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Church of Norway General Synod on Consumption and Justice

Church of Norway General Synod 1996.

The decisions of the Church of Norway General Synod
- issue 10/96:

1. The General Synod wishes that the attached letter is sent to all congregations in the Church of Norway requesting them to use the document in ways they find useful.

2. The General Synod urges the Church of Norway National Council to produce proposals for a service, based on elements from this letter, and distribute this as an introduction of the 1997 year of pilgrimage in the Church of Norway.

3. The General Synod asks the Church of Norway National Council to distribute and publicize this letter to other Christian organizations, environmental groups, political parties and other relevant cooperating partners.

4. The General Synod encourages the staff and boards at all levels in the Church of Norway, national, diocesan and local, to implement the challenges as described in the letter. Concrete objectives should be formulated for all aspects of the work in the Church, related to the nine mentioned challenges, and there should be regular reportings to evaluate the progress.



Consumption and Justice

The General Synod greets all congregations and councils in the Church of Norway and everyone of good will:

Opening psalm: 1 "Still in the Darkness"

(Text: Svein Ellingsen - Melody: Svein Møller - Transl.: Gracia Grindal)

1.
Still in the darkness the starlight is gleaming
Sunrise turns midnight to morning and day.
Starlight and sunshine send dreams filled with glory
Down to our wounded and blood-spattered earth.

2.
Hope is still burning and shining within us,
Candles still gleam in the darkest of nights.
Wounds can be healed and made healthy and wholesome,
We can make peace with our mother, the earth.

3.
Deep in our hearts, hope and vision are shining
This is the Lord's Day, creation's eight day.
We will now learn, to our gratefull elation,
All of creation is kindred at birth.

4.
We can believe in a new earth and heaven.
Weakness shall perish and day follow night.
See, how our kindred, all God has created,
Wait to be served by the faithfull on earth.

5.
Groaning creation shall yet sing your praises
Music shall fill up creation's new day.
We will take all to our loving creator,
We who belong to God's kingdom on earth.


Opening

Grace be with you, and peace upon you from the God Allmighty and his Son Jesus Christ!

"The world has enough for every man's need, but not for every man's greed" (Mahatma Ghandi). In our present context this is for sure a word of wisdom, that can guide us in the changes that we all have to face. Such changes will be challenging for everyone of us. There are people in our parts of the world who have already started. Many have lived a more spiritual and less materialistic life for a long time, and they have showed us that a non-consumer life-style is fully possible.


Confession of sins and Kyrie

Allmighty Father, we consume more than our fair share.
Therefore your creation suffers.
We exploit the resources, and leave little to the poor and oppressed.

We are captives of consumption.
We confess that we do not want to come out of this emprisonment.

We seek safety by owning,
and try to escape anxiety by buying.
We lack time and replace it by things.
We confess that we love the substitutes.

We steel from our children and the next generations.
We know that life on earth is threatened,
but this knowledge paralyzes us.
We confess that the passivity is comfortable
and that we do not want to break up.

We see the social cohesion eroding.
We see lifethreatening sufferings and injustice.
We see the value of socal ethics diminishing.
We see that human dignity is threatened.
We see the consumer culture as integral parts of our lives.
We confess that we close our eyes for what we see.

We confess that we do know - but we are not willing.
We do not want a to committ ourself;
therefore our withness lacks credibility.
We do not want to take part in the process of change;
therefore others continue to carry the burdens.
We do not want to consider the costs of breaking up;
therefore others are broken down.

We express agreement, but we do not act.
We see the ideals of love and confidence, but ignore them.
Allmighty Lord, we confess that we are confessing
without breaking away from our sin.
"From the depths of my despair
I call to you, Lord.
Hear my cry, O Lord;
Listen to my call for help!" (Psalms 130.1-2)

Kyrie Eleison!
Lord, have mercy on us!


