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Church congregations to observe Jubilee Sunday

By United Methodist News Service
Jan. 11, 2007

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

United Methodist congregations will be among those praying for international debt relief as part of an observance of Jubilee Sunday on Jan. 21.

The Jubilee USA Network marks 2007 as a Sabbath year, “a time when people in the U.S. and all over the globe will be focusing attention on canceling unjust debts owed by impoverished nations in Africa, Latin America and Asia to wealthy countries and institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.”

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Women, United Methodist New England Annual (regional) Conference, Church World Service, and the National Council of Churches are council members of the Jubilee USA Network.

A Sabbath year is a biblical mandate found in both the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament requiring debts to be forgiven and right relations restored every seven years. A super jubilee occurs every 50 years.

Local congregations will be reading from Luke 4:14-21, in which Jesus declares a jubilee or “year of the Lord’s favor” by proclaiming God’s liberation for all oppressed and impoverished people.

Parishioners will also write to their congressional representatives and senators asking them to support new debt legislation in the Sabbath year. 


Jubilee USA is calling for debt cancellation for Liberia, now under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, A United Methodist. A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

A particular focus is being placed on debt cancellation for Liberia, now under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a United Methodist lay member. The Jubilee USA Network is asking church members to send Valentines to the U.S. Treasury, urging officials to “Have a Heart, and Cancel Liberia’s Debt.”

United Methodist congregations participating in Jubilee Sunday include St. Paul's United Methodist Church, San Jose, Calif.; Nevada City (Calif.) United Methodist Church; Bozeman (Mont.) United Methodist Church; First United Methodist Church, Missoula, Mont.; and First United Methodist Church, Houston.

The debt crisis arose during the 1970s as developing nations borrowed money, often at high interest rates and sometimes to the benefit of dictators rather than their people, according to the Jubilee USA Network. Money then went to repay debt rather than providing for the needs of the people.

For example, sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s most impoverished region, carries $201 billion in debt, despite repaying more than 90 percent of the $294 billion received between 1970 and 2002. Today, those countries still must pay $14 billion annually in debt service, the network reports.    

Debt relief allows burdened countries to re-focus on critical needs. Domestic spending in countries that have received debt relief has increased by 75 percent, according to the Jubilee USA Network. 

More information and downloadable worship resources can be found at www.jubileeusa.org, the network’s Web site.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Jubilee USA Network

Religious Working Group

Board of Church and Society

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