Christian Leaders Target Poverty


Calling poverty a “moral scandal,” leaders from the full spectrum of Christian churches in the country met Jan. 13-16 in Baltimore to dig deeper into the issue and then take their message to Washington.

The participants in Christian Churches Together reaffirmed their conviction that service to the poor and work for justice are “at the center of Christian life and witness.” They were building on a statement developed by consensus at a previous gathering, but recognized a new sense of urgency because of the economic collapse.

“In every way the context has changed since we last met,” noted David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and one of several people who addressed the group. He reported that the number of poor people has increased alarmingly during the very years that the country was experiencing unprecedented economic growth, and that now many more people are at risk. Any stimulus package must target the poor, he said.

“There is no better investment than the nutrition, health, and education of all our people,” said Beckmann. Setting a course to end poverty, he said,  “will be a powerful global witness to the power of Jesus Christ. In the midst of economic contraction, the biggest risk is spiritual contraction.”

At a meeting with President Barack Obama’s transition team for domestic policy, CCT leaders expressed their support for his pledge to cut poverty. They urged that any stimulus package care not only for Main Street and Wall Street, but also for those who have no street address.

To achieve its goal of cutting poverty in half within 10 years, CCT is promoting four objectives: strengthening families, strengthening communities, “making work work,” and improving education. These will require the joint efforts of churches, government, business, communities, and families, they said.

“There are four million more in poverty than eight years ago,” observed Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, at a press conference. “The churches have come together as never before. Poverty is a moral failure, a scandal—not just a political issue, but a moral and spiritual one. . . . We are compelled to work with each other, and with government, to see that it’s overcome.”

“The whole gospel demands that we speak to the poor,” said James Leggett, presiding bishop of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. “We believe God is working in this moment of time.”

Added Jim Wallis, leader of Sojourners: “The pastors of a hundred million Americans are saying now is the time.” Earlier Wallis reminded the CCT leaders that the Bible contains some 2,000 verses on poverty. To ignore those leaves “a Bible full of holes.” Now there is “a new generation putting the Bible back together.”

CCT is the broadest Christian association in the country. Its participant church bodies are evangelical, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, historic black, and Protestant. The organization also includes several national Christian organizations, among them Evangelicals for Social Action, Sojourners, Bread for the World, World Vision, and the American Bible Society.

The Church of the Brethren was represented at the meeting by Annual Conference moderator David Shumate and Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden, who serves on CCT’s steering committee.

At the CCT annual meeting, participants also spent three sessions discussing evangelism, which will be the focus of next year’s meeting in Seattle.

–Wendy McFadden is executive director of Brethren Press and the Church of the Brethren representative to the Christian Churches Together steering committee.


As its contribution to the CCT poverty initiative, the American Bible Society has published Poverty and the Poor in the Bible, a collection of scripture passages from the Old and New Testaments that helps readers ponder the will of God regarding poverty and the poor. The Bible society is making this portion of the Good News Bible available free.

The book includes a study guide, as well as the CCT “Statement on Poverty,” a National Council of Churches letter signed by a number of Christian leaders including Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger, and an interfaith statement on poverty.

Poverty and the Poor in the Bible is available in packs of 10 and can be ordered at www.bibles.com or 800-32-BIBLE. Request item #121715. Shipping may be added.

The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contact cobnews@brethren.org to receive Newsline by e-mail or to submit news to the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


“Christian Leaders Seek Interfaith Cooperation for Peace Efforts,” Christian Post. More than 300 leaders and members of various faith communities proclaimed a message of peace and reconciliation and called churches across denominations to also take the message to the world, at the “Heeding God’s Call: A Gathering on Peace” meeting in Philadelphia. The Jan. 13-17 meeting was convened by the Historic Peace Churches–the Religious Society of Friends, the Church of the Brethren, and the Mennonite Church–and brought together an ecumenical group representing more than 15 faith communities with the aim of strengthening their witness. Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/church/Ecumenical/2009/01/christian-leaders-seek-interfaith-cooperation-for-peace-efforts-16/

