Action Alert Migration Campaign/Share the Journey

In the coming week, Congress is expected to finalize our national budget. We have an urgent request on behalf of families around the world struggling to overcome poverty and those who are forced to migrate.

Pope Francis calls on you to “reach out, open your arms to immigrants and refugees and share their journey.”

Please heed the Holy Father’s call and ask your members of Congress to support migrant families here in the United States and around the world.

Why now? More than at any time in our history, our brothers and sisters are leaving their homes and everything they know. They are in search of safety, stability and a better future for themselves and their families.

As we prepare ourselves for the season of Advent, let us come together to care for those so desperately in need of assistance.

Take this opportunity to walk with your neighbor in their journey and speak up for those seeking to be welcomed.

If you care about the poor let your legislators know

Christian leaders from all the families of U.S. Christianity are concerned that the tax bill being considered in Congress will cause harm to people in poverty. Below are statements from leaders of the Circle of Protection. The statements follow a letter the Circle of Protection sent to members of Congress recently. It reads in part: As Christian leaders, the concern is always about how legislation impacts the poor and most vulnerable. We will continue to pray, mobilize, and advocate on behalf of our neighbors in poverty.

We encourage you to contact you US Representative and Senators. It is critical that they hear your concerns during November 27-30.The senate will take a vote by the end of next week.

What Christian Leaders are Saying About the Tax Bill

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Because tax policy is far-reaching, Congress must provide ample time for Americans to discuss the complexities of these reforms and fully understand their effects. The current timetable does not provide adequate time for that discussion. In many ways, this legislation is unacceptable in its present form and requires amendment. It must be changed for the sake of families—the bedrock of our country—and for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience.”

National Council of Churches: “The tax bills currently before the US Congress are designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer; and add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. These tax plans cannot be biblically defended. The National Council of Churches reminds us that our lawmakers have a responsibility to care for the entire citizenry, not just those with the means to influence tax policy.”

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals: “Doing taxes right is really good. Let’s encourage Congress to take the time to get tax reform right–helping the poor and reducing the debt are high biblical priorities. And, providing an above-the-line charitable deduction to all taxpayers will go a long way to keeping America charitable.”

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Chair, National African American Clergy Network: “The National African American Clergy Network is deeply concerned that historic Republican commitments to reducing deficits are being abandoned in adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt by taking life-sustaining programs from poor and working Americans. We suggest that Congress take the time to shape a bi-partisan tax reform measure that grows the economy by providing education and training for lower skilled and non-skilled workers, thus stabilizing families and communities economically.”

Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners: “The tax code is a moral document, a social contract on how we are going to do our part in sharing our resources with our communities, our neighbors, and those most in need. We are told by Jesus that we will be judged not by our profit margins, our corporate tax rates, or our repeal of healthcare, but how we treat the poor, the sick, and the most vulnerable in society. The tax bill currently under consideration in the Senate fails that moral test on all accounts.”

David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World: “The spirit of the season is sharing. But tax cuts for high-income people that are funded with deficit spending will almost certainly lead to deep cuts in Medicaid, SNAP, and other programs that help people living in poverty. The same budget resolution that permits $1.5 trillion in deficit spending for tax cuts outlines more than $2 trillion in cuts to low-income programs.”

John Ashmen, President, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions: “By and large, the 300 member organizations in the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions are pleased that the House’s tax reform bill and the Senate Finance Committee’s proposal provide financial relief for many working Americans and the incentive for new business opportunities. At the same time, we are concerned that outlined cuts to programs like Medicaid and SNAP would cause many of our most vulnerable citizens to join the hundreds of thousands already seeking life-sustaining services at faith-based ministries like rescue missions. Of equal concern is the likelihood that the proposed tax simplification plans—without something like a universal charitable contribution amendment in the final bill—will disincentive giving to nonprofits. The possibility of more people in need and fewer contributions to charities that are making a real difference could bring about a crisis for which the government is not prepared.”

