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6. Tasks of the Churches - 6.1 The churches' own economic activity


(243) It is not enough for churches to make an issue of economic and social structures and the behaviour of people involved in them. They also have to consider their own action in economic and social respects. Church commitment to changes in society will be all the more convincing if it is visible in the church itself.

The churches' own economic activity

(244) Churches are employers, owners of financial assets and landed property, or economic actors when they build or operate institutions and centres. They cannot formulate and propound criteria for economic action without applying the same standards to themselves. This is rightly seen as a question of credibility. Still, it is not enough just to demand credibility as a basis for acceptance; the ideas and demands of a person or institution need to be examined on their own merits. If well-founded, such ideas and demands will retain their validity even if their proponents fail to live up to them.

(245) Together with their social welfare agencies (Diakonisches Werk and Caritas) the churches are large employers. In this role they are - neither more nor less than other employers - called upon to draw up employment contracts to suit families (e.g. flexible working hours), to seek fair dealings with staff, to observe the equality of women and men, and to ensure the consistent enforcement of rules for staff representation and active participation in decision-making. Through the decline in their revenue churches have recently had to reduce the number of their employees, after a long phase of expansion. In this phase of financial squeeze all are called upon to avert social hardship with a sense of responsibility, imagination and flexibility. Special attention should be given proposals aiming at moderate restrictions of the salaries of church staff in the middle and higher salary groups. Where drastic economies are unavoidable job-sharing should take priority over dismissals and reduction of positions. Salary restriction and job-sharing should, however, be kept in reasonable proportions. Good, sacrificial work deserves a just reward.

(246) The churches have financial assets and landed property. It serves religious, social and cultural purposes. Some of these assets would be impossible or extremely difficult to sell.

When deciding on investments, choosing forms of bank deposit and cooperating with business partners, the churches have to be stricter with themselves than companies are. They also have a special obligation to make available real estate for public and social purposes, primarily for public housing, possibly as a building lease, as has long been practised in many places.

(247) In their building activity, which today is mainly a matter of maintenance of building stock, renovation and restoration, the churches have to be aware of their responsibility for the funds invested. This also applies to the cultural and architectural scene, however, which their buildings help to characterise. Care should be given to simplicity of furnishings and facilities in functional buildings, e.g. vicarages.

Agricultural areas in church ownership should be managed along the lines of ecology and nature protection. In addition, responsibility for creation should be shown in church construction works, in catering for church institutions and centres, in running church events, and in the means of transport and cost of business trips. Church environmental convenors have made numerous practical suggestions in this respect.

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