ELCA NEWS SERVICE
December 21, 2012
ELCA bishops urge Congress to protect the poor amid 'fiscal cliff'
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- As 2012 comes to a close and concerns continue regarding the current debt and deficit negotiations in the U.S. Congress -- or the so-called “fiscal cliff” -- five synod bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met with White House staff, policy staff for the speaker of the House and members of Congress Dec. 17-18 to discuss ways to ensure protections for people living in poverty.
“The timing of our trip could not have been more apropos,” said the Rev. Robert L. Driesen, bishop of the ELCA Upper Susquehanna Synod, based in Lewisburg, Pa.
This is a critical week in the legislative calendar and negotiations.
“We met with representatives of both the White House and Speaker Boehner’s office and urged them to find a way forward that would avoid everyone being hurt by the government’s going over the fiscal cliff. While we did not and would not support a specific solution or proposed legislation, we asked for common-sense compromise,” he said.
In conversations with representatives and senators, Driesen said, “Our focus was on providing a ‘circle of protection’ around those most vulnerable as Congress considers debt and deficit reduction. We especially urged attention to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and noted that, while some members of Congress are interested in seeing guidelines changed in the Farm Bill to eliminate potential abuse, it would maintain benefits for those most in need.”
For the Rev. Andrew Genszler, who directs the ELCA’s advocacy network, “It is important to reduce deficits and address entitlement spending, and this should not be done in a way that harms low-income families and people in poverty. Especially with savings from previously capped discretionary spending, people living in poverty have been affected and sacrificed enough,” he said, adding that one complementary idea “we advanced was preservation of the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits focused on low-income households.”
“I thought the meetings went well,” according to the Rev. David B. Zellmer, bishop of the ELCA South Dakota Synod, based in Sioux Falls. “I am very appreciative of our time with the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who wanted to meet with us, and we were able to meet with two under-secretaries,” he said.
In meeting with his state’s federal elected officials, “part of what I talked about is that we’re part of the ‘Circle of Protection,’ which the ELCA participates in along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, Bread for the World and others. This group has been effective in speaking on behalf of the poor as we live through this recession since 2008.”
“I appreciate that we have had these opportunities” for conversation with White House staff, said Zellmer. “We were well-heard, and there was good give and take.”
Two other groups of ELCA synod bishops, called “ready benches,” have gathered on Capitol Hill since Dec. 10 to address environment and energy concerns and to urge law-makers to preserve funding for poverty-focused development assistance programs overseas and increase its concern and response to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. The ELCA International Ready Bench is an official joint project with The Episcopal Church -- an ELCA full communion partner.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA):
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 4 million members in nearly 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
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com