General Synod Statements: Poverty

All people—whether rich, middle class, or poor—are God’s children, made in God’s image. Accordingly the Reformed Church in America is concerned by poverty, unemployment, and the widening income gap between rich and poor. The RCA encourages its churches and members to take this concern into local and national political discussions and business decisions. (MGS 1987: 63-66)

In 1990, the General Synod passed several resolutions regarding poverty and economic inequality. These resolutions included:

  • To instruct the minister for social witness to organize regional conferences in the United States and Canada during 1991 that will focus the attention of the RCA on the broader issues of economic justice and mercy in international, national, and local communities.
  • To instruct these regional conferences to develop action agendas to be processed by the Commission on Christian Action and presented to the 1992 General Synod for consideration. (MGS 1990: 72)

The 1995 General Synod addressed the issue of welfare reform. It concluded that “the church has numerous responsibilities in helping the poor.”

First, the church has a responsibility to support individuals and families, including a call to moral responsibility. The church’s task is to make disciples. When people are called into the church and receive God’s grace, they enter a community of care, and their responsibilities to God and neighbor unfold. They are cared for and learn to care for others.

Second, the church has a role to play in its community. The church can and often does reach out in various ways to address the needs of the poor in its neighborhoods. The most precious gift the church has to offer to the needy in the community is the people of Jesus Christ. Christians must be willing to touch the lives of others in a caring and supportive way that will meet human needs in the name of Jesus Christ.

Third, the church must raise God’s concern for justice in the current welfare debate. The church reminds the state that it is under obligation to God and among its tasks is ensuring justice for the poor and providing support for the weakest members of society. Every society must answer to God for its treatment of the poor. The church must speak out and support those programs which provide emergency relief, help those in poverty to improve their lot, help children to have every opportunity for growth and healthy development, and recognize the value of all people as citizens in this society. The church must speak out against efforts to trim welfare rolls in any way that causes harm or additional hardship to those currently receiving benefits. Always the goal of reform must be to aid those who need help, not simply to save money. (MGS 1995: 79-80)