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NCC LAUNCHES 10-YEAR "MOBILIZATION TO OVERCOME POVERTY"

See Related 11/15/2000 NCC News Story: NCC Assembly Takes Up Mobilization to Overcome Poverty

November 16, 2000, ATLANTA, Ga. – Undergirding their unanimous vote with expressions of urgency and determination, the National Council of Churches General Assembly today launched the Council’s 10-year "Mobilization to Overcome Poverty."

"It’s clear we believe poverty hurts all of us, that poverty in any form is unacceptable, and that poverty in this country in this day is an abomination," said Father Eugene Pappas of Brooklyn, N.Y., a member of the Greek Orthodox delegation to the Assembly.

The stumbling blocks to overcoming poverty are many, said Father Pappas, but "together, as a people committed to overcoming poverty because we confess Jesus to be the Christ, block by block we will bring the wall down."

Father Pappas was one of two "reporters" charged with summarizing Assembly delegates’ work in small groups Wednesday afternoon on the question, "What innovative strategies should the member communions covenant together on that would effectively lead us toward achievable goals and objectives in the fight to end poverty, especially as it impacts on children?"

Following back-to-back keynote addresses by William Gray of the United Negro College Fund and Jim Wallis of the Call to Renewal, delegates from the NCC’s 36 Protestant and Orthodox member communions brainstormed "bumper sticker" slogans for the mobilization and identified "stumbling blocks." They made the latter visual by writing descriptive phrases on mock bricks that were used to build a wall on the plenary hall platform.

"This wall is only a scale model of what faces us," Father Pappas said. "Each time we remove a block and weaken this wall, we can and will celebrate."

Delegates’ work will inform development of the 10-year mobilization, which seeks to enlist broad ecumenical engagement around specific, measurable goals and objectives to end poverty. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary, said, "We will work together with you to examine the trendlines, identify goals, work on them in partnership, evaluate and report back."

Clearly, it is "faith, scripture and theology" that "compels us an ecumenical body to work to overcome poverty," commented Debbie Hadjes-Funti of Metairie, La., who, like Father Pappas, served as a "reporter" on small-group work and is Greek Orthodox. "We agree that God calls us to care for the poor among us."

Hadjes-Funti said delegates called for "networking with the experts, including economists, theologians, lawmakers, bankers and educators, with people in unions, government, business, the arts and the media, foundations, not-for-profits and other local and national agencies. And we want to seek experts in our own and other member communions, interfaith organizations, ecumenical networks and seminaries.

"Including young people is important," she said. So is including "the wealthy and the poor themselves." She said eight of the 10 Assembly small groups explicitly connected the NCC’s "Mobilization to Overcome Poverty" and its other major new initiative, a search for broader unity among U.S. Protestants, Orthodox, Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Roman Catholics – beginning, quite possibly, with work to end poverty.

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