Guidelines for Initiating or Joining an Economic Boycott (#4011, 2008 BOR)


4011.Guidelines for Initiating or Joining an Economic Boycott

As Christians we are called to stand with those on the economic margins of society. The Hebrew prophets decried economic exploitation and warned against economic systems based on greed and indifference to the plight of the worker (Jeremiah 22:13-17). When Christ began his public ministry, he proclaimed that he was anointed to bring good news to the poor and to free the oppressed (Luke 4:18). Following the warnings of the prophets and the teachings of Christ, The United Methodist Church remains committed to a ministry of economic justice.

Today’s economy is too often biased toward profits rather than the common good. As participants in this economy, consumers have power to perpetuate or challenge this bias. As Christian consumers, we are called, through individual and collective actions, to ensure that our participation in the economic system is valuing people and perpetuating justice, rather than simply maximizing profits. One effective mechanism to challenge injustice and to reclaim this often-overlooked power is an economic boycott.


An economic boycott is understood to be a combined effort to abstain from the purchase or use of products or services provided by a specific company, government, or other agency. The purpose of a boycott is to persuade that body to cease from certain practices judged to be unjust, and/or to perform certain practices deemed to be just.

Acknowledging the boycott as a legitimate Christian response to an identified social or economic injustice, we recommend the following criteria as a process for guiding the church and its agencies in decisions regarding boycott. This process includes the following steps:

  •     Preparation
  •     Decision making
  •     Monitoring
  •     Suspension/termination

The process and steps outlined in this resolution are intended as a guide for discernment and action for those exploring the option of an economic boycott, not an exhaustive or mandated checklist required prior to action. The decision-making body, however, should document and distribute widely relevant information including the theological and factual underpinnings of its decision.

Clarifying Who May Call

Any local church, district, annual conference, or general church board or agency can initiate or join a boycott if it has completed or has ascertained that another part of The United Methodist Church, or an ecumenical agency that the church is a member of, has completed the initiation process described below. The initiating body is responsible for monitoring and suspending and/or terminating such a boycott.

Any of the above may request the General Conference to join it in the boycott in the name of The United Methodist Church. Only the General Conference shall be empowered to initiate a boycott in the name of The United Methodist Church.


      I.  Identify in writing the biblical and theological imperatives that address the issues involved in this particular conflict.

     II.  Document the social-justice issues in the dispute with input from each of the major parties in the dispute, United Methodist and/or ecumenical leadership in the impacted region, and objective third parties.

Among the questions to explore in the discernment and fact-finding phase are:

              1.  How do the social justice issues affect various segments of society and the communities in the area?

              2.  What sources of political, economic, or social power does each party in the dispute or alleged injustice have?

              3.  How will a boycott affect a potential resolution of the situation?

              4.  Are the leaders in the dispute or grievance supported by the persons for whom they speak, and are they committed to nonviolent action?

              5.  What denominational reviews have been made on this issue?

              6.  What groups, agencies, or governmental bodies have been seeking resolution in the conflict?

    III.  Evaluate the conflict described by the gathered information in relation to the theological, ethical, and social principles of Christian tradition and The United Methodist Church.

              1.  Is intervention needed, and what magnitude of response is appropriate to the scope of the injustice?

              2.  Is the desired end clearly specified?

   IV.  Generate a list of potential public and private means of intervention in the situation, and evaluate the probable results of each. Track attempts at mediation, dialogue, and negotiations and explore the likely positive and negative consequences of a boycott.

              1.  What methods of mediation, dialogue, and negotiations have been attempted and evaluated?

              2.  Have these means of intervention been publicized and shared with connectional leadership in the region of the conflict and other constituencies?

              3.  Is the injustice of sufficient scope to warrant the mobilization of a boycott?

              4.  Is a boycott a more constructive and effective means of achieving justice than more coercive means?

              5.  What are likely to be the positive and negative consequences of a boycott?

              6.  What will the effects likely be in the local community?

              7.  Are the issues adequately clarified so as to provide support for a boycott?

              8.  How can negative stereotyping of contending parties be avoided?

    V.  Develop a written document detailing the theological foundation for the action, the intended objectives of the boycott, and the relationship of this action to other strategies being used to achieve the goal.

              1.  How will these objectives be shared with the disputing parties?

(i)                    2.  Is it clear as to how the objectives of the potential boycott relate to other strategies being used by this or other church bodies?

(ii)                  3.  Are these objectives in harmony with the theological, ethical, and social principles? (See criteria I and III.)

 VI. Develop a plan and identify resources for carrying out a potential boycott, including mechanisms for:

              1.  communicating to church constituencies the objectives of the boycott; the issues as seen by the various parties; and the biblical, theological, and ethical imperatives for involvement;

              2.  informing disputing parties of an intention to call or participate in a boycott;

              3.  coordinating efforts with other United Methodist bodies, interfaith coalitions, and groups dealing with the issues;

              4.  monitoring the progress of the boycott (see VIII);

              5.  suspending/terminating the boycott when objectives are met (see IX, X, XI);

              6.  developing ministries of reconciliation between aggrieved parties, during and following the boycott action.

              7.  deciding what resources and plans have been made to ensure that the potential boycott will be carried out effectively and responsibly; and

              8.  providing the presiding bishop(s), council director(s), superintendent(s), pastors, and membership in the region with the opportunity to participate in the development of this plan.

Decision Making

   VII.  On the basis of the information obtained in I and II above, decide whether a boycott action is merited and determine the most effective time to initiate or join the boycott.

              1.  Why is this the best time for this decision-making body to enter the boycott?

              2.  Is the boycott likely to achieve the stated objectives and assist in resolution of the dispute?


  VIII.  If a boycott is called, a monitoring group should be established by the decision-making body with the goal of evaluating progress toward the stated objective; reporting to the appropriate local, regional, and/or national bodies; and coordinating activities with other ecumenical, interfaith, and coalition partners.

              1.  regular evaluation and reporting of progress toward the stated objective;

              2.  regular written reporting of such progress to the local area affected and to the constituencies of the decision-making bodies through appropriate denominational channels;

              3.  reporting substantial changes in the conditions under which the boycott is being carried out;

              4.  a process for issuing public statements; and

              5.  coordination with designated coalitions and interfaith groups.


    IX.  In those cases where circumstances have changed, making it unclear whether the objectives of the boycott are being met, in consultation with the designated coalition and/or participating groups that are coordinating the boycott action, the decision-making body, or its designate, may call for suspension of the boycott while monitoring and evaluation continues.

    X.  When the clearly stated written objectives of the boycott have been met, in consultation with the designated coalition and/or participating groups that are coordinating boycott action, the decision-making body or its designate shall terminate boycott participation.

    XI.  Notification of suspension/termination shall be made in writing to all parties in the dispute and should be widely publicized to all constituencies of the decision-making body.

   XII.  Following this notification, monitoring of compliance with objectives and ministries of reconciliation shall be continued by the decision-making body for a responsible period of time.

resolution #195, 2004 Book of Resolutions
resolution #187, 2000 Book of Resolutions

See Social Principles, ¶ 163B.