“The World We Seek”
Global Vision Statement
Montclair Presbyterian Church
As members and friends of Montclair Presbyterian Church, we work in solidarity with other likeminded people for peace and social justice in the world. But beyond the particular concerns we strive to address, what is our description of the world that we seek? The following is a vision of that world, a world already taking shape.
As Christians and as spiritual people, we know that the world we seek is based upon certain universal, spiritual values. These include having compassion for all, expressing gratitude for the wonder of creation, valuing the individual person as an embodiment of the sacred, understanding the interconnection between all living things, treasuring and protecting our environment, and building a system of social justice for all people. While these values are abstract, they are always enacted in the particular. We take seriously the maxim “think globally, act locally.”
Never before have we understood so clearly how global warming, conflict between peoples, poverty, disease, inequality and injustice are interrelated. But also, as never before, we have a sense of what we can do as part of a worldwide community of people acting out of a global consciousness. It is this global consciousness and vision that we articulate here.
I. PEACEMAKING AND NONVIOLENCE
The work of creating global change is, among other things, the work of peacemaking. Peacemaking is grounded in the concept and practice of nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King taught us that nonviolence is not only a concept that we advocate between nations. It is also a discipline that begins with each of us, then extends to immediate others, and then to the wider world. The events of daily life can include small acts of violence –sometimes unintended– toward each other. Learning to nurture peace within ourselves and with each other is as much a part of peacemaking as solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Be the change you seek in the world” is our mantra as we work for peace. Many members of our church have completed the Pace e Bene class, Engage, which teaches the discipline of nonviolence. Together we strive to be the change we envision for the world, exemplifying in our individual and communal life the practice of nonviolence. Spiritual activism, the practice of nonviolence in an often violent and self-centered world, is the Gospel at work and a sign of hope for the world.
In this spirit, we espouse a world without war, not resting until we see the end of war as a means of resolving international disputes. War traumatizes the victim and the aggressor alike. It implants in the human mind the false notion that violence resolves problems. We know that informed strength and patient diplomacy, over time, can resist tyranny and resolve conflicts.
We seek a world where negotiation is the way by which we, as nations, settle our disagreements. Therefore we will encourage the Obama administration, with e-mails, letters, phone calls and personal witness, to strengthen the role of diplomacy in world affairs and to transform the image of the United States from that of war maker to that of peacemaker. We will strive to strengthen the role of the United Nations and other international bodies that put the interests of all peoples above the interests of a few. In our own church we will continue to promote international study tours and exchanges as a means of deeper intercultural dialogue. We will pass on to our children and youth an interest in and openness to people of other nations and cultures.
We will address the issue locally as well, committing to end the cycle of violence in Oakland. Many children throughout our city witness violence every day and thus learn to be violent themselves. We will join with local groups such as Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) that work for social justice and an end to violence in our community.
II. ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Human use of fossil fuels–as an engine of our economy and a vehicle for raising living standards–has collided with the limits of our environment. Unless we can halt and then reverse global warming, the result will be catastropic for humanity and the entire complex of species that inhabit the earth. For these reasons, we seek a world that relies on renewable resources of energy–especially solar and wind power and new energy technologies.
In our individual lives we commit to making this transition–specifically, using less and less carbon based material for our homes and transportation, and in every way switching to renewable energy. Each of us will reduce our carbon footprints on the globe. We will support local economies such as farmers’ markets, which diminish the need to transport food over long distances. At the same time, we will work in a larger, collective way, pressing our national government to expedite climate change legislation that will place the United States at the forefront of a worldwide movement to reverse global warning.
III. ECONOMY AND ECONOMIC WELL BEING
In early 2009 we face a worldwide economic crisis like none we have experienced in recent decades. But this should be no surprise. For many years we have known that our global economy has not worked for millions, even billions of human beings. Extreme poverty is widespread. The world economic system works to a limited degree for the developed nations, but hardly at all for the developing world. Large, multinational companies thrive while the poor rarely benefit from their economic activity. Economic dislocation and suffering are often at the root of political turmoil, terrorism, and military conflict. It is too easy for us to tolerate these conditions; we are committed to building a global economy that sustains all people.
