Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Chicago-area Clergy Call on Sen. Mark Kirk to Help Illinois’ Unemployed


By Zach Schmidt

More than 100 religious leaders from the North Shore and elsewhere in the Chicago area have sent a letter to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), calling on him to help families struggling with unemployment. The clergy have asked Sen. Kirk to support the extension of emergency unemployment compensation (EUC), a federal program that provides unemployment aid after state benefits have been exhausted. This aid helps families pay bills and put food on the table, while they seek work in a difficult job market. EUC expired last December, and Congress has so far been unable to reinstate it, causing more than 2 million people to lose this vital assistance, including more than 110,000 from Illinois.

Sen. Kirk has twice voted against reinstating EUC, even though the unemployment rate in Illinois is 8.9 percent—the third highest in the nation. The last vote, which happened in February, fell one vote short of passage. Sen. Kirk’s “no” is widely seen as decisive in killing that bill, and he will hold the key vote when the Senate again considers the bill, which may be as early as next week. [Update, 3/13: On March 13, Sen. Kirk added his name to a bipartisan bill to restore EUC. This issue will remain important in the weeks ahead, and we are still gathering signatures.]

Clergy in Illinois: to add your signature, please send your title, name, congregation, and email address to Zach Schmidt at zschmidt@bread.org.

The letter and signatures follow.



The Honorable Mark Kirk
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

March 7, 2014

Dear Senator Kirk,

As religious leaders, we are tasked with ensuring the needs of our communities—both spiritual and physical—are met. The long-term unemployed members of our communities—those who have been jobless longer than 26 weeks—are especially vulnerable as our nation continues its slow economic recovery, and there remains only one job for every three job-seekers.

In late December, the U.S. Congress allowed emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) to expire. When unemployment rates are high, lawmakers have always made provisions to help Americans until the economy returns to full employment—namely, by passing EUC. Today, the long-term unemployment rate remains twice as high as any time Congress has previously let EUC expire. Since December, the Senate has tried and failed twice to extend EUC, and you have voted “no” both times.

When you first voted “no” in January, you said the bill needed to be paid for and that you would vote for it if such a pay-for were included. Last week, you again voted “no” on extending EUC, even though the bill was completely paid for. At 8.9 percent, Illinois has the third highest rate of unemployment in the country, and so far 109,000 of our neighbors have lost these modest but vital benefits that help them put food on the table. Hundreds more are losing benefits each week.

For these reasons, we are saddened by your “no” votes on emergency unemployment compensation, and we ask you to vote “yes” next time—for the good of our communities and for the good of Illinois.


[Signatories are arranged by city. Unless otherwise indicated, the clergy listed are senior/lead ministers of their congregations.]

Rev. Ellen Arthur
St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Antioch

Rev. Betty Jo Birkhahn-Rommelfanger
Incarnation United Methodist Church, Arlington Heights

Pastor Ed Taylor
Quest Church, Arlington Heights

The Rev. Dr. Rex E. Piercy
Congregational United Church of Christ, Arlington Heights

Rev. Jeffrey L. Phillips
St. John United Church of Christ, Arlington Heights

Rev. Ouk-Yean Kim Jueng
First United Methodist Church, Arlington Heights

The Rev. Elizabeth B. Jameson
St. Simon’s Episcopal Church, Arlington Heights

Rev. John Milton, CSV (retired)
Clerics of St. Viator, Arlington Heights

The Rev. Sandra Jones
Nueva Esperanza/New Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora

Rev. Sue E. Allen
Living Lord Lutheran Church, Bartlett

Rev. Eimo Hinrichs
Bethel Lutheran Church, Bartonville

Rev. Terry L. Clark (retired)
Batavia United Methodist Church, Batavia

Rev. Paul Carlson
New Life Lutheran Church, Bolingbrook

Rev. James Preston
Kingswood United Methodist Church, Buffalo Grove

Rabbi Lisa Sari Bellows
Congregation Beth Am, Buffalo Grove

Rev. Debbie Blue (member)
Community Covenant Church, Calumet Park

Rev. David Swanson
New Community Covenant Church, Bronzeville, Chicago

Rev. Charlie E. Dates
Progressive Baptist Church, Chicago

Pastor Michael Neal
Glorious Light Church, Chicago

The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows
Episcopal Diocese of Chicago