“Five activists arrested at gun shop protest,” Philadelphia Daily News. Phil Jones, director the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, was one of several participants in the Historic Peace Churches’ meeting “Heeding God’s Call” who were arrested at demonstrations at a Philadelphia gun shop. The group asked that the owner adopt a firearms code of conduct, in a new inter-religious effort to quell gun violence in the city. See the article at http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20090115_5_activists_arrested_at_gun_shop_protest.html

“Members of Christian Peacemakers Teams (CPT) hold a protest in the West Bank city of Hebron,” Yahoo! News. A photo and short story about the Middle East delegation co-sponsored by On Earth Peace and Christian Peacemaker Teams was covered by Yahoo! News. The photo is of Stacey Carmichael, a Church of Brethren member. Find the page at http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/slideshow/photo//090113/ids_photos_wl/r1341132543.jpg/

“ ‘A promised land’ attained: Local minister reflects on Obama,” Lancaster (Pa.) Intelligencer Journal. Baptist pastor Louis Butcher Jr. spoke about what the inauguration of Barack Obama as president means to the history of the United States, as keynote speaker at Sunday’s annual meeting of the Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness. The meeting was held at Lancaster Church of the Brethren. Read more at http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/233066

“Elida student learning tricks of selling,” LimaOhio.com. Church of the Brethren high schooler Jameel Ellis is featured for his success as an Andersons tool demonstrator and a project he is carrying out in business and marketing as president of his school’s chapter of the Distributive Education Clubs of America. Read more at http://www.limaohio.com/news/ellis_33018___article.html/school_help.html

“Church to sponsor ‘Letters From Dad’ program,” Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun. To help men express their feelings, and make it more likely for wives and children to know what’s on their husbands’ and fathers’ minds and hearts, Donnels Creek Church of the Brethren is sponsoring a “Letters from Dad” program. Go to http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/n/content/oh/story/news/local/2009/01/20/sns012109lettersfromdad.html

“Church service honors King’s memory,” Chambersburg (Pa.) Public Opinion. Pastor Manny Diaz of Brethren Fellowship Church was the main speaker for the 30th memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr. held in Chambersburg, Pa. Diaz “told his audience God had called His people to change. ‘We are at a cusp of change,’ he said.” Read the report at ttp://www.publicopiniononline.com/ci_11487317

“Johnstown pair raise funds for pulmonary fibrosis research,” Hey Johnstown (Pa.). Candie and her mother Jerrie Schell are looking to raise $2,000 during Breathing for Dean, a fundraiser for pulmonary fibrosis, to pay tribute to Dean Schell. The event will be held Jan. 31 on the one-year anniversary of Dean’s death, at Arbutus Church of the Brethren, and will feature a gospel concert. The event also will feature Tire Hill Church of the Brethren Choir. Go to http://www.ourtownonline.biz/articles/2009/01/26/neighbors/local_news/sample58.txt

“Resh to be featured speaker at Game Supper,” Daily American Online, Somerset, Pa. Featured speaker for this year’s annual Game Supper Jan. 24 at Meyersdale Grace Brethren Church will be Tim Resh, pastor of  Brothersvalley Church of the Brethren in Brotherton, Pa. He also for the past 10 years has written a column in the “Daily American” entitled “Backwoods with Tim.” Go to http://www.dailyamerican.com/articles/2009/01/17/sports/sports/sports005.txt

Obituary: Norman D. Vickers, Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va. Norman Douglas “Buddy” Vickers, 68, of Spotsylvania County, Va., died on Jan. 10 following a battle with cancer. He was a member of Hollywood Church of the Brethren. Being a firefighter was his passion. He helped start the Gunston Volunteer Fire Department by heading fund-raisers to get the first fire engine. He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Linda D. Vickers. Find the full obituary at http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2009/012009/01122009/438229

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