55 posts categorized "Faith"
Photo: John, a former banker who is one of the subjects of The Line, shops for himself and his three children at a food pantry. (Film still from The Line, courtesy Magnolia Pictures)
By Alicia Vela
Recently, I worked with Bread for the World regional organizer Zach Schmidt and a few of my seminary classmates to organize a viewing of The Line--a documentary that takes a look at poverty in America. The event was part of a class called “Mobilizing for Justice,” taught by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, professor at North Park Theological Seminary, and Dr. Dennis Edwards, senior pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis.
After watching the documentary, which follows four highly-relatable stories of Americans living in poverty, we participated in an exercise that shows how poverty cuts across all demographics. We then entered a period of small- and large-group discussion, reflecting on issues surrounding poverty in America and the ways in which the church can and should respond. The night ended with a plea for those present, as future pastors and leaders, to use our power—our pulpit, our congregation members, and our voices—to impact the issue of poverty in our communities and across the country.
During the event, we discussed different ways of responding to poverty, from helping local food pantries and soup kitchens to advocating for policy changes. We had an opportunity to sign Bread’s petition to President Obama, urging him to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger. The conversation was productive in raising awareness as well allowing us to brainstorm more ways to be involved in addressing poverty. We also collected canned food for the North Park Friendship Center, an organization fighting hunger on Chicago’s North Side.
There are several pieces that I personally took away from my experience with Bread for the World, but the idea of using my voice for advocacy really stood out. I had always thought that as a pastor, I shouldn’t get involved in politics. Being an advocate seemed too divisive in my mind. I have always hidden my political affiliation while working in the church because I thought people would try to argue with me if they had different views. Then I realized that fighting for the hungry is not a political opinion or side, but rather a biblical mandate.
If we take seriously Jesus’s call to love the orphan, fight on behalf the defenseless and care for the weak, we begin to see advocacy as an essential response. As Christians we cannot stand alongside and watch those around us hurt because of the broken systems we have created. We are called to fight for them, to call or write our government leaders and ask for better laws and more care for those who are most vulnerable.
Vela earned her B.A. in psychology from the University of Colorado at
Boulder and recently completed her Master of Divinity coursework at North
Seminary. A Colorado native, she is currently interning at Deer Grove
Covenant Church in Palatine, Ill.
God’s willingness to become one of us in the person of Jesus Christ is evidence of God’s deep and abiding love for us. We understand God’s love through Jesus: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16). Scripture shows us that Jesus was compassionate to all people, especially the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the hungry, the poor—those most vulnerable in society. Jesus loved all people, rich and poor, and actively cared for those in need. He urged his disciples to do the same, to reflect God’s loving nature.
As followers of Christ, we can reflect Jesus’ love and compassion. Jesus calls us to respond to the reality of hunger and poverty in our world. We can model Jesus’ care for vulnerable people we encounter, whether they live next door, in the next state, or across the world.
Our proclamation of God’s love and our demonstrated concern for others are two sides of the same coin. We work to end hunger and poverty in our communities, in our country, and in other countries because we hear God’s word and see Jesus’ model of compassion and justice.
We express and embody God’s reconciling love at all times and in all places.
In scripture, God calls people into community and sets the expectation that leaders (whether they are kings, pharaohs, or governments) should care for their people. Therefore, we also reflect Christ’s love by challenging individuals and institutions that have the power to change laws and structures that keep people vulnerable. As God’s hands and feet in the world, we work toward a beloved community in which every person has an equal opportunity to thrive.
Read and download this new resource, which can be used for personal reflection, group discussion, or congregational study.
Photo: A young man reads his bible at an Assemblies of God service in Saclepea, Liberia (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).
Did you know that each month the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors? Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you're writing, or just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you.
After reading this introduction, explore this month’s readings on the Bread for the Preacher web page, where you can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month.
By Rev. Gary Cook
May’s liturgical observances locate Jesus in heaven, the Spirit among us, and both within the community of the Trinity. By month’s end, all are in place to continue the divine drama of God’s saving work among us. As preachers, our challenge is to help our listeners discover their own place in that drama. The month begins with the reminder from Revelation that the destination of our story is a place for “the healing of the nations.” May your preaching be an invitation to that place.
Rev. Gary Cook is director of church relations at Bread for the World.
