"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17: 20-21)
Brothers and Sisters:
Five years ago The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) entered into a relationship of full communion. As the name of the agreement, Called to Common Mission, makes clear, the unity lived out between our two churches is for the sake of God's mission in the world. The full flourishing of our world and the human family requires our urgent attention to the fight to end global poverty and build a more peaceful, secure world for all God's people. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) provide the Church and the world with a clear path to do this.
Extreme poverty binds more than one billion of God's children, depriving them of the abundant life God intends for all. The MDGs are a set of eight targets for eradicating global poverty adopted by the 191 member states of the United Nations, including the United States, out of the conviction that humanity can build a better and safer world if it is willing to unite. The Goals reflect the reality that the resources, strategies, and knowledge to end global poverty exist if only the moral and political will can be built. Christians must play a key role building this will and holding governments accountable for promises made.
A world that meets the Goals would have 500 million fewer people living on less than a dollar a day, 70 percent of whom will be women. More than 400 million fewer people will go to bed hungry each night. The lives of 30 million children currently destined to die before their fifth birthday would be saved. The rise of HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis would be halted, and infection and death rates would begin to decline. The population of orphans in the world – currently numbered at more than 110 million – would begin to decline as well. In short, a world that has achieved the MDGs will be a world that more greatly reflects Christ's prayer that all be one as he and the Father are one.
This joint pastoral letter comes as the ELCA and The Episcopal Church embark upon new shared commitment to the MDGs, particularly through our collaboration in ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History, a large and growing movement of more than 2.3 million Americans working for the end of global poverty. We hope that by reflecting together on the challenge of global poverty, our communities may be called into deeper conversation, collaboration, and advocacy on this urgent topic.
We invite you to consider the four reflections on global poverty that follow, each examining the church's engagement with the Goals from a different perspective. They need not be read together and, in fact, time between each might invite deeper discernment of God's calling to the Church at this moment in the life of the world.
As churches that stand in the shadow of the cross – knowing that in God's kingdom death and sorrow always give way to resurrection and life – we pray that the Spirit may equip us through the deathless love of the Risen Christ for God's mission of making all things new.
In Christ's peace,
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop and Primate Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
I. A Theological Basis for the MDG's
At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that in Jesus Christ, "the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven by making peace through the blood of the cross" (Col. 1:20).
The church calls this reconciling act the atonement ("at-one-ment") because through the cross and his resurrection, Christ draws us into perfect and intimate unity, or oneness, with God and each other. On the night of his betrayal Christ prayed that all may be one, "as you, Father, are in me and I am in you." Through the cross and resurrection that unity is perfectly accomplished. In the words of an ancient Easter Sermon, the Risen Christ says to each of us: "You are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated."
Yet, the broken and sinful nature of humanity obscures the reconciliation and oneness achieved by God in Christ. Poverty, disease, hunger, injustice, and unmet human need all are symptoms of the brokenness that hides the glorious restoration made present in our world by Christ.
Thus, Paul tells us, God has "given to us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5.18) so that we may participate in Christ's work by making the patterns of our lives and our world revelatory of the peace and reconciliation accomplished in Christ's death and resurrection. The ministry of reconciliation is the means by which God draws each of us into the love and oneness that passes ceaselessly between the Father and the Son in the communion of the Holy Spirit. Unity of all people with God and one another is the essence of God's longing for creation, and thus the ministry of reconciliation is the Church's central calling in the world.
What does the ministry of reconciliation mean in a world where more than one-fifth of God's people go to bed hungry each night and more than 70 percent of those living in poverty are women and girls? How does a reconciling church respond to the death of at least 15,000 people each day because of AIDS, malaria, or tuberculosis? Is it possible to remain silent when a child is orphaned because of AIDS every 14 seconds?
How can we work for a world that is one with itself and with God? The Millennium Development Goals – the world's consensus that the end of poverty is possible through country-to-country partnership among an interconnected humanity – give us a clear plan for how to do that.
Christians have a vital role to play in the movement to achieve the MDGs, and the ONE Campaign (something you will read more about in parts II-IV) offers a way to channel our energies in working toward a reconciled world. Working together with ONE voice in advocacy to our elected officials is the fundamental action for fulfillment of the Goals. Other actions are important too, including making our own communities reflective of the spirit of God's justness and mercy embodied in the Goals, drawing friends into our churches' witness, and – particularly – praying that God's reign may be made ever more manifest in the world.
Each of these things embodies a spirit of accompaniment, or solidarity, with all people who were created in God's image. The MDGs give us a way to do this, and thus, must stand at the heart of how our two churches' live out our common mission in the world. As we work together to make them a reality, let us be always "ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us" (2 Cor 5:20).
II.Living Common Mission: Lutherans, Episcopalians and the MDGs
Both of our churches have responded – separately and together – to God's call to mission by embracing the MDGs. As part of our commitment to raising public awareness of the Goals and the need for advocacy to achieve them, the ELCA and The Episcopal Church have collaborated in establishing partnerships with ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History.
This large and growing U.S. movement, currently encompassing more than 2.3 million Americans and more than 70 leading advocacy and humanitarian organizations, believes that by working ONE by ONE and speaking with ONE voice, we can achieve the MDGs and build a more peaceful, secure world. To do that, members of the campaign advocate that the U.S. government should provide an additional ONE percent of its budget each year to fighting poverty in the world. The ONE Campaign never asks individuals for money, only for their voice.
To maximize the effectiveness of our two churches' engagement with the ONE Campaign, each has undertaken a strategic partnership branded as "ONE Lutheran" and "ONE Episcopalian." Each effort offers specific models of organizing around the Goals for congregations and individuals, and encourages synodical and diocesan leadership as well. To learn more, and become a ONE Lutheran or ONE Episcopalian, visit www.elca.org/advocacy/ONE or www.episcopalchurch.org/ONE.
Our two churches are collaborating in many other ways as well. Each has staff whose portfolios largely are devoted to the MDGs and who work together daily on congressional legislation and government policies that further the goals. Lutherans and Episcopalians around the country are drawn into these efforts through the grassroots advocacy networks of each church, of which one can become a part by joining ONE Lutheran or ONE Episcopalian. Working together, we have produced an ecumenical study guide on the MDGs for congregational adult-education classes. God's Mission in the World will be available in early October from both of our churches.
Other collaboration on the MDGs spans a variety of ministries in the ELCA and The Episcopal Church. Both churches are represented at the United Nations and work together on MDG-related initiatives such as the five-year review of the Millennium Summit at the UN and in the international delegations of Anglican and Lutheran women who attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women each year. Likewise, staff in the ELCA program unit for Global Mission and their counterparts in the Episcopal Church's Office of Anglican and Global Relations also work together in integrating the MDGs into the church's global-mission work. The recent Global Mission Event in Amherst, Mass. – hosted jointly by the ELCA and The Episcopal Church for the first time ever – was a demonstration of this collaboration. Local cooperation at the diocesan and synodical levels on the Goals is common and expanding in scope.
Finally, Lutheran World Relief (LWR) and Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) both have integrated the MDG framework in their development strategies and often work ecumenically in areas such as primary health, food security, and education. By engaging this work, ERD and LWR not only carry forward the Church's call to be an active participant in the work of human development, but also give all Episcopalians and Lutherans a platform for holding their government to account for leadership on the Goals.
In Part IV, you will read more about how local communities can collaborate in support of these and other witnesses to the MDGs.
III. United as One: A Joint Call to the U.S. Government
The MDGs flow from the historic Millennium Declaration of 2000 and establish 2015 as the date when their targets are to be met. As the world approaches the half-way point, it's clear that while some progress is being made, significant new funding from wealthy nations is necessary for the Goals to be achieved.
Partnership between rich and impoverished countries – supported by funding from countries like the U.S. – already has achieved a great deal of success. National-debt cancellation has allowed countries like Mozambique, Tanzania, and Cameroon to make significant advances in the health and education sectors. The elimination of school fees has sent primary-education enrollment rates soaring in Kenya. Comprehensive HIV prevention strategies in Uganda have reduced infection rates and served as a model for the rest of the world.
United States leadership can make a difference, both in mobilizing American resources and in influencing other governments to do the same. Thus, we urge all Episcopalians and Lutherans in the U.S. to provide a common witness to their government in favor of the following three calls:
• Devote an additional ONE percent of the U.S. budget to fighting poverty in the developing world. The American people are a generous people, as shown by the outpouring of personal resources in response to disasters, including the Asian tsunami and the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Most Americans would be surprised to know, however, that the U.S. government currently spends just a fraction of one percent of its budget on fighting poverty in the world, less than nearly every other industrialized country in the world. An additional ONE percent of the U.S. budget each year could provide seed money for dramatic and positive change in the developing world in areas like the fight against HIV and AIDS and malaria, promoting government accountability and transparency, putting children in school, and enabling entrepreneurs – particularly women – to help themselves.
