Over the years, many EP endorsers have asked us to hold a Gathering dedicated to talking about economic issues, and at the end of last summer’s gathering, the board agreed that we would move that direction for next year. Little did we know at that moment just how big an issue the economy was about to become in the U.S.
But as the planning committee began working, first we had trouble sorting out exactly which kind of economic issues we would talk about. Then, although usually a gathering is organized around a scriptural passage or theme, we could not settle on just one. Ultimately what struck us was less the importance of any one passage and more the importance of the scriptural story as the story of God’s economy. Or to put it another way, what struck us was the idea that the true economy is the work of God.
Our word ‘economics’ is related to the Greek word oikonomia, which refers to household management. (The Greeks had a separate word, chrematistike, to name efforts to make a profit in money.) So as we organize this gathering, we are thinking about questions like these: What is God’s household management (or home economics) style? How does God care for creation? And how do we who are invited to share God’s life participate in that economy—and get in its way? In particular, to continue our conversation on racism from last summer, in what ways now does our use of wealth build up the body and in what ways does it divide us?
Currently we have three keynote speakers confirmed, each of whom will address part of the story of God’s economy and our share in it. Bill Cavanaugh will be speaking on creation; Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove on Jubilee and Jesus’ teaching; and Kathy Grieb on Paul’s collection for the Jerusalem community. Workshops are being organized around four types of congregational practice: congregations that run businesses together, congregations that do community organizing to deal with economic problems in their neighborhoods, congregations that share a common purse, and congregations that take up collections.
But these plans are just a framework for the real work of the gathering: taking time to get to know each other, to share ideas and questions, and to talk together about what our good God is doing. We hope to see you all there.