Rev. Michael Mann, Associate Director of Mission and Advocacy
Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church, Chicago

Rev. Tom Terrell
Christ Lutheran Church, Chicago
Rev. Erik Christensen
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square, Chicago

The Rev. Fred Kinsey
Unity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chicago
Br. Michael Gosch, CSV
Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians), Chicago
Rev. Baxter Swenson
Evangelical Covenant Church, Chicago
Rev. Dr. John C. Modschiedler, Member
University Church, Chicago
The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Palmer, Lutheran Campus Pastor
University of Chicago, Chicago
Fr. Jim Hoffman, OFM
St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Chicago
Rev. Dr. Gwendolyn Miller
Zion Lutheran Church, Chicago
Pastor Quentin Mumphery
Windsor Park Lutheran Church, Chicago
Rev. Isabel C. Hughes
Evangelical Covenant Church, Chicago
Rev. Aaron Johnson
Resurrection Covenant Church, Chicago
The Rev. Dr. Klaus P. Adam
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Chicago

Rabbi Shoshana Conover
Temple Sholom of Chicago, Chicago

Rabbi Michael Zedek
Emanuel Congregation, Chicago

Rev. Lois McCullen Parr
Broadway United Methodist Church, Chicago     

Rabbi Marc J. Belgrad
B’Chavana Congregation, Chicago Area (Northwest Suburbs)

Rev. Dr. Patrick H. Shebeck
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Chicago Heights

Rev. Brian Roots
Christ United Methodist Church, Deerfield

Mary Ann Spina, Pastoral Associate
Holy Cross Catholic Church, Deerfield

Rev. Dr. Suzan Hawkinson
First Presbyterian Church, Deerfield

Rev. Alisa Secrest, Associate Pastor
First Presbyterian Church, Deerfield

Rev. Susan Chamberlin Smith
Trinity United Church of Christ, Deerfield

Stephen Jackson, Member
Deerfield Baha’i Community, Deerfield

Rev. Roger Dart, Associate Pastor for Justice & Wellness
Congregational Church in Deerfield, Deerfield

The Rev. William D. Roberts
St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, Deerfield

Cantor Nancy Diamond Landsman
Congregation Ahavat Olam, Deerfield

Rabbi Jodi Kornfeld
Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community, Deerfield

Rev. David O. Kyllo
Zion Lutheran Church, Deerfield

Cantor Ross Wolman
B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim, Deerfield

Seamus J. Enright, Associate Pastor
Cornerstone United Methodist Church, Elgin

The Rev. Marion E. Phipps
St. Hugh of Lincoln Episcopal Church, Elgin

Rev. Richard Mosley, Jr.
Hemenway United Methodist Church, Evanston

Rev. Lloyd R. Kittlaus, Pastor Emeritus
University Lutheran Church, Evanston
Rev. Timothy Brown
Trinity Lutheran Church, Evanston

The Rev. Lee A. Gaede
St. Andrews-Pentecost Episcopal Church, Evanston

Rev. Robert H. Oldershaw, Pastor Emeritus
St. Nicholas Church, Evanston

Rev. Melissa Meyers
Faith United Methodist Church, Genoa

Rabbi Wendi Geffen
North Shore Congregation Israel, Glencoe

Rabbi Bruce Elder
Congregation Hakafa, Glencoe

Rabbi Steven S. Mason
North Shore Congregational Israel, Glencoe

The Rev. Dr. Robin K. Brown
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Glenview

Rev. Kris Ferkin
Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church, Grayslake

Rabbi Isaac Serotta
Lakeside Congregation, Highland Park

Cantor Michael Davis
Lakeside Congregation, Highland Park

Cantor Vicky Glikin
Congregation Solel, Highland Park

Rabbi Evan Moffic
Congregation Solel, Highland Park

Rev. Douglas Liston
Joyful Harvest Church, ELCA, Johnsburg

Rev. Avani Christian
Kaneville United Methodist Church, Kaneville

Fr. Mario Quejadas
St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, Kankakee
Rev. David J. Hulse
Grace Lutheran Church of La Grange, La Grange

Rev. David P. Aslesen
Grace United Methodist Church, Lake Bluff

Rev. Richard Holmer
St. James Lutheran Church, Lake Forest

Rev. Dr. Christine Chakoian
First Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest

