ELCA Presiding Bishop Responds To New U.S. Poverty Data

> CHICAGO (ELCA) — In response to the new poverty figures released > today by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop > of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said that this > church’s commitment to those who live in poverty is “a biblical imperative > for which Christ frees us to serve.”
> The poverty rate fell to 15 percent in 2011, down slightly from 15.1 > percent from the year before. More than one in seven U.S. citizens — or > 46.2 million people — lived in poverty in 2011, including more than 16 > million children.
> In addition to the release of these figures, videos from U.S. > President Barack Obama and the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt > Romney, were released today at the National Press Club. The videos feature > what each presidential candidate proposes to do to provide help and > opportunity for people who are living in poverty in the United States and > overseas.
> “These videos can encourage us to ask all seeking public office to > make those living in poverty their priority,” said Hanson. > Through the Circle of Protection, Hanson and other Christian leaders > asked the 2012 U.S. presidential candidates to produce a short video > addressing poverty.
> “The Circle of Protection, of which we are a charter member, gives us > the opportunity to hold public officials accountable to this being a > shared commitment,” said Hanson.
> The videos are meant to serve as a resource for faith groups across > the country to engage in dialogue about hunger and poverty. > According to the Circle of Protection, the videos “in no way offers > or implies an endorsement of either candidate or the proposals in their > statement. Likewise, the participation of Governor Romney and President > Obama does not offer or imply an endorsement of the positions taken by the > Circle of Protection or its members.”
> For more than a year leaders of various Christian denominations, > including the ELCA, have come together to advocate for a “circle of > protection” around funding for programs that are vital to people living in > poverty.
> “The ELCA advocacy team was glad to contribute to this effort,” said > the Rev. Andrew Genszler, who directs advocacy ministries at ELCA > churchwide ministries.
> “I hope congregations, pastors, college and seminary classes and > other groups will thoughtfully use these videos to engage in discussion > about public issues during this presidential campaign,” he said. > “We are a church that rolls up it sleeves and gets to work, and the > most effective advocacy I’ve seen arises out of stories from the global > and community work we do together as Lutherans to combat hunger and > poverty,” said Genszler, adding that Lutherans engage public officials > because “we believe government should work well for our neighbors, > especially those who are poor and hungry. Speaking out for strong public > policy that helps our struggling neighbors is another way ELCA members > serve communities in the United States and across the world.” > “Jesus worked and lived with people on the margins of society, and our > call as a church is to continue that ministry,” said the Rev. Kathryn M. > Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches and director of > ecumenical and inter-religious relations at ELCA churchwide ministries. > “God’s church is at work bringing offerings of food to share with > hungry people, shelter those without homes in our fellowship halls, and > creating support networks like job clubs and employment ministries. Yet, > that is not enough. We must also create a society that provides for those > in need,” she said.
> The Rev. Daniel Rift, director for ELCA World Hunger, said it is > important to note that “this is not a partisan issue. We are pleased that > (addressing poverty and hunger) is part of the platform for those who are > running for president, and others seeking leadership in this country, that > they are taking a very proactive role.”
> Rift said some “statistics would show that we have not turned the > corner on concern for poverty. In fact for many people it is increasingly > difficult for them to feed their families, provide shelter and address > other needs.”
> The ELCA is “one of the frontline organizations responding to hunger, > and we have been intensively aware of this, and the only reason that we > have seen an increase in food security in this country is because of the > helping ministries of this church and the kind of programs designed over > many years in being really effective in addressing hunger,” he said. > “But the underlying concern for poverty in this country has got to be > one that is paramount as part of our common life. Almost every > congregation of the ELCA, in one way or another, ties into their local > hunger work, the work we do together nationally and globally through ELCA > World Hunger. It is an intensively important part of the witness of being > Christ’s people in our day and age,” said Rift.
> The Circle of Protection is made up of more than 65 leaders of > denominations, relief and development agencies and other Christian > organizations in the United States. The videos are available at > http://www.circleofprotection.us.
> —
> About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
> The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United > States, with 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations across the 50 > states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. > Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in > Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s > roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther. >
> For information contact:
> Melissa Ramirez Cooper
> 773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
> http://www.ELCA.org/news
> Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Lutherans
> Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com

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About michaelrinehart

Bishop of the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
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