Subject: NCC Weekly News: The Threat to Impoverish

View this email online if it doesn't display correctly
From Jim: The Threat to Impoverish the Poor
One of the first acts of the new Congress will be to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) so that the incoming president can sign the legislation as soon as he takes office. Most likely, the ACA will be repealed rather than replaced. Due to provisions in the existing law, the repeal will not take effect for a year or more.

Consequently, the administration and Congress can argue they will use the subsequent period to develop a replacement. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Trump will be successful in ensuring people with pre-existing conditions will not lose healthcare coverage and young people are able to remain on their parents’ healthcare plans until they are 26. There is no certainty Congress will support those provisions.

Some churches have managed to convince themselves that the ACA actually infringes on their religious liberty because they are not permitted under the law to prohibit their female employees from having access to birth control. Consequently, a significant portion of the faith community is more interested in repealing the ACA than replacing it. 

Since the ACA has become the law of the land, 22 million mostly low income people now have healthcare coverage. In my lifetime, the most successful antipoverty measures have been the creation of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. These laws have literally lifted millions out of poverty. In my parents’ lifetime, it was the creation of a Social Security system that largely ended the abject poverty experienced by elders.

Eight years ago, our nation was in the middle of a terrible economic crisis created by the forces of greed, those that Theodore Roosevelt correctly identified as the ‘malefactors of great wealth.’ Millions of people lost their homes and much of their wealth in a huge swindle perpetrated by banks and mortgage companies. Slowly but steadily, our economy has improved and unemployment has declined. The share of after tax income claimed by the top 1% has declined from 17% in 2007 to 12% in 2013. 

Progress has been too slow for my tastes, but it has been real. Now, millions of people have literally voted against their own pocketbooks in a ‘throw the bums out’ fit of pique. The new administration and Congress intend to transform entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into block grants. Currently, 70 million Americans benefit from Medicaid. This will result in a major diminution of assistance for the last, the least, and the lost.

We’ve been down this road before. In 1996, under the so-called welfare reform changes the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program was transformed into a block grant program. Back then, 70 of every 100 families in need received assistance. Today, 23 of 100 get help.

Further, plans are in the works for a major tax cut intended to benefit the richest among us. At the same time a huge increase in spending on our grotesquely bloated military-industrial complex is in the works. We’ve seen the results of that tragic course of action before, as well.

35 years ago, the faith community mounted an emergency interreligious campaign to stave off proposed cuts to human needs programs. Now, we need another one. Many are suggesting the new administration and Congress ‘should be given a chance.’ Of course, that’s correct, but they should not be given a chance to hurt the poor and needy. That’s not acceptable.
Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary

ELCA presiding bishop issues statement on Standing Rock

When we come together for worship, we often begin with confession and forgiveness using these words: "We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves." Lutherans acknowledge that this is a broken world and, as part of it, even our best wisdom and efforts fall short. Very often we face issues of extraordinary complexity in which all sides make reasoned arguments for their reality. The current situation at Standing Rock in North Dakota is just such a case.

The route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) runs through contested land, which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sees as their homeland and sacred places, including burial grounds. Proponents of the DAPL sees it as a combination of public and private property. The pipeline will run under Lake Oahe, the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. What we see is the tension between two peoples trying to share one land. We can also see the tension between our dependence on fossil fuels and the commitment this church has made to care for creation.

This past August, the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery. In it we pledged "to practice accompaniment with Native peoples." The doctrine declared that indigenous land was "unoccupied" as long as Christians were not present. Land deemed "unoccupied" was, therefore, "discovered," as if it had been previously unknown to humankind. This doctrine was used as justification for European monarchies, and later the U.S. government, to take land from Native people. Many of us in this church who are immigrants have benefited from the injustices done to the original inhabitants of this land where we now live and worship. Our church also includes American Indian and Alaskan Native people, who have been on the receiving end of the injustices done. When we repudiated the doctrine of discovery, we Lutherans pledged to do better together in the future than we have in the past

Chicago Seminary Returns New Testament Manuscript to Greek Orthodox Church (video)

It is the most valuable manuscript in the collection of the Lutheran School of Theology Chicago, but on Tuesday they gave it away. Administrators said it was not only the right thing to do, but an act they hope will prompt other institutions to return antiquities to their rightful owners. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.

When incivility becomes the norm

This statement is a response to the violence on America’s streets after the election of Mr. Donald Trump as President–Elect of the United States of America.

I read several post-election statements and heard news accounts of violence, riots, and protests while in Central America visiting Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission partners. The news images were shocking to both our partners and me. We struggled to understand the results of the election, particularly given Mr. Trump’s stance on immigration, which was the theme of my visit. However, I was not as startled as my Central American friends. Serving as director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., for six years prior to becoming Stated Clerk prepared me to understand the outcomes we face in electoral politics. Although I have shared parts of this writing before with congregations and audiences, there seemed to always be a sense of skepticism among the hearers. I proclaim the message once again, because the apparent shock for many has left people raising the question, “What happened?”

