Clergy in North Carolina Invite ALL Clergy to Descend on Raleigh in Solidarity on June 10.

Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, one of the NCC’s Pastors Ending Poverty, is mobilizing clergy in North Carolina to speak out against actions by the North Carolina legislature to undermine the well-being of people living in poverty. Please see the message below about the mobilization he is planning. ~Shantha

I am sure that you are aware of the acts of civil disobedience which have occurred in Raleigh over the past month. It’s has been a sign of discontent on the part of many North Carolinians who disagree with the policies coming out of the state legislature.

While it has not been discussed in the media, clergy have played an important role. But there is a desperate need for our collective voices to be heard. For many are asking, where is the voice of the church? And many more have been asking, where is the voice of the clergy?

We, as NC members of the clergy, want to gather in Raleigh on June 10 at 5:00pm on Bicentennial Mall. We are not planning on anyone getting arrested. We do not plan on entering the legislative building. But we are planning on lifting our voices to be heard as men and women of God to say that “We Are For the Poor”. That we stand in opposition to any policies, any person who would produce actions which injure the most vulnerable around us. And as men and women of faith, we gather for prayer and for a public proclamation of faith in a God who is a God of salvation and justice.

Download and distribute this flyer for more information.

ImageIn Christ,
Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins

Models of Anti- Poverty Ministry – Presentation and Recommended Reading

In the first of the NCC Poverty Initiative’s Pastors Ending Poverty webinar series, Tronn Moller of the Faith and Community Development Institute shared some models of anti-poverty ministry for congregations to consider when planning how to confront poverty as a Christian community. Download his presentation here, and watch the video here.

He also recommended the following resources for reading.

Biblical principles of Christian compassion and transformational community ministry:

Jay Van Groningen, Communities First (CRWRC, 2005).

Ronald Sider, Good News, Good Works: Uniting the Church to Heal a Lost and Broken World (Zondervan, 1993).

Tim Keller, Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road (P&R Publishing, 1989).

Robert Linthicum, Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community (InterVarsity, 2003).

Robert Lupton, And You Call Yourself a Christian: Toward Responsible Charity (CCDA, 2006).

George McKinney and William Kritlow, Cross the Line: Reclaiming the Inner City for God (Nelson, 1997).

Bob Moffitt with Karla Tesch, If Jesus Were Mayor: How Your Local Church Can Transform Your Community (Harvest Publishing, 2004).

Bryant Myers, Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development (Orbis Books, 1999).

John Perkins, ed. Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing It Together and Doing It Right (Baker Books, 1995).

Heidi Unruh and Phil Olson, What is Holistic Ministry? Video (Network 9:35, 2003).

Walter Bruggemann, Journey to the Common Good, 2010

 

Planning and mobilizing church-based community ministry:

Ronald Sider & Heidi Unruh, Churches that Make a Difference, (Baker Books, 2002)

Willie Richardson, Reclaiming the Urban Family: How to Mobilize the Church as a Family Center (Zondervan, 1996).

Ray Bakke and Sam Roberts, The Expanded Mission of Center City Churches (International Urban Associates, 1998).

Victor Claman and David Butler with Jessica Boyatt, Acting on Your Faith: Congregations Making a Difference, A Guide to Success in Service and Social Action (Insights, 1994).

Carl Dudley, Community Ministry: New Challenges, Proven Steps to Faith-Based Initiatives (Alban Institute, 2002).

Robert M. Franklin, Another Day’s Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis (Fortress Press, 1997).

Dennis Jacobsen, Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing (Fortress Press, 2001).

Jan Johnson, Growing Compassionate Kids: Helping Kids See Beyond Their Back Yard (Upper Room Books, 2001).

Robert Logan and Larry Short, Mobilizing Compassion: Moving People into Ministry (Revell, 1994).

Kenneth Miller and Mary Wilson, The Church That Cares: Identifying and Responding to Needs in Your Community (Judson, 1985).

Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson, The Externally Focused Church (Group, 2004).

