Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Brethren participate in national gathering on poverty and hunger.

Church of the Brethren leaders and members joined in to make a conference titled, “Sowing Seeds, Growing a Movement,” a time of empowerment and commitment to end hunger and poverty. From June 9-12 at American University in Washington, D.C., Bread for the World in collaboration with 30 religious denominations, fellowships, organizations, and faith bodies gathered more than 850 people to “plant the seeds.” The gathering highlighted the fact that 35 million people in the US, including more than 12 million children, suffer from hunger every day.

The conference kicked off with a powerful Saturday evening worship service where Church of the Brethren pastor Jeff Carter, of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren, served as worship leader. Carter also served as moderator throughout all business and worship sessions. Other Brethren leaders at the conference were Belita Mitchell, moderator of the 2007 Annual Conference; Howard Royer, manager of the Global Food Crisis Fund; and Phil Jones, director of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office. A number of Brethren were in attendance including a contingent from Manassas Church of the Brethren for the interfaith convocation.

The opening worship was following with a session focused on the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations ( Salil Shetty, director of the UN Millennium Campaign, told the conference that although the world is making steady progress toward the goals, sub-Saharan Africa is still lagging behind. Shetty insisted the US must keep its promises for greater and more effective aid if the goals are to be achieved. The Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren endorsed the goals in 2006.

The conference also included a National Leaders’ Forum on Hunger and Poverty with speakers Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and former representative and now chair of the Democratic Leadership Council, Harold E. Ford, Jr. An interfaith convocation at the National Cathedral gathered Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others of many faith backgrounds. The event concluded with a day of lobbying on the Farm Bill.

The lobbying effort specifically asked for changes in the Food Stamp Program, to provide better funding and improved outreach and education to ensure low-income people an adequate, nutritious diet, as well as more funding for rural development, and a more equitable commodity program. Commodity payments go to only five crops: corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, and wheat. In 2005, 66 percent of the payments went to the top 10 percent of producers, while two-thirds of farms received less than $10,000 in payments.

“The whole experience was empowering,” said Brethren member Brenda Westfall from Indiana. “Meeting people from across the US, with such passion to advocate for the hungry, hearing powerful speakers including Senators Kind and Hagel advocating for the hungry, and lobbying on behalf of the hungry and low-income.”

The 2000 Annual Conference statement “Caring for the Poor” provides recommendations for action on poverty and hunger ( As the Church of the Brethren continues to do the work of Christ, the seeds to grow a movement will be planted.

--Emily O'Donnell is a legislative associate at the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.

Source: 6/20/2007 Newsline

No comments: