Presiding Bishop's Letter to Congress on Social Security

June 5, 2005

Members of the Senate Finance Committee & House Ways and Means Committee
U.S. Congress
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senators & Represenatives:

Like many Americans, I have followed with interest the efforts being put forth to change our Social Security – a program that has provided and continues to provide dignity and economic well-being to millions of elderly, widowed, disabled and orphaned in our communities. It is a program that has kept many seniors, particularly women, out of poverty. At its February 2005 meeting, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church passed policy reaffirming our Church’s recognition and support of Social Security as an effective government response to protecting vulnerable persons in our society.

Specifically the Council expressed “that if the United States Government is to make changes in the Social Security program, the Episcopal Church urges (1) maintaining the fundamental structure and intent of the program and assuring its long-tem financial stability and (2) not putting a disproportionate burden on the low-income and working poor.”

As I read scripture and think and pray about the relevance of the Word in our own contexts and experiences, I am reminded by the prophet Jeremiah—as he called on the rulers of his day to rule justly or face ruin—about the responsibilities we as a nation share in taking care of those Christ also calls us to serve.

Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then through the gates of this house shall enter kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their servants, and their people. But if you will not heed these words, I swear by myself, says the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation. (Jeremiah 22: 3-5)

As the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA, I urge you and your fellow Senators on the committee to pursue legislation that maintains the solvency of Social Security and ensures the continuation of its many successes. To use the words of Jeremiah, “Act with justice.”

Regardless of political theory in support for or against the role of government in the lives of individuals or society, Social Security rightly should be recognized for serving the least among us. According to any number of experts and commissions that have studied Social Security, both near and long-term measures exist that can protect the solvency of the Social Security program for many generations of Americans—often with minimal impact on populations of people most in need.

A number of religious bodies have expressed support for the Social Security program. I have taken the liberty of attaching a document of common principles drafted and supported by several religious organizations including the Episcopal Church, USA, that I hope will offer a moral perspective of the Social Security program and any potential changes Congress may consider. I have asked my staff in the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations to follow this issue, and if you have any questions or comments they can be reached at 202-547-7300.

Sincerely,

 

The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, III
Presiding Bishop and Primate
Episcopal Church, USA

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