Pentecost 2004: Making Poverty a Religious and Electoral Issue

( [email protected] ) May 24, 2004 02:24 PM EDT

Several hundred “emerging Christian leaders” from across the nation convened at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Washington DC, for the three-day Christian mobilization effort to focus national attention on poverty, May 23, 2004. Sponsored by the Call to Renewal, the “Pentecost 2004: Making Poverty a Religious and Electoral Issue” conference will allow the leaders to establish greater networks on a wider ecumenical scale, to make a difference in alleviating poverty.

"The truth is that hungry people are going without food stamps, poor children are going without healthcare and the elderly are going without medicine, because of war, tax cuts and a lack of both attention and compassion from our political leaders,” said Jim Wallis.

Wallis is one of the many leaders representing Evangelical, Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Historic Peace, Black, Asian and Latino congregations that want to include the poverty issue during the upcoming electoral debate.

"There is a growing Christian concern that the needs of people living in poverty not be left out of the electoral debate in 2004," said Wallis. “The good news is that religious leaders and local communities from across the theological and political spectrum are responding to the vacuum of political leadership on poverty."

"It is easy to forget in this prosperous country that 34.6 million people live in poverty and it is easy for our national leaders to ignore this fact,” said The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, who will preside over the May 24 Washington National Service. "We are here to remind ourselves and one another about our commitment to the least among us."

"One of the more effective ways to build a better nation is by working with other people of faith on domestic poverty issues," said Celeste Kennel-Shank, a senior at Goshen College in Indiana.

On Tuesday, May 25, the leaders will attend a prayer breakfast co-sponsored by members of Congress.

Other workshops that have been scheduled include: "The Church United Against Poverty" and "The Growing Influence of the Immigrant and Ethnic Churches." Workshop leaders, panelists and speakers include: Dr. Robert Franklin, Jr., Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics, Emory University; Mary Nelson, President, Bethel New Life of Chicago; E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist and Brookings Institute Senior Fellow; Dr. Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action; Nancy Wisdo, Director of Social Development, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Tom Allio, Senior Director, Diocese of Cleveland Social Action Office; Rev. Glenn Palmberg, President, Evangelical Covenant Church; and Rev. Wes Granberg- Michaelson, General Secretary, Reformed Church of America. Many of the participating workshop leaders, plenary panelists and participants serve on Call to Renewal's Board of Directors.