I wish to affirm in this moment that many in our congregations and communities hold legitimate fear about their safety and the protection of their human rights. We hold close our Muslim, Hispanic, African American, immigrant, and LGBTQ neighbors, and those from other marginalized groups. We hold close the women who give us life and the poor for whom daily bread is not promised. The rash of hateful harassment [1] reported in the wake of the election insists upon the urgency of the call to be one who “... executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:18–20, NRSV).

West Virginia interfaith allies rally in favor of Syrian refugees, resettlement

An interfaith coalition of Christians, Muslims and Jews rallied in peaceful, prayerful solidarity in support of welcoming Syrian refugees and refugee resettlement in Charleston, West Virginia, on Nov. 15.

“We believe [in], and we also want to encourage, the sense of welcome,” said West Virginia Assistant Bishop Mark Van Koevering, who attended the rally in Charleston. “It’s part of our Christian response to provide hospitality to the stranger. And the evidence suggests [that] where immigrants come into a community, it’s a win-win – they bring in skills and invigorate the dream about what America could be.

“We’ve all come from somewhere, and it’s important to distinguish between an immigrant and a refugee. These are people being forced from their homes and in dire straits.”

Interfaith Leaders Urge Trump to Protect Muslims

Amid a spike in hate crimes in many areas, leaders from multiple faiths met at a D.C. mosque on Friday to express their support for Muslims and urge President-elect Donald Trump to do the same. "We will build another kind of wall, of love, to protect anyone whose lives are threatened as a result of new legislation," Rev. Aundreia Alexander said.

Donations to Religious Institutions Fall as Values Change

It used to be that many people gave to their particular house of worship to get a prominent pew or extra blessings. Or because their grandparents and parents had always attended that church or synagogue or mosque.

That is changing. Religious institutions are still the single biggest recipients of overall charity donations, according to the 2015 survey by the Giving USA Foundation. About 32 percent — $119.3 billion — of a total of $373.25 billion Americans gave to charities went to churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.

But that is down from about 50 percent since 1990, according to Rick Dunham, vice chairman of Giving USA, and the percentage has been “in steady decline for some time.” The religion category in the survey refers solely to religious institutions, not religious charities such as the Salvation Army, he said.

Part of the reason is an overall decline in the number of people who identify with a religious group. According to the Pew Research Center 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 23 percent of Americans say they are not affiliated with any religion, up from 16 percent in 2007.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2017: Confronting Chaos, Forging Community

Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice (EAD) is pleased to announce that the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, newly elected Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), will serve as the keynote preacher for EAD 2017's Interdenominational Worship service on Sunday, April 23, 2017.

The Sunday worship service is a "highlight" experience during EAD's national gathering which is scheduled for April 21-24, 2017. The theme is titled, "Confronting Chaos, Forging Community: Challenging Racism, Materialism and Militarism." The theme builds upon Dr. Martin Luther King's final book and the fiftieth anniversary of his historic, final speech at Riverside Church in New York City.

"J. Herbert is a long-time friend and leader within the EAD family," said Douglas Grace, Director of EAD. "EAD 2017 will occur at the conclusion of the first 100 days of the incoming Trump Administration. Now is the time for the Christian community to unite around our common, core principles and energize to make a bold and pronounced faithful public witness to those principles. J. Herbert Nelson is a gifted preacher who will inspire that energy in sending us to Capitol Hill for EAD's Lobby Day the following day."

In a post-election statement, Dr. Nelson reflected, "...President-Elect Trump is our newly elected leader. However, it is my hope that the post-election anger, pain, and frustration demonstrated on the streets will lay the foundation for a transformed political system in the years to come. Through coalition building and community organizing, we have an opportunity to create a vision of shared prosperity, safety, dignity, and justice that is truly inclusive and compelling to a broad base."

Nelson continued, "...Just as the doors of the Church are open, so too are the doors to the movement for justice. We invite you to join us in our steadfast commitment to stand with the marginalized and our humble desire to contribute to strategy and vision that will help create the kingdom of God."

The gathering marks the 15th annual event where nearly 1,000 Christians come to Washington, DC to learn, network and advocate before Congress on federal policy issues that the ecumenical community is concerned. This year, perhaps more than ever, EAD calls on participants to come and make a loud, faithful witness to a new Congress and a new Administration.

EAD's 2017 national gathering will again be held at the DoubleTree Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, VA -- just across The Potomac River from the U.S. Capitol Building. The event concludes with EAD's Lobby Day where a prepared legislative "Ask" is taken to members of Congress by the gathered participants. "We expect Christian advocates from all across the country to attend the gathering," said Grace. "Registration is open at, along with the young adult scholarship application process, so plan now to be in Washington next April!"   

Subscribe now to the NCC Podcast!

The NCC is bringing the best, most interesting and relevant voices from the faith community to your mobile device. Every week NCC communications director Rev. Steven D. Martin interviews faith leaders, activists, and people from across the NCC's 38 member communions and affiliated organizations.

We're taking a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, but be sure to hear last week's episode from two faith leaders speaking about the ongoing struggles at the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as they protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast in the iTunes Store and Stitcher Radio. NEW: We're now also on iHeartRadio.  If you like what you're hearing, please write a review. By doing this you will help us reach the widest possible audience!

110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 108, Washington, DC 20002, United States
You may unsubscribe or change your contact details at any time.