Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Christian leaders target poverty.

Calling poverty a "moral scandal," leaders from the full spectrum of Christian churches in the country met Jan. 13-16 in Baltimore to dig deeper into the issue and then take their message to Washington.

The participants in Christian Churches Together reaffirmed their conviction that service to the poor and work for justice are "at the center of Christian life and witness." They were building on a statement developed by consensus at a previous gathering, but recognized a new sense of urgency because of the economic collapse.

"In every way the context has changed since we last met," noted David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and one of several people who addressed the group. He reported that the number of poor people has increased alarmingly during the very years that the country was experiencing unprecedented economic growth, and that now many more people are at risk. Any stimulus package must target the poor, he said. "There is no better investment than the nutrition, health, and education of all our people."

Setting a course to end poverty "will be a powerful global witness to the power of Jesus Christ," said Beckmann. "In the midst of economic contraction, the biggest risk is spiritual contraction."

At a meeting with President Barack Obama’s transition team for domestic policy, CCT leaders expressed their support for his pledge to cut poverty. They urged that any stimulus package care not only for Main Street and Wall Street, but also for those who have no street address.

To achieve its goal of cutting poverty in half within 10 years, CCT is promoting four objectives: strengthening families, strengthening communities, "making work work," and improving education. These will require the joint efforts of churches, government, business, communities, and families, they said.

"There are four million more in poverty than eight years ago," observed Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, at a press conference. "The churches have come together as never before. Poverty is a moral failure, a scandal--not just a political issue, but a moral and spiritual one.... We are compelled to work with each other, and with government, to see that it’s overcome."

"The whole gospel demands that we speak to the poor," said James Leggett, presiding bishop of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. "We believe God is working in this moment of time."

CCT is the broadest Christian association in the country. Its participant church bodies are evangelical, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, historic black, and Protestant. The organization also includes several national Christian organizations, among them Evangelicals for Social Action, Sojourners, Bread for the World, World Vision, and the American Bible Society.

The Church of the Brethren was represented at the meeting by Annual Conference moderator David Shumate and Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden, who serves on CCT’s steering committee.

At the CCT annual meeting, participants also spent three sessions discussing evangelism, which will be the focus of next year’s meeting in Seattle.

-- Wendy McFadden is executive director of Brethren Press.

Source: 02/11/2009 Newsline

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