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Fair Trade

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 bill >>

Coming soon:

A Bible study on Fair Trade

Fair 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, There is a reduced rate for purchases of 10 copies or more. Call 314-773-7358 for telephone orders.


A couple early reviewers comment:

“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 households.”

Ched Myers
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.”

Anna Case-Winters
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 model!

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.

Check out what the candidates are saying about trade and globalization here >>

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.

Haiti provides an example of fair trade partnerships as an empowering business model for that nation's coffee growers

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 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 work:

bulletA bible study on "TRUE FASTING, TRUE SPIRITUALITY – Isaiah 58:1-12"
bulletA contemporary case study: FAIR TRADE COFFEE
bulletConcrete steps for fair trade: TEN WAYS TO SUPPORT FAIR TRADE


Isaiah 58:1-12

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 our calling.

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 practicing justice.

V. 3a. The people complain that God does not see their fasting, does not accept their pious expressions, does not hear their petitions.

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.



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 countries." (14)

"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
Environmental sustainability
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.
Educate others.
Invest in fair trade businesses.
Join campaigns

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 ( or TransFair USA (

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.


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 USA (

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 Certified products.

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 congregation’s newsletter.

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 chocolate.

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 the globe.

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 country.

10. Join TransFair’s monthly e-mail update. To subscribe, send an e-mail to



Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

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.


John Shuck’s new "Religion 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 lightening up.

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 Shore blogspot

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 Flushing, NY.


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 thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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