MAY 20TH IS HERITAGE SUNDAY BUT WHAT IS HERITAGE SUNDAY? CLICK TO LEARN
Posted on Tue, May 1, 2018
John Wesley said engaging in ministry with the poor is our heritage
HERITAGE SUNDAY RECOGNIZES AND CELEBRATES:
A Labor of Love : John Wesley’s Passion for "Christ’s Poor"
The classic interpretation of the life of Jesus sees him taking on radical responsibility for other people before God, to the point of crucifixion. This then became the pattern of being for others and for God which is at the heart of the Christian ethic of love.
John Wesley emphasized the necessity of relating to other persons in loving service if one desires to be a Christian. This emphasis is the theme of his fourth sermon ―Upon our Lord‘s Sermon on the Mount‖ (1748) [JW’s Sermons, an Anthology (1991): 193-206; Works (1984) I:531-549]
Wesley begins by observing that there are people who argue that religion is a matter of intense inward relationship with God, which is weakened, even destroyed, if the believer gets involved in relationships with other persons; with external things such as fighting evil and doing good. Wesley sees the persons with whom he is arguing as proponents of ―perfecting one‘s own soul,‖ which is best accomplished by shunning active involvement in the things of the world. To counter this argument, Wesley takes Matthew 5:13-16 as his text:
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill can not be hid.
No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good words, and give glory to your Father in heaven. [NSRV]
Wesley understands Jesus in those verses to be taking a stand against individual, inward religion—religion that tries to exist in isolation from other persons (especially whose who pose a danger to one‘s faith) and in isolation from the structures of society. God is not glorified by what we are inside, although that is important. God is glorified when others see the good works that flow from our inner faith; and seeing, give glory to God.
To counter the religious isolationist position, Wesley insists that ―Christianity is essentially a social religion; to turn it into a solitary one is to destroy it.‖ It is impossible to be a Christian without living in a close relationship with other Christians—―without living and conversing with other men‖ and women. [Source 1739] Here is another example of Wesley‘s connectionalism.
Christianity, however, is not merely a matter of being "social," being connected, with other Methodists or other Christians. Of greater importance is being "social," being connected, with our neighbors, who may be non-believers, even non-Christian, especially those who are in need.
The Gospel as Wesley preaches it is intensely personal but the love it engenders is deeply social. Thrift, industry, honesty, sobriety, generosity are all Christian virtues; their warrant rests in the twin love of God and neighbor, and thus they are included in Wesley‘s agenda of holy living. Though upper-class, Wesley de-classifies himself to identify with the poor, oppressed, and exploited. ―If we are not OF the poor, he constantly pleads, ―cannot we be FOR the poor? [Source 1977]
1) Wesley’s World : The Gap between Rich and Poor widens
The unfolding Industrial Revolution widens the gap between old and new rich and the perennially poor. Half of the population in England between the 1730s and the 1790s, is poor according to government standards of that day. An even larger percentage of Methodists, especially in the early years of the revival, could be classified as the working poor, not earning enough to support themselves and their families adequately. Poverty in Georgian England—as in Georgian America of the 2000s—is caused by three major problems: underemployment, economic displacement, and infirmity. Established programs to help solve the ―problem‖–the poor tax, workhouses, charity schools, and parish programs–are often ineffective and insufficient.
2) Sins Old and New : To the ancient "seven deadly sins" Wesley adds surplus accumulation and causing poverty!
After a thousand-plus years Wesley brought the seven deadly sins1 up to date by adding new ones for the Age of the Industrial Revolution, as he deplored its decreasing sense of sin. Not that he was discarding the old list—pride, anger, envy, avarice, lust, gluttony and (my favorite) sloth—have all stood the test of centuries. But the new age brought new sins and Wesley was bent on retooling the list for modern times.
1 Although there is no definitive list of mortal sins, many believers accept the broad seven deadly sins based on violations of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes laid down in the 6th century by Pope Gregory the Great and popularized in the Middle Ages by Dante in The Inferno.
If yesterday‘s sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today, the Wesley‘s said in sermon, tract, newspaper and hymn, today‘s sin has a weight, a resonance, that is especially SOCIAL. ―Your souls are in peril, people!‖ they told them in effect. Two transgressions they put at the head of their updated list: accumulation of excessive wealth and causing poverty.
Methodists were exhorted instead to adhere to the ancient seven holy virtues—chastity,
abstinence, temperance, diligence, patience, kindness and humility—less well known for obvious reasons. To make matters worse, the Wesley brothers added two more holy virtues:
give to the poor and change social and economic policy.
2 What‘s on your list of seven deadly sins for our time? Being obscenely rich, polluting the environment, causing social injustice by practicing racism, sexism, homophobia, drug dealing, pedophilia, starting preemptive wars? Some would of course add abortion, homosexuality in all its forms, gun control laws and genetic engineering.
Modern Methodists should follow the Wesleys and ponder this question!
3) Wesley’s passion for the poor is SHAPED in his Oxford days (1720s) :
Study: Bible and early church as model
Prayer: Book of Common Prayer includes poor in many of its prayers
Action: personal encounter with Oxford‘s poor, ―seeing Christ in the poor, sick and imprisoned, widens his social vision, reinforces his commitment, and leads him to envision a society where all persons have the basic necessities. [Sources 1734, letter to his father]
4) Wesley’s passion for poor is EXHIBITED in his sermons
On April 2, 1739 Wesley preached in the open air for the first time, marking the beginning of his career as an energetic evangelist. The text he uses comes from the Gospel of Luke (4:17-18).
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor.
The text, drawn from Isaiah, was what Jesus read in the synagogue at Nazareth at the start of his own public ministry. It sounds the keynote for all Wesley was to do and say from then on.
Adam Smith, in his The Wealth of Nations, propounds a theoretical framework for the mercantile economic system that is tied to the developing British colonial empire, which revolutionized economic thought and theory when it was published in 1776. Smith‘s treatise, as transformational in its own way as the American Revolution, established the intellectual foundation of capitalism, free markets and individual choice, which are taken as givens in American life the same way that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are. Wesley disagrees with one essential feature of Smith‘s work, namely the assumption that surplus accumulation of wealth is an essential element of fiscal security for individuals and the nation. To Adam Smith‘s rule ―Earn all you can, save all you can, Wesley adds ―give all you can, a rule Methodists then and now find difficult to practice.
A good sample of his EARLY SERMONS on our theme is Sermon 8 of his series of 13 sermons on the Sermon on the Mount published in 1748. [Sermon anthology, 239-253]
For his scripture text Wesley picks one of the most conspicuous denunciations of greed and surplus accumulation in the Bible: ―Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. [Matthew 6:19, NRSV]
Wesley‘s polemics against wealth became more frequent and powerful in his later years. The evangelical revival had grown, but the love of money threatened it at its core. In the economic boom of mid-Georgian England (1750s and 1760s) more than a few of his followers moved upward on the economic scale from poverty toward modest affluence (i.e. became UMCs, upper middle class!) Many, if not most, of the newly rich Methodists were stubbornly, though quietly, unconvinced that their affluence, in and of itself, was a fatal opening for sin.
Samples of his LATE SERMONS on our theme are
―The Use of Money 1760 [Sermon anthology, 347-358]
―The Good Steward 1768 [Sermon anthology, 419-430]
―The Danger of Riches 1781 [Sermon anthology, 451-464]
The latter is one of the first Wesley sermons to be published in America (1789) in the Methodist-sponsored Arminian Magazine.
―On Zeal 1781. [Sermon anthology, 465-473]
This sermon exhibits one of John‘s most distinctive emphases on the crucial contribution of works of mercy as a means of grace, to forming the virtuous heart.
Prior to the 1760s Wesley had labored consistently on behalf of the poor. The publication of this trio of sermons noted above made his economic radicalism more apparent. Adam Smith‘s Wealth of Nations was winning converts. Wesley urged that wealth should not be pursued and that property should be given away. Property, then, became synonymous with theft—a radical viewpoint to say the least, and hardly a capitalist thesis! Wesley‘s notion of stewardship was a direct attack on the principles of capitalism. ―I charge you, in the name of God, do not increase your substance [wealth]…otherwise you lay up treasures upon earth.‘ And this our Lord flatly forbids. The plain message of these sermons was that the pursuit of riches drew people into hell. To pursue riches meant to act to obtain more than one needed for a modest provision for one‘s household. In another sermon of the period, ―The Wisdom of God‘s Counsels 1784: ―By riches I mean, not thousands of pounds; but any more than will procure the conveniences of life.3 The purpose of property was that it was to be shared according to the will of the proprietor, God. Selfish purposes pursued with money were denying God‘s will.
