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Diocesan Resolution 2015_AC141_01: Poverty and the Need for a Living Wage

Resolved, that the 141st Convention of the Diocese of Newark encourage the Diocese, its congregations and affiliated institutions, as a practice of our biblical mandate to address the systemic issue of poverty and the needs of the poor, to advocate with others in the effort to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour over two years; and be it further

Resolved, that each unit of the Diocese that employs lay people in addition learn what the standard of a living wage is in their community and consider that in determining salaries for lay employees; and be it further

Resolved, that this resolution be submitted to the next General Convention of the Episcopal Church encouraging The Episcopal Church to engage in the work of increasing the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour and that all persons responsible for determining salary packages learn what the living wage is for their local community as they make compensation decisions.

The Rev. Douglas Bendall
The Rev. Timothy Carr
The Rev. William Coats
The Rev. Geoffrey Curtiss
Ms. Martha Gardner
The Rev. Ed Hasse
The Rev. Joseph Harmon
The Rev. Fletcher Harper
Ms. Sue Morgan
The Rev. Robert C. Morris
The Rev. Tom Murphy
The Rev. Bernie Poppe
The Rev. Diane Riley
The Rev. Eric Soldwedel
The Rev. Willie Smith
The Rev. Stephanie Wethered
The Rev. Laurie Wurm

Supporting Information

The question of a living wage 1 is not merely an economic matter. It is a theological concern. We note, economically, that the development of radical inequality has become epidemic (see below) threatening working people in this country. Neither conservatives nor liberals are willing or able to challenge or change this reality. This is because there is no willingness politically or ideologically to challenge those features of the market economy which lead to economic and therefore political inequality.

The market system values a person on an extrinsic basis, namely what they can produce on the market. Hence wages can and are depressed since labor is merely a factor of production and can be reduced at will. Some, who are poor and thus have no value, are redundant and hence disposable (i.e the cut in food stamps and restriction of Medicaid). In this way the economic system practices a form of genocide

1) As Christians we assert the intrinsic value of the person. Not only are all created by God but theologically for the Christian by means of the Incarnation all people are ensconced into the Son of God 1and thus as persons are inviolable with a worth that in essence should be acknowledged in the market place. We hold the Incarnation not the market to be supreme. A higher wage is one way to make this theologically possible.

2) The market system is remarkable in its ability to generate wealth. Our present economic system is essentially one based on finance with a growing service sector. As a result returns are high for owners (renters) and managers and low for workers. Wealth therefore moves into fewer and fewer hands, On what basis, therefore, can wealth be said to be an absolute possession? While Jesus in the gospels sided with the poor and marginal, the one story about wealth itself (Mark 10: 17 - 27) concerns the charge to the rich young man to sell all and give to the poor. The church ever since has not castigated the creation of wealth only the sense that its owner has an absolute right of possession. Money is an artifact, a part of creation. As such it belongs to all. Money is as Augustine said for use and not for possession and as Gregory the Great said those with wealth are to be stewards for the poor. On these grounds wealth should be given away, radically, either philanthropically (Andrew Carnegie gave away 95% of his wealth) or through high taxes. Returns to the renter class should be lowered in favor of higher wages. Stowing away money in tax havens overseas is thus a social sin..


The average worker at Walmart, for example earns less than $25,000 per year while the retailer’s CEO in 2012 was paid more than $23,000,000. 70% of American workers earn $30,000 year or less. Wages of the bottom half of the working population have stagnated for over 40 years. Average family income in 2012 was 9 % less than it was 15 years ago. Meanwhile the fabled "1%" took home 22.5 % of total income in 2012; they garnered 95% of all gains from economic growth between 2009 and 2012. In 2013 the 25 top Hedge fund managers took home 21 billion dollars in compensation .In the recent past, that is the post-war industrial era, wages would increase along with productivity gains, but since 1973 productivity has increased by 80% while hourly compensation rose only 11%.. Productivity, now driven by technological means, has had the added effect of displacing workers

1 For information about the living wage in your county see

2 " the history of Jesus, we have to do with the reality which underlies and precedes all other reality as the first and eternal Word of God, that in this history we have actually to do with the ground and sphere, the atmosphere of the being of every man (sic), whether they lived thousands of years before or after Jesus." —Karl Barth

Resource Date: 
Jan 31, 2015