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On Election Eve, Top U.S. Christian Leaders Meet with President Obama, Speak for Americans Who Are Struggling

November 1, 2010, 2:03 pm | Posted by Kristin Ford

National Council of Churches and Church World Service Urge Focus on Common Good, Fighting Hunger and Poverty

This afternoon, on the eve of the mid-term election and in celebration of 100 years of U.S. Christian cooperation across denominational lines, prominent American Christian leaders met with President Obama to speak for the millions of Americans struggling to find jobs, make their next rent or mortgage payment, and put food on the table. Leaders with both the National Council of Churches and the global humanitarian agency Church World Service thanked President Obama for passage of historic health reform legislation and robust engagement with the faith community, while also pressing him to take a strong stance on behalf of families facing poverty and hunger.

“As the economic downturn has battered the middle class, it has been even more devastating to those already living on the economic margins of society,” said Rev. Peg Chemberlin, the president of the National Council of Churches, which represents 45 million people and 100,000 congregations in the U.S. “Our denominations and organizations are on the front lines–providing meals, support, and assistance to those hit hard by the economic downturn–but we know that more needs to be done.”

As political campaign rhetoric has descended into fear-mongering and divisiveness in the past few months, these leaders also spoke in a unified voice to inject civility and hope back into the public dialogue. The delegation emphasized the need to work together towards the common good and the power of churches to lead and break down walls of division across the world.

“Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s election, our faithful witness is needed now more than ever,” said Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches. “We cannot stand by while people of goodwill are baselessly attacked for their faith, their political beliefs, or their identity. We have no reason to fear or demonize those who are different from ourselves. Today, tomorrow, and into this next Congress, our country needs to come together and reclaim our values of justice and equality.”

Church World Service, which annually sponsors CROP Hunger Walks in 2,000 communities across the nation to raise funds to assist local and global hunger programs, urged the President to help implement domestic and international policies to make sure all families and children have access to nutritious, affordable food.

“We are facing a severe global economic crisis, and the repercussions extend beyond the borders of our country,” said John McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service. “As families in the U.S. find their household budgets more and more strained, families in the developing world are hurting too. Today, we asked for the President’s leadership in crafting policies that ensure men, women, and children have access to nutritious food and that we invest in diversified agriculture and ongoing community-based nutrition education.”

Leaders of major Christian denominations joined NCC and CWS leaders to thank the President for his leadership and to urge him to prioritize a number of issues, including strengthening our fraying safety net, extending unemployment benefits as the economy continues to falter, and lifting people out of poverty with a focus on job creation for those in poverty, job training, and education.

“As voters go to the polls tomorrow, they go with a sense of deep anxiety about their fragile economic situations. It is absolutely crucial for our political leaders to govern with a profound understanding of the hardships Americans are facing,” said Rev. Michael Livingston, director of the newly-launched NCC Poverty Initiative. “More and more families are losing their homes and struggling to make ends meet. As a faith community, we have a moral obligation to speak out for the ‘least of these’ and urge Congress and President Obama to make combating poverty and hunger a top priority.”

The delegation also raised pressing issues around Middle East peace and the U.S.’s fraught relationship with Cuba, urging the President to lift the travel ban from the U.S. to Cuba so that American-based organizations like Church World Service can support churches and communities in Cuba. Other issues raised included energy and climate, and care for those hit first and worst by climate change, as well as immigration reform.

The delegation also included Bishop Johncy Itty of Church World Service, Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bishop John R. Bryant of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Rev. Sharon Watkins of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr. of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Mr. Stanley J. Noffsinger of the Church of the Brethren, Archbishop Khajag S. Barsamian of the Armenian Church of America, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church, Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, Rev. Gradye Parsons of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller of the Moravian Church, Thomas Swain of the Religious Society of Friends, Rev. Wesley S. Granberg-Michaelson of the Reformed Church in America, Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader of the United Methodist Church, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America, Rev. Geoffrey Black of the United Church of Christ, and Dr. Walter L. Parrish III of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. The delegation presented the President with a Saint John’s Bible, a framed sampler of statements commemorating 100 years of ecumenism, and a picture plaque commemorating the “Feed the Future” initiative.

To schedule phone or in-person interviews with Michael Kinnamon, please contact Philip Jenks (National Council of Churches) at 646-853-4212 and to schedule interviews with John McCullough, please contact Lesley Crosson (Church World Service) at 212-870-2676. For other requests, please contact Kristin Williams (Faith in Public Life) at 202-459-8625.

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