2 ―The More Excellent Way, Sermon 89, Wesley, Works (Bicentennial edition) Vol. III: 276.
3 ―The Wisdom of God‘s Counsels, Sermon 68, Wesley, Works (Bicentennial edition) vol. II: 560. 5
In these sermons he dealt with his economics of giving away his unexpected earnings from book and tract sales, advising his readers to give not ten percent or half but all beyond what was needed to preserve life. He said in a sermon as late as 1789 that the Methodists could care for their own poor and provide for everyone as they had need if they would only share. Wesley could, and very often did, give away his resources spontaneously. But the majority of his followers withheld their wealth.
5) The Wesley’s Passion for the poor is PROMINENT in their other writings:
hymns [Sources 1749 and 1762] see also footnote 4
letters [Sources 1754 and 1775]
catechism [Sources 1745]
doctrinal standards: Articles of Religion 1784 [Sources 1784A]
4 See also A Song for the Poor: Hymns by Charles Wesley, edited by S.T.Kimbrough, Jr. New York : General Board of Global Ministries, UMC, 1993.
5 ―A Word to a Freeholder, 1748. [Works ( Jackson) XI: 196.)
6) Wesley tackles the POLITICS of poverty
How to Vote:
Act as if the whole election depended on your single vote, and as if the whole Parliament and therein the whole nation) on that single person whom you now chose to be a member of it.
5 Economic Policy
―Thoughts on the Present Scarcity of Provisions [Source 1772]
In this 1772 document, Wesley tackles the politics of poverty. From his extensive traveling throughout the country, Wesley concludes that the problems of hunger and unemployment are not caused, as claimed, by poor people who are lazy and indolent. He exposes three culprits—
distilling, taxes, and luxury. His argument is that there is no food because there is no work; and there is no work because employers can‘t hire workers—they can‘t afford to because there is no market for the goods because so much money has to be spent on food.
Wesley then goes on to explain his views on why food is so costly (because of grain prices), why land is so expensive (because the rich buy it up), why taxes are so high (because of the exorbitant national debt), and why everything else is so expensive (because taxes are so high). The solution to these problems for Wesley entails finding work for the poor. [Sound familiar?]
6 Tax Policy :
Letter to Prime Minister William Pitt regarding taxes [Source 1784B]
In this 1784 letter to Prime Minister William Pitt, Wesley criticized taxes not collected on the wealthy, customs evasion by smugglers, and tax evasion by distillers. The letter‘s significance is in its specificity on tax policy. In this letter Wesley petitions the Prime Minister to act to raise funds for underfunded social services.
British Colonialism and American Slavery: Thoughts Upon Slavery 1774
In addition to using more than our share of resources, a consumer society externalizes costs by seeking cheap labor in Third-World countries creating a form of economic colonialism, wreaking havoc on women and children of developing nations. Wesley condemns similarly oppressive practices in his own time, protesting against British colonialism and American slavery. In both cases, he lays the blame for such exploitation on the pursuit of wealth. In his popular 1774 anti-slavery tract Thoughts Upon Slavery Wesley attacks the highly profitable and socially respectable trade: ―Better no trade, than trade procured by villainy,‖ he argues. ―It is far better to have no wealth than to gain wealth at the expense of virtue. Better is honest poverty than all the riches bought by the tears, and sweat, and blood, of our fellow creatures.
In short, Wesley transmitted to the people called Methodists
four valuable intertwined messages:
that we are loved by God
that we must fight evil both in ourselves and in the world
that we are connected in a mystical way to all humanity
and that we must pursue justice, especially for the poor.
