By refusing to eat California grapes, National Council of Churches leaders hope to help the state’s allegedly exploited farm workers. A resolution adopted by the NCC General Board last month tacitly accuses California grape-growers of willfully perpetuating the farm workers’ plight. In protest, the churchmen vow not to buy or use California table grapes.
Dubious strategy? The grape issue divided the board sharply. It produced the juiciest debate of a two-day meeting in Houston, and some amusing moments. Someone wanted to know how much of the forbidden fruit the council had previously budgeted.
“We can be laughed out of court,” said the Rev. Alford Carleton of the United Church of Christ. “Terribly symbolic,” countered another board member. Somewhere in between was the Rev. R. H. Edwin Espy, NCC general secretary, who questioned the efficacy of a reference-committee version of the resolution, terming the banning of grapes within the NCC “a very narrow application.” A farmer from New Mexico who is a member of the Episcopal delegation to the board complained that the growers had not been given equal time to present their case.
The reference committee’s recommendation was a resolution “that the General Board as a matter of Christian conscience and witness directs the administration of the National Council of Churches to refrain from the purchase or use of California table grapes.…” No one seemed to be quite sure exactly who constituted the NCC administration. So the resolution was amended. The final vote on the two-page document was 74 for, 23 against, and one abstention. For passage, 66 votes were needed (two-thirds of those present). The amended resolution reads:
“That the National Council of Churches, including its several units, ...1
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