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Episcopalians resolve to embody Gospel values through Millennium Development Goals

By Jan Nunley
[Episcopal News Service]  Still looking for a New Year's resolution? Try these on for size:

1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
2) Achieve universal primary education;
3) Promote gender equality and empower women;
4) Reduce child mortality;
5) Improve maternal health;
6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases;
7) Ensure environmental stability; and
8) Develop a global partnership for development.

And all within the next decade or so. Pretty daunting, right?

Yet a steadily increasing number of Episcopal dioceses and congregations have taken on the "big, holy, audacious goal" embodied in these eight challenges, which form the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and have pledged 0.7 percent of their net disposable budgeted income to international development programs committed to make them happen by 2015. They join 191 member nations of the UN, including the United States, in embracing the goals and the "0.7 percent solution" of contributing that fraction of gross domestic product (GDP) to achieving the goals.

The MDGs were highlighted at the Presiding Bishop's Forum on Global Reconciliation, held at the Minneapolis General Convention July 31, 2003 and featuring macroeconomist Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, professor of sustainable development and of health and policy and management at Columbia University and special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

It's not just once a year do-gooderism, say MDG advocates in the Episcopal Church, but a commitment to living out the Prayer Book's Baptismal Covenant by changing the way money is seen-and spent-that motivates the pledge. The MDG commitment represents "a shift in the economic and social priorities of both the Episcopal Church and the United States," according to the Cambridge Consultation, a group of Episcopal Church-related economists, business people, bishops and parish clergy, and others concerned with global economic development who've been meeting since last January.
The 0.7 percent solution

"The Millennium Development Goals are not just wishful thinking. They are certainly ambitious, but they are also technically feasible, even in the relatively short time allowed,' said a message sent by Kofi Annan to the World Economic Development Declaration Conference in Zhuhai, China in early November 2003.

But why 0.7 percent?

According to the UN, that figure-approximately $175 billion per year-represents the threshold of funding required to make a significant impact on global poverty. So far, only Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, and the Netherlands have made good on their promise.

The United States gives the greatest absolute amount of official development assistance (ODA), but comes in last among the 20 richest industrialized nations in terms of aid as a percentage of national income-less than 0.1%.

In 2002 American individuals, private foundations, and corporations gave $207 billion to various charitable causes-but less than 2% of those gifts go to U.S. groups that work abroad, or to activities in poor countries, according to the Rev. Dr. Sabina Alkire, am Anglican priest, author, former coordinator of Culture and Poverty Learning-Research Program at the World Bank, and currently a research fellow at the Global Equity Initiative at Harvard.

Only $4 billion supported international programs relating to peace and security, arts and culture, poverty alleviation, education, health, and the environment. Individual Americans send even less of their gifts abroad than do foundations, said Alkire: Foundations supplied approximately $2.4 billion, whereas individuals gave $1.2 billion and corporations only $0.4 billion for work abroad. That's in a country where, according to the Internal Revenue Service, the 400 richest people have an average income of $174 million each and a combined income of $69 billion-and now pay only 18% in taxes.

Contrast those figures with the need. According to statistics obtained by Episcopal Church stewardship officer Terry Parsons of the Office of Congregational Development, a mere $70-80 billion a year could ensure access to basic services for most of the world's population; $7 billion could provide primary education enrollment for all the world's children; and an additional $5 billion a year could stop most of the 10.6 million deaths of children under age five around the world.

The Episcopalian difference

According to researchers John and Sylvia Ronsvalle of empty tomb, inc., if members of historically Christian churches in the US had tithed in 2001, they would have given an additional $143.4 billion to the work of their churches.

How much of a difference could Episcopalians make? Trained as both a priest and economist, the Rev. Jay Lawlor, also with the Cambridge Consultation, worked as a research economist for Sachs at the Center for International Development at Harvard before attending seminary. Based on 2003 General Convention figures, Lawlor said:

· If every Episcopal diocese gave 0.7% of income we would raise $ 1.2 million per year

· If every Episcopal congregation gave 0.7% of income we would raise $9.8 million per year

· If every Episcopalian gave 0.7% of his or her income we would raise $354 million per year.

And an individual who earns $50,000 a year could make a difference just by donating $350--0.7 of 1% of their earnings.

Capacity mapping

Part of the difficulty in implementing the MDGs is not just how much is given, but where and how it is used.

In the Cambridge Consultation's December 2003 newsletter, Lawlor said that in speaking to church groups he "became convinced that the Anglican Communion-with its strong global presence, especially in Africa-was well situated to be an extensive distribution network for medicine and services as part of effective development programs that offered real hope in partnership with the world's poor.

"A significant challenge to this vision becoming a reality was the lack of information on locations of Anglican churches in Africa and the fact that development program managers, grass-roots organizers and visionaries, such as Sachs, had little or no common language in their approaches to development. Without a concrete way to show capacity and link the efforts of various concerned individuals and organizations it would not be possible to organize coordinated development efforts that could effectively include individuals, the Church and development visionaries."

So Lawlor and his team have begun a "capacity mapping" project to solve the problem of a common language for people concerned about development. "The web of relationships between Americans and Africans that can grow from the map is one of the most compelling outcomes," he wrote. "The map offers a concrete way to help people move toward broader and deeper understandings of the MDGs and connect that deeply with their faith and respond with faithful action. The map offers a vehicle to move beyond inter-church arguments toward unified mission in faithful response to the Gospel."