Amy Sherman, Restorers of Hope (Crossway Books, 1997).

Amy Sherman, The ABCs of Community Ministry: A Curriculum for Congregations (Hudson Institute, 2001).

Ronald Sider, Phil Olson, and Heidi Unruh, Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works (Baker, 2002).

Steve Sjogren, ed. Seeing Beyond Church Walls: Action Plans for Touching Your Community (Group, 2002).

Luther Snow, The Power of Asset Mapping: How Your Congregation Can Act on Its Gifts (Alban, 2004).

Phil Tom and Sally Johnson, Handbook for Urban Church Ministries (Metro Mission, 1996).

Heidi Unruh, Phil Olson, and Ronald Sider, Becoming a Church That Makes a Difference: Ventures in Holistic Ministry CD-ROM (Network 9:35, 2006).

 

Bible study resources on holistic ministry

Justice Now! (Christian Community Development Association, 1992).

Carolyn Nystrom, Loving the World (InterVarsity Press, 1992).

Amy Sherman, Sharing God’s Heart for the Poor: Meditations for Worship, Prayer & Service (Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1999).

Ronald Sider, ed. For They Shall Be Fed: Readings and Prayers for a Just World (W. Publishing Group, 1997).

Reg Parks, Compassion by Command video curriculum (Here’s Life Inner City, 2002).

Best practices ministry profiles:

Robert Carle and Louis Decaro, Jr., Signs of Hope in the City: Ministries of Community Renewal (Judson, 1997).

Barbara Elliott, Street Saints: Renewing America’s Cities (Templeton Foundation Press, 2004).

Nile Harper, Urban Churches, Vital Signs: Beyond Charity Toward Justice (Eerdmans, 1999).

Ronald J. Sider, Cup of Water, Bread of Life (Zondervan, 1994).

Samuel G. Freedman, Upon this Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church (HarperCollins, 1993).

Web resources for church-based compassion ministry:

Alban Institute, www.alban.org

Center for Renewal, www.centerforrenewal.org

Center on Faith in Communities, www.centeronfic.org

Children’s Defense Fund, www.childrensdefense.org

Christian Community Development Association, www.ccda.org

Communities First Association,  www.communitiesfirstassociation.org

Evangelicals for Social Action, www.esa-online.org

Models of Anti-Poverty Webinar – March 13th 4:30pm EST/1:30pm PST

ImageI’m excited to announce a great learning opportunity coming up next week: a webinar called “Models of Anti-Poverty Ministry.” Sometimes, churches have a hard time explaining how or why the ministries they do in the name of Matthew 25 took the shape they did. Having tools to clearly name and evaluate “the why and how” behind a ministry can strengthen it tremendously. On March 13 at 4:30pm EST, join in deepening your understanding about roles of a congregation’s anti-poverty ministry in a community.  Click here to register.

The webinar presenter Tronn Moller of Faith and Community Development Institute will share insights on the practices and impacts of a congregation’s anti-poverty ministry. Tronn’s presentation is rooted in years of experience coaching clergy and lay leaders in confronting poverty in their communities. Afterward, participants will have an opportunity to think together about how a congregation in Durham, North Carolina that wants to start a new anti-poverty ministry could discern what next steps to take in their planning. I hope you can join us for this engaging online learning opportunity. I hope to see you online next Wednesday! Register here.

Lenten Blessings,

Shantha

Faithful Alternatives to Sequestration – A Message to Congress

 This message was sent to Congress today on behalf of the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs.

It is with great concern over the effects of the sequester that I write to you today.  These budget cuts will harm real people; they are not an academic exercise and this is no laboratory for testing ideology around the role of government.  Indeed, a recent report by the Coalition on Human Needs shows that 600,000 children and women stand to lose WIC nutrition assistance, 70,000 children may be denied Head Start, and at a time when the need for better mental health care is brought into stark relief by recent violent events, 373,000 people stand to lose access to mental health treatment.  Arguments that the effects of the sequester will not be “that bad” fail to account for the real lives of people who depend on the services that we have committed to provide for the common good of all.

