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A Social Creed for the 21st Century


What does the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) stand for in our nation’s life?

September 4, 2017

Beyond the particular moral concerns, do we have a different vision to offer?

And if we do, are we alone, or are other churches with us?

The “Social Creed” is a concise summary of what we stand for, written in a positive way, and in three sections, recalling God’s Trinitarian nature and the great Christian bases of faith, hope and love. It reflects many long-standing convictions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), reinforcing the work of the Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. It is also meant to strengthen the responsible citizenship of each Presbyterian Christian.

It does have particular moral principles and policies, starting with human rights for all and building on the concerns for working conditions, wages and social insurance that the churches prophetically raised in the first Social Creed of 1908. But the 2008 version is a more holistic document, focusing on renewing a social covenant with greater justice, equality and democracy; less war abroad and punishing racial and class division at home; and an urgent call to a “green” transition to renewable energy to preserve the earth.

Like the 1908 original, the Social Creed for the 21st Century was done with ecumenical consultation and was adopted unanimously by the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., which unites 34 member churches. These include the historic African-American churches, several Eastern Orthodox churches, as well as the “mainline” churches. It is not a doctrinal creed, and so could be affirmed as a guide for the social ministries and witness of all our churches.

How do we teach and work with the Social Creed?

The 28-minute DVD Toward a New Social Awakening is a professionally done picture-story of the churches’ concerns for workers’ and civil rights, equal rights for women, peace advocacy and concern for climate change, going from 1908 to 2008 and then looking ahead. The churches have, in fact, had considerable influence for good. The DVD is available for download here: It is available for purchase here:

The booklet Connecting to the Creed contains biblical and historical background for each of the affirmations and enduring policy directions — instantly applicable to many of the policies being debated today. See

A book, Prayers for the New Social Awakening (2008), contains 99 prayers by respected Christian prophets and activists, leaders and writers, addressing a wide range of challenges in a wide range of styles. Prayers for lawyers or farmworkers, for example, or on immigration or addictions, are all included, and Roman Catholic as well as Protestant and Orthodox contributors are among the voices represented in this collection. A Muslim and a Jewish prayer also reflect our monotheistic family of faiths. The book can be ordered here:

The Social Creed itself can be made available as a bulletin insert or incorporated in a brightly colored poster. The Social Creed’s layout designer, Presbyterian elder and businesswoman Patricia Chapman, has also developed creative children’s curriculum that incorporates the Social Creed at many points. Contact the nonprofit (based at Scarborough (N.Y.) Presbyterian Church) for placemats and other resources full of biblical and current cultural references.  

Labor Day’s own focus on labor complements the Social Creed. The Social Creed speaks of a “living wage,” not a minimum wage, but it is clear that the minimum wage should be raised above its current poverty levels. The campaign for $15 per hour has succeeded in a number of cities, and a number of states have voted to raise their minimum wages. The scope of U.S. inequality, however, remains spectacular, with numerous studies documenting the growing gap between “haves” and “have nots.”

Regulations protecting workers from hazardous chemicals as well as regulations protecting unions and workers’ pensions are generally being weakened by legal challenges and lack of enforcement, which may mean further inequality. The Social Creed provides principles in these areas, but leaves specific solutions to responsible legislators who seek to serve the common good and not special interests.

For Presbyterians marking the Social Creed on Labor Day 2017, prayers would appropriately include the unemployed and the demoralizing impacts of unemployment on a weekend when most of us simply celebrate a day off. Let us also pray for creative government and market solutions that create both good jobs and technological advances, so that fewer of our people — and others overseas — are abandoned by those who already have much.

The Social Creed lifts up Jesus’ words in John 10:10, that he came so that we might have “abundant life.”

Christian Iosso, Coordinator, Advocacy Committee on Social Witness Policy, Compassion, Peace & Justice

Today’s Focus:  A Social Creed for the 21st Century

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Eliza Minasyan, PMA                                                                                          
Diane Minter, OGA

Let us pray:

Prayer excerpt, from Prayers for the New Social Awakening, by Rev. Peter Laarman:

“That We May Not Be Distracted by False Images”

Gracious One, awaken us to the real suffering and real hope that surround us each day. Remove the scales from our eyes. In a culture distracted by false images of the good life — in a culture ruled by distorted desires and nameless fears — redirect our desire toward those things that make for peace and reconciliation.

Redirect our attention from clueless celebrities and pandering politicians toward the everyday heroes in our midst who live out your gospel call against overwhelming odds. Ground us in truth and love. Remove our fear. In a winner-take-all marketplace, remind us that each person made in your image is as worthy of respect and as deserving of the good things of life as any other. …

Help us to love our country not for what it is now but for what it might yet be if we are willing to give up our idols, turn from our distractions, and walk humbly in your way. Amen.

Daily Readings

Morning Psalms 62; 145
First Reading 2 Chronicles 6:32-7:7
Second Reading James 2:1-13
Gospel Reading Mark 14:53-65
Evening Psalms 73; 9

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