The Congregation at Duke University Chapel

A Green and Fair Chapel: Why Fair Trade?

For the ears, you can listen to an audio recording of this presentation. [high fidelity audio playable under all personal computer operating systems via VLC media player, Microsoft Windows Media Player with the codecs for FLAC et al, OS X QuickTime with the XiphQT plugin, etc., on many Android-based mobile devices, and on iOS-based mobile devices via apps such as FLAC Player or Golden Ear]

A Green and Fair Chapel: Why Fair Trade?

presentation at Adult Forum by
Jack Adams
chair of the Green and Fair Chapel committee
April 9, 2017
graphic for Green and Fair Chapel

Why Fair Trade?

graphic for Chapel day
sign for Bibilcal Garden at Duke Divinity School
planter boxes on patio at Duke Divinity School

logo for Fair Trade Congregations
  1. Incorporate Fair Trade into the Social Teachings of the Congregation
    Educate members of the congregation about how purchasing Fair Trade empowers them to live out their religious tradition.
    The Goal: The minimum number of activities to complete this goal is two with two per year required thereafter.
  2. Replace goods purchased by the congregation with Fair Trade products where and when they are available
    Replace food and beverage items like coffee, tea, sugar, communion wine, and kosher chocolate, as well as artisan and craft products such as teapots, kitchen items, worship vestments, decorative items, and others.
    The Goal: The minimum number of products is two with a goal of adding more each year.
  3. Incorporate Fair Trade products into any pre-existing events
    Look at the calendar of events for your congregation and determine which could naturally fit Fair Trade in as a component.
    The Goal: To complete this goal you must have two events that include Fair Trade.

What is Fair Trade and why is it important?
Introduction to Fair Trade from Fair Trade Canada

graphic of ten principles of Fair Trade
graphic stating 2.1 billion people live on less than $2 per day
166 million children work to support their families
Equal Exchange Video on Chocolate Production that avoids child exploitation:
Fair Trade not only supports human flourishing, but has a positive environmental impact too:

So what are some of the criticisms of Fair Trade?

  • It is a white, bourgeois guilt-lessener that is economically unattainable for the average American
  • It is economically ineffective because it manipulates the free market
  • Lack of accountability in enforcing standards
  • Store premium on top of the "Fair Trade Premium" - how much actually goes to farmers?
  • Politicizes consumption/guilts consumers
  • Too focused on small scale co-operatives rather than influencing policy

What is the biblical/theological rationale for Fair Trade?

"The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food,
    but it is swept away through injustice."
         Proverbs 13:23

"Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
    but he who is generous to the needy honors him."
         Proverbs 14:31

"He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?"
         Micah 6:8

Parable of the wedding feast. Jesus said: "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more."
         Luke 12:48b

"Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'"
         Matthew 25:45

"If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."
         James 2:15-17

So why should we become a Fair Trade Congregation?

  • It demonstrates our commitment to becoming a Green and Fair Chapel, recognizing that we are interconnected, and that environmental and social concerns go hand in hand.
  • It is a small but significant statement that we care about those in developing communities and is an act of hospitality towards them.
  • It shows we are serious about living a cruciform life of sacrifice that brings glory to God - placing our priorities in values different from the world's.
  • It is pleasing to God and is a way of giving thanks.

What Can I Do?

  • Buy Fair Trade
  • Research
  • Spread the word
  • Be encouraged that little acts make a difference!


some of the various coffee labels associated with fair trade


graphic for Green and Fair Chapel