It’s time to speak out for
the Publish What You Pay initiative
We received this note recently from
Christi Boyd, a PC(USA) mission co-worker with the Joining
Hands Network in Cameroon, who
spoke at the Witherspoon conference on mission for peace
and justice in Louisville last September. We’re happy to
pass it along, with the hope you may want to act on it.
It was a privilege for me to find myself in
the company of Setri Nyomi, Clif Kirkpatrick, Valéry Nodem and
all Witherspoon Society members attending the conference of last
September, on the 2004 WARC GC theme of Covenanting for Justice.
I was really pleased to sense the great interest from Society
members for what is happening with the Publish What You Pay
initiative in the context of Joining Hands, and their eagerness
to get involved. That time may well have come:
A week ago Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Chairman
of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced a bill
that would require companies listed with the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC) to report payments to foreign
governments for the extraction of oil, gas and minerals. The
Bill is supposed to come before Congress in July. The Publish
What You Pay Coalition has been closely involved in the entire
process, and I'll send you some of their materials on this bill.
Please see the attachment for the bill itself.
Do you think we could get Society members
mobilized to contact their members of congress and ask them to
co sponsor the legislation? The more cosponsors there are, the
more likely the legislation will be marked up and will be voted
out of committee. It is now the time to start by getting
representatives to cosponsor….
I'd be delighted if we would succeed in this:
it's a great opportunity to follow up on the September meeting
with concrete action….
The full text of the
A Bible study on Fair Trade
Trade: Using Our Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope is a
six-part Bible study that asks Christians to explore where and
how we shop by linking our buying habits to the scriptural
mandate to treat poor people fairly. Stories are culled from the
work of Partners for Just Trade, a Presbyterian-related network
that links more than 200 Peruvian artisans to the U.S. market –
and is now expanding its operations to include artisans and
farmers from other countries. Learn the principles of fair trade
and how to spend our dollars faithfully.
The study will be available by June 10 at a
cost of $5 per copy at the Partners’ website,
www.partnersforjusttrade.org. There is a reduced rate for
purchases of 10 copies or more. Call 314-773-7358 for telephone
A couple early
“This booklet outlines the theological and
ethical rationale not only for Fair Trade, but for the broader
issue of ‘relational economics’ as well. The stories of
transformation of both First World consumers and Third World
producers by Fair Trade practices are moving, and the resources
for practical change clear. This study guide can help move our
hearts and our hands; I recommend it for congregations and
Co-founder, Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, Oak View, CA
Author and Activist
“Many people in our churches are committed to
pursuing economic justice and environmental sustainability and
are seeking good resources with practical suggestions that might
guide them to a deeper faithfulness. Fair Trade: Using Our
Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope is just the kind of
resource that can help.
“It illumines the biblical and theological
grounding for these commitments and guides us toward asking
ourselves appropriate questions. It makes clear the connections
between our decisions as consumers and our desire to create a
more equitable system of exchange. In a very down-to-earth and
accessible format, this resource provides just the right balance
of information and inspiration.”
Professor of Theology, McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago
Where are the presidential candidates on trade?
Presidential candidates are increasingly talking about the
impact of bad trade deals.
Global Trade Watch
urges: Please write your local paper today urging the candidates
to make clear their opposition to expanding the current NAFTA/WTO
The Global Trade Watch message begins:
With all the news coverage focusing on the
horse race aspects of the presidential primary, it's been hard
to follow a fascinating - and hopeful - trend: criticism of our
current NAFTA-WTO trade model has been a prominent aspect of all
of the Democratic and a number of the GOP candidates' campaigns.
We wanted to share with you the most comprehensive compilation
of candidates' trade positions ever released.
what the candidates are saying about trade and globalization
Read what they're
saying and you'll see that current candidates are now more
critical of our failed status quo than even the most critical
candidates in past presidential elections. Could it be that we
have finally reached the tipping point where candidates must
reflect the public's views on these issues - even though it
flies in the face of their major corporate funders?
Please take action by sending a Letter to the Editor to your
local paper urging the candidates to provide the public with
more details about what they intend to do to fix what they now
agree is a failed NAFTA/WTO model.