Gloria

Lord, our holy God, when all our ideas about our own greatness have fallen to the ground,
what else can we do but to give Thee all glory!
When the belief in the superiority of our part of the world is wiped out, what else can we do but to worship Thee as the Heavenly King!
When our prosperity does not give us security and our affluence no longer can protect our place on earth,
what else can we do but to praise Thee and glorify Thee, almighty Father! 2


Lesson

I Psalms 24.1:
The world and all that is in it
belong to the Lord;
the earth and all who live on it
are his.

II Matthew 6. 19-34:
Treasures on earth
Do not store up riches for yourself here on earth,
where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steel.
Instead, store up riches for yourself in heaven,
where moths and rust cannot destory, and robbers cannot break in and steel.
For your heart wil always be where your riches are.

The sick eye
The eyes are like a lamp for the body.
If your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light;
but if your eyes are no good, your body will be in darkness.
So if the light in you is darkness, how terribly dark it will be!
God and money
No one can be a slave of two masters;
he will hate one and love the other;
he will be loyal to one and despite the other.
You cannot serve both God and money.

God's care
This is why I tell you not to be worried about the food and drink you need
in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body.
After all, isn't life worth more than food?
And isn't the body worth more than clothes?
Look at the birds:
They do not sow seeds, gather a harvest and put in barns;
yet your Father in heaven takes care of them!
Aren't you worth much more than birds?
Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?
And why worry about clothes?
Look how the wild flowers grow, they do not work or make clothes for themselves.
But I tell you that not even King Salomo with all his wealth
had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers.
It is God that clothes the wild grass -
grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burnt in the oven.
Won't he be all the more sure to cloth you? How little faith you have!
So do not start worrying:
'Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?'
These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.
Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things.

The Kingdom of God
Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God
and what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things.


Rejection and creed

We reject the Devil
and all his evil deeds in us
and his immanent greed.

We believe in God, the allmighty Creator, the owner of the earth and everything in it.
We believe in Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who sets us free to serve others.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, who comforts us, guides us and gives strenght to make the right choice.


Prayer

Eternal God, we give You our praise, you Lord over heaven and earth.
We pray for the world that You have created.
Help us all to take care of Your creation, to protect human dignity and
preserve the gifts of nature to the best of everybody.
Help us to share the wealths of the earth and
use them according to Your will, in Your honour and for the best of our children.
Lead the poor and those who suffer out of degradation and
give freedom to those who are oppressed.

All this we ask you, our Lord and Father. 3



Blessing


The Lord said to us: "There is more happiness in giving than in receiving."
Acts 20. 35b

EXIT
TOWARDS THE YEAR 2000: "3 X 3 RINGS" FOR CHANGE, ACTION AND HOPE.

Towards the second millennium for the celebration of the birth of Christ, the Church of Norway wants to highlight this great opportunity by bringing in three dimensions; for change, action and rejoice:
- We want as a church to unite with all human beings and organizations of good intent to build broad alliances, both locally, nationally and globally, to prepare a basis for personal comittment and political changes for less consumption and more justice. The local parishes' participation should be seen in the context of introducing Local Agenda 21, where cooperation is a precondition for change. We encourage the parishes to take part in such cooperation. 4
- We want - on every occasion (Synods and Festivals) - to build consciousness and by concrete means inspire to action.
- We want to assess and evaluate what is done - on all levels - to reach concrete results for each of the nine challenges.

United in faith, we all wish to express our thanks to our Lord and Creator that we do not have to worry for our materialistic survival. However, we all see our duty in being examples for others, by working for changes, in order to realize the will of God with his creation. The Bible shows us that God takes the side of the opressed.

Being church in one of the world's most affluent countries, keeping enormous resources, the Church of Norway - as a communio of believers - has a major responsibility in questions relating to consumption and justice. We want to express thanks to researchers who have shown us the relationship between comsumption and justice, and the limits of nature. This insight has to be constantly renewed.

The Synod participants themselves seek a personal transformation in relation to the consumer culture, and are willing to reduce their consumption as one small step to ensure a more just distribution globally.

