Social criteria investment screens are usually based on Social Statements or Social Messages, but in this case there wasn’t one yet. So the Church Council asked for one, to be considered at its November 2017 meeting. Now available at www.elca.org/socialmessages is a draft message. You are encouraged to read it and make comments between now and August 31. Below is my summary of the draft.
Quoting one of the ELCA’s very first Social Statements, Church in Society, the draft states:
“The God who justifies expects all people to do justice.” And then, quoting again:
“Along with all citizens, Christians have the responsibility to defend human rights and to work for freedom, justice, peace, environmental well-being and good order in public life.”
The draft says:
“In the name of the God who creates every human being out of love, this church believes human rights belong to every person. In adopting this social message, the ELCA Church Council recognizes the need for greater attention as a church to addressing the scope of human rights as the basis for more expansive action. It also believes the time is right for more Christians to enter public conversation and to take action insisting that neighbors, especially the vulnerable, be treated with the dignity due to all children of God.”
The document describes the ELCA’s convictions about human rights:
- God’s creative action is the basis for dignity and value.
- Sin breaks in.
- God’s answer to sin is justice.
Affirming the complexity of human rights, the availability of resources, and the context of sociopolitical realities, the document affirms broad categories as useful for Christian discernment about human rights.
- Humans have been created for divine relationship and have the right to worship and devotional practices.
- Humans have the right to think and communicate freely.
- Humans are communal and have to right to protection of communal and family relationships
- Humans are physical beings and have the right to food, water and health care.
- Humans are economic beings and have the right to just and sustainable allocation of resources.
- Humans are political and civic beings and have the right to participation in decisions affecting them.
- Humans have a right to a good reputation, free from stigma.
The draft then describes Christian responsibilities:
- The responsibility to confess.
- Responsibility as citizens.
- The responsibility of corporate witness.
- Response to the call.
- Support for international cooperation.
- The need for deliberation.
The document concludes with concrete commitments of the ELCA:
- Upholding human rights as described in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
- Supporting international organizations to develop and safeguard human rights.
- Encouraging the US to fund the UN in proportion to its economic strength.
- Supporting the Responsibility to Protect movement.
- Supporting the Right to Development as expressed by UN Resolution, December 1986.
- Encouraging governments and corporations to uphold UN’s “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework.
- Working to get the US to ratify international treaties and agreements that protect human rights.
- Being sensitive to needs of indigenous peoples.
- Practicing accompaniment in advocacy on human rights.
This document is a draft, and the church is looking for comments, by August 31. I will be sending in mine. I have some questions in the section on sin. It seems to skip lightly over original sin and doesn’t engage simul justis et peccator. I also find it odd that this message, which comes out of the Middle East conflict, is so generic that it doesn’t mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was the whole reason it was written. I encourage you to send in your comments, as well..
Jessica Crist, Bishop