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D.C. vigils call for ‘faithful budget’

 
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3:00 P.M. EDT July 19, 2011 |



Jim Winkler leads a prayer vigil for a “faithful budget” in front of The United Methodist Building in Washington. A UMNS photo by Wayne Rhodes.
Jim Winkler leads a prayer vigil for a “faithful budget” in front of The United Methodist Building in Washington. A UMNS photo by Wayne Rhodes. View in Photo Gallery

Men and women dressed in corporate attire step outside of their air-conditioned offices into the mid-day, midsummer heat. Crisp, starched shirts and tailored suits quickly wilt while they join hands, bow their heads and pray.

Why? Because:

  • Every 32 seconds a child is born into poverty in the United States
  • 14.1 million unemployed are looking for work; 6.3 million of them have not worked for the past 27 weeks
  • 40 million depend for their daily bread on programs that fight hunger
  • 1.4 billion live in extreme poverty around the globe
  • Millions are dying of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria
  • And, Congress is trying to balance a federal budget that could seriously impact the lives of those already on the edge.

The Washington Interreligious Staff Community, an informal network of faith-based workers who toil together on common issues of social justice, are joining together daily on the front lawn of The United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill to pray for a “faithful budget.”

“The vigils taking place are an interreligious effort to raise the voice of people of faith on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable among us,” said Jim Winkler, top executive for The United Methodist Church’s Board of Church and Society. “We are sending a visible signal to those in power that we do not believe the negotiations over the debt ceiling and budget can be resolved on the backs of poor people.”

The prayer vigils began July 11 and will continue each weekday at 12:30 p.m. through July 22, when a White House-Congressional agreement on the budget and debt ceiling is expected.

The United Methodist Building faces the U.S. Capitol and is across the street from the Supreme Court. The building houses the Washington offices for the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, Commission on Religion and Race, Committee on Relief, Women’s Division and Council of Bishops. It also houses the Washington-based offices of the National Council of Churches of Christ, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Catholic Relief Services, Mennonite Central Committee, Church World Service, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Faith and Politics Institute, Interreligious Coalition on Smoking and Health, Churches for Middle East Peace and a number of other boards and agencies.

Those gathered for the daily vigils often walk the same halls and lobby in the same offices of Congress, advocating for many of the services threatened by budget cuts.

The July 14 prayer vigil organized and lead by the United Methodist social agency staff specifically lifted up the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other programs to fight hunger that help 40 million people in the United States.



Participants gather in prayer support for a “faithful budget.”
Participants gather in prayer support for a “faithful budget.”
View in Photo Gallery

“We pray that our elected leaders will have courage to protect critical health programs such as Medicaid from budget cuts and strengthen global efforts to eradicate pandemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” were the words of their prayer.

Religious leaders representing the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths talked about their concerns over the budget negotiations during a July 14 conference call.

The Rev. John McCullough, a United Methodist pastor and executive director of Church World Service, agreed that the current budget debate is “deeply disappointing and disturbing.”

The faith leaders also sent letters to President Obama; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, was among the signers.

The schedule for the remaining prayer vigils on the lawn of The United Methodist Building are:

July 19: Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

July 20: National Council of Churches

July 21: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

July 22: United Church of Christ

Previous vigils were lead by the Leadership Conference of Religious Women, an association of leaders of Catholic sisters, and Maryknoll, a Catholic mission organization; the Islamic Society of North America; NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby; the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness and Ecumenical Advocacy Days.

