Church of the Brethren Joins in Message to Congress on Reopening Government

Photo by Bryan Hanger
One effort by faith leaders to help end the impasse over the federal budget was a “Faithful Filibuster” in which participants read scripture on a street corner across from the US Capitol. The goal was to read all 2,000 Bible verses on poverty and related topics.

Earlier this week, as the US Congress continued to wrangle over the impasse that closed the government for more than two weeks, scores of religious leaders descended on Capitol Hill on Oct. 15 to call the government back to work.

The Church of the Brethren was one of 32 denominations and faith-based organizations to endorse an accompanying message to Congress calling for the re-opening of the government. Ecumenical organizations participating included the National Council of Churches (NCC), and Church World Service (CWS).

The “pilgrimage” of faith leaders that took place Oct. 15 visited offices of members of the House of Representatives, and included prayer for the members and prayer to immediately end the government shutdown, an NCC release said. “At each office the group prayed for the member and left a letter endorsed by religious organizations,” reported an NCC release on the event. “Simultaneously, people of faith delivered over 32,000 petitions to Congressional offices around the country calling on House Members to end the government shutdown. The petition signers are members of Faithful America,” the release said.

The full text of the message delivered to members of Congress follows:

Calling the Government Back to Work

Dear Member of Congress:

As people of faith and conscience, we urge you to place shared democratic values above short term political expediency, exercise the courage to fund our nation’s government, raise the debt limit without preconditions, and get back to work on a faithful budget that serves the common good.

Shuttering the federal government and propelling the United States into financial default to achieve narrow political objectives is short-sighted and self-destructive. The danger for all who value democracy–regardless of party affiliation–is apparent. One only needs to consider this precedent being applied to other policy concerns of a minority in Congress who are powerful within their own party but unable to create legislative change within the bounds of due process.

Blocking routine but essential functions of government to extract specific policy concessions could destroy America’s democratic process.

To take such rash and destructive action in order to prevent further implementation of the Affordable Care Act–which addresses the needs of 50 million people without health insurance–is a grave moral failure. While the ACA has its limitations, it implements a market-based model with a history of bi-partisan support. Repealing or defunding it will hurt millions of people and many small businesses. We urge all members of Congress to stand up for our democracy and reject this futile and harmful effort.

Additional damage accrues each day the government remains in partial shutdown:

— Federal funding for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program may not be able to cover all benefits. Some states have already closed WIC offices, and many participants are terrified that they won’t be able to find nourishment for themselves or their infants and toddlers.

— An estimated 19,000 impoverished children are without preschool because of the shutdown, which left more than 20 programs across 11 states without funding on the heels of devastating sequester cuts. Those previous cuts had already shut out 57,000 at-risk children who lost their Head Start slots.

— Many low-wage workers are losing their paychecks or seeing their earnings dwindle even further. Examples include government mailroom clerks, many of whom are people with disabilities, who work for government contractors. Even if furloughed federal employees are eventually paid, many others who work for contractors have no such assurance.

— The Administration for Children and Families, which cares for children in abusive and violent family situations, announced that certain child welfare programs will not be funded during the shutdown.

— Our environmental wellbeing is suffering and our citizens are at risk as health inspectors, EPA inspectors and a myriad others who enforce important laws are unable to do their jobs.

— In addition, a failure to raise the debt limit on spending that Congress has already approved will undermine our still fragile economy and harm the global economy, especially the most vulnerable.

You hold a key to doing what is right for the American people, and we pray for you to act in the best interest of our nation. Once this unnecessary and dangerous stalemate is over, we count on you to act on behalf of all of our people and enact a Faithful Budget. Stop the partisan paralysis and uphold what our Constitution refers to as the “general welfare”–the common good of all.

With hope and a belief in the ultimate goodwill and good sense of Members of Congress, we hold you in our hearts and prayers.

Am Kolel Jewish Jewish Renewal Community (Md., D.C., Va.)
Center of Concern
Church of the Brethren
Church World Service
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Washington Office
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Shalom Center
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
American Friends Service Committee
Center on Conscience and War
Church Women United
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Disciples Home Missions, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice
Franciscan Action Network
Interfaith Moral Action of Climate
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Office of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation
The National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA
Pax Christi USA
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Leadership Team
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Women

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