value of every creature,
and pray and work for the day when none “labor in vain or bear
children for calamity” (Isaiah 65:23). We do so as disciples of the
One who came “that all may have life, and have it abundantly” (John
10:10), and stand in solidarity with Christians and with all who
strive for justice around the globe.
In faith, responding to our Creator, we celebrate the full humanity
of each woman, man, and child, all created in the divine image as
individuals of infinite worth, by working for:
Full civil, political and economic rights for women and men of all
Abolition of forced labor, human trafficking, and the exploitation
Employment for all, at a family-sustaining living wage, with equal
pay for comparable work.
The rights of workers to organize, and to share in workplace
decisions and productivity growth.
Protection from dangerous working conditions, with time and benefits
to enable full family life.
A system of criminal rehabilitation, based on restorative justice
and an end to the death penalty.
In the love incarnate in Jesus, despite the world’s sufferings and
evils, we honor the deep connections within our human family and
seek to awaken a new spirit of community, by working for:
Abatement of hunger and poverty, and enactment of policies
benefiting the most vulnerable.
High quality public education for all and universal, affordable and
An effective program of social security during sickness, disability
and old age.
Tax and budget policies that reduce disparities between rich and
poor, strengthen democracy, and provide greater opportunity for
everyone within the common good.
Just immigration policies that protect family unity, safeguard
workers’ rights, require employer accountability, and foster
Sustainable communities marked by affordable housing, access to good
jobs, and public safety.
Public service as a high vocation, with real limits on the power of
private interests in politics.
In hope sustained by the Holy Spirit, we pledge to be peacemakers in
the world and stewards of God’s good creation, by working for:
Adoption of simpler lifestyles for those who have enough; grace over
greed in economic life.
Access for all to clean air and water and healthy food, through wise
care of land and technology.
Sustainable use of earth’s resources, promoting alternative energy
sources and public transportation with binding covenants to reduce
global warming and protect populations most affected.
Equitable global trade and aid that protects local economies,
cultures and livelihoods.
Peacemaking through multilateral diplomacy rather than unilateral
force, the abolition of torture, and a strengthening of the United
Nations and the rule of international law.
Nuclear disarmament and redirection of military spending to more
peaceful and productive uses.
Cooperation and dialogue for peace and environmental justice among
the world’s religions.
We - individual Christians and churches - commit ourselves to a
culture of peace and freedom that embraces non-violence, nurtures
character, treasures the environment, and builds community, rooted
in a spirituality of inner growth with outward action. We make this
commitment together—as members of Christ’s body, led by the one
Spirit—trusting in the God who makes all things new.
NCC News contact:
Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228,