Supporting parishioners in the midst of economic turmoil

September 30, 2008, 2:02 pm | Posted by

Dan and I were just sitting in the office, talking about how the financial mess is affecting churches and religious organizations. With that in mind, I started poking around religion blogs and news sources, expecting to find stories about diminishing funds in church coffers stymieing congregations’ abilities to help those in need, how pledges and stewardship campaigns are shifting as a result, what cuts are being made in religious organizations’ budgets, and the like.

When I found “Wall Street’s Woes come to Church”, I thought my expectations were confirmed.

But the subtitle– “Episcopalians consider new economic landscape, extend help to others”– told a different story.

Mary Frances Schjonberg writes about new and evolving ministries that cater to the needs of those affected by the Wall Street crisis; churches like Trinity Church, (located at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway in lower Manhattan), which is now offering sessions on “Coping with Stress” and “Navigating Career Transitions.” Others offer job-seeking classes; all offered pastoral support and care for parishioners suffering from doubt and anxiety.

It’ll be interesting to see how else houses of worship respond. What’s yours done so far?

(Thanks to Jeff Weiss over at the Dallas Morning News religion blog for posting this article!)

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Micah’s Challenge to the Future President

September 26, 2008, 1:31 pm | Posted by

Following is a message from Brian Swarts, National Coordinator of Micah Challenge USA. It is also posted at God’s Politics.

Tonight US presidential candidates will meet to debate foreign policy. Yesterday the United Nations met to discuss our progress towards cutting global poverty in half by 2015.

While most of us in America are focused on our financial mess in Wall Street, there is another major crisis taking place — one of life and death. Right now, the developing world faces a major hunger crisis that threatens to push an additional 70 million into extreme poverty. Just as the US government is taking bold action to stem financial troubles for wealthy banks, people of faith are calling on our leaders to remember their promises to the poor and to take bold actions to stem rising hunger and poverty.

In response to this need for Christians to speak out for the poor, Micah Challenge USA is launching Micah’s Challenge to the Future President, an open letter calling on McCain and Obama to support a foreign policy that renews America’s commitment to the pledge to dramatically reduce poverty, disease and inequality by 2015 (Sign your name to the challenge).

On Monday, I moderated a press conference panel of American and global evangelical leaders in calling on the UN and US presidential candidates to take bold steps to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This conference was in response to a prophetic Letter on poverty, written by senior evangelical Christian leaders in the Global South, representing four continents and hundreds of millions of Christians. The Letter calls on Christians in the United States to protest the lack of progress that has been made toward cutting global poverty. Yesterday, I attended a meeting of more than 70 national religious leaders to discuss how the faith community is going to respond to the global hunger crisis, which threatens to be overshadowed by our own financial challenges.

The clear consensus of both these events was that is the faith community’s role, more than any other group in the country, to remind Americans of our responsibility to those who are suffering most. Just as we need to urge Congress to remember families losing their homes as they bail out banks, we need challenge our political leaders to remember our promises to those living in extreme poverty around the world.

Micah Challenge USA, a coalition of US evangelical denominations and institutions dedicated to fighting global poverty. Visit www.micahchallenge.us to read the “Letter to the Church in the United States” and ‘Micah’s Challenge to the Future President”

Faith In Public Life

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Putting The Bailout in Perspective

September 24, 2008, 3:22 pm | Posted by

Via TAPPED, Bono:

“It’s extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion dollars to saved 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.”

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Peace in our time?

September 18, 2008, 3:39 pm | Posted by

Today’s Los Angeles Times ran an editorial under the headline “The real issues of election 2008” calling for economic and security issues to take precedence in the presidential campaign:

Last year, Sen. John McCain finished last in a Republican presidential poll held in conjunction with the [Values Voter] summit. This year’s summiteers were newly enthusiastic about McCain because of his selection of their kindred spirit, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as his running mate. Some of the faithful hope that the 2008 election will be a referendum on “values” — as defined by them.

We hope they’re wrong. A raft of issues will confront the next president: the faltering economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, a resurgent Russia, gaps in health insurance, energy policy and climate change. Especially after this week’s turmoil in the financial markets, it’s bizarre to suggest that this election should turn on abortion, same-sex marriage or the relationship between church and state. Though these remain important issues, the electorate would be the loser if they play as significant a role this year as they have in recent presidential races.

I guess I’d half agree with this. The more we focus on issues outside the culture wars, the better off we’ll be, but we can’t just wish wedge issues away. We need an alternative framework. Long wars typically don’t end until one or both sides more or less run out of bullets, and as much as I’ve enjoyed watching the Religious Right’s influence wane, their munitions factories are still humming along. I don’t have the solution, but I think a good starting point is deciding whether we’re trying to end the war or trying to win it. It is an important distinction, and one that each of us who care about politics owe ourselves to ask. I for one don’t think this war can end in victory — for either side.

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Making poverty a real priority

September 17, 2008, 2:49 pm | Posted by

Yesterday numerous religious leaders called on candidates for public office (not just the presidentials) to make poverty a more urgent priority. A group of more than 100 called specifically for relief and rebuilding on the hurricane- and poverty-ravaged Gulf Coast:

In an attempt to solve what they called a “moral crisis,” the religious leaders sent the statement to national leaders of both parties to urge them to restore the Gulf Coast communities by creating resident-led partnerships that will enable residents to help rebuild their communities.

The statement also called for government officials to increase federal and state funding for affordable housing and coastal wetland restoration, and to implement a flood control system to protect the communities from future severe weather.

The statement and full list of signatories is here.

And in Washington, DC,

Praying outside the U.S. Capitol Sept. 16, Catholic, Protestant, Islamic and Jewish leaders invoked the words of the prophet Micah in calling upon candidates for public office in the Nov. 4 election to join with Americans of faith concerned about the growing poverty in the U.S. to work for justice for the poor.

It’s important to make these statements right now. A new administration and a new Congress will take the reins before we know it, and they’ll put the most energy into the issues they hear about most from voters. If we don’t put poverty on their radar, they’ll do exactly nada about it. With faith leaders asking en masse, and in some cases face to face, the candidates and electeds won’t be able put poverty on the back burner or sweep it under the rug as they have for decades.

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