Rev. Noel Castellanos, President, Christian Community Development Association: “Christian Community Development Association is an organization of over a thousand ministries across the nation focused on mobilizing residents in under-served neighborhoods to overcome poverty and to restore healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. We are concerned that the tax bill, currently being considered in the Senate, will devastate not only many individuals, but families, and entire communities.”

Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church: “The Episcopal Church supports efforts to reform our tax system and to ensure the ability of the government to pay its bills and deliver the programs and charitable services the people of this nation rely on. The current proposals, developed though partisan backroom negotiations, will result in reduced funding for critical public goods, increased deficits, and leave behind many of the most vulnerable Americans. We encourage Congress to develop bipartisan reforms that will ensure we can fully fund programs that provide for the sick, the hungry, the homeless, and needy as the Gospels command.”

Rev. Carlos L. Malavé, Executive Director, Christian Churches Together: “The moral and ethical principles that have guided our country always impelled us to contribute and to sacrifice for the common good. A country where the vast majority claim to be Christian must heed the words of scripture: ‘There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.’ (Deut. 15:11) A tax reform that falls short of lifting up the poor in the land is an affront against our Creator. God has blessed our country with wealth beyond measure. We call on the U.S. Congress to enact a tax reform that prioritizes and lifts up the poor in our country.”

Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO, Catholic Charities USA: “While we recognize the efforts to simplify the tax code and grow the economy, the proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces or eliminates tax programs that are vital to low-income individuals and families and are critical to fostering family economic and opportunity. CCUSA urges Congress to take this opportunity to make meaningful investments so that families are supported, programs helping individuals who are poor or vulnerable are funded, and our nation’s faith-based and nonprofit organizations are assisted in their response to community needs.” (Letter to Congress, November 7, 2017)

Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation: “The massive tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations in the current tax reform bill before Congress would increase the deficit by a whopping $1.5 trillion. This giveaway will imperil the long-term fiscal health of our country and undermine future funding for critical programs. This tax reform proposal is being rushed through Congress without full scrutiny by congressional offices or the people of our country whose welfare is directly affected. The people of the United States— low and middle-income households—are looking for opportunity. Sadly, this bill will do more to hurt those families than to help them. When fully implemented, the Senate bill raises taxes on households making less than $75,000, increasing the tax burden for those with incomes between $20,000 and $30,000 by a staggering 25 percent. This bill does not serve those who government should help first. Making the rich get richer at the expense of families struggling just to get by weakens our society and harms people who want government to work for everyone.”

Circle of Protection Appeal to US Congress

(Christian Churches Together is one of the organizations/communions participating in the Circle of Protection.)

The appeal says in part:

We urge members of Congress to join us in maintaining a “circle of protection” around programs of assistance to people in poverty. We are bold enough to imagine news stories about Members of Congress from both parties joining together to support the urgent needs of low- income Americans and life-saving assistance to hungry and poor people around the world— because of the religious faith of those political leaders.

This fall, Congress is making decisions that have far reaching consequences for people living in poverty and working families struggling to make ends meet. We call on Congress to:

1. Protect funding for anti-poverty programs in appropriations and budget resolutions.

  1. Provide emergency assistance for those affected by natural disasters, giving priority to the needs of the low-income and vulnerable populations. Aid should not be funded by cutting ongoing programs that help low-income Americans around the country. We are especially concerned by the severity of the devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  2. Approve a bipartisan appropriations agreement that ends or eases sequester spending caps. Military spending should not be increased at the expense of programs that serve people struggling with poverty, those who ought to be given priority in budget choices.
  3. Maintain assistance to low-income people at or above current levels in spending bills.
  4. Help to maintain the growing economy and job market by avoiding brinksmanship in approving appropriations and increasing the debt ceiling.
  5. Protect the health and well-being of millions of our fellow Americans—especially the weakest, the oldest, and children most at risk by not making deep cuts and harmful structural changes in Medicaid. We value decision-making that is close to the people, but we believe that turning Medicaid into a block grant or imposing per capita caps would reduce assistance to needy people over time. We ask our

leaders to consider options that do not require our poorest neighbors to bear most of the weight of budget and health care cuts.

f. Continue investing in life-saving international assistance to the world’s poorest people, both as an expression of our national values and in recognition of how this contributes to a more peaceful, prosperous, and secure world.