Rev. Gary Cook, director of Church Relations at Bread for the World, holds up "A Place at the Table," the 2013 Offering of Letters handbook during aconversation with Barbie Izquierdo, who is featured in the documentary film of the same name. Photo taken at Ecumenical Advocacy Days, held April 5-8 in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)
By Robin Stephenson
More than 700 people gathered in Washington, D.C., last weekend for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and Bread for the World staff and members were counted among them. This year’s gathering, held April 5-8, began with three days of worship and workshops on the theme "God’s Table: Food Justice for a Healthy World." The conference, of which Bread for the World is a sponsor, culminated in a Capitol Hill lobby day, during which participants told their members of Congress that a faithful farm bill will alleviate hunger and malnutrition, support farms and communities, and protect God’s creation.
With the agricultural and nutrition challenges we face today, food and farm policies that end hunger are something we must get right. Bread for the World Institute dedicated last year’s Hunger Report (PDF) to the concept of the farm bill as a legislative vehicle that can help meet those challenges as we work to address root causes of hunger. With this year’s Offering of Letters calling for a place at the table for all of God’s children, Bread for the World is closely following farm bill negotiations and calling for robust funding for both food aid and SNAP (formerly food stamps) as programs that can end hunger.
Staff members from Bread for the World—from across our government relations, church relations, and organizing departments—and Bread Institute presented in several workshops during Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Issues workshops Bread staff participated in included "Harvesting a Healthy Farm Bill: What’s at Stake?," "Food Insecurity 101: Hunger in America," "Immigration in the Food System," "1,000 Days: The Foundation for Life," and "The Most Important Policy Conversation This Year: TAXES." Bread staff also led skills workshops on social media and advocacy and conducting an Offering of Letters.
Bread for the World’s Women of Faith for 1,000 Days Movement hosted an opening night reception with Bread president David Beckmann giving an address on the importance of nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window, from a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday.
One event highlight was an evening conversation with Barbie Izquierdo, whose story illustrates the importance of domestic nutrition programs. She is featured in the documentary film A Place at the Table, and also in Bread’s 2013 Offering of Letters.
Next up is Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, "A Place at the Table," which will be held June 8-11 in Washington, D.C. The event will offer many informative workshops, as well as the opportunity to hear speakers like Rev. Dr. James Forbes and Rev. Luis Cortes, among others. The National Gathering also includes the premiere of a new arrangement of the musical Lazarus. Take advantage of early-bird registration, and join us in June.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
Two men chatting at Bread for the World’s 2011 National Gathering. (Alisa Booze Troetschel)
By Mary Getz
When I was in college, I had the opportunity to spend a month in Honduras on a service-learning trip. We worked on a variety of projects and spent time talking to those alongside whom we worked. We learned about culture, agriculture, and the economy.
One afternoon after our group had finished putting in a concrete floor to a community building and we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves, we heard chuckling from some of the men with whom we had been working. We could tell that we were the source of their amusement. When we asked to be let in on the joke, the answer turned our perspective on the day upside down.
The men explained that while we did a fine job on the floor, they were capable of doing it more quickly without us. They said that the important work that day was the friendship we built and the details we learned about each other’s lives.
The men told us, “You have something that we don’t have. You have a voice. You can go back to the United States and tell our story.
"Tell about what it means to be a small farmer here. Tell about what you’ve learned about how trade in your country affects people in our country. Tell our story.”
Our friends’ call to us that day mirrored Proverbs call to action:
Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)
We are called to advocacy—to work for justice—to speak out for those that cannot.
Advocacy is about building relationships to achieve goals. We tend to focus upward towards our elected officials when we think of advocacy. But that focus can obscure the important relationships that are at the heart of our advocacy—people who are hungry or living in poverty. Our most authentic advocacy is done when we are in relationship with those that we are assisting.
In Matthew we read,
for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me. (Matthew 25: 35-36)
By meeting Christ in those around us, especially those who are in any kind of need—and by being in relationships with them—we can learn their stories and share those stories with people in power.
We can speak up for those who cannot.
Mary Getz is the grassroots and online communications officer for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations. She manages the Episcopal Public Policy Network, a grassroots network of Episcopalians committed to the active ministry of public policy advocacy.
[This piece originally appeared in the April edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]
A photo of an immigrant in North Carolina, who lives in the United States without legal authorization. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy
Immigration reform is perhaps the only policy issue in the nation that has both bipartisan support and political momentum. It is a popular issue in Congress these days, with the real possibility of bipartisan action. This week, the New York Times published an op-ed on the series of breakthroughs moving the nation toward a historic overhaul of the immigration system this year.
