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From Columbus: MDGs and ONE Campaign addressed in open hearing

By Matthew Davies
6/13/2006

  

 
[Episcopal News Service]  The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and a new initiative, ONE Episcopalian -- which seeks to rally Episcopalians to the cause of ending extreme poverty and achieving the MDGs -- were addressed during an open hearing June 13 in the National and International Concerns Committee at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Resolution D022: "Millennium Development Goals and the ONE Episcopalian Campaign" was submitted by the Rev. Randolph K. Dales of New Hampshire, a member of the committee.

The legislation asks Convention to endorse "The ONE Campaign," and appeals to all dioceses, parishes, and individuals to join the ONE Episcopalian campaign that calls for the U.S. government to annually spend an additional one percent of its budget to combat global poverty.

Advocacy is not specifically mentioned in the other MDGs-related resolutions, Dales explained, "so we crafted this to recognize the fact that we have a new advocacy program . . . to join our ecumenical brothers and sisters."

Alex Baumgarten, international policy analyst in the Office of Government Relations for the Episcopal Church, explained that during the last three years there has been a tremendous movement towards the MDGs from Americans uniting under the banner of the ONE Campaign.

"It is so critical and important to the work of the church, because it gets to the specific advocacy call to make the MDGs happen," he said. "The world is dramatically behind right now -- the only way it is going to change is if we speak out and hold governments accountable."

Through his work in Washington, DC, and beyond, Baumgarten is at the forefront of upholding official Episcopal Church policy on the MDGs and related issues, and urging constituents to support the church in its commitment to global justice and reconciliation.

"ONE Episcopalian seeks to unite the voices of Episcopalians with other people of faith and other Americans of all backgrounds who are building a movement to make poverty history,” he said. “By speaking one person at a time, with one voice, we have the power to remake the face of the world."

Further information about ONE Episcopalian can be found online at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_75362_ENG_HTM.htm.

Related resolutions (A008, A009, A142, C024, C041), that ask for the MDGs to be established as a mission priority for the coming triennium and call for an additional 0.7 percent from the Church budget for work that supports the achievement of the goals, were also addressed during the hearing.

The Rev. Reynolds S. Cheney II, committee co-chair from the Diocese of West Tennessee, explained that although there has been a tremendous response to the MDGs, much more needs to be done.

"We have a great opportunity to get about this ministry of servanthood," he said. "We need to become a cohesive community, a reconciling community and an understanding community."

He clarified that the 0.7 percent is a minimum request and that the resolutions ask for this to be an additional line item to that which is currently reflected in the Episcopal Church's budget.

The resolutions would also designate September 11 as a special day of prayer, fasting, advocacy and giving in the Episcopal Church toward global reconciliation and the MDGs.  Some speakers called for October 17, the UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, to be considered as an alternative.

The Rev. Mike Kinman, executive director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, outlined three priorities: getting every diocese onboard and committing to MDGs by July 7, 2007 (7/7/07); confirming a line item in the national church budget that commits to an additional 0.7 percent for the achievement of the goals; and establishing a day in the calendar for the church to rally around the MDGs, suggesting September 11 or October 17 as possibilities.

He explained that 71 dioceses in the Episcopal Church are currently committing to the MDGs.

"If we make the statement that we are giving additional money and it's not just previous accounting, it is evangelistic and telling the world what we are about," he said, explaining that it will help with advocacy. "It's also a movement of spiritual transformation. It's not just about us being the body of Christ, but recognizing that Christ is out there in the world already."

Jacqueline Scott, a deputy from the Diocese of Colorado, said that the Church's task at hand is "to be in the world, helping with compassion and charity with all that we have. To achieve this is going to take our heart and money."

Eight young adults from Australia, Brazil, England, New Zealand, Palestine, Scotland, the Seychelles and South Africa, and a representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, also attended the hearing.

Tiana Morel from the Diocese of Seychelles spoke as a member of the International Anglican Youth Network.

"As young Anglicans we feel it is a vital part of the Church's mission to engage with the MDGs," she said. "In our regions we talk a lot about MDGs, but we don't often see the result."

Clearly moved, Morel explained that in the Province of the Indian Ocean "we commit ourselves to educate our community and inform them what should be done, but we feel it is not enough to just be a role model, but to put pressure on government leaders to achieve the MDGs."

She underscored the importance of developing global partnerships -- referred to in the eighth MDG -- and engaging in ecumenical dialogue.

Reflecting on African mission trips, the Rev. Michael Russell, rector of All Souls' Church in San Diego, said there is "nobody more generous than poor people in Kenya, and every time we walked into their homes they fed us with hard boiled eggs -- the best food available to them. The question is: are we going to put the best food we have on the table?"