7) Wesley’s passion for the poor BLOSSOMS in the Methodist Societies (1740s-1780s)
Wesley did not wait for the government to act. He is convinced that "works of mercy" are means of grace. Like prayer and the Lord‘s Supper, giving to the poor feeds our love for God and neighbor, while its absence leads to deterioration of that love and erosion of our faith. [Source 1760] He even goes so far as to say when works of piety ―interfere with works of mercy, works of mercy are to be preferred. [Source 1781]. Ministering to the poor and their needs must be part of the job-description of every Methodist.
The sacrifice of our selves involves the sacrifice of our goods. Charles Wesley speaks forcefully about this in several of his hymns of the Lord‘s Supper, for instance:
Father, into thy hands alone Father, our Sacrifice receive,
I have my all restored Our souls and bodies we present
My all thy property I own, Our goods and vows, and praises give
The steward of the Lord. What‘er thy bounteous love hath lent.
Confiding in thy only love,
Through him who died for me,
I wait thy faithfulness to prove,
And give back all to thee.
HLS 145:1, 3
Now, O God, thine own I am,
Now I give thee back thy own
Freedom, friends, and health and fame,
Consecrate to thee alone.
Thine I live, thrice happy I,
Happier still, for thine I die.
Blankets, Bread and Bibles: Deed-Based Evangelism
Methodists were not simply to wait unto the poor came to them, but were to seek them out.
Wesley longs for a church that exhibits ―charity in all its forms. SO…he leads his friends and his flock to beg for funds, provide soup kitchens, collect clothing and blankets, gather stocks of coal for fires, set up medical clinics, form literacy classes, open lending libraries, visit prisoners & their families (including prisoners of war), tutor children, organize Sunday schools, set up employment services, provide loan funds, and establish homes for orphans, unwed mothers and the aged. [Sources 1741 and 1748] Although most Methodists work in jobs (when they have jobs) where the pay is below the poverty line, nevertheless they bring their penny a week to assist those who are in even more desperate straits than themselves. In other words, the poor minister to the poor.
Wesley addresses the health care crisis in his time and ours, when the rich have good medical care and the poor have none.
His Foundery Chapel clinic is sometimes called the first free public medical dispensary in London. He later opens similar health-care clinics at Newcastle and Bristol. Sadly, all are closed within a decade for lack of donations to keep up with the demand. In 1747 Wesley compiles the most popular family medical manual in 18th century England: Primitive Physic, or, An Easy Method of Curing Most Diseases. Two dozen editions are published in his lifetime. [Still in print under title Primitive Remedies!]
In Wesley’s time the poor are dealt with on behalf of the Methodist society by "visitors of the sick" and the society "stewards" who disburse financial help.
Wesley enforced the Anglican prayer book‘s requirement that a special collection for the poor be taken during the Lord‘s Supper by the Poor Stewards (later called Communion Stewards) who prepare the elements and direct communicants to the Lord‘s Table. The office is the entry rung on the ladder of lay offices in the emerging church. [Sources 1760, 1786]
Wesley retains the 1662 rubric requiring a collection for the poor at communion in
8 his 1784 revision of the Book of Common Prayer for the American church, The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America.
There is a strong social dimension in our current Holy Communion service.
The Great Thanksgiving (blessing) over the prayer and cup gives thanks for the ministry of the prophets. It recalls Jesus‘ statement of his mission in Luke 4:18-19 and gives thanks that ―he healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners. It petitions that through the Holy Spirit ―we may be for the world the body of Christ and ―one in ministry to all the world. The term ―ministry includes justice as well as service ministries. The term ―the world includes not only human beings but an ecological concern for the whole world.
The concluding prayer of thanksgiving also has a strong missional/justice thrust:
Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery
in which you have given yourself to us.
Grant that we may go into the world
in the strength of your Spirit,
to give ourselves for others,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. [UMHymnal 1989, p.11]
When Methodist preaching houses are built, Wesley directs them to be plain and simple and with free seats (as opposed to pew rentals which in the 18th century became a standard way to raise funds to support the church) so as not to make the poor feel oppressed or disjointed by the opulence of the wealthy.
These programs and institutions model Methodism’s mission of social outreach for succeeding generations, including our own.
8) WHY was Wesley so interested in helping the poor?
