RESOLUTION ADOPTED BY 2013 DIOCESAN CONVENTION ON ECONOMIC JUSTICE AND INCOME INEQUALITY
Submitted to 2013 Diocesan Convention by the Diocesan Council and the Diocesan Economic Justice Coalition
RESOLVED, That the 181ST Convention of the Diocese of Vermont call upon our bishop, the House of Bishops and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the President of the House of Deputies and the Executive Council to speak out and name economic inequality as a spiritual and moral issue of immediate and urgent concern; and be it further
RESOLVED, that this Convention request the Presiding Bishop to convene an interfaith coalition to provide moral leadership for the establishment of economic justice in our country; and be it further
RESOLVED, that this Convention endorse the following statement on Economic Justice and Income Inequality adopted by the Diocesan Council on June 29, 2013:
RESOLVED, that to put out faith and conviction into action, the Diocese of Vermont, and all congregations and institutions within the Diocese are urged to pay all lay employees the hourly livable wage determined to be applicable by the State of Vermont as annually computed by the State in its Mandatory Livable Wage Report (2 VSA 505)
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ Matthew 22:36-40
As Episcopalians, we bind ourselves in our baptismal covenant, “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves” and “to strive for justice and peace among all persons”, and “respect the dignity of every human being.”
In 1970, the richest 1 percent of Americans enjoyed 9 percent of total national pre-tax income. In 2011, by contrast, that share had risen to 19.8 percent. This large increase in inequality has been exacerbated by a regressive tax policy. Tax rates on the top 1 percent of taxpayers have fallen over this same period. According to Chuck Collins in 99 to 1 the growing gap is not only of income but also of total wealth, with 82 percent of all wealth gains going to the top 5 percent between 1983 and 2009. The bottom 60 percent lost wealth during these years. By contrast, the period from 1947 to 1977 had seen solid increases in prosperity in every income group.
We believe that our democracy is threatened. As Louis Brandeis has said: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”
The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United guaranteed special interests the freedom to raise and spend any amount, from any source, at any time, in order to win elections has lead to further deterioration of our social fabric and the loss of trust in our institutions.
The systematic destruction of the middle class has had serious consequences for preservation of families, health, education and employment and even greater consequences for those in the bottom 30%. Significant social unrest is a growing possibility.
Our financial system has become deeply distorted: financial institutions that are “too big to fail,” investment instruments few can understand, and pervasive conflicts of interest.
The suffering and overpowered majority will continue to lose the struggle for jobs, affordable housing, education, retirement security, a sustainable environment and peace if we keep silent. This situation cries out for us to open our eyes, ears, minds and hearts to a growing bitter reality.
We must take responsibility for our own relative wealth and evaluate our own financial practices individually and as a church. We must use our voices and our assets to seek justice and relieve the suffering and inequity that surround us.
Passed by Council on June 29, 2013