I'm about to do something I swore I'd never do. For the first time of ordained ministry, I’m submitting a Diocesan Convention resolution. When the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts gathers on November 3rd, it will consider an issue about which I am passionate, as it has now become personal.
Based on my sabbatical experiences, I’m offering a resolution encouraging the diocese and parishes to commit to using fair trade coffee at all church events. To me this is an issue of economic and social justice and an easy way for churches to use their purchasing power to better align with our Christian values.
While fair trade coffee costs slightly more (generally only 3 or 4 cents per cup), this is an investment in thousands of unseen people in the $100 billion global coffee industry, where 80% of the world’s coffee is produced by 17.7 million small-scale farmers, often living well below the poverty line. I met a few of these folks on my travels to Nicaragua and El Salvador this past spring and I've seen first-hand the effects of unfettered globalization.
I've pasted in the resolution below -- this wasn't written in isolation and I'm grateful to a number of folks who helped me craft this (did I mention I've never done this before?). If you're a convention delegate in Massachusetts and you have questions, please be in touch. Or let me know if you'd like to co-sponsor this resolution. If you would like to present a similar resolution in your own diocese or denomination, please feel free to use this language. I would love to see a fair trade movement blow through the Church!
And in the end, I’ll just be happy if this resolution raises awareness and encourages a bunch of parishes to look in the mirror and start using fair trade coffee (did you know there's a fair trade partnership you can join through Episcopal Relief & Development?).
Buying fair trade coffee is a small act that makes a huge difference. And it really doesn't cost you much more. Check out this incredibly helpful chart from the folks at Equal Exchange.
A Resolution Calling for the Use of Fair Trade Coffee at All Church Events submitted by the Rev. Tim Schenck, the Rt. Rev. Bud Cedarholm, the Very Rev. Amy McCreath, the Rev. Diane Wong, the Rev. Jeff Mello, the Rev. Deborah Warner, the Rev. Sarah Brockman, the Rev. Phil LaBelle, the Rev. Suzanne Wade, the Rev. Beth Grundy, Mr. Rick Collins, Ms. Dawn Tesoraro.
Resolved, that the 233rd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts calls upon all congregations, ministries, and diocesan bodies, to use fair trade coffee at all church events; and be it further
Resolved, that the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts aligns itself with the goals of the fair trade coffee movement, which include: raising income levels of small-scale farmers and farm workers; more equitably distributing economic gains across the industry; encouraging environmentally sound and sustainable farming methods; promoting ethical working conditions; and increasing consumer awareness of the economic forces affecting farmers and the exploitation of workers.
Coffee has long been an integral aspect of hospitality and fellowship in our communities and fuels much church business. This resolution encourages parishes, missions, chaplaincies, and the diocese to commit to the exclusive use of fairly traded coffee. While fair trade coffee costs slightly more (generally only 3 or 4 cents per cup), we feel this is an investment in thousands of unseen people in the $100 billion global coffee industry, where 80% of the world’s coffee is produced by 17.7 million small-scale farmers, often living well below the poverty line.
The goals of the fair trade movement are consistent with the Christian faith, and this resolution reveals a small but impactful way our purchases can better reflect our Christian values in the global economy. Fairly traded products help make our sisters and brothers on the other side of the supply chain more visible to us, connecting us to the people behind the products we enjoy. Fair trade coffee is also organic – grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides – and of higher quality, which improves taste, positively impacting the impression made on visitors and newcomers.
Our denomination has already made access to fair trade coffee both easy and affordable through a partnership between Episcopal Relief & Development and Massachusetts' own Equal Exchange. In addition to facilitating easy ordering and providing quality products, when congregations join the partnership (which is free), 15 cents is donated to Episcopal Relief & Development's General Fund for every pound of fairly traded products purchased. The sponsors of this resolution are happy to provide a list of other fair trade coffee organizations upon request.
· Fair Trade coffee costs more per pound and would place an undue burden on economically struggling parishes.
· Navigating the world of fair trade coffee is complicated, and some corporate entities have sought to coopt and dilute its impact.
· Diocesan staff, parish vestries, and other local ministry leaders will be required to spend time exploring fair trade coffee options for their particular ministry settings.
· Oversight of the implementation of this resolution will rest with the bishops of our diocese, in their ministries of parish visitation and oversight of diocesan staff.