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Clergy, Religious Leaders Celebrate End of Shutdown, Look Ahead to Protect Most Vulnerable Americans in Future Budget Negotiations
WASHINGTON – October 17, 2013 - From United Methodist News Service and www.circleofprotection.us*
Following last night’s late votes by the Senate and House, the “Faithful Filibuster” concluded this morning with prayer and psalms of praise.
“The shutdown has had a widespread impact on many people, especially the poor, who suffered for lack of basic services during the period,” said Catholic Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “With the government now open, beneficiaries of government services, particularly the elderly and children, can hope to resume a normal life with a safety net securely in place.”
While celebrating the short-term deal to avoid default and to end the shutdown, the clergy and religious leaders behind the filibuster turned their focus to the future budget negotiations.
“We are grateful to God for ending these crises, but we cannot simply exchange one deadline for another,” said the Rev. David Beckman, president of Bread for the World. “We need to address the looming threat of automatic budget cuts or sequestration. We have to stop sequestration, but not on the backs of the working poor and struggling families.”
The “Faithful Filibuster” began last week, continuing through the rain and the weekend. Organizations that took part in the Faithful Filibuster included the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sojourners, the National Association of Evangelicals, Bread for the World, the National Council of Churches and the Salvation Army.
“We thank God that our leaders came together on a short-term deal to avert disaster,” said Galen Carey, vice president of Government Relations for the National Association of Evangelicals. “Now we pray they have wisdom and courage to conduct our country’s business responsibly in a way that promotes long-term prosperity for all our citizens.”
The clergy and religious leaders gathered yesterday on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol for a sunrise service of prayer and Scripture ahead of the votes on the deal to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. Republican Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Kelly Ayotte also joined the group of clergy and religious leaders for a prayer.
“First, I want to thank the women of the Senate, both Republican and Democrat, who became the real ‘elders’ on Capitol Hill this week – leading us to choose the common good over ideological agendas,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners. “Second, I want to acknowledge the mysterious influence and power of prayer that spread across the nation to help re-open our broken political process and protect the nation from more catastrophe. And finally, I am grateful for the spiritual discipline we engaged in this past week of reading all 2000 verses in the Bible about poverty and justice every day the Congress was in session—which has become our best preparation for the upcoming budget battles in which the lives of the poor and vulnerable will be most at stake.”
The filibuster was a religious effort, organized by the Circle of Protection, to read the more than 2000 verses of Scripture in the Bible to remind Congress that their dysfunction hurts the most vulnerable Americans and that we are charged with caring for the least among us.
“The Faithful Filibuster was not just an exercise in reading empty words from scripture. We were listening to scripture; listening to God, and listening to our neighbor,” said the Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, interim associate general secretary for Joint Action and Advocacy of the National Council of Churches. “Yesterday morning at the Faithful Filibuster, I read from Exodus 22:27, ‘If your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate.’ This is what God calls us to do – to listen with compassion. As our government representatives now begin a process of negotiating a budget, we ask them to continue to listen, to listen to the neighbors who cry out, and create a budget that protects vital programs for people in or near poverty in the United States and around the world.”
*The Circle of Protection is composed of more than 65 heads of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations.
We protect vital programs for people in or near poverty in the United States and around the world. We are committed to resisting budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people.
We call on our nation’s leaders to help us reduce hunger and poverty by expanding opportunity and justice, promoting economic growth and good paying jobs, stabilizing family life, and protecting the well-being of children.
Assuring government’s obligation to advance the common good, ensure fairness, and defend the most vulnerable is good religion and good politics. We must protect the poor and help create the opportunities that make them poor no more.