Church leaders tell Congress they oppose deep cuts
in domestic spending and poverty-focused foreign aid
Washington, March 1, 2011 -- As Congress debates the federal budget and
wrestles with a stop gap proposal to keep the government running before a
new budget can be adopted, U.S. church leaders have informed legislators
that "we are compelled to speak out against the proposed deep cuts" being
"Our witness as faith leaders is grounded in love for God
and neighbor and all creation," said the sixteen signatories of a letter
sent today to members of Congress.
"Jesus challenged people to define themselves by the
measure of their love for one another, with particular concern for those
struggling in poverty and marginalized by society," the message said.
leaders said proposed cuts to discretionary domestic programs and
poverty-focused foreign assistance are" unprecedented and dangerous" and
will "jeopardize the lives and well-being of millions now and into the
Last month the House of Representatives voted to reduce
federal spending by $60 billion, imposing reductions in domestic programs,
foreign aid to governments struggling with HIV/AIDS, health care and energy.
"Discretionary programs that serve the poor and
vulnerable are a very small percentage of the budget, and they are not the
drivers of the deficits," church leaders said in their message to Congress."
On the contrary, "unchecked increases in military
spending combined with vast tax cuts helped create our country's financial
difficulties and restoring financial soundness requires addressing these
Declaring that they are "compelled by our faith in the
living Christ to seek a world where hunger and poverty are a distant memory"
and "called by Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to build a world where we
live in community with one another," the church leaders urged Congress "to
reject proposed cuts that would undermine domestic and international efforts
to help those who are struggling to overcome poverty."
The director of the National Council of Churches poverty
initiative urged members of Congress to set partisanship and rivalries aside
as they read the church leaders' letter. "We are also in emphatic agreement that the budget must not
be balanced on the backs of most vulnerable among us, or secure more
benefits for the richest among us," said the Rev. Michael Livingston.
"We'll be listening with special interest to the discussion on revenue --
that is, taxes," Livingston said. "In the lame-duck session before
Christmas, tax breaks benefiting the rich, including changes in the Estate
Tax, added nearly $140 billion to the deficit. That is simply
unconscionable, especially when some members of Congress are proposing cuts
in programs that benefit persons living below the poverty line."
Livingston said unnecessary
military spending also adds billions to the deficit. "We'll be looking
for a serious and rational discussion on this issue, both from Congress
and from the Defense Department."
The full text of the church leaders' letter to Congress
| March 1, 2011
Dear Members of Congress:
Our witness as faith leaders is grounded in love for God and
neighbor and all Creation. Accordingly, we are compelled to speak
out against the proposed deep cuts in FY2011 discretionary domestic
and poverty-focused foreign aid spending. Jesus challenged people to
define themselves by the measure of their love for one another, with
particular concern for those struggling in poverty and marginalized
by society. His Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
transforms and broadens our definition of the neighbor and lifts up
a model of relationship with our neighbors that should define and
sustain our community, national and international life.
Love acknowledges our interdependence and our responsibility for the
future. None of us can prosper and be secure while some of us live
in misery and desperation. In an interdependent world, the security
and prosperity of any nation is inseparable from that of even the
most vulnerable both within and beyond their borders. Our churches
remain fully committed to our anti-poverty ministries in the U.S.
and around the world. But we also know from this hard-won experience
that similarly, our nation must remain committed to providing
attention to and opportunity for poor and vulnerable people.
Discretionary programs that serve the poor and vulnerable are a very
small percentage of the budget, and they are not the drivers of the
deficits. Unchecked increases in military spending combined with
vast tax cuts helped create our country’s financial difficulties and
restoring financial soundness requires addressing these root
imbalances. We share your concerns over long-term deficits and urge
you to find just solutions that will protect future generations both
from a legacy of debt and a legacy of poverty and underinvestment.
Cutting discretionary programs is not a just solution. These cuts
will devastate those living in poverty, at home and around the
world, cost jobs, and in the long run, will harm, not help, our
fiscal situation. While “shared sacrifice” can be an appropriate
banner, those who would be devastated by these cuts have nothing
left to sacrifice.
We find ourselves at a moment of crisis and decision. In the midst
of sobering financial challenges, our faith compels us to advance
toward a better world for ourselves and our neighbors and not turn
away from our brothers and sisters in need. We are compelled by our
faith in the living Christ to seek a world where hunger and poverty
are a distant memory, and where children around the world grow up
with equal opportunities for success. We are called by God, who
declared this Creation good, to seek a world of health in our air,
water, and biodiversity. We are called by Jesus Christ, the Prince
of Peace, to build a world where we live in community with one
another, caring for those experiencing conflict, aiding those in the
midst of natural disasters and dealing with the impacts of climate
change, and where we seek things that build a world of just peace.
As God is Creator and Sustainer of all, this is a not just a vision
for those in our churches, but a witness our faith compels us to
proclaim for all the world.
The unprecedented and dangerous cuts to discretionary domestic
programs and poverty-focused foreign assistance will jeopardize the
lives and well-being of millions now and into the future. These deep
and unwise spending cuts are a betrayal of our call to love our
neighbor. Our faith points our nation to “a more excellent way” (1
Cor. 12:31) that bears one another’s burdens, acknowledges our
interdependence, and compels sacrifice and love for our neighbors in
need. We therefore urge you to reject proposed cuts that would
undermine domestic and international efforts to help those who are
struggling to overcome poverty.
Rev. Donald H. Ashmall, Council Minister
International Council of Community Churches
Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., President
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson,
Reformed Church in America
Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and
The Episcopal Church
Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA
Arthur M. Larrabee, General Secretary
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Bishop Chuck Leigh, President
Apostolic Catholic Church
Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA
Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary
Church of the Brethren
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church USA
Stephen M. Veazey, President
Community of Christ
Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and
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