We will work for a world in which the ethic and practice of sustainability replace our current system of extraction and consumption. A sustainable economy is one in which we rely on renewable resources for our energy needs, in which we recycle the resources we use as much as possible, and in which large numbers of people can support themselves without interruption or economic dislocation. An example of a sustainable economy is the recent emergence of fair trade coffee plantations in Central and South America.
Shifting to the model of sustainability will require major adjustments on all our parts. We, as individuals and a church community, will be more frugal and less consumerist. At Montclair Presbyterian Church, we will sponsor programs and activities that support these personal lifestyle changes. On a larger scale, we will push for the development of an environmentally based, green economy that can provide well paying jobs and new entrepreneurial opportunities. Internationally, we will support enterprises–such as the Oikocredit Project–that are symbols of this new economy. And finally, we will strive to build not only a material economy that is sustainable but a sustainable social community.
IV. HUMAN RIGHTS
We endorse The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as approved by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, which outlines the major human rights that need to be respected and embraced in communities and nations across the globe. We especially call attention to three of its provisions. Article 3 states: “Everyone has a right to life, liberty and security of person.” Whether on the streets of Oakland or Baghdad or Jakarta, the right to security–protection of one’s very person–is often not respected or maintained. We seek a world where all governments and people protect this right above all else, so that ordinary persons may pursue their livelihoods and aspirations in safety.
Article 25 states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing and medical attention. We have especial concern for the right to affordable health care. Article 27 affirms that everyone has the right to education directed toward the full development of the human personality. We particularly advocate for girls’ education, both as an essential right and because it has been shown to reduce birth rates, which helps to alleviate the problem of overpopulation.
We also endorse a proposed Article 31 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the right to clean, safe, affordable water for all human beings. In our day, clean drinkable water is becoming a scarce commodity in many regions. None of us can survive without fresh, potable water. Some multinational companies have, over the last 15 years, made water a saleable commodity with its own inflated price tag. Other companies have made expensive bottled water an alternative to tap water, even in developed areas of the world. Government policies have also contributed to these problems. The world we seek will insure the right to safe, affordable water and will create infrastructure in every community for access to and distribution of this life giving resource.
Montclair Presbyterian Church is supportive of other human rights, particularly the right to access all forms of family planning and the right of every adult person, regardless of sexual orientation, to marry.
V. SPIRITUALITY, RELIGION AND SOCIAL CHANGE
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus,’ is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.'” (Mark 12:28-31)
The work of social action benefits from an active spiritual life and inner self-discipline: prayer, meditation, and self-examination. These practices guide and revitalize the work of social action. The vision, values and actions delineated in this document are grounded in our understanding of Jesus’ teachings and of the Christian faith. But the sense of a spiritual reality underlying the visible world is common to many other faith traditions. We share with them the call to treat others as we would have others treat us. The world we seek is one in which all religious faiths work toward this common end–to love God and to care for and love each other.
We are called to work in concert with other faiths–to help create together the foundation for real social change. Programs such as the Faith Trio connect Montclair Presbyterian Church with people of other faiths in a meaningful way. Joining hands with other Christian denominations and other religions is key to the global change we seek.
The Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) has contributed to the rethinking of Presbyterian outreach to the world in such international enterprises as the Hunger Project and the Joining Hands Movement. It has also joined in programs of the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical efforts. At Montclair Church we have not fully utilized the national office of our denomination as a resource with respect to social witness and global mission. We will work more closely with PCUSA agencies to create a movement for dynamic global change.
Finally, at Montclair Church we will find effective ways of passing the torch to the next generation and benefiting from their perspectives. We will involve younger adults and youth in the work of global mission–personally inviting them to join in study tours, projects local and abroad, and Internet based communications.
Jesus’ message was consistently one of love and compassion for all people. He spoke of the Kingdom of God as a realm or state of being in which compassion is preeminent. He said “What shall we say the Kingdom of God is like, or what parable should we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32)
We seek a world where the Kingdom of God is close at hand, where the mustard seed has taken root and has become a sustaining tree, where compassion has become the overarching theme of our planet. We will build a world where energy use protects our environment, where peacemaking has replaced war, where the economy sustains each and every individual, and where human rights are uniformly honored. We will pray for and work for this world in our time.