2. Protect and support low-income families in any tax legislation.

  1. We oppose cutting low-income programs to pay for tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
  2. Tax reform must be undertaken in such a way as to strengthen and empower low- and moderate-income families and small businesses.

Read the full statement: Here

Prayer for US Legislators

Bread for the World, prayer focus continues to be on the budget. The Senate budget resolution could make deep cuts to various safety-net programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Women, Children, and Infants (WIC), and international development. These cuts will impact children, the elderly, women, and men in our nation and around the world who struggle with hunger and poverty.

Please join us in this prayer:

Dear God, almighty.

You have blessed humankind with abundance on earth and despite our imperfect humanity, you have charged us with the stewardship of your creation for the common good, so no one suffers need.

Witnessing the impact that natural and man-made disasters have had on poor and hungry people all around the world breaks our hearts, and I pray that through the empowerment of your Holy Spirit we can share a message of good news, and hope.

Help us do the good that you called us to do in loving our neighbor and pursuing justice amid inequality and lack of opportunity for those who are struggling with hunger and poverty.

We pray that you open the eyes and hearts of our leaders, so they may set aside partisanship and distractions to reject any cuts to the safety net and international development programs that have moved millions out of hunger and poverty.

We pray that our lawmakers draft a faithful budget that provides food, jobs, education, health, proper housing, and opportunity for the most vulnerable.

We pray that our nation rises to the challenge to be a beacon of justice providing leadership nationally and globally by dedicating all of our available resources to ending hunger in your world.

These things we pray in Christ’s name, Amen.

If you found this prayer digest useful, please take a minute and share it with your friends using the button below.

Click HERE

Coptic Orthodox Bishops call to pray for martyrs…

Coptic Orthodox bishops call upon all of our churches to dedicate Sunday, October 22, 2017, to pray for all of our martyrs, confessors, their families, and for the peace of the Church and the peace of the Church and the entire world.

Read statement HERE

New Disciples of Christ Ecumenical Publication

The CCU has published prominent ecumenical journals such as Midstream and Call to Unity for more than fifty-five years. As the CCU renews its commitment to publishing an ecumenical and interfaith journal, the Council renamed its journal as Sunesis: Disciples Ecumenical and Interfaith Journal. Dr. M. Eugene Boring said, “I think Σύνεσις would be an excellent choice for the name of the new journal. Among the fairly narrow range of meanings, ‘Insight’ would be appropriate for the journal (Eph. 3:4).”

We pray that Sunesis will provide you with new insights regarding not only ecumenism but also our interfaith neighbors. There is joy when we acquire new insights about others, and many times that joy leads us to pursue friendship. We hope that through these friendships and relationships with other ecumenical partners and interfaith friends, we will achieve a better understanding of others, as the word Sunesis implies. Then we will be able to live peacefully together as God’s children and work together to bring peace to this fragmented world.

You can download the journal Sunesis HERE

Working for Unity in Guatemala

By Nate Bacon

Padre Fernando is standing to the right of Nate Bacon. To the other side is a young Evangelical pastor, Nehemias, connected to us through CTM, Jose from InnerChange Honduras is at the far right.  Next to Jose is Ana Beatriz, and at the far left is Fray Jorge, Ana Beatriz and Fray Jorge are also missionaries working closely with Jose and Celida in Honduras.  This photo is outside Archbishop Oscar Romero’s tomb in San Salvador, the day before his beatification.

I’m writing from a bus on the four-hour mountainous trip to Guatemala City, from Xela.  At the kind request of our friend Fr. Fernando Ruiz, who pastors one of the largest Catholic parishes in Antigua, Guatemala, tomorrow morning I will have the opportunity to speak in Guatemala City to 35 students from different Catholic orders and religious communities, most of them preparing for the priesthood.  The exciting thing is that the topic is Christian Unity, which, as we have shared, is sadly not a very popular topic here.