* The use of church funds
We strongly ask for new procedures for investment of our funds, in the ecumenical development bank EDCS, established by the World Council of Churches. In the process of reorganizing the Special Capital Fund, where more decisions lay with the Church of Norway National Council, one must ensure that a substantial proportion of the capital can be invested in this or similar banks, for development purposes. Such an investment will be to the best of our sister churches in the South. 5


* Introducing Fair Trade
A lot of the goods we buy in the grocery stores, are produced under highly intolerable ecological and social conditions. The coffee we drink in our parishes is no exception, and the coffee grower receives only marginal income from this. The increased competition in order to survive on the global market, sets aside concerns for human rights, social conditions and nature's best.
Conscious choices will produce changes. Our economic system is nothing but the sum of the choices we constantly do as consumers. The Church of Norway must support the introduction of the Fair Trade-concept in Norway, in order to make these available in every store. In the Church of Norway - at all levels - Fair Trade items should be preferred. 6 In addition, it is important that such items are used in the ordinary household.

* Resource awareness
In our daily activities, we have to introduce the concept "green office", and work for implementing environmentally sustainable practices also concerning transportation and energy savings in the work of the Church of Norway. We cannot talk of changes or "small steps" without starting with ourselves in work and leisure activities. The family and the parish will benefit from actively using the books "Green Church Book", 7 "Green Office" and "Natulig Vis", the two last ones isued by "The Environmental Homeguard" in Norway, a network in which also the Church of Norway participate. 8 We are now in a siuation where we have the freedom of choice, and this freedom also implies much responsibility; we encourage everyone to consider this responsibility.

* Using time and money
We should eagerly support those who are willing to share their resources with many. We can share our time, our services and our money. Confronting one of our society's major problems - loneliness - the time we are willing to set aside for others, is of great importance. At the same time, we strongly encourage everyone to consider the Biblical practice of tenth. This is not an act of lawish fatih, but can rather be a liberating act. God loves the one who gives gladly. Too much wealth will prevent us from understanding the esscence of the Gospel. 9

The share of the offerings collected in the parishes, has the last four years increasingly been used for activities in the parishes, at the expense of contributions for international diaconia and missionary work. The parish boards should consider whether this is a fair distribution of the money at their disposal.

Commercials and the media produce materialistic needs; needs that can never be satisfied what so ever. One example to illustrate how the consumer culture becomes an integral part of our lives, can be found in the recent permissions to keep grocery shops open even on Sundays. Seeking silence, fellowship, reflection and services will be even harder in such a context. We ask the Norwegian authorities not to issue such opening permissions.

* The human dimension
The consumer culture makes difference between those who make large contributions as producers and consumers, and those who does not contribute. The economic system leaves many behind in the competition, and the consumer culture therefore undermines the social cohesion. We see an alarming development when human dignity - given us all as images of God - is increasingly threatened. We express our deep concern facing genetics with a pure profit-maximizing motivation. The preference of "perfect" children as a motivation for gen-manipulation, is ethically invalid.

The respect for human dignity and the respect for life is also threatened by the practice of abortions and the steadily high number of abortions in our country. We also strongly encourage all members of the parishes to actively support those women choose to give birth to their children. 10


* Indigenous people
National states at all continents oppress the indigenous peoples and deprive them of their rights by setting aside their self-determination over habitats and natural resources. The economic activities by the transnational companies undermine their traditional economic activities; by this their resources, culture and identity is undermined. Norwegian authorities should work actively for a new approach, ending such exploitation.
The Gospel witness to all human beings about liberation and salvation. Preaching the Gospel should always respect the spirituality of the indigenous people. Their knowledge and experiences is a resource that we should consider to better understand the Theology of life and ethical reflection on our responsibility for the survival of mother earth. 11