The description of Wesley‘s activities detailed above is commonplace. But these were not the normal daily activities expected of an 18th-century Oxford Professor, especially one such as Wesley, who was raised in a posh Church of England rectory by parents with a scholarly bent, schooled in one of the finest private boarding schools in the county, educated at the best of the Oxford Colleges (Christ Church College), and professor in another Oxford college (Lincoln College). Wesley‘s passion for helping the poor is easier to describe than to explain. But lets try….
For Wesley, the Christian life is not defined primarily by doing certain activities but by being a certain kind of person. In terms of ethical theory, virtue ethics, for Wesley is more basic than obligation ethics, though they necessarily interrelate and correlate. Virtue takes precedence over obedience; ―being has priority over ―doing.
Obligation theory answers the question, What ought to be done? What actions are
Decisions are framed within the options of right or wrong actions, norms or policies; or,
9 What acts are appropriate to do?
This approach uses principles, rules, commands and standards to guide the decisions.
Failure, in this mode is seen in terms of guilt of violation, transgression or omission.
Such failure can be overcome by accepting forgiveness for wrong actions.
Virtue Theory answers the question, What kind of person should I be? What sort of character is most appropriate?
Decisions are framed in terms of good or bad qualities, dispositions, motives and actions.
This approach uses models, portrayals of the ideal, of what is just or good.
Failure in this mode is seen in terms of shame or weakness.
Such failure can be overcome by the experience of transformation (rebirth or new life)
The inter-relationships between these two approaches, virtue and obligation, are important.
Another significant element in Wesley‘s ethical analysis is the role of truth. To make a long story short, truth is joined with love to form the basic principle of Wesley‘s theological ethic. Benevolence (love of neighbor, especially poor ones) is no virtue at all unless it springs from the love of God. And, at the same time, Wesley is constantly admonishing his hearers to ―speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). As Wesley goes on to say in a 1785 sermon ―An Israelite Indeed based on a text from John 1:47: ―When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him ―Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.
6 ―An Israelite Indeed (1785) sermon 90, Wesley, Works (Bicentennial edition) Vol. III: 280.; see also a related sermon ―On Charity (1784) sermon 91, based on I Corinthians 13:3. Wesley, Works (Bicentennial edition) Vol. III: 290-307.
7 Ibid., 289.
This then is real, genuine solid virtue. Not truth alone, not simply conformity to truth. That is a property of real virtue, not the essence of it. Nor is it love alone, though this comes nearer the mark; for ‗love‘ in one sense ‗is the fulfilling of the law.‘ No: truth and love united together are the essence of virtue or holiness. God indispensably requires ‗truth in the inward parts, influencing all our words and actions. Yet truth itself, separate from love, is nothing in his sight. But let the humble, gentle, patient love of all mankind be fixed on its right foundation, namely, the love of God, spring from faith, from a full conviction that God hath given his only Son to die for my sins; and then the whole will resolve into that grand conclusion, ‗worthy of all men to be received‘: Neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by love.‘ 7 10
I believe that looking at Wesley‘s work with the poor from the point of view of the important interrelationship between virtue ethics and obligation ethics helps us to understand better several important elements of Wesley‘s life and thought:
That a virtue ethic was crucial to his understanding of the nature of the Christian and the shape of the Christian life.
That a virtue ethic was central to thinking throughout his life.
That an obligation ethic was important as a means of fleshing out and measuring the manifestation of virtue in particular areas of endeavor.
That this significant, but subsidiary, role of the obligation ethic was misunderstood by Calvinist and Moravian [Lutheran] detractors as works-righteousness.
That the centrality of virtue theory in Wesley‘s thinking is closely related to his doctrine of sanctification.
That the relationship between virtue theory and obligation theory is important to a fuller understanding of how Wesley‘s emphasis on ―having the mind of Christ and walking as he walked‖ correlates with the great commandment, ―to love God and to love neighbor.
The simple answer, then, to the question WHY did Wesley work with the poor? is…
first and foremost, because Jesus DID so
but also because Jesus TOLD him to do so
and because Jesus said he would HELP him to do so.