Please pray that God will grant me wisdom and grace to plant significant seeds in hearts and minds that might flower in their lives and future ministries!  I am very excited to have this opportunity.What makes this even more interesting is that our friends at Center for Transforming Mission (CTM) and several of us from InnerChange have been growing in friendship with Fr Fernando over the past few years.  His first ever speaking venture to an Evangelical audience was at a summit put on by our friends at CTM 3 years ago…which was also the first time CTM had ever invited a Roman Catholic priest to speak!  He did a fantastic exegesis on the Road to Emmaus story from Luke 24.  So perhaps it’s no surprise that Joel Aguilar from CTM just spoke to this same class just two weeks ago!

What makes this even more interesting is that our friends at Center for Transforming Mission (CTM) and several of us from InnerChange have been growing in friendship with Fr Fernando over the past few years.  His first ever speaking venture to an Evangelical audience was at a summit put on by our friends at CTM 3 years ago…which was also the first time CTM had ever invited a Roman Catholic priest to speak!  He did a fantastic exegesis on the Road to Emmaus story from Luke 24.  So perhaps it’s no surprise that Joel Aguilar from CTM just spoke to this same class just two weeks ago!

I add these details because I believe they reveal the long-term fruit of your prayers as God continually surprises us with key friendships that produce ever unfolding blessings over time for the sake of God’s Kingdom in Guatemala and Central America.  We are deeply grateful. Thank you…

Senators unveil bipartisan criminal justice reform package


Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition

10/04/2017 03:10 PM EDT

A group of influential senators rolled out a sweeping bill to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system and sentencing laws, reviving a bipartisan effort that had been left for dead last year.

The new legislation, led by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), is aimed at easing sentences for some non-violent offenders, such as for drug crimes, while beefing up other tough-on-crime laws. For example, it gets rid of the three-strike mandatory life sentence for some repeat drug offenders, but would also allow some people with previous convictions for serious violent and serious drug felonies to face enhanced penalties.

“This bill strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system,” said Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee. “It is the product of much thoughtful deliberation, and we will continue to welcome input from stakeholders as we move forward.”

Grassley did not lay out a timetable for marking up the bill, a version of which sailed through his committee 15-5 during the last Congress but never made it to the floor due to objections from conservative law-and-order Republicans in the conference.

A broad coalition of senators lined up Wednesday behind the bill, including Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Senators this year have a critical ally in the White House: Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has taken an interest in reforming the nation’s criminal justice system and has met privately with senators about the issue.

At the same time, the coalition will still face opposition from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who helped sink the bill when he served in the Senate.

Solitary Confinement: Torture in Your Backyard

By Laura Markle Downton

Sept. 26, 2017

Inside most of the local jails, state and federal prisons, and detention centers that dot the landscape of the United States, on any given day, tens of thousands of incarcerated adults and youth are held in solitary confinement. For 22 to 24 hours a day, they are confined to a cell the size of a parking space for months, years, even decades. Meals are shoved through a small slit in a solid steel door. The cell may or may not have a window to the outside world. Those who have experienced this extreme isolation often describe it as being “buried alive.”

The United Nations and other developed countries consider prolonged isolation a form of torture. Solitary confinement often leads to self-harm and suicide, due to a lack of meaningful human contact. Such extreme isolation changes the chemistry of the human brain. As those in solitary suffer, so do their families and loved ones. Corrections staff working in such toxic environments experience levels of PTSD similar to veterans returning from war. Yet in the US, the practice is used arbitrarily and often.

Continue reading at Evangelicals for Social Action website

Click HERE

What You Can Do Right Now to Help Puerto Rico

By Sarah Withrow King and Rev. Carlos Malavé

The island of Puerto Rico is home to 3.4 million people, and they are suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Many of us want to help, but don’t know where to start. So, here are five things you can do, right now, to help Puerto Rico:

Five Things Christians Can Do Right Now to Help Puerto Rico

1. Pray. Pray for God to intercede in the lives and actions of those who can help or hurt relief efforts. Ask God to clear the way for relief supplies and services to get from port to inland areas. And pray for clean water, food, and electricity be delivered to those in need, right now. Pray so that the resolve and hope of those affected stay strong.

Continue reading at Evangelicals for Social Action website.

Click HERE