U.S. denominations urge candidates to respond to poverty

September 13, 2012

[Ecumenical News International] U.S. Christian denominations and faith-based aid groups said on 13 September that presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have responded to an invitation to state their intentions for dealing with poverty.

Video statements from Romney, the Republican candidate, and Obama, the incumbent president and a Democrat, can be viewed at , according to a news release from the National Council of Churches (NCC).

The Rev. Michael Livingston, director of national policy, Interfaith Worker Justice, and a former NCC president said that “children and families living in poverty don’t have a Super PAC [political action committee making campaign contributions] representing their interests, buying commercial airtime, making back room deals to improve their lot. Well, their interests are our interests.”

The subject of poverty doesn’t seem to be at the top of political discussions, he said, adding “shame on us.” The candidates have raised more than $1 billion for their campaigns, he noted, while more than 12 million children live “in the most desperate conditions.”

The appeal to the candidates was made through the organization Circle of Protection, which is composed of more than 65 heads of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations representing a wide array of churches in the U.S. The NCC is a founding member.

A unique alliance of evangelical, ecumenical, Roman Catholic and Christian Orthodox churches and groups, the Circle came together in 2011 to protect essential poverty programs from being cut from the federal budget.

Earlier this summer, Circle leaders invited the presidential candidates to submit video statements providing “a clear focus on what each candidate proposes to do to provide help and opportunity for hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.”

In a 13 September news conference, Circle leaders said that in 2011, more than one in seven Americans or 46.2 million people, lived in poverty.

NCC President Kathryn Lohre said, “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 … We must also create a society that provides for those in need. 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 Rev. David Beckmann, president of the Bread for the World anti-hunger advocacy organization, said that “our condition now is worse than ever. Hunger and poverty are so pervasive in this country that the poverty rate is the highest on record in the United States. This should be an election issue, so we are grateful that the presidential candidates are publicly stating their positions. We are calling on religious leaders and all people of faith to listen carefully to what the candidates have to say and when voting be mindful of the least among us.”

The Rev. Jim Wallis, president of the progressive Christian group Sojourners, said that “for years Christians have been separated by elections, but finally, we have a common ground moral issue: poverty. Across the political and theological spectrum, this group has put aside differences and taken up this mantle of protecting the poor and bringing their stories and struggles to light.”

The NCC’s 37 member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 40 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations.

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