Rev. Mark Sundberg
Peace Lutheran Church, Lake Zurich

Rev. Robert A. Davis
Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Libertyville

The Rev. Patricia Snickenberger
St. Lawrence Episcopal Church, Libertyville

Rev. Douglas L. Meyer
Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, Lincolnshire

Rev. Christine N. Meyer
Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, Lincolnshire

Fr. T. Becket A. Franks, OSB
St. Procopius Abbey, Lisle

Rev. Mark Selbo
St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Mundelein

Rev. Jason Reed (retired)
Wesley United Methodist Church, Naperville

Rev. Duane Mevis
Wesley United Methodist Church, Naperville
Rev. Mark Juliot
Alleluia Lutheran Church, Naperville

Rev. Paul A. Hottinger
St. Margaret Mary Parish, Naperville

Rev. John Berg
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Northbrook

Desiree Bakken, Director of Youth Ministries and Music Ministries
Northbrook Covenant Church, Northbrook

Rev. Melissa L. Earley
Northbrook United Methodist Church, Northbrook

The Rev. Cynthia J. Hallas
St. Giles Episcopal Church, Northbrook

The Rev. Belinda Chandler, Associate Priest
St. Giles Episcopal Church, Northbrook

Rabbi Sidney M. Helbraun
Temple Beth-El, Northbrook

Rabbi Paul F. Cohen
Temple Jeremiah, Northfield

Rev. Clint Collins, Transitional Pastor
St. Peter Community Church, Northfield

Sr. Rose Therese Nolta, SSpS
Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, Northfield

Rabbi Max Weiss
Oak Park Temple, Oak Park

Rev. Sally Iberg
Pilgrim Congregational Church, Oak Park

Rev. Renee Willett
Fellowship Christian Church, Oak Park

Rev. Alan C. Taylor
Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Oak Park

Rev. Laura Gottardi-Littell
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Palatine

Rev. Linda Johnson Seyenkulo
Trinity Lutheran Church, Park Forest

Rev. Larry W. Lutey
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Park Ridge

Rev. Arthur Stees
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Pearl City

Rev. Claude Peifer, OSB
St. Bede Abbey, Peru

Rabbi Robin Damsky
West Suburban Temple Har Zion, River Forest

Rev. Dr. Eric Lemonholm
Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Rockford
Rev. Jeffrey Clements, Assistant to the Bishop
Northern Illinois Synod of the ELCA, Rockford
Deacon Tom Goebel
Catholic Diocese of Joliet, Romeoville
Rev. Sunny Ahn
Our Redeemer’s United Methodist Church, Schaumburg
Rabbi Amy L. Memis-Foler
Temple Judea Mizpah, Skokie
Rev. Thomas J. Ascheman, SVD
Society of the Divine Word Provincial, Chicago Province, Techny
Rev. Roger A. Willer, Director for Theological Ethics
Office of the Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Villa Park

Rev. Sue Ellen Grudt, Associate Pastor
Christ Lutheran Church, Vernon Hills

Rev. Chuck Merkner, Emeritus
Messiah Lutheran Church, Wauconda

The Rev. Martha Gillette
Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles, Wauconda

Rev. Rich Grudt
Trinity United Lutheran Church, Waukegan

Rev. Joshua Ebener
St. Andrew Lutheran Church, West Chicago

Rev. Erin Clausen
St. James Lutheran Church, Western Springs

Rev. Mark Williamson, Associate Pastor
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wheaton

The Rev. Kristin Uffelman White
St. Augustine Episcopal Church, Wilmette

Rev. Brian C. Smith
Trinity United Methodist Church, Wilmette

Rev. Dr. Paul Koptak (member)
Winnetka Covenant Church, Wilmette

Rev. Andrea Johnson, Pastor of Discipleship and Outreach
Winnetka Covenant Church, Wilmette

Gail Schechter, Executive Director
Open Communities, Winnetka

Rev. Jan Smith
Winnetka Congregational Church, Winnetka

Rev. Dr. William A. Mueller, Associate Pastor
Winnetka Congregational Church, Winnetka

Rev. Paul S. Allen, Pastor Emeritus
Winnetka Congregational Church, Winnetka

Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

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