Heads of Communion Letter on FY2011 Budget Cuts

March 1, 2011

Dear Members of Congress:
Our witness as faith leaders is grounded in love for God and neighbor and all Creation. Accordingly, we are compelled to speak out against the proposed deep cuts in FY2011 discretionary domestic and poverty-focused foreign aid spending. Jesus challenged people to define themselves by the measure of their love for one another, with particular concern for those struggling in poverty and marginalized by society. His Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) transforms and broadens our definition of the neighbor and lifts up a model of relationship with our neighbors that should define and sustain our community, national and international life.

Love acknowledges our interdependence and our responsibility for the future. None of us can prosper and be secure while some of us live in misery and desperation. In an interdependent world, the security and prosperity of any nation is inseparable from that of even the most vulnerable both within and beyond their borders. Our churches remain fully committed to our anti-poverty ministries in the U.S. and around the world. But we also know from this hard-won experience that similarly, our nation must remain committed to providing attention to and opportunity for poor and vulnerable people.

Discretionary programs that serve the poor and vulnerable are a very small percentage of the budget, and they are not the drivers of the deficits. Unchecked increases in military spending combined with vast tax cuts helped create our country’s financial difficulties and restoring financial soundness requires addressing these root imbalances. We share your concerns over long-term deficits and urge you to find just solutions that will protect future generations both from a legacy of debt and a legacy of poverty and underinvestment. Cutting discretionary programs is not a just solution. These cuts will devastate those living in poverty, at home and around the world, cost jobs, and in the long run, will harm, not help, our fiscal situation. While “shared sacrifice” can be an appropriate banner, those who would be devastated by these cuts have nothing left to sacrifice.

We find ourselves at a moment of crisis and decision. In the midst of sobering financial challenges, our faith compels us to advance toward a better world for ourselves and our neighbors and not turn away from our brothers and sisters in need. We are compelled by our faith in the living Christ to seek a world where hunger and poverty are a distant memory, and where children around the world grow up with equal opportunities for success. We are called by God, who declared this Creation good, to seek a world of health in our air, water, and biodiversity. We are called by Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to build a world where we live in community with one another, caring for those experiencing conflict, aiding those in the midst of natural disasters and dealing with the impacts of climate change, and where we seek things that build a world of just peace. As God is Creator and Sustainer of all, this is a not just a vision for those in our churches, but a witness our faith compels us to proclaim for all the world.

The unprecedented and dangerous cuts to discretionary domestic programs and poverty-focused foreign assistance will jeopardize the lives and well-being of millions now and into the future. These deep and unwise spending cuts are a betrayal of our call to love our neighbor. Our faith points our nation to “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31) that bears one another’s burdens, acknowledges our interdependence, and compels sacrifice and love for our neighbors in need. We therefore urge you to reject proposed cuts that would undermine domestic and international efforts to help those who are struggling to overcome poverty.

Sincerely,

Rev. Donald H. Ashmall, Council Minister
International Council of Community Churches

Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., President
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, President, Council of Bishops
United Methodist Church

Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA

Arthur M. Larrabee, General Secretary

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends

Bishop Chuck Leigh, President
Apostolic Catholic Church

Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service
Roy Medley, General Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA

Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church USA

Stephen M. Veazey, President
Community of Christ

Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada