Subject: NCC Weekly News: Protecting Programs that Protect the Poor

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NCC Chair Rev. Sharon Watkins: "What kind of people don’t take care of our children?"
I am Sharon Watkins, Chair of the Board of the National Council of Churches. We, of the NCC, are 38 member churches who follow Jesus. We have been consistent in proclaiming that Jesus would not have liked this budget.

Jesus said, “let the children come to me.” This budget makes American children go hungry – please hear me when I say that – children. in. America. will go hungry because this budget cuts SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) by more than 25%. Greatest negative impact? Low-income working families.

This budget would significantly cut the Children’s Health Insurance Program. I ask you – what kind of people don’t take care of our children?

This proposed budget would cut Community Block Grants which support many vital neighborhood programs – especially for youth – and … children.

We, as the National Council of Churches and as part of the Circle of Protection, are also deeply distressed by the proposed cuts to funding of international assistance programs. 

Jesus tells us our neighbor is the one who shows mercy. He calls us to be that neighbor. Instead, this budget would reduce U.S. foreign aid by 29 percent – at a time when famines are emerging in four countries across Africa and the Middle East – not just drought: starving-to-death famines.  Deep cuts to foreign aid are likely to fall especially hard on international initiatives that help people get out of poverty – nutrition programs for babies, for example. 

This proposed budget seems to be based on an assumption that poor people should fund our national defense.  The National Council of Churches and the Circle of Protection do not agree. The biblical prophets teach us that our security depends on upholding justice for people in poverty. Common wisdom in our own time tells us, “a hungry man is an angry man.”

Today, from across the Christian spectrum we agree: Jesus would not like a budget that increases hunger and sickness in children and working families here or abroad. We do not think it is right – or wise – to ask sick and hungry children to pay for the nation’s defense. 

We join hands today in a continued circle of protection around those programs which provide a needed neighborly hand to the vulnerable among us. When they are strong and healthy, we all are stronger and more secure. 

-Rev. Sharon Watkins at the National Press Club on June 21, 2017 with other members of the Circle of Protection, a coalition of Christian groups in which the NCC is a partner.

Bishop Lawrence Reddick: "We advocate for the increases of those we see and serve"

We come as women and men of faith. Though separated by physical distances, cultural differences and faith traditions, many of us united in prayer and fasting in May, directed toward God’s intervention in the politics of the United States, especially as it relates to the poor and vulnerable. We pray for wisdom for our governmental leaders, but we are committed to continued advocacy for those most in need of society’s safety nets.

We agree that the purposes of government include providing for the common good, for security and protection. But we know that prosperity and privileges are not commonly identifiable in every sector of our society. While for some these are the best of times that might allow for cuts in the national budget, for others they are the worst of times and cuts will prove devastating.

Among the churches I visit, we serve many who are stressed to keep roofs over their heads; and many -- even working persons -- stretch to make ends meet, monthly. There still are people who must decide during the month between food or medicine, or between rent and food. Safety nets such as SNAP and Medicaid are still essential to improving the opportunities of the poor.

As faith leaders with international ministries, we also believe there are needs outside this nation which we as a leading world nation should respond to. And so, we adapt the words, “America first” to say, Let America be first in leadership in the world; first in helping build the capacities of other nations; first in encouraging the determination within other countries to build their infrastructures and agricultural systems – not by cutting international aid, but by strengthening it.

Recently one of our clergy expounded the Scripture in 1 Chronicles 4:9 – the prayer of Jabez – with this insight: Jabez, she said, prayed that God would bless him and increase his territory. Then she helped us see that Jabez was not praying for personal increase, but for an increase for all in the tribe of Judah, which he led … so that the people he served as leader would be blessed with increased capacity.

God has blessed our nation with great capacity. Now is not the time – never is the time - to enrich the already wealthy while cutting safety net programs for the poorest and most vulnerable. Like Jabez, we advocate for the increases of those we see and serve.

+ Lawrence L. Reddick III

at the National Press Club, June 21, 2017
Church World Service Says New Restrictions on Cuban Travel Will Hurt the Cuban People and Churches

On Friday, June 16, President Trump announced a reversal of some elements of the Obama Administration’s Cuba policy changes. While policies on religious travel and remittances are unchanged, and diplomatic relations remain in place, restrictions on broader travel and spending are increased.

Since 1962 Church World Service has worked to restore U.S. relations with Cuba and end the failed embargo (which still exists despite the Obama era changes). Our Member Churches applauded the Obama Administration’s restoration of diplomatic relations and new openings for travel and commercial exchanges. In particular we were pleased with the removal of restrictions on religious travel and on the transfer of pension payments owed by some U.S. denominations to retired Cuban pastors. This action affirmed the historical relationship between faith communities in the US and Cuba, and honored the humanity and dignity of the Cuban people. We deplore the likelihood that significant aspects of this progress will be reversed. 

Action Alert: Please Contact Your Senator!

The Senate is currently negotiating a new healthcare reform bill behind closed doors. Indications are that the bill may not be "as bad" as the House American Health Care Act (AHCA). But there are also indications that millions will lose their healthcare, mostly the poor who cannot afford to buy insurance on the open market or rely on Medicaid.

Your Senators need to know that you care about how the poor are treated by those in power. Send a message today asking your Senator to protect healthcare for the poor!

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton's message in observance of World Refugee Day

Today is World Refugee Day. Observed every year on June 20, this is a day when we commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees worldwide.

There are more people fleeing war and persecution than ever before. We are now facing the largest global refugee crisis, with over 65 million people forcibly displaced from their countries. Twenty-one million of those who are displaced are refugees. The United States opens its doors to less than 1 percent of the world’s refugees – 85,000 refugees entered our country in 2016.

In Matthew 25:35, Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” As people of faith, we are called to welcome the stranger and to walk alongside vulnerable refugees living in untenable situations. This support is critical in providing protection and hope for those who have fled persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political views and/or associations.


Heads of faith groups speak out against anti-Muslim marches

A group of faith leaders from across the geographic and theological spectrum in the U.S. has issued a public letter denouncing a spate of recent anti-Muslim rallies. Scheduled to take place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the rallies have been organized by ACT for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in the country.

In their letter, the religious leaders—including the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II, General Assembly Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—affirm the constitutional right of freedom of religion and state: “We do not, cannot, and will not stand for hate groups targeting and threatening other members of our community. We reject racism and hatred, bigotry and fear mongering.


Ecumenical Opportunities:

AFL-CIO seeks a field organizer in TN: The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) is both a social movement and a labor union. Our immediate constituency is migrant workers in the agricultural industry, but we are also involved with immigrant workers, Latinos, our local communities, and national and international coalitions concerned with justice. FLOC was founded in 1967 to organize for economic, legal and human rights for farmworkers in the Midwest, and now represents more than 10,000 farmworkers in Ohio, North and South Carolina.


The Episcopal Church is accepting applications for the full-time position of Missioner for Black Ministries, a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff. Detailed position information and application instructions are available here. Deadline for applying is July 19. 

For more information contact hrm@episcopalchurch.org.

The Alliance for Fair Food (AFF) seeks an experienced organizer to co-coordinate the involvement of people of faith in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Campaign for Fair Food. Ideal candidates are highly responsible, work well in teams as part of a fast-paced environment, and possess excellent written and verbal skills.


Interfaith Power and Light seeks a Program Manager: As Program Manager, you would serve as the second core staff person—with our Director Joelle Novey—helping to deliver programs and support advocacy campaigns that engage local religious communities in the restoration of the planet.

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