Please find attached Faithful Alternatives to the Sequester, a document offered last summer to Members of Congress by the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs.  In particular, we draw your attention to the following excerpt:

“Crushing poverty in a world of abundance is insufferable and our nation has allowed too much injustice and greed to govern our current economic structures.  Instead, we seek to increase equity and equality in this nation. We are alarmed at the growing economic divergence between rich and poor, creating permanent inequalities that are neither just nor socially sustainable. Over the past thirty years, tax policy has too often been used to perpetuate rather than address these inequalities…

“It is from this place of concern for the common good, right relationship, and the just working of the economy, that we seek a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  Sequestration was developed as a backstop – a last resort if Congress failed to act in a more thoughtful and balanced way.  Whether Congress uses sequestration or some alternative as a means of achieving deficit reduction, Congress can and must act in a way that reflects our shared values. There are core challenges facing our nation: rising income inequality, persistent unemployment, historically high rates of poverty and anemic economic growth. These challenges must be addressed with justice.

“Therefore, we refuse to accept additional spending cuts to programs that serve “the least of these,” and we support extending the tax cuts for low and middle-income families.  In particular, we support a strong, refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, as they are some of this nation’s most effective tools for alleviating poverty.

“Our approach to upcoming sequestration needs to be rooted in our values – a balanced approach that addresses the deficit crisis with justice and compassion.  On the one hand, we need to be good stewards of the resources we already have, making judicious cuts to defense, earmarks, and other wasteful spending, while preserving that which is most important for the good of all.  On the other hand, we must increase revenue, in order to ensure that this nation can meet our need to operate a fair and just economy, which serves all of our human community. The nation’s deficit crisis cannot be solved through spending cuts alone – new revenues must be part of the solution. The need is great and the resources are abundant.  The budget choices we make must reflect this reality.

Please feel free to contact me at the contact information below, or my fellow Co-Chair, Amelia Kegan, Policy Analyst at Bread for the Word, should you have any questions.

With sincere hopes for a just resolution to Sequestration,

Leslie Woods
Representative for Domestic Poverty & Environmental Issues
Office of Public Witness
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Co-Chair of the Inter-religious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs

In 2013, Resolve to Strengthen Your Anti-Poverty Ministry.

In 2013, the National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative would like to support you in enhancing your anti-poverty ministry.

We are launching a new program called Pastors Ending Poverty to challenge and support lay and ordained pastors like you in achieving any goals you set for yourself between February and June of 2013. The goals can be as ambitious or modest as you want. The important thing is that you set them, so we can support you in reaching them. We’ll surround you with a community of other pastors who made resolutions who can sojourn with and encourage you. In mid-January, I will match you up with resources and an adviser who can help you reach your goals. Over the course of your time, you’ll receive special opportunities to plug in to different charity and advocacy opportunities. Simply fill out this form to make a resolution and enrollRegistration is limited to the first 50 people who respond, so sign up soon to reserve your space.

Here are a couple of inspiring examples of goals pastors have set for themselves so far:

“I want to harness the multiple capitals of the faith community to promote healthier and more just food systems–giving particular emphasis to creating economic opportunity for those in need.” ~ Pastor Ending Poverty in North Lima, Ohio

“Many in my congregation are surviving on SSI and are just above the poverty level. I wish to find strategies and ways to help them rise above that level, and then be able to reach out in that community which they know so well, to help others.” ~Pastor Ending Poverty in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Don’t hesitate to pass this opportunity along to friends. Please email or call me at 202-481-6688 if you have any questions. I’ll get back to you the first week in January.

