Bishop of Vermont addresses the Poor People’s Campaign

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The Poor People’s Campaign is the revival of a 1968 movement begun by the Revd Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. The 2018 campaign is co-chaired by the Revd William Barber, author of the Moral Mondays movement. It describes itself as “A National Call for Moral Revival”:

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.

Forty days of direct action and education began this past Sunday, and around thirty state capitals, as well as Washington, DC, saw rallies on behalf of the Poor People’s Campaign on Monday afternoon.

The Rt Revd Thomas Ely, Bishop of Vermont, joined those gathered at the Vermont Statehouse in Monpelier Monday afternoon, and delivered the following statement:

As a person of faith and as Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, I stand here today to lend my voice and commitment to the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and its expression here in Vermont. “Somebody IS hurting our people” and I am grateful for the leadership of people like Mark Hughes, the Reverend Earl Kooperkamp, and many others who have led the way in this effort. They have brought us to this moment in time when we declare, in Mark’s words: “policies that promote systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and environmental destruction are threatening our democracy and decaying our national morality.”

I am fully aligned with this effort to raise awareness and take concrete action to do all we can to undo the systemic issues that contribute to poverty, inequality, racism and injustice in our nation and here in Vermont. My witness as a person of faith is grounded in the conviction that we have a moral imperative to honor and promote the dignity of every human being. I believe we also have a moral imperative to uphold the fundamental human rights of people of all races, especially those disproportionately impacted by poverty and other forms of systemic injustice that poverty facilitates:

(a) I have in mind here inequality in our legal justice system: especially the disproportional number of poor people who are incarcerated in this country.

(b) I have in mind here wage inequality: And the tendency to blame poor people for poverty rather than confront the reality that many people who work a full-time job, and sometimes more than one job, are still not able to meet their basic human needs.

(c) I have in mind here racial inequality: a persistent narrative that poverty is a problem about immigrants or people of color, or caused by immigrants or people color, rather than a common reality that crosses race and ethnicity.

As someone from the church, the word revival has a special meaning to me. When I think of a revival, it suggests that something has flatlined and needs to be shocked back into life. We’ve heard for too long that if we just vote a certain way or wait long enough things will change for the better. All the while we watch the status quo gain steam as morality slowly dies at the expense of those most vulnerable in our society. Today, in the spirit of Dr. King, and others, who called us to this work 50 years ago, we stand together to challenge that narrative. And we bring with us the energy that is needed to give new life to humanity, justice and the dignity of every human being – indeed all of creation.

Going forth from this day, each of us is challenged to find that connection where we can make a difference. Here are some things that you can do.

Make an effort to understand the truth about poverty.
Make a commitment that will allow your heart to change forever.
Break your silence and speak out and live out against systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and the distorted moral narrative.
Place your body and your life on the line EVERY DAY, willing to lose EVERYTHING to save the heart and soul of this nation.
Get involved in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Read more about the Episcopal Church’s partnership with the Poor People’s Campaign in this February press release from the Office for Public Affairs.

The Bishop of Vermont’s statement and photo are provided by the Episcopal Church in Vermont.

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