When Bishop Jeffrey Rowthorn returned to the United States in late 2001 after serving as Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe for eight years, he was dismayed at the level of "self-preoccupation" he witnessed both within the church and throughout the country. Heeding "a sense that I needed to be doing something," he discovered there were many friends and colleagues in the Episcopal Church who felt the same. More than three years later, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (EGR) –- a growing movement dedicated to empowering individuals, parishes and dioceses to "carry on Christ's work of justice and reconciliation in the world" –- is the result of those initial conversations.
The work of the Gospel
The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the focus of EGR's work. The MDGs pledge to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental stability; and develop a global partnership for development. The United Nations has called on countries to give 0.7 percent annually of Gross National Product in order to achieve goals by 2015.
"What the nations of the world have come together in declaring ... is one of the closest things we've seen to what the Gospel looks like," said the Rev. Mike Kinman, Episcopal Chaplain at Washington University at St. Louis and a member of the 0.7 percent working group for EGR. The Episcopal Church endorsed the MDGs at General Convention in 2003 and is "challenging all dioceses and congregations to contribute 0.7 percent of their annual budgets to fund international development."
Rowthorn emphasizes that EGR is a movement, not an organization. "We are not asking people to spend money on us ... Our role is to get people involved ... let them focus on the world that needs the aid." EGR does most of its work on a grassroots level, with people in parishes and dioceses.
"We think this is what the church should be about," said Kinman, "and what we've found is that if people get educated about [the goals], they believe the same thing. They get excited ... they want to know what does that look like in my parish, in my diocese? What does that look like in my house? We want to be there to help them figure that out and start those movements
where they are."
What can one person do?
EGR's website <www.e4gr.org> offers a wealth of information about the MDGs, 0.7 percent giving and how these tie into the mission of the church. A newsletter, "What Can One Person Do?" goes out twice a month via email with suggestions and stories about work being done throughout the church and the world to achieve the MDGs. "Those who launched this effort," said Bishop Arthur Walmsley, retired bishop of Connecticut and a founder of the EGR movement, "recognize that rapid global communication ... already links people to one another. EGR offers a practical, hands-on way to develop linkages with persons and groups in the two-thirds world."
In addition to the website and newsletter, EGR helps people and groups draft resolutions on the MDGs and for their diocesan conventions. One of its goals is to have 2/3 of dioceses committed to the 0.7 percent giving by the 2006 General Convention. Thirty-seven dioceses are already giving 0.7 percent or more, or have passed resolutions to give 0.7 percent in the future. They also urge Episcopalians to be aware of what the United States is doing to achieve the MDGs, through the Episcopal Public Policy Network, and to be advocates for legislation that would benefit the MDGs.
"We want to be a resource, and continue to generate energy and enthusiasm and give [individuals] the materials they need to get the work done," said Kinman.
A gift in the challenge
"Spiritually," said Rowthorn, "we need to be far more alert to our brothers and sisters around the world. And, in a sense, we are addressing our spiritual needs as we address their physical needs."
Rowthorn and Kinman see throughout the church a greater awareness of the Anglican Communion since the 2003 General Convention. They also noted that all kinds of groups and individuals have embraced the MDGs and 0.7 percent giving. "As we start to grow as a movement ... it covers all parts of the spectrum, from the most conservative to the most liberal. God is giving us a gift in this work. It's the challenge to say: are you really going to be about the Gospel or not?"
With the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations declared that, "We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected." Kinman sees great opportunity for the Episcopal Church in this work. "One of the things we learn through scripture ... God can take our darkest hours and bring incredible light out of them. I don't think God ever gives humanity a challenge without having a gift in that challenge."