From endorsement to action

General Convention first endorsed the 0.7 percent budget set-aside at its 2000 meeting in Denver. Resolution D033 urged dioceses and congregations to contribute to sustainable development and microcredit initiatives, but by 2003, only the Diocese of Massachusetts had met that goal.

By 2003 the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns had again submitted a resolution D006 urging support for the MDGs. Again the resolution passed, but between those two meetings stood the shadow of September 11, and proponents say the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon heightened awareness in the church of the desperate need for systemic economic and social change in the world.

In just four months the MDG movement has gathered significant steam. According to the Rev. Michael Kinman, Episcopal chaplain at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the Consultation steering committee, statistics break out as follows.

· Dioceses giving at 0.7% as of Dec. 1, 2003: Massachusetts, Newark, Pittsburgh, Central New York, Michigan, Northwestern Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles

· Dioceses who will be giving at 0.7% by 2005: Nevada, Long Island, Chicago

· Dioceses who will be giving at 0.7% by 2006: Maine

· Dioceses who passed resolutions commending D006 and urging congregations to give at 0.7%: Wyoming, New York, Rhode Island

· Dioceses who have passed resolutions calling for diocesan giving at 0.7%: Bethlehem

· Dioceses who have passed resolutions calling for diocesan giving at 0.7% and urging congregations to give at 0.7%: Convocation of American Churches in Europe, Chicago, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Long Island, Missouri, California

· Dioceses who will be presenting resolutions at their next conventions calling for diocesan giving at 0.7%: Milwaukee, North Carolina

· Dioceses who have passed resolutions calling for study for two years before committing funds: West Missouri

Kinman and others are making a suggested resolution available for delegates to submit to upcoming diocesan and congregational conventions in 2004.

More wallet than will

"I am reminded of Frank Butler, an Episcopal layman who, along with his wife Ruth devotes much of his time to work among the poor," wrote Terry Parsons in a recent stewardship presentation. "Frank insists that God has provided more than enough resources so that no one should go to sleep hungry. 'The problem,' says Frank, 'is that God has put us in charge of the distribution system.'" 

Parsons also quotes Bishop Mark MacDonald of Alaska, who has said that the problem has been that in the past "we had plenty of will but not enough wallet. Our current problem is that we have more wallet than will." 

"We not only have the financial resources to make the world a very different place," Parsons concluded. "We also have the skills, creativity, desire, and, best of all, the knowledge that 'with God all things are possible.'"

Who's doing the work
Once the resolutions have passed, the question becomes: who does the work, and who gets the funds? The Episcopal Church has a number of national ministries already involved in MDG-related programs. Here's a look at a few of them.

Episcopal Relief and Development

 It's arguable that the organization now known as Episcopal Relief and Development has been implementing the MDGs since 1940, when the General Convention  established the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief to assist refugees fleeing the war in Europe. The name was changed at General Convention 2000 to reflect a growing focus on proactive development projects as well as disaster relief.

"The Millennium Development Goals are foundational to our work," said ERD president Sandra Swan. "Episcopal Relief and Development is partnering with other church agencies such as the Cambridge Consultation, Every Voice Network, and Five Talents to raise awareness and funds to end global poverty. As Episcopalians, we have an opportunity to act out our faith."

 "Matthew 25:34-40 says that we must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick, and that's what the MDGs are all about," said ERD's director of development and public relations, Malaika Kamunanwire. "God's concern for the poor is so obvious throughout scripture," added ERD vice president Don Hammond. "The 0.7 percent challenge provides us with a practical opportunity to truly 'engage God's mission' and live out our faith."

United Thank Offering/Episcopal Church Women

Established as the United Offering in 1889, UTO began the new millennium by granting more than $3 million in grants around the world. The average grant amount for 2003 was $22,573. The two largest grants, both for building schools, went to the Dominican Republic ($80,000) and Haiti ($79,000). Two very small grants to Iowa ($2,000) and Oregon ($2,480) will help congregations improve their facilities so they can better serve those who come.

Anglican Women Faith in Action

There is a working group under the leadership of the Anglican Observer to the UN, Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa-Matalavea , which is planning an Anglican presence at the next session of the UN's Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) from March 1-12, 2004 in New York.

"We are planning to host 10-30 women from other parts of the Anglican Communion as registered participants," said the Rev. Margaret Rose, director of the Office of Women's Ministries. In addition, there will be a welcoming reception for Anglicans involved in the UNSCW following the opening session; a pane discussion on women of the Abrahamic tradition on March 3; and a reflection by Jane Williams, wife of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, on March 7 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Offices of Peace and Justice, Government Relations

In its advocacy work with the Administration and the Congress, the Office of Government Relations is working to advance the Millennium Development Goals. With strong support from the Episcopal Public Policy Network, the office has made important contributions in gaining additional funding through the authorization and appropriations process for Global AIDS and for debt relief.

The Rev. Brian Grieves, director of the church's Office of Peace and Justice Ministries, and Jere Skipper, recently international policy analyst with the Office of Government Relations, have been involved in MDG work through a task force appointed by Rowan Williams and chaired by South African archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane.

Alliance of Episcopal Parishes Taking Action on HIV/AIDS in Africa

The year-old Alliance, formed in Kirkland, Washington, already counts 25 parishes and a number of church organizations in a loose affiliation committed to raising awareness and funds to assist ERD programs combating HIV/AIDS in Africa. Former Reagan Administration speechwriter Greg Shaw, a longtime Episcopalian who embraced a "bootstrap ethos" on international development until an encounter with a Kenyan AIDS orphan, is one of the prime movers in the Alliance.