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Showing 11 comments

  • revnron 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    There is one "church" (denonination) that claims that not a single member of their "church" has ever been on wellfare.  That is because they require their members to give 10 % of there gross income and they check their tax records to be sure they do or they get kicked out.  But, if we as Chritians and United Methdists quit trying to get others to do our work for us and started doing it ourselves, such as supporting the poor, elderly, disabled, like that "church" does, and we got busy bringing more people into faith in Christ and the UM Church, then we wouldn't worry about these issues in the national budget.  And, maybe, people would think that Christians and United Methodists are admirable, as we once were, for our consistancy with our professed beliefs.
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  • Cinco Texan 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Jesus never said to use government programs for our charitable work.  This is why UMC membership is declining....too much emphasis on liberalism and lobbying government instead of Biblical principles.  What about the middle class struggling families that pay taxes? Who gives them relief? Who advocates for small businesses that are struggling against high taxes, utilities, mounting regulations, oil prices? And when the government takes all our extra money for these programs, the churches will get less and less in donations, thus killing the churches.  The social justice advocacy for government welfare programs taken up by church leaders is the wrong direction for the church.
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  • Patrick Quick 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Why do we, as Methodists, support govenment give-away programs - local, state, national or UN - at all? It is not justice, it is not generosity when those who work are coerced into supporting those who don't care to. Granted, there are folks among us that need our support and we are obliged by our faith to provide it; but to do so in the name of Christ, out of a generous spirit and as thankful worship to God for His unfailing grace. These criteria are no where in the handout programs of our governments, nor will our government allow us to say, as did the woman at the well, "Come see a man..."

    So, I have a couple of questions... why does our Councel of Bishops think it is ok for only those who advocate greater government programs to be represented my the GBCS - and other boards - at the exclusion of other voices? Why do they accept the politicization of our faith at all? I certainly have see little from the GBCS that is anything other than the same ideology found in the progressive movement in the U.S. Not all of us believe this political idology is correct for our nation or its citizens.

    I don't have a problem with any Methodists in the pews or on the payroll having and expressing political opinions. It is troubling to me, though, that any Methodist be allowed to express political opinions under the banner of the Methodist Church. It is exclusionary and misrepresents Methodists who hold different opinions.  It seems better that we should do our part to assist those that need help with food, lodging etc. while we help them learn to help themselves, doing so in the name of Jesus Christ.  Leave the politics to the politicians.

    Pat Quick
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  • Martha McFarland 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    How many of you are the recipients of the programs helping others to survive and live a better life?  We all are.  You have the right to criticize because someone fought to give you freedom of speech.  Your parents are receiving Social Security and the benefits of Medicare, because someone fought to help the elderly....and someday you will be in need of this same support.  Your children can go to college with the help of financial aid, because someone thought that was important and that it will help the future of our country.  We need to pay our bills, but we need to keep closer watch of these programs and be sure there is no waste, such as the charge of $500 for a box of Q-tips I once saw in the office I worked in, being billed to Medicare.  That was almost 20 years ago, and it has gotten worse with what is "allowed" to be billed.
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  • BBryan84 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Having government agencies provide for the medical and food needs of people is not a Biblical concept and should not be supported by the UMC. We are called to care for the poor and needy in the name of Christ. But surely we should not support having the federal government confiscate money (on threat of force)  from one person and give it to another. Christian giving should be done by Christians or Christian agencies. Government handouts are not in the name of Christ--the recipient sees a secular state taking care of him or her.
     
    The Methodist agencies supporting more welfare and poverty programs are certainly not representing my viewpoint and understanding of the Bible. I suspect many more share my view.
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  • Lee 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Why not give the U. M. Building to the poor and homeless? Our denomination could cut expenses on rent and utilities, and we could see just how deeply our (therefore unemployed) agency staff care.
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  • Oldgriffin 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Matthew 25 verse 40  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
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  • Out_sider 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Does the Methodist church support putting itself in financial debt to protect the programs of concern?  This article suggests they are asking others to do this.
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  • Eric 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Wow this is the UMC solution to the recession, pray for a bigger government.  It’s always nice to know that our church leaders aren’t burdened by deep or creative thinking.
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  • James Buckner 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Interfaith?
    Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
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  • feslop 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Here's an answer. Tax churches and dedicate all the income toward maintaining government-run programs for poverty and related human needs. Income and property taxes received would far exceed what churches currently are giving. The cash income from the megachurches alone would feed, clothe and house several million each year.
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