12th Assembly 2009

Assembly commits to ‘economy of life’

Uniting Church members, councils and agencies will be asked to commit themselves to living at peace with each other and the planet, following the adoption of a statement at the 12th triennial Assembly on July 20.

The document, An Economy of Life: Re-Imagining Human Progress for a Flourishing World, was prepared by the Assembly agency UnitingJustice Australia and addresses the “crises” humankind and the planet are facing.

It imagines a different story for God’s creation, an “economy of life”, marked by regard for the common good, where all people have access to what is necessary for their flourishing and where people contribute to the continued flourishing of the planet.

Assembly adopted the document after representatives from UnitingJustice answered questions from the floor.

National Director of UnitingJustice the Rev. Elenie Poulos reminded the meeting how it had already been reflecting on the issues the document addressed.

She said she hoped that in the statement the Assembly would be able to hear President Alistair Macrae’s call in his installation sermon: We cannot claim to care for the poor while complicit in the destruction of the most basic resources our neighbours need for survival.

She said she hoped Assembly would find echoes of the Assembly Bible studies’ challenge to recognise “that we are at a point in time when we must reorient our life, obedient to god, reshaping this world into a safe ark”.

She said, “I hope that in this statement you can hear the thirst for God’s gifts to be available to all. I hope you can catch a glimpse of Daniel’s challenge to us: to be church in the world, taking our place as exiles in Babylon, not assimilated to Babylon, not Caesar’s chaplains, but clearly God’s people, living out our mission for peace, hope and the reconciliation of all creation.”

Some members were concerned that the document was not specific enough about required action and that it could appear hypocritical for the church to be asking for governments to take steps it had not yet taken itself.

Professor John Langmore, from the UnitingJustice reference committee, responded that the paper was about paradigms, not action, it was not prescriptive about tactics, and that it spelled out important responsibilities for the church.

Andrew Johnson from Queensland, also on the reference committee, said the statement called the church to do both things together — act itself and advocate for change.

The Assembly committed itself and called on the rest of the church to do such things as implement alternative processes to promote equity and ecological sustainability and to challenge consumerism and materialism.

It called on Australian governments to “develop economic systems and structures which recognise that human and ecological flourishing require much more than the creation of wealth by ensuring that public policy seeks to address first and foremost the wellbeing of all people, especially those most vulnerable, and the environment.”

It also called on the Australian Government to work with other national governments and multilateral institutions to redevelop a global economic system that is regulated, transparent and accountable, for the wellbeing of people and the planet.

Requested action included renewing efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and a commitment to ending the stranglehold of the military-industrial complex on the global economic system.

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

Its central message is the need to redefine how Australia measures its progress through improvements in human wellbeing rather than by using economic indicators such as national income.

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, it says, 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 most 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.”