Department SpotlightThis article, written by '97 Whitworth alumna
Aimee Moiso, was published in the January/February 2003 issue of Presbyterians
the general-interest magazine of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Your Money Where Your Faith Is
Under the "Enough for Everyone" banner Presbyterians
are learning to go--
Beyond the offering plate
By Aimee Moiso
Sandwiched somewhere between the Lord's Prayer
and the closing hymn comes the Sunday morning offering--a
staple of Presbyterian worship. The organ plays or the choir sings
while faithful churchgoers pass plates, baskets or bowls row by
row, offering back a portion of God's gracious gifts. The money
received keeps the bulletins printed, the heat on, the staff paid,
and denominational operations funded. It helps run soup kitchens
and food pantries, bolster community projects, and support overseas
But is that all there is to Christian stewardship?
Just toss a few dollars into the plate on Sunday and we're off
the hook for the rest of the week? Not according to Scripture.
Even if we tithe, God also cares what we do with the other 90 percent
of our income--as well as with the time, possessions and resources
we can't drop into an offering plate. That is because our daily
decisions about how we use money have far-reaching results. Seemingly
ordinary choices--about which brand of coffee to buy, what
kind of car to drive, or where to invest the family savings--have
the potential to help or hurt people around the world.
The psalmist writes, "The earth is the Lord's
and all that is in it" (Psalm 24:1), acknowledging that the
earth and its resources are gifts to us from a loving Creator.
God expects that these will be used humbly, justly and equitably.
The prophets rebuke rulers and nations who "rob the poor" (Isaiah
10:2) and misuse their resources and power.
In Matthew 23:23 Jesus condemns the religious
leaders who meticulously give the requisite 10 percent to the
temple treasury but fail to
show compassion to those in need. "Woe to you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites!" he says. "For you tithe mint,
dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the
law: justice and mercy and faith."
Jesus calls us to try to use all of our money and possessions
in ways that help people in need and preserve the environment.
This kind of global stewardship
can seem tremendously complicated in a world where the richest countries
gobble up a hugely disproportionate slice of the world's resource
pie. The United
Nations Development Programme reports that the 20 percent of the world's
population in the highest-income countries (including the United
States) consume 86 percent
of the world's resources. Contrast this with the measly 1.3 percent of global
resources used by the planet's poorest 20 percent.
Our neighbors in developing countries struggle for basic subsistence.
According to the United Nations, more than 800 million people around
the world are malnourished; 177 million of them are children. Of
the 6 billion people in today's world, 1.2 billion live on less
than $1 a day.
Can our small acts of stewardship possibly
have any impact in the face of such dire statistics? Yes, small
steps do matter, insists
Melanie Hardison, coordinator of "Enough for Everyone",
a year-old "global discipleship" emphasis that
is gathering steam throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). "Enough
for Everyone" proponents say seeking justice can be as simple
as looking more carefully at the products we buy.
"The choices we make every day affect our sisters and brothers
around the world who are impoverished," Hardison says. "Faithful
stewardship means looking at how our purchases, our investments
and our use of resources affect the people around us."
"Enough for Everyone" suggests
four areas in which Presbyterians can broaden their understanding
of stewardship by putting their
money where their faith is:
1. Good coffee for a good cause"
The poor we seek to serve
are no farther away than the cup of coffee that we hold in our
hands, that we share in fellowship each Sunday," says
Erbin Crowell, director of the Interfaith Program of the fair trade
organization Equal Exchange. "For many of us coffee is an
essential part of community: a warm, invigorating beverage to
share in the company of friends and neighbors. But it is also
source of income for thousands of small farmers and their families
in some of the poorest countries in the world."
Many farmers who grow and harvest coffee are paid extremely low
wages, often not enough for basic necessities like food and shelter.
Equal Exchange is making life better for some of these struggling
coffee growers. It buys directly from small-farmer cooperatives,
eliminating middlemen so that more of the money from coffee sales
reaches the farmers themselves. Equal Exchange also commits to
paying farmers a fair price for the coffee--currently more
than double the market price--so that farmers can provide
for their families.
The PCUSA has joined forces with Equal
Exchange to create the Presbyterian Coffee Project. Congregations
participate by purchasing "fairly
traded" coffee from Equal Exchange, thus supporting fair
wages for coffee farmers and investing in the farming communities.
"As communities of faith we struggle every day with how we
can do justice in our lives, in our work, and in the world around
us," says Crowell. "This cup of coffee can be a simple
tool for doing justice, sharing love with our global neighbor,
and building a better world."
