On Poverty

The other day, I read the 2008 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church and found its statement on poverty to be excellent.

In spite of general affluence in the industrialized nations, the majority of persons in the world live in poverty. In order to provide basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, and other necessities, ways must be found to share more equitably the resource of the world. Increasing technology, when accompanied by exploitative economic practices, impoverishes many persons and makes poverty self-perpetuating. Poverty due to natural catastrophes and environmental changes is growing and needs attention and support. Conflicts and war impoverish the population on all sides, and an important way to support the poor will be to work for peaceful solutions.

As a church, we are called to support the poor and challenge the rich. To begin to alleviate poverty, we support such policies as: adequate income maintenance, quality education, decent housing, job training, meaningful employment opportunities, adequate medical and hospital care, humanization and radical revisions of welfare programs, work for peace in conflict areas and efforts to protect creation’s integrity. Since low wages are often a cause of poverty, employers should pay their employees a wage that does not require them to depend upon government subsidies such as food stamps or welfare for their livelihood.

Because we recognize that the long-term reduction of poverty must move beyond services to and employment for the poor, which can be taken away, we emphasize measures that build and maintain the wealth of poor people, including asset-building strategies such as individual development savings accounts, micro-enterprise development programs, programs enabling home ownership, and financial management training and counseling. We call upon churches to develop these and other ministries that promote asset-building among the poor. We are especially mindful of the Global South, where investment and micro-enterprise are especially needed. We urge support for policies that will encourage equitable economic growth in the Global South and around the world, providing a just opportunity for all.

Poverty most often has systemic causes, and therefore we do not hold poor people morally responsible for their economic state. (2008 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, Paragraph 163E

This is a thoughtful and powerful statement. It urges individuals and churches to take pro-active measures to help eliminate poverty throughout the world. It calls on churches to “support the poor and challenge the rich”. On a global level, if you’re reading this, you are rich. We need to re-think our definitions of poor and rich.

So, I wonder how many of our churches and United Methodist Church members are actively involved in helping eliminate poverty? What steps should we take to help alleviate poverty and address the needs of the poor in practical ways?

In the days to come, I’ll be sharing more insight from the Book of Discipline on topics such as consumption, right to health care, and sustainable agriculture.

Why do I share these things? Well, the church I serve has statements on numerous issues…statements that the average church member is not aware of. So, I feel compelled to share some of the statements that I’m most passionate about. Some of the statements I share a reasons why I’m not ashamed to be a Christian serving in a United Methodist Church.

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