Churches fight poverty – Welfare reform sparks movement

A new network of faith-based organizations is drawing liberal and evangelical Christians together in a war against poverty, the Los Angeles Times reported June 17.

“Poverty is becoming the leading issue for churches,” Jim Wallis, leader of Call to Renewal, told the Times.

Call to Renewal’s members reject poverty as immoral and embrace a biblical imperative to care for the poor. The network hopes to help churches develop anti-poverty resources by providing everything from program ideas to funding tips.

Traditionally, religious liberals have stressed the institutional causes of poverty, such as racism or bad policy, while conservatives have focused on personal responsibility for bad choices such as teenage pregnancy or substance abuse.

The welfare reform bill of 1996, which cut welfare rolls in half, has brought the two sides together in a common commitment to the poor. Network members point out that the strongest economy in the wealthiest nation in history still leaves 14 million children hungry, 44 million Americans without health insurance, and at least 2.3 million adults and children homeless at least once a year. As welfare rolls are cut, demand for emergency food and shelter is skyrocketing.

More than 60 leaders from across the religious spectrum launched a campaign earlier this year to collect 1 million signatures to Call to Renewal’s “Covenant to Overcome Poverty.” The covenant says that Christianity dictates that people should have affordable health care and housing, safe neighborhoods, a living wage for responsible work, equal educational opportunities and strong families. The group is also preparing “voter scorecards” for the November election.

Call to Renewal also plans to hold a “shadow convention” on poverty during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

For full text, go to the Los Angeles Times.

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