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U.S. churches' social platform
enters its second century

New 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 communal discipline.”

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 fearful time.

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 races.

Abolition of forced labor, human trafficking, and the exploitation of children.

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 accessible healthcare.

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 international cooperation.

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,

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