Exploring Jubilee today
Two Presbyterians, Ross and Gloria
Kinsler, are deeply involved in work for fair trade as a way of reflecting
the biblical principle of Jubilee in our global society.
Witherspooner Gene TeSelle has asked
them to share a bit of what they’re doing these days.
Here’s their response:
We have been working primarily on the
biblical Jubilee as an important foundation for our struggle for life,
i.e., for justice in society and the environment. To follow up our book (The
Biblical Jubilee and the Struggle for Life) we continue to develop
workbook materials on TODAY'S WORLD, BIBLICAL FAITH, and RESPONSIBLE
DISCIPLESHIP (the hermeneutical circle). These are one page sheets that
present material for group reflection. They deal with aspects of
globalization, poverty, injustice, exploitation, imperialism, and fair and
unfair trade. If you would like to look at some samples, Jubilee Workbooks
IV and VI are available at
www.jubilee4justice.org and Jubilee Workbook
V is at
Soon Jubilee Workbook VII will be available at the latter site. We will
attach 2 samples of each dimension of the hermeneutical circle.
You may know that our new book,
God's Economy: Biblical Studies from Latin America, is coming out in
June from Orbis.
We are hoping to organize with our
Synod and Presbyteries in Southern California an event to focus on the
Accra accords of the WARC. This seems to offer a unique opportunity for
Presbyterians and other Reformed Christians to face the two greatest
threats to life as a challenge to our faith, i.e., as a call to confess
our faith and resist the powers of death in our world and especially in
this country. This event may take place next February or April, depending
on the availability of Cliff Kirkpatrick and Rick Ufford-Chase.
Shalom, Ross and Gloria
Here are some samples of their
When the people of Israel returned from Babylonian captivity, following the
Edict of Cyrus in 538 BCE, they were challenged to live in keeping with
God's will. But this passage from Third Isaiah indicates that once again
they practiced a false, pretentious spirituality, expressed through false
fasting and through the omission of true spirituality. This passage takes on
special importance when we note that Jesus' reading of Isaiah 61:1-2a at the
beginning of his ministry, in the Nazareth Synagogue, includes the addition
of an important phrase from Isaiah 58:6: "to let the oppressed go free." The
Luke 4:18-19 text begins with the phrase, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon
me, because he has anointed me," and it ends with the phrase that links
Jesus' ministry with the Jubilee: "to proclaim the year of the Lord's
favor." So Jesus confirms the lesson of Isaiah 58:1-12, that true
spirituality is to free those who are oppressed and to care for those who
are in need. This is his calling; this is the meaning of Jubilee; this is
V. 1-2. God calls the prophet to denounce his
people's rebellion. They were practicing daily some kind of spirituality or
religiosity, but apparently they were not practicing righteousness/justice.
The question arises whether it is possible "to draw near to God" without
V. 3a. The people complain that God does not see their
fasting, does not accept their pious expressions, does not hear their
V. 3b-5. God denounces their fasting and refuses to hear
their requests, for they oppress their workers, they quarrel and fight and
strike each other, even on their fast day.
V. 6-9a. God poses an alternative understanding and
expression of fasting: to let the oppressed go free, to share your bread
with the hungry, to bring the homeless into your houses, to clothe the
naked. God will see this true fasting, God will heal, God will vindicate,
God will hear their cries and respond.
V. 9b-12. God further explains that true spirituality is
to not speak evil of one another; it is to feed the hungry and care for the
afflicted. Then God will guide them, meet their needs, nurture their lives,
and enable them to rebuild their foundations.
1. Compare this lesson from Isaiah with Jesus'
teaching in the Parable of the Judgment of the Nations in Matthew 25:31-46.
2. Consider the relevance of this lesson from
Isaiah and from Jesus for our churches today. How would you teach this
lesson through drama or roll playing?
3. Examine and explain your own practice and
understanding of spirituality in the light of Isaiah 58:1-12, Luke 4:18-19,
and Matthew 25:31-46.
FAIR TRADE COFFEE
In recent months alarming reports have been circulating about the global
glut in the coffee market and its effect on more than 25 million coffee
farmers, their families, and their communities. Co-op America Quarterly
(Spring 2003) reports that 600,000 coffee farmers and workers have lost
their jobs in Central America; 700,000 families in Ethiopia face economic
instability complicated by the HIV/AIDS crisis; in many places prices have
fallen so low that the farmers cannot feed and care for their children
adequately; in some cases sales do not even cover the cost of production. At
the same time major companies and investors are enjoying windfall profits.
