Dear Members of the United States Senate,
As the presiding bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church, we write to lift up the shared commitment of our churches to alleviate global poverty, hunger, and insecurity. We urge you to support this commitment when you vote this week by defending the Senate Appropriations Committee's recommended funding levels for the International Affairs Budget (also known as the "150 Account"). We strongly urge you to vote against amendments that would deplete these funds that save millions of lives every year.
Poverty-focused development assistance represents our Christian community's most foundational values. Our church bodies are connected-both theologically and financially-to our global sisters and brothers. The vast majority of the 70-million-member Lutheran World Federation and the 80- million-member Anglican Communion, the global families of which the ELCA and Episcopal Church are respectively part, live in countries afflicted by severe poverty. Our church bodies work within these global networks to provide direct humanitarian support in approximately 100 countries and collectively invest approximately $43 million annually in humanitarian assistance and emergency relief.
In addition, American Lutherans and Episcopalians have close relationships with those in dire need of basic food, water and medical care around the world. Our congregations maintain almost 240 active companion relationships with churches in the world's most impoverished countries. They travel to their companion congregations, from Honduras to Tanzania, Sudan to the Philippines. They partner with them and invest additional tens of millions of dollars annually in these relationships.
But our projects and relationships cannot stand alone. Our global companions rely on U.S. assistance for life-sustaining food, medicine, education and support.
As you know, poverty-focused assistance currently represents only around one percent of the U.S. federal budget. However, this assistance helps feed 46.5 million of the world's most vulnerable, prevents more than 114,000 infants from being born with HIV, delivers life-saving antiretroviral treatment to nearly 4 million Africans, saves 3 million lives through USAID's immunization programs, and protects tens of millions of lives from malaria infection and death.
Despite the small proportion of the federal budget and huge life-saving and security outcomes, the International Affairs Budget was already cut 11 percent this year. As your chamber discusses the Senate Appropriations recommendations this week, the International Affairs Budget is vulnerable to amendments that would make additional deep cuts to these already-depleted accounts. These cuts would do very little to balance the national budget, but would represent the loss of life for millions of God's people around the world.
We urge you to support a strong and effective International Affairs Budget and oppose amendments that would cut programs so vital to our global Christian companions, America's leadership and impoverished communities around the world.
In God's grace,
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church