New Year Blessings,

Shantha

Response in Time of Tragedy

crossandgun1While the Poverty Initiative blog usually hosts information all about poverty all the time, I thought it was important to use every means of communication available to the National Council of Churches to get the word out about how we’re responding to the tragedy in Newtown. Please see a message from the transitional General Secretary of the National Council of Churches below. ~Shantha
******************

Dear Friends in Faith,

I have been inspired by the great outpouring of support and compassion I have seen in the faith community’s response to the devastating shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. From prayer vigils to pastoral care resources, and from moving sermons to the many, many prayers for the families and community in Newtown – the outpouring of God’s love to this community through God’s people has been hope fulfilled.

If you would like to access a sampling of the response, click here to see prayers and click here to see actions.

I hope that you will join me not only in continued prayer but also in raising a faithful witness against this and other forms of violence. No nation or community should witness the suffering of such innocents. The National Council of Churches will be participating in several activities over the next few weeks and I invite you to join us.

* Ring Church Bells on Friday morning to Honor Newtown – NCC associated congregations across the United States plan to ring church bells on Friday morning to mark one week’s passing since the shooting tragedy transpired.
* Interfaith Press Conference on Gun Violence: On Friday, December 21, representatives from Jewish and Christian organizations will come together in Washington, DC to call on President Obama to address gun violence. Click here for the news release.
* Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath: On January 6, congregations around the country are being asked to offer sermons, prayers, or education forums against gun violence. Click here to register your congregation and receive a free, downloadable toolkit.
* Call-in Day Against Gun Violence: The interfaith community will join together in early January to host a call-in day to legislators, urging them to address gun violence. Click here to sign up to receive information about this important advocacy action.

We will be convening staff from our member communions shortly after the holidays to discern additional ways that we, as the body of the National Council of Churches, can work together to prevent gun violence and other long term systemic issues of justice and peace.

Prayerfully,

Peg Birk

Transitional General Secretary, National Council of Churches

Remarks by Rev. Michael Livingston at Circle of Protection press conference

Circle of Protection leaders share about poverty and the election at the National Press Club in Washington, DC before they release videos made by both presidential candidates that explained, from a faith perspective, what they would do to form a circle of protection around people living in poverty.

Remarks by Rev. Michael Livingston at Circle of Protection press conference upon release of videos made by the presidential candidates explaining how they will form a circle of protection around the most vulnerable.

September 12, 2012 – National Press Club

By the end of July, over 1 billion dollars had been raised, and most of it spent, by the presidential candidates, their respective parties, and just one primary Super Pac supporting each candidate.  Fifty-five days from the election that number is much higher.  Over a billion dollars!  And our candidates have not been talking about helping the people of our nation, over 12 million of them children, living in the most desperate conditions.

Since the recession began in 2007 two congressional districts in the entire nation have seen poverty decrease significantly.  In 388 congressional districts poverty has deepened.  Our congress, our candidates are not talking about this.  It doesn’t seem to matter.  Shame on us.

Children and families living in poverty don’t have a Super PAC representing their interests, buying commercial airtime, making back room deals to improve their lot.  Well, their interests are our interests.

People of faith in our congregations can’t compete with the shadowy contributions of millionaires hiding behind bad campaign laws. We can and do stand with people living in poverty and lift our voices on their behalf.  And today we are asking the 350,000 congregations we represent in the U.S. to make hunger and poverty a core issue when they go to the polls in November.

Rev. Michael Livingston, former president, National Council of Churches and Director of National Public Policy, Interfaith Worker Justice

Poverty and the Election: Listen in on What Some NCC Leaders are Saying

Kathryn M. Lohre,  President, National Council of Churches

Jesus worked and lived with people on the margins of society, and our call as a church is to continue that ministry. We are called as God’s church to build a kingdom of God where all are fed and community shares with each other. God’s church is at work bringing offerings of food to share with hungry people, sheltering those without homes in our fellowship halls, and creating support networks like job clubs and employment ministries. Yet, that is not enough. We must also create a society that provides for those in need. Senior religious leaders from the National Council of Churches joined with other religious leaders through the Circle of Protection, calling on our presidential candidates to address poverty. In response, Presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle have articulated how they plan to exercise their leadership in order to alleviate poverty. We, as the church, join them and encourage the nation as a whole to make eradicating poverty a national priority.