* Debt cancellation for the poorest countries
The iron fist that the poorest and most heavily indebted countries are held in, leads to human sufferings and degradation. Human beings are sacrificed as a consequence of the exploitation mechanisms that exist within the global division of labour and the global terms of trade. Debt cancellation must be negotiated, ongoing talks intensified. The financial resources for such a cancellation should be found both within the rich countries and the World Bank. An active approach, also from the Norwegian government, should be taken in order to make the year 2000 a jubileeyear for justice, with a total cancelleation of the debt to the poorest countries. Norway should here be in the forefront in international debt negotiations, and set an example itself. 12


* Climate
Norway has, through its petroleum policy, transportation policy and reduced research on alternative sources of energy, shown lack of global responsibility. Norwegian authorities must work actively to stabilize the omission of green house gasses at 1989-level within the year 2000, as they have agreed and committed themselves upon. We cannot wait for the other states. The short time-span and selfish motives among the rich countries, where we can now see an increase in the gas omissions, limit the opportunity for the developing countries to plan their own development: Some states risk risk disappearance due to rising water level. Other states must limit their economic activity because the nature cannot take any more of our global omissions. 13


* Green tax
Our existing taxation system is designed in a time when there was work for everyone, and when environmentally damaging consumption and production were unnoticed issues. Today we face completely different challenges. The answer to such challenges should among other things be a shift in the taxation system - from taxation of labour to taxation of resource-intensive and polluting activities.

Said in a simple way, scarcities like employment becomes cheaper, while abundancies like pollution becomes more expensive. This will have considerable environmental gains, and make us more aware as consumers.14



Ending words
Go with peace! Serve the Lord of life with joy!



Footnotes:

1. Originally written in Norwegian for YMCA / YWCA Summer Assembly 1992.
2. Taken from the Norwegian Bishop's report "The Consumer Society as a Challenge" from the Bishop's Conference 1992.
3. Extracts from prayers used in the Church of Norway, taken from the liturgical books.
4. Local Agenda 21 is a continuation of the World Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, intending to coordinate all environmental efforts at local and regional level.
5. In the process of reorganizing the Special Capital Fund from the 1. of January 1997, the Church of Norway National Council must follow up the recommendations and decisions made at the Church Synod.
6. In Norway surveys are undertaken to assess the interest for - and actively market - Fair Trade goods (coffee, tea, cocoa and in some years also other articles). The Church of Norway National Council must immediately be given the opportunity to take part in the start-up of the Fair Trade concept - as it is done in most of the other European countries. The Norwegian Church Aid's youth movement "Changemaker" is one of the most acitive in their work for fair trade.
7. "Green Church Book" is a resource book issued by the Church of Norway Development Education Service and is a useful tool and inspirator for congregations that want to work both with "green" services and "green" congregational life in general.
8. In the administration of the Church at all levels, this conciousness should have an impact, and at the Norwegian Church Days 1997 ("Here are the people who seek the face of the lord") in Trondheim, the pilgrime motive must also be linked to the call for breaking up.
9. The members of the ecumenical "Korsvei"-movement ("Walking the Way of the Cross") are among them who have challenged other Christians in Norway personally to asess their use of time and money.
10. The Synod's strategic document "Protection of the unborn child - protection of the life" must in this context strongly be emphasized, and its implementation must have a high priority.
11. The Sami Church Council must give more priority to present the spirituality of the indigenous people and their call for justice.
12. The Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations is part of the Norwegian Network for Debt Cancellation, which works actively for reforming the Norwegian policy on the poorest countries' debt. This Network also take part in Nordic, European and world-wide networks working for debt cancellation, with church institutions in a central position.
13. The "Climate Alliance" is a Norwegian NGO-network, actively lobbying in Norwegian Ministries and in the Parliament. In particular they have focused on the setting up of two Norwegian gas power plants, which will contribute to an increase in the Norwegian CO2-omissions with another five per cent. Also the World Council of Churches is working actively to change the climate policy of the Western countries.
14. The Church Synod in this context refers to the so-called "Green Tax Commission". The Synod asks the government to work for a reform in the Norwegian tax system, so that green taxes can be introduced without further delays.

 

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