Faith in the Balance: A Call to Action

From the Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs:

A groundbreaking report, Faith in the Balance: A Call to Action, which calls on The Episcopal Church to address the issues and concerns of the poor in this country, was released today.

The report, based on the outcomes of 2008 Presiding Bishop’s Summit on Domestic Poverty, presents a Model for Domestic Poverty Alleviation, with an initial endeavor in Native American communities. This innovative Model works in tandem with the Episcopal Church’s global poverty initiatives of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Click Read more to see the full release.

“The Episcopal Church focus on the Millennium Development Goals has raised consciousness in our own faith communities and the broader culture about the need to address abject poverty in developing nations,” explained Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. “This work has increased mission fervor and deepened spirituality. We need to bring the same passion, organization, and accountability to our work on domestic poverty – in the poorest regions of the United States. Social statistics and the conditions of life are quite similar in the poorest areas, both in the U.S. and abroad, but the MDGs are addressed solely to poverty in the developing world. We need to use both lenses (international and domestic; distance and near vision) to see the least among us and around us.”

The report is available here:

Faith In The Balance

The 40-page report, prepared by the Rev. Christopher A. Johnson, Episcopal Church program officer for Domestic Justice and Jubilee Ministries, details the data and recommendations gathered at the three-day Summit in May 2008.

“The focus on Domestic Poverty Alleviation serves as a complement to our Church’s commitment to the effects of international poverty expressed through our MDG campaigns,” Johnson said. “We have a significant history of commitment to issues of domestic poverty, but this is our first effort to work collaboratively as members and organizations across the church for the common good as it pertains to domestic poverty.”

“It is said that when the devout woman was asked how often she prays, she answered, ‘One hour every day, except when I am very busy. Then I pray for two hours,’” commented Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church. “This same principle can be applied to our baptismal promise to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Episcopal Church is called to respond to oppressive poverty in our country as well as across the globe. During these challenging economic times, when we are ‘hard-pressed’, it is the time when we must give more. Like the woman who prays more when she has less time, we must give more when the economic times are tough.”

“The report on U.S. Domestic Poverty complements the Church’s ongoing commitment to overcoming poverty through the Millennium Development Goals, which apply to the developing world,” said the Rev. Canon Brian J. Grieves, senior director for the mission centers and director of the advocacy center. “The focus on the ‘least of these,’ whether in Africa or South Dakota, demonstrates our Church’s commitment to God’s mission of reconciliation. It’s the Church’s job to promote justice for the most vulnerable, especially in these economically difficult times, and I look forward to seeing how the General Convention meets the immense challenges before us.”

Resolution for General Convention

The report includes a suggested resolution for the Episcopal Church’s General Convention 2009 in July “to recognize the pressing challenges to those living in poverty and the working poor throughout this nation and call for new and innovative strategies to address issues related to nutrition, employment, childcare, education, healthcare, environment, housing, as well as equal protection under law and cultural affirmation.”

The resolution also asks for a special focus in “recognizing that many of the poorest counties in the United States are among Native Peoples living on reservations, gives priority” to Native Americans “whose population has increased while disparities in income, economic security, health and health care, and quality of life continue unabated.”

Anderson noted, “Working with the Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministry, this domestic poverty initiative has the potential to begin to address debilitating poverty that has been in existence and increasing since 1786 with the displacement of native people and the creation of the first reservations. I am optimistic and hopeful.”

“Many Native Americans live in geographically defined areas that are among the poorest counties in the United States, so the initial focus on the Native American community provides an opportunity to establish measurable goals and lines of accountability,” Johnson explained.

The resolution calls for an advocacy program in “federal, state and local governments to reduce poverty in these counties, and measurable goals to build capacity and sustainable communities through development initiatives working with local dioceses and tribal governments” with proposed funding at $400,000 annually.

“As Jesus said, ‘When you do these things to the least of these, you do them to me” (Matthew 25). He was talking about feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and caring for those with little or no hope,” Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori noted. “Our gospel work includes ‘preaching peace to all the peoples of the earth, those who are far off and those who are near’ as the mission prayer in Morning Prayer daily reminds us. Francis of Assisi challenged us to ‘preach the gospel at all times; use words when necessary.’ I hope and pray that this Call to Action may deepen our engagement in the gospel to those who are near as well as those who are far away.”

Those who attended the May 2008 Domestic Poverty Summit in Phoenix will serve as team leaders to facilitate the implementation of the Call to Action. “I am asking the various organizations that comprise the Episcopal Church to work collaboratively with others around themes they share in common,” Johnson said, noting that other stakeholders will be invited to participate.

The report in full is available on Episcopal Church website: Also included are resources and documents available.

The Executive Summary of the Faith in the Balance: A Call to Action follows:

How can we help to break the cycle of poverty? How can we become a place of refuge and healing for the most vulnerable members of our society? How might we be a prophetic voice for those who find themselves stuck in dead-end situations?

These are questions Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori challenged participants to address while attending the Summit on Domestic Poverty held at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, in May 2008.

Executive Summary

The Presiding Bishop convened this leadership gathering envisioning “the development of creative ways in which we can work collectively on common issues, the development of steps to eradicate poverty in the United States, say a word to the nation, point to possible actions at the next General Convention, and recognize, elevate, and celebrate all that is done on behalf of the poor on a daily basis in our congregations, dioceses, and institutions.”

This call to action provides a brief introduction that summarizes the summit event as the beginning of a process designed to engage the ministry of the church as a whole in common mission that is informed by Holy Scripture and Holy Baptism. A Model for Domestic Poverty Alleviation is introduced that follows the general format of a congregational development model. The four-point organizing language of Vision, Formation, Networking and Advocacy that emerged at the summit is preserved in the model under the categories of Servant Leadership, Christian Discipleship, Partnership in Mission, and Stewardship of Creation. These four categories are further divided into three subcategories to acknowledge the complexity of the challenges before us and to create opportunity to draw the whole of the church around domestic poverty as a common mission. The model intends to provide a relational structure through which an effective response to domestic poverty can be developed. It does not intend to provide the details of a particular localized response nor does it intend to provide particular strategies that will be adopted by the participants. This design is to assure a broad sense of ownership, which includes ownership by those populations it intends to impact.

Stakeholders have been identified to correspond to each of the subcategories based on the focus of their mission. A process has been recommended that outlines necessary action steps for implementation. The details of that process are sufficiently loose at this point so that stakeholders are free to shape the model based on their areas of expertise. The model places its faith in the balance sought among stakeholders as ideas are exchanged and goals are established. The model seeks to nurture faith in the balance between piety and action, personal desire and communal responsibility.

This information is also available on EpiScope:

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