"Under conventional trade, the race for profit drives companies to minimize
their costs by exploiting workers and the environment in developing
"Fair trade is based on the principle of putting workers and the environment
first, while still working in a healthy business model. Businesses committed
to fair trade agree to adhere to the following criteria in their
relationships with farmers and workers:
Cooperative and healthy workplaces
A fair and living wage
Consumer education and public disclosure
Respect for cultural identity. (14)
"Fair trade guarantees farmers a fair wage for their labor, lifts them
out of poverty, and puts farmers on the road to self-determination. Fair
trade is bringing hope and justice to coffee farmers throughout the world."
(16) We the consumers can play a major role in this growing movement, which
reaches out not only to coffee farmers but also to other workers in similar
circumstances. Co-op America lists five fast ways to act:Buy fair trade products.
Encourage fair trade business practices.
Invest in fair trade businesses.
Many of us have been deeply concerned about the enormous
inequalities in our world and our seeming powerlessness compared with the
corporations that dominate trade. The fair trade movement brings the
realities of global economics right down to where we live, what we buy, eat,
and wear, how we practice our faith. Some faith communities begin simply by
serving and selling fair trade coffee after worship and at other meetings,
making available information about the movement and inviting friends to
consider this option for themselves. They in turn can pass the word along to
others, and some may take steps that will affect businesses, investments,
and the environment as well as workers. By 2001 there were 7000 retail
outlets selling fair trade goods in the US and Canada, an increase of 271%
in just one year. The Fair Trade Federation estimates that worldwide sales
of fair trade goods have reached $500 million already. Safeway, Whole Foods,
Trader Joe’s, and Starbucks now carry fair trade coffee--but it must be
requested. To find fair trade coffee, chocolate, tea, crafts, jewelry, etc.
see Co-op America’s National Green Pages (www.greenpages.org)
or TransFair USA (www.transfairusa.org/do/whereToBuy).
Consider the ways in which your family and faith community are already
participating in the fair trade movement and additional steps you may wish
to take with them.
TEN WAYS TO
SUPPORT FAIR TRADE
We may think that we can do nothing to really make a
difference in relation to the vast economic trade forces that are wrecking
havoc in the lives of millions of small farmers around the world. TransFair
USA affirms that "Consumers are the key to ensuring that farmers around the
world get their fair share." It offers the following list of "simple things
you can do to make a difference." For further information contact TransFair
1. Buy Fair Trade Certified products whenever and wherever
you can. Fair Trade Certified products are how
available in more than 10,000 locations, including many retail chains and
independent natural food stores and cafes.
2. Ask for Fair Trade Certified coffee, tea and chocolate
at your local cafÉ and grocery store. Ask to speak
with the manager or fill out a store comment card requesting Fair Trade
3. Educate yourself, your friends and your community.
Download fact sheets, backgrounders, recent articles, a powerpoint
presentation or order a video from our website that you can use to educate
yourself and share with your friends and community.
4. Write letters to the editor and help get Fair Trade in
the news. Write to your local newspaper citing
Fair Trade as a critical alternative to the current coffee crisis, or submit
a Fair Trade article to your company, community organization or
5. Get your City Council to adopt a Fair Trade Resolution.
City halls across the country have passed resolutions pledging to use Fair
Trade Certified coffee in government offices.
6. Host a Fair Trade event/fundraiser.
Host a gathering with friends to sell Fair Trade Certified coffee, tea and
7. Make Fair Trade coffee your congregation’s coffee of
choice. Share Fair Trade coffee at your place of
worship while educating your congregation about the social and environmental
issues surrounding coffee and supporting farmers and their families around
8. Choose a Fair Trade brew for your workplace.
Serving Fair Trade coffee in the workplace is a simple thing your company or
organization can do to directly support family farmers and the environment.
9. Bring Fair Trade to your college campus.
Students are a driving force in building the Fair Trade movement across the
10. Join TransFair’s monthly e-mail update.
To subscribe, send an e-mail to
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!