GET INVOLVED: Fair trade offers a means of survival for farmers
who otherwise might make as little as 15 to 20 cents a pound for
their coffee. To find out how your church can buy coffee through
the Presbyterian Coffee Project visit www.pcusa.org/coffee. Also
check out www.equalexchange.com or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Sweat-free Ts
These T-shirts don't keep you from perspiring--but
they do keep your money from bolstering the harsh system of sweatshop
that produces much of the clothing bought by U.S. citizens. Christians
can support decent working conditions for workers in the developing
world, especially those in clothing manufacturing, by buying
"Sweatshops" are factories in
which workers are employed for long hours at low wages under
unhealthy conditions. According
to a report from the human rights organization Global Exchange,
workers at Nike and Adidas factories in Indonesia make as little
as $2 a day for full-time work. Some sweatshops regularly employ
children. Others pollute the soil, water and air near their factories,
creating unhealthy and dangerous living conditions for the community.
Most workers do not have such benefits as health care or vacation
or family or sick leave. Many are forced to work with hazardous
chemicals or machinery without proper protection. Workers are
often afraid to unionize or speak out for fear they will be fired,
or physically assaulted.
"Enough for Everyone" encourages
congregations and individuals to purchase products from companies
that produce their goods in
ways that respect the dignity and rights of workers. By purchasing
sweat-free T-shirts and other goods Christians can use their
buying power to send a message to corporations that employ unfair
Send a message: Is your congregation designing
matching shirts for the youth fellowship or choir or men's
group? Visit www.pcusa.org/sweatfree for information about sweatshops and a list of companies that
supply sweat-free T-shirts. Print a "Sweat-Free T" emblem
on your shirts as a sign of your commitment (contact email@example.com for the emblem).
3. Electric stewardship: plug into conservation
Churches can become "Electric Steward Congregations" by
caring for God's creation and conserving natural resources. It
may be as easy as changing a few light bulbs.
Members of Solana Beach (California) Presbyterian Church replaced
more than 850 lamps and light bulbs around their church building
with energy-efficient ones. As a result the church reduced its
energy consumption by more than 25,000 kilowatt hours per year.
The non-profit Center for a New American Dream estimates that replacing
four regular incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent
light bulbs (CFLs), which use 75 percent less electricity, will
save $100 in bulb and electricity costs over the lives of the bulbs.
An "energy audit," often provided
as a free service from local electric or gas utilities, can
help congregations identify
other ways of conserving energy, such as replacing old appliances
or lowering thermostats at night.
For several decades General Assemblies have called for Presbyterians
to be responsible energy consumers. Conserving energy fights global
warming by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. About one-third of
U.S. emissions come from electricity generated in homes and other
buildings. Energy efficiency saves the church money by decreasing
energy bills, thus freeing up resources for mission.
Churches have found a variety of ways of using their resources
to preserve the environment:
- recycling paper, cans and other products
- printing bulletins and other items on recycled paper
ceramic mugs rather than Styrofoam cups for coffee
- using renewable
power, such as solar or wind energy, to generate electricity
These small acts combined with the action of
thousands of other congregations across the country can make a
big difference in the
preservation of the world's natural resources.
Take action: Need help tracking how much energy you have saved
by installing compact fluorescent light bulbs and other energy-saving
devices? Visit www.newdream.org/turnthetide or call (877) 683-7326.
For more information about Electric Stewardship visit www.pcusa.org/energy.
Investing to overcome poverty
Besides producing money for the investor, well-placed
investments can make a real difference in the lives of people around
world. By investing $1,000
or more in Oikocredit, an international Christian credit organization,
churches and individuals can open doors from poverty to self-sufficiency.
Funds invested with Oikocredit are loaned to cooperatives and
microcredit banks in poor countries. The cooperatives and banks
in turn offer low-interest loans to borrowers too poor to get loans
otherwise. Recipients use the loans to finance income-generating
projects, such as purchasing tools or seed for farming or machinery
for a sewing business. Terry Provance, Oikocredit's executive director,
says these projects may seem insignificant, but they empower workers
by enabling them to participate in their own economy, make decisions
about their work, and manage their finances.
Investing in Oikocredit will not make you
rich. Investments earn up to 2 percent a year. But Provance
says the social benefit--both
to the recipient and to the donor as a partner in development--far
outweighs any financial disadvantage. "God calls us to ...
eliminate this tremendous gulf between rich and poor .... God's
priority is to the hungry, thirsty, poor person in the room.
It is therefore an obstacle to our faith to not address the needs
of the world's poor."
The PCUSA is currently the second largest investor in Oikocredit
(the largest is the Church of Sweden). Presbyterian investors include
entities such as Presbyterian Women and the Presbyterian Foundation,
as well as congregations such as East Liberty Presbyterian Church
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which has invested half a million
dollars in Oikocredit shares.
Make a difference: Find out how you or your congregation can help
lift aspiring entrepreneurs out of poverty with an investment of
$1,000 or more. Visit www.oikocredit.com or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also call Terry Provance in Oikocredit's U.S. office at
Investments that strengthen communities,
purchases that honor the rights and dignity of workers, and
choices that protect the
earth--all these are as much a part of faithful stewardship
as putting money in the offering plate. As Hardison puts it, "The
choices we make do have consequences."
Aimee Moiso, a free-lance writer from Portland,
Ore., is a student at San
Francisco Theological Seminary.
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