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Speaking up for the poor

Speaking up for the poor

House of Deputies president Bonnie Anderson says that Episcopalians can be the voice of the poor and the dispossessed in the current federal budget battle.


In February, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church passed a resolution that “urges all Episcopalians in the United States to engage in advocacy for a responsible federal budget that expresses the shared moral priorities of the nation.” After my visits on Capitol Hill, I am more committed to this work than ever, and hope you will consider joining me. We have a significant moral priority as Episcopalians, as Christians, to bear witness on behalf of the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized. The baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace among all people makes the choice between cutting programs for the poor and elderly or raising taxes an easy one.

Consider that the House Budget Committee’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget resolution would make at least two-thirds of its cuts from low-income programs, including a 20 percent reduction in Medicaid, a nearly 19 percent reduction in education programs, and devastating reductions in food stamps and housing assistance. It would also eliminate funding for health-care reform provisions, thereby keeping health insurance out of reach for millions of people.

It is tempting to believe that a church with our membership cannot influence the course of legislation. Those who disagree with our political choices say so all of the time. But last week a legislative assistant told me that he loves it when faith-based organizations come to Capitol Hill. “It brings us good luck,” he said.

Well, I don’t think it is luck. I think that what the Episcopal Church and other faith-based organizations bring is moral courage. We reinforce the notion that it is essential to speak up with passion and commitment for all of those neighbors whom we, as followers of Jesus, promise to love as deeply as we love ourselves. Three of the people I met with on the Hill spoke to me about their faith, and one was a preacher’s son.

I saw a lot of people with heart in those Capitol Hill offices, but they need encouragement. I met people who are bringing all that they are, and giving everything they’ve got, to the task at hand. They need to see the rest of us doing the same. The soul of America is at stake in this budget. The people of God need to speak up, now.


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