12th Assembly 2009

Hope for a flourishing world

The Uniting Church’s 12th Assembly is considering a statement which describes the hope the church could offer a suffering world. It addresses growing inequality, the threat of climate change and an economic system driven by consumerism and unrestrained growth.

Called An Economy of Life, the statement and its related proposals were presented on Friday, July 17 by the Uniting Church’s agency UnitingJustice.

eleniepoulosNational Director of UnitingJustice the Rev. Elenie Poulos told the Assembly, “those of us who live privileged lives compared to the majority of people have a particular responsibility to see the state of our world with our eyes wide open. Then, because we are church, we must bring the hope of the gospel to bear on our imaginations as we search for new ways to live.”

A multimedia presentation with the soundtrack “How Far We’ve Come” by Matchbox 20 depicted symptoms of humanity’s crises.

Professor John Langmore then addressed the statement. An Economy of Life — subtitled “reimagining human progress for a flourishing world” — was intended, he said, as a fresh expression of the claims of discipleship “as we seek to live at peace under God with ourselves, each other and the planet”.

He said the Assembly was discussing this at an ideal time. The global economic crisis and the intensification of concern about climate change are causing nationwide uncertainty. But no alternative, comprehensive paradigm is widely accepted.

In the absence of a persuasive new vision, Professor Langmore said, the existing paradigm, focused on economic growth, would be maintained.

“This would be an inspired moment for the Uniting Church to make a prophetic statement articulating ‘a vision of human wholeness and wellbeing grounded in the values of the reign of God: love … justice, peace, grace, mercy and forgiveness, hospitality, inclusion, connectedness and compassion’,” he said.

The statement proposed “a commitment to engage as active participants in the reconciliation of the world with God … This would be a world where all people have access to what is necessary for their flourishing and where people contribute to the continued flourishing of the planet.”

The introduction to the statement says, “It is time to ask ourselves what we can do differently. We must consider the values and the principles we need to guide us to more equitable, peaceful and sustainable ways of living. We must try to imagine this alternative life — what might it look like? How will we know if we are making the ‘right’ kind of ‘progress’?”

It says it is incumbent on the church to explore what might be alternative Christian understandings of the meaning of “progress” and “wellbeing” and “how these understandings might shape the way we live as people in community connected with the planet”.

Sections of the document describe a “Christian vision of love and wholeness”, how the majority of people are denied that experience and the limits of economic growth in a globalised world.

It names those who benefit from the current global economic system and those whose power is deeply entwined with the system’s continuation.

In the section Living a Different Story, the statement says an economy of life is marked by regard for the common good. “Individualism, competition and greed deny human flourishing because the fullness of our humanity is not found in wealth but in relationship with each other and the world around us. We need community for our wellbeing.”

It says God’s household shares all it has with concern for those in need. “This is a system of cooperation, justice and equity which is characterised by love and marked by generosity …

“As we seek to address the failings of the current global economic system, the values of an economy of life would find their expression in an economic system which places the needs of people and the planet before profit.”

The statement calls on all parts of the church to implement the economy of God. This “promotes human wholeness, equity and ecological sustainability” through policies which support vibrant, safe and inclusive communities. It will overcome poverty and injustice, reduce greenhouse gas emission, prioritise peacemaking and seek to end militarism.”

It urges Australian governments to aim for the wellbeing of all people through development of an economic system which increases accountability of financial markets, reduces military spending, makes the tax system more progressive, provides universal, affordable essential services, ensures just working condition, rapidly increases production of renewable energy and enhances the community’s shared limited resources.

The statement also calls on the federal Government to work with other governments and multilateral institutions for a global economic system that will achieve the Millennium Development Goals, swiftly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, end the stranglehold of the military-industrial complex, contribute to the evolution of a new international architecture through the United Nations and to the stimulation of local economies.

The central message, said Professor Langmore, was to redefine how Australia measures its progress through improvements in human wellbeing rather than by using economic indicators such as national income.