Social Creed for the 21st Century


The 216th General Assembly (2006) asked the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) with the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical Relations and the Department of Theology and Worship to continue work on updating for the 21st century the 1908 “Social Creed of the Churches” for presentation at the 218th General Assembly (2008) to celebrate the centennial of the “Social Creed of the Churches” of 1908.

Download a Bulletin Insert

Use this bulletin insert the Sunday before Labor Day or on a day of your choosing. Download

Learn about the Social Creed

This 28-minute DVD is a professionally produced documentary introducing both the 1908 and 2008 Social Creeds and the church’s prophetic concerns in the century in between. Presbyterian and ecumenical leaders speak to why and how the church has used it voice and built structures for economic, racial, women’s and environmental justice.  A final section looks at how the Social Creed can help address new challenges to Christian social witness in the 21st Century. Order the DVD from the church store: Toward a New Social Awakening, The Social Creed 1908-2008. $7.00.

Social Creed Poster

Print a color poster with an overview of the Social Creed for the 21st Century. Download

Nourishing Our Spirits for the Long Haul

Book of prayers related to new social creed

How do we pray in the face of heart-rending injustice and tragedy? Where do we get our soul strength renewed?

That God is our answer is no surprise, but there are many surprises in this new prayer book: an Orthodox theologian composes a prayer for the bees, the former head of Witness for Peace provides a great prayer for persons in recovery, a retired CIA agent prays for integrity for spies, a tax lawyer prays for tax fairness, a well-known biblical scholar and a potter describe how to pray — especially for rain, an unknown immigrant from Mexico provides a lament for immigrants suffocated in a locked truck on the Texas border. The book features almost 100 prayers in total.

There are prayers by well-known leaders of conscience: Sister Helen Prejean for those on death row, Marian Wright Edelman for children, Tony Campolo for national repentance, Walter Brueggemann for justice for the poor,  Letty Russell before her death.

There are a range of well-known theologians and ethicists: John Cobb, Stanley Hauerwas, Gary Dorrien, Katie Cannon, John Haight, Robert Bellah, Rita Nakashima-Brock, Don Shriver, Doug Ottati, Max Stackhouse.

There are devotional writers, including well-known Catholics and Quakers: Richard Rohr, Edward Hays, Donna Schaper, Robert Ellsberg, Cathy Whitmire, Ted Loder, Barrie Shepherd, Chris Glaser, Glenn Hinson, Marjorie Thompson, Ann Weems, and novelist Walter Wangerin.

There are pastors and leaders of the church: John Buchanan of Fourth Church Chicago, Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches, Gordon Cosby of Church of the Savior, Washington, D.C., Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and Pax Christi, Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson of the Reformed Church in America, Will Willimon, former Duke Chaplain and now Methodist Bishop in Alabama.

Published in May 2008, Prayers for the New Social Awakening: Inspired by the New Social Creed is designed to give encouragement to Christians who hear the prophetic call. Modeled on the 1909 prayerbook by Walter Rauschenbusch, For God and the People: Prayers for the Social Awakening, this prayer book underlines the truth that justice issues are spiritual issues. The prayers illuminate the struggles of life and work of their authors, and show what “seeds of contemplation” have sustained them. The book was co-edited by Christian Iosso and Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty and grew out of the work of the Presbyterian study team that prepared much of the new Social Creed.

The prayer book is hardcover, 200 pages, and is available from Westminster/John Knox Press, (800) 523-1631, for $19.95.

To Do Justice

Using the Creed in Deed

Another Resource for Putting the Social Creed into practice

Published in mid-2008 by Westminster/John Knox, To Do Justice: A Guide For Progressive Christians lifts up twelve major commitments in the new Social Creed and looks at them in some depth, devoting a short chapter to each in the 164-page total. The book includes guidance on strategy and examples of witness.

The twelve essays focus on big challenges: labor, health, housing, poverty, education, the war and militarism, the environment, the prison system, strengthening families and weakening the scourge of addiction. The chapters are written by an inclusive and highly respected group of ethicists, most with direct experience in organizing as well as studying on their issues of concern.

Co-editors Rebecca Todd Peters and Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, both professors and ministers, include discussion questions with each chapter.

The book is available from Westminster/John Knox Press, (800) 523-1631.

Assembly approves new social creed, the first in a century

San Jose, June 27, 2008—By a 5-to-1 margin, the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Friday approved “A Social Creed for the 21st Century,” exactly 100 years after the “Social Creed” of 1908 spoke to the harshness of industrial life at the turn of the last century.

Commissioners defeated a alternate motion that would have sent the 2008 creed to churches for study before the 2010 Assembly.

Committee approves new social creed

San Jose, June 24, 2008—One hundred years after “A Social Creed of the Churches” joined Christians together to work to ease the human costs of industrialization, General Assembly’s Social Justice Issues Committee passed a new social creed Tuesday to “meet the challenges of sustainability and globalization.”

The vote was 54–19 with one abstention to approve recommending “A Social Creed for the 21st Century” to the 218th General Assembly. The new creed will be forwarded to member churches in the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) for their ratification.

During a lengthy debate, youth advisory delegate Michael Mishkovsky urged the creed’s adoption. “Why do you think kids aren’t joining the church?” he asked. “It’s because we don’t pass things like this. I want to be defined by love, and this is the way.”

From Horizons magazine May/June 2008

Celebrating 100 Years of Social Awareness:
The Social Creed for the 21st Century

by Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty

Economic issues weigh heavily on the minds of citizens of the United States. Stories about the rise in foreclosure rates across the nation and reports concerning the growing disparity between the rich and the poor have begun to appear more frequently in newspaper headlines in recent months. These and other problems leave many people of faith feeling overwhelmed and wondering about their own responsibility to respond to such problems. We are in desperate need of change. Where might we look to understand the changes that are needed in the United States and in the larger global context? Are there visions for change that might help us faithfully consider public policies that will ensure our society promotes equality, justice, fairness and peace?

I believe there are visions for such change, and that the community of faith is ready to answer some of these difficult questions. Though churches are not always known for their progressive nature or openness to social change, churches have a long history of prophetic activity.

How have people of faith put their faith to work in the public, political sphere? And how are they doing it today? Find out by reading the full text of this article in the May/June issue of Horizons.