The Rt. Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, Bishop 

Office of Ecumenical and Urban Affairs, African Methodist Episcopal Church

We must not be misled into believing that the recession is the primary cause of increased poverty in America, for while poverty has increased during the recession, poverty was also increasing before the recession. A decade before the recession, while the nation’s economy was booming, poverty was on the rise. The gap between the middle class and the poor was widening and more and more people and families were falling out of the middle class. This is especially true among African Americans and other minorities.

The people of God, regardless of political party or affiliation, must raise our voices and call upon our political leaders to face and address the issue of poverty, and do it now. Leadership demands it, and the hurt and suffering of the poor, especially children, requires it.

Dr. Sharon E. Watkins

General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

The Biblical vision of wholeness (shalom) includes a world in which there is enough for everyone. As people of faith who are committed to this vision of wholeness, the members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are deeply concerned about the poverty that currently plagues so many of God’s children. We therefore support all efforts to end this poverty, from the courageous compassion of our local, regional and general ministries to the public policies that affect all of us. We are pleased that the Presidential candidates from both major parties are giving time and attention to the issue of poverty, and we look forward to hearing more from them about their specific plans to address this problem.

Nathan Hosler
Advocacy and Peace Witness Ministries, Church of the Brethren

The Church of the Brethren has firmly believed that as followers of Jesus we are called to serve one another in the way that Jesus demonstrated by washing his disciples’ feet. We urge all leaders to support programs that care for persons in poverty. We recognize that as individuals and families are assisted they will not only lead healthier lives but will be able to assist others in need.

 Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., President

Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

The Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. (PNBC) is the denominational home of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” Organized in 1961, the PNBC has a rich and lavish history of championing the cause of social justice issues and public policies for the voiceless and the most vulnerable of our global society.

The scriptures tell us that the poor will always be with us. But, we are not to neglect caring for the poor. The measure of our society and humankind in particular, is how we address the least of these. People who are destitute have no lobbyists or any media machine to advocate for them. That is why the Christian faith community is called upon to constantly bring this issue to our politicians. This is the first step to feeling the discomfort that is necessary to make a change. We must lift the veil of denial and neglect that keeps our nation from confronting poverty.

In this election year, the PNBC calls on our politicians and elected officials from the local and federal government entities to break the silence in dealing with issues of poverty. We can do better as a nation. It is unjust and immoral to constantly ignore the issues of poverty and push the least of these aside as if they do not exist. We must make the issue of eradicating poverty a top political and social agenda in this decade.

Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ

Our faith calls us to place the poor and most marginalized in our communities at the forefront of concern.  Those who struggle economically in our society, the most vulnerable  — children living in poverty, people living with chronic health issues, seniors, women trying to escape violence in their homes – do not have a voice at the policy-making table or a hand in influencing political campaigns. The United Church of Christ has a long history of actively serving the needs of vulnerable populations in our communities and advocating for systemic solutions that lift people out of poverty and uphold the common good. We urge all people to let your voices be heard through your vote. As our faith teachings remind us, nations are judged by how they treat the poorest and most vulnerable people.  Our faith calls us to consider how our choices this election affect the “least of these.”

Rev. Michael Livingston

Former President, National Council of Churches

National Public Policy Director, Interfaith Worker Justice

“Since the current recession began in 2007, only two congressional districts in the entire nation have seen poverty decrease significantly. In 388 districts, poverty has deepened. We cannot fix a problem we don’t acknowledge exists. There is precious little conversation about the millions of Americans living in poverty and the swelling numbers of children and families falling into poverty. Our presidential candidates can lead the way in a broader and deeper wrestling with our moral obligation to care for the poor. These videos are a good start on a much needed, much avoided national conversation. Next, let’s get to work repairing our safety net, putting people to work in good jobs and caring for the most vulnerable among us.”

 

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