While reducing poverty may not be the primary goal of most immigration reform efforts, it should certainly be one of its explicit objectives. Bread for the World envisions immigration policies that reflect both biblical perspectives toward immigrants and the spirit of U.S. democracy. Immigrants who are living in the United States without authorization, regardless of their countries of origin, need a timely and fair path to legalization. Meanwhile, targeted development assistance in immigrant-sending communities that supports inclusive and sustainable economic opportunities abroad can reduce the need for people to migrate illegally to the United States.
Immigration has stymied policymakers for decades but the coalition of faith communities and religious organizations supporting reform this year is unprecedented. A big part of the increased push is coming from a group of evangelical organizations that have prioritized immigration reform. The Evangelical Immigration Table includes the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and the National Association of Evangelicals, and other prominent faith groups. Bread for the World is also proud to be part of the Table and its efforts to promote just immigration reform of a broken system.
On April 17, hundreds of evangelicals will gather in Washington for the Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action on Immigration Reform to raise an evangelical voice proclaiming a biblical vision for immigration reform that respects the rule of law, reunites families, and upholds human dignity. The event will include prayer services with the participation of Bread for the World President David Beckmann and other leaders, including Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Find registration information and an event schedule here.
Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy leads national evangelical church relations at Bread for the World.
Bread staff at the 2013 Justice Conference: (l-r) Michael Smith, Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy, Sarah Miller, and Kyle Dechant. (Robin Stephenson)
By Sarah Miller
Several weeks have passed since I traveled to Philadelphia for the 2013 Justice Conference, but my mind is still filled with thoughts about the event. This year, I joined the team representing Bread for the World at this two-day event that aims to "promote dialogue around justice-related issues such as human trafficking, slavery, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and human rights." Six Bread staff members, two Bread advocates, and I heard prominent speakers from all over the world, talked to representatives from some of the hundreds of humanitarian organizations in attendance, participated in workshops, and engaged in deep conversations about justice.
I have several friends who attended the biblical and social justice conference last year and raved about the experience. I knew the conference would have an effect on me, but I greatly underestimated its power.
More than 6,000 people gathered in Philadelphia’s downtown convention center, all of them with the same desire—to have meaningful conversations about justice. Flocks of people came by Bread’s exhibition booth to hear about our mission to end hunger and poverty through advocacy. We collected 160 signatures on our petition to the president, which asks President Obama to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad.
We also offered conference-goers an opportunity to send powerful anti-hunger messages to members of Congress. We asked people to pose for photos while holding a whiteboard that read: “I want our leaders to make ending hunger a national priority because….” Each person wrote down their thoughts on the importance of ending hunger, along with their name and zip code. After we snapped each person's photo, we tweeted the picture to their U.S. representative. In the end, roughly 40 people used this unique method to contact their representative and engage in dialogue around the issue of hunger.
Bread also held a workshop, "Transformational Advocacy: A Faithful Witness to the Reign of God," in partnership with Asbury Seminary and Eastern University. The session focused on the process of being changed through advocacy actions and introduced attendees to the website evangelicaladvocacy.org.
We made many new contacts and strengthened existing relationships. We heard powerful, visionary speakers asking attendees to listen to the call of God and make meaningful changes in their communities and around the world. It was truly a time of giving and receiving for all involved.
Sarah Miller is a church relations intern at Bread for the World.
All slideshow photos taken by the Bread for the World Justice Conference team.
Faith leaders including (l to r) Rabbi Kimelman-Block of Bend the Arc; Bishop Don Williams of Bread for the World; Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness; Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK Lobby, and Jennifer Butler of Faith in Public Life, at a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol for the Loaves and Fishes Day of Action. (Nina Keehan/Bread for the World)
By Nina Keehan
Yesterday, faith leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., and in 13 states across America, for a “Loaves and Fishes” day of action. The effort emphasized the need for Americans to demand that their political leaders protect hungry and poor people during federal budget negotiations.
In a country that’s blessed with abundance, the faith leaders argued that what America really needs is not more food for the hungry, but a budget that doesn’t ignore the most vulnerable citizens. The event culminated in activists delivering baskets containing loaves of bread and fish to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and to local offices of members of Congress around the country.
“We are standing here to tell our elected officials that there is enough food to go around if we share,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, during the D.C. press conference kicking off the action. “Sharing is the way forward.”
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, emphasized the importance of pushing for a budget that considers all Americans, not just the rich. "How can we declare that the haves in America should have more while the have-nots should have less? We are better people than that."