Renewal in the image of God entails being drawn into God‘s likeness as seen in Christ—
having the mind of Christ and walking as he walked. If we accept God‘s truth revealed to us in Christ, we don‘t have to ask why Christ commanded us to feed the hungry…, nor do we have to ask why Christ fed the hungry. We just need to do it in faith and in love. Hence, charity in all its forms, especially care for Christ‘s poor, is not a series of episodic acts, but a way of life.
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can.
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
This maxim, written by a 19th century British Wesleyan preacher, has been often, but erroneously, attributed to John Wesley. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations took this up as genuine, as did Bartlett‘s famous book of familiar quotations. The best we can say is that it is in the spirit of John Wesley, but we can offer no solid proof that he actually wrote more than the opening clause, as is clear from the following quotation from Wesley‘s sermon on ―The Use of Money. [Sermon Anthology, 357] 11
[Do] good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree, to the household of faith, to all men.
Wesley reaches far back into Biblical tradition to trace a distinctive vision of justice based on the worth that God confers on each person. For Wesley, respect for human worth entails respect for human rights; this marks an important turn away from the tendency in recent theology to dismiss talk about rights as an Enlightenment (Wesley‘s 18th century) innovation that is alien to Christian ethics.
9) Conclusion: Wesley models a preferential option FOR the poor / Mission ALONGSIDE / WITH the poor.
From the beginning, the Methodist movement, like Christianity itself, was largely a movement FOR the poor, rarely a movement OF the poor. Methodists became what scholars often disdain—religious, respectable, thrifty, hard-working, and loyal to family responsibility.
The UMC today also means ―upper middle class if not ―upper class. Persons of wealth often pursue social policies that shift income upward and the tax burden down; that strip away protections for workers; that favor insurance companies, drug makers and other corporate interests over the interests of ordinary people.
Wesley attempted to imitate the life and ministry of Christ to the marginalized and disenfranchised. He brought together evangelical zeal and social outreach in a manner that focused on the needs of the working class. He believed—more optimistically than realistically—that conversion to the gospel of Christ demanded such a radical change of behavior that its spread would eventually materialize in a new society inspired by the primitive church (Acts 4:32-37), where individual responsibility was advocated for the alleviation of social ills and where injustice was nonexistent:
Great grace‘ will be upon them all,‘ and they will all be of one heart and one soul.‘ The natural, necessary consequence of all this will be the same as it was in the beginning of the Christian Church. None of them will say that aught [any] of the things which he possesses is his own, but they will have all things in common. Neither will there be any among them that want; for as many as are possessed of lands and houses will sell them, and distribution will be made to every man, according as he has need.8
8 ―The General Spread of the Gospel,‖ Sermon 63, Wesley, Works (Bicentennial edition) Vol. II:494.
Wesley‘s vision from Acts (4: 32-35)—from each according to gifts and to each according to need—was a perennial expression of his human hope. His fervently argued norms of radical sharing and avoidance of excess accumulation of wealth were appropriate as were his pleas for changed national policy. His vocation, political realism, and political weakness, even at the height of his influence, prevented him from detailed community political organization to reform the poor laws or to achieve policies of justice for the poor.
But he taught the Methodists to translate their basic message of ―love of God and neighbor‖ into a mission of help and hope in the community of faith, in which the poor were included as children of God. The Wesleyan program of outreach to society is a defining element of the Methodist heritage.
Following Wesley‘s lead, Methodists have consistently insisted: if religion is in the heart,
it will be visible in good works. At their best, Christians living in the Wesleyan tradition, have never separated doctrine from ethics—what they believe from how they live. And how they live is not merely a question of how they live as individuals, but also a matter of how they live as members of local and national communities and as citizens of the world.
To guide the church‘s social thought and action, statements of Social Principles have been adopted, beginning with the church‘s first ―social creed in 1908. These statements have been regularly revised to meet the challenges in the church and in the world. Members of GCSRW in 2007 reminded the church leaders that strategies for addressing the poor to be proposed to the General Conference 2008 should include ministries with the poor that address systemic political and social concerns and recognize that most of the world‘s poor are women and children.
The privileged prefer charitable giving to social action to empower the poor because charity makes the giver feel good and the receiver feel humbled. Empowerment gives the poor a sense of dignity but threatens the advantages of the rich.