Bread for the World’s Bishop Don Williams, associate for racial-ethnic outreach, stated the importance of looking out for others. “We live in something called the ‘real world,’” he said. “For some people that means living in a real nightmare. Fifty million people live in poverty and hunger. And we can spout numbers all day, but behind each one of those numbers is a face and a family.”
As the Biblical story goes, Jesus was able to feed five thousand with just five loaves and two fish—a miracle. Yet feeding everyone hungry in America doesn't require a miracle, just a mandate.
Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.
Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Many of the stories that have been written about Pope Francis, who was elected as the Catholic church's 266th pope on Wednesday, make mention of his reputation as a defender of the poor. As Buenos Aires Archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio shunned material trappings and spent much of his time in area slums working with those living in poverty.
But will the election of Pope Francis—who is the first pontiff to come from Latin America, and the first Jesuit—make a difference in the lives of poor and hungry people? This week, many faith leaders said that he could very well turn the world's attention to social justice issues and the needs of hungry and poor people across the globe.
In the Mother Jones piece "The World Has Its First Jesuit Pope. Will He Really Help the Poor?" Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, said this papacy will "strongly state that our economy exists for the common good.
"Clearly, with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's history, Pope Francis will be a strong voice that our economy must serve and protect the most vulnerable," LeCompte continued. "This Pope will stand up for the rights of poor people, migrants, and workers."
In a Guardian UK article, Chris Bain, director of Catholic development agency Cafod, said he hoped Pope Francis would " put global poverty, climate change and environmental degradation higher up the church agenda."
Bread for the World President David Beckmann said in a statement released yesterday that “[g]iven the vow of poverty that Jesuits take, as well as Pope Francis’s demonstrated commitment to the poor, his selection sends a powerful message to the world that vulnerable people should be protected from further injustice.
“Millions of people in the United States and abroad continue to live in extreme poverty," Beckmann continued. "This selection comes at a crucial time, as U.S. lawmakers debate significant cuts to programs that support hungry and poor people in this country and around the world."
Lorenzo de Vedia, parish priest of Caacupe Virgin of the Miracles Church in Argentina's Villa 21-24, a slum frequented by Pope Francis when he was a cardinal, was especially excited by the prospect of the Catholic church focusing on the poor. "The fact that he chose the name Francisco says it all," Vedia told the Associated Press. 'It says: 'Let's stop messing around and devote ourselves to the poor.' That was St. Francis' message and now [Pope] 'Francisco' can live it."
The image of the garden, a biblical paradise of bounty and temptation, has held a special place in spirituality for thousands of years. Yet, for many in today’s society, the harvest and security of that garden is elusive. Food may be plentiful but it is out of reach for as many as 3.9 million families in America. And though some people still work the soil with their hands, they often live in poverty. The way we have structured our lives has led to a growing disconnect between us and the food we need to survive.
A panel of religious leaders discussed these issues in “Faith, Food and Poverty,” an interfaith discussion held last month, hosted by Washington National Cathedral. Despite the panel being made up of a Muslim, a Jew, and a Catholic, the consensus was unanimous: the interfaith community has not taken hunger and poverty seriously as systemic issues. While individual churches, and even whole religious groups, have donated generously to the fight, there is still a lack of collaboration between faiths, which could make a huge difference.
"The greatest activists should be people of faith," said Dr. Hisham Moharram, a Muslim environmental leader and director of Good Tree Farm of New Egypt, N.J. "What good is our faith if it doesn’t go beyond us?"
All three leaders stressed the importance of religious organizations and interfaith food communities continuing their work feeding hungry people while America waits for Washington to make improvements in the minimum wage and programs that address hunger and poverty.
Professor David Cloutier, a Catholic moral theologian at Mount St. Mary’s University, stressed the importance of encouraging a sacramental food economy in which those who have enough to eat do so responsibility, while acknowledging the interdependence that exists between humans and their food.
Eating responsibly has historically been stressed by religious doctrine. As Rabbi Kevin Kleinman from Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, Pa., pointed out, the Jewish faith has always promoted seasonal eating, smaller portions, and kindness to animals.
They all agreed that fighting hunger and poverty in a sustainable and collaborative way must start with discussions.
“The network is there. If we worked together, we could combat the causes of hunger and poverty. But a lot more collaborative effort must be asserted,” said Moharram. “Take the old adage, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,’ and expand on it. Teach the man to market his fish so he can feed others.”
It appears that with a little effort the garden might not always be a mirage.
Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.
Photo caption: Martha and her daughter clean beans grown in their garden in the highlands of Nicaragua. (Richard Leonardi)