• Cancel the debts of countries struggling to meet the MDGs. For nearly a decade, Episcopalians and Lutherans have been at the heart of the Jubilee movement for debt cancellation for the world's poorest countries. This campaign resulted in historic international debt-relief agreements in 2000 and 2005. The debt burden of impoverished countries – often for debts that are decades old and were amassed by corrupt governments long-since gone – makes it impossible for countries to gain traction in their fight against poverty. The debt-cancellation agreements of the past decade, while limited in scope, have produced many successes. Now, however, at least 60 countries need complete cancellation of all remaining debts to meet the Goals. 2007 is a "Sabbath Year," coming seven years after the great Jubilee Year of 2000. We encourage people to visit Jubilee USA, an organization supported by both of our churches, to learn more about how to advocate for Sabbath Year debt cancellation. http://www.jubileeusa.org/
• Promote a just trade system to allow impoverished countries to help build their own prosperity. While development aid and debt cancellation are critical to the fulfillment of the MDGs, a fair-trade system, allows the people of the developing world to build long-term prosperity by competing fairly and independently in the world's markets. Unfortunately, international-trade rules make it difficult for developing countries to do so. Rich countries subsidize their own farmers and agricultural producers at a rate of one billion dollars a day, making it all but impossible for farmers from the developing world to compete in world markets. We thus call upon the U.S. government to support trade policies – both within U.S. law and in the context of international trade agreements – designed to level the playing field in international trade.
Join ONE Episcopalian or ONE Lutheran to learn more about how to engage on these issues.
IV. Global Mission at the Local Level: A Vision for Episcopal and Lutheran Communities Working Together in the Fight Against Global Poverty
Given the global scope of extreme poverty, it is hard to comprehend what one person, or one congregation, really can do to help make the MDGs a reality.
While we believe the most effective advocacy in which you can engage involves building lasting relationships with your own elected officials, we also believe that our joint MDG witness will provide a critical opportunity for our two communities to unite in building consensus at the local level that poverty can be made history in our lifetimes. Actions that unite Lutherans and Episcopalians at a community level and connect their voices to the larger movement for the Goals will multiply the power of our churches' voices. The following are some ideas of how Episcopal-Lutheran partnership might be lived out at the community level:
• Help Build a Network of ONE Leaders: In the movement to end global poverty, the true power lies at the local level. Christians must build a nationwide network of leaders in the ONE Campaign: individuals, congregations, dioceses and synods committed to making poverty history. Our two churches' offices in Washington are coordinating the effort to build these national networks and are connecting local ONE Lutheran and ONE Episcopalian leaders to key local organizers within the ONE Campaign and other groups working with ONE. If you are interested in serving in a leadership role as a ONE leader in your region, or are interested in learning more about these efforts, visit www.episcopalchurch.org/ONE or www.elca.org/advocacy/ONE.
• Companion Relationships: Many ELCA and Episcopal congregations, dioceses, or synods have companion relationships with churches in developing countries. Very often, these relationships not only can help build an understanding of the effects of poverty and human need, but also help Americans understand the richness of culture, faith, and life in other countries. Both of these dynamics can inspire action among Americans who may not yet be involved in the movement, as well as a deepening of action among those who are. Moreover, these relationships help inform Americans of the Encourage the companion-relationship committee and ONE leaders in your area to work together and to get in touch with the ELCA and Episcopal Church offices in Washington in order to share stories and strategies.
• ONE on College Campuses: Young people have been at the heart of the ONE Campaign since its inception and bring creativity, energy, and commitment to the movement. Share ONE resources with Episcopal and Lutheran chaplains and campus-ministry teams on the college campuses in your community. Encourage campus worshipping communities to pass ONE resolutions and become part of the movement. Resources for students and youth can be found on our respective websites.
• Join Together to Visit Lawmakers and Candidate Forums: Lawmakers and candidates for office seldom respond better to community sentiment than when they are in their home districts during a congressional work period or campaign season. Join together, as Lutheran and Episcopal congregations in a community, and visit your lawmakers when they are at home to discuss the importance of the fight against global poverty. Attend candidate forums and ask questions on the Goals. (Both of our offices in Washington can provide resources on how to do this effectively.) Bring along other people of faith from your community. Remember to speak in clear faith terms. Work to build a relationship with your Members of Congress so that they will see you as a resource on global poverty. Find out if they have an issue that particularly moves them, such as universal education, and then keep them informed on how you, too, are working on that issue.
• Worship Together: One of the greatest treasures of our full-communion relationship is that we may gather together around one table to share in the fellowship of Word and Sacrament. Worshipping together is among the strongest witnesses we can make to our common mission. Organize a joint Lutheran-Episcopal Eucharist or prayer service on centered on texts that call us to stand with those who live daily with poverty, hunger and disease. Consider holding a forum after the service to discuss issues of global poverty and what each of us can do. Invite your Member of Congress to attend and/or participate in that forum. This pastoral letter will be inaugurated with a shared Eucharist on September 15. This order of service will be made available by both churches' news services after the event.
We pray that God's grace and peace may equip us to work as partners for the reconciliation of the world. May our voices, raised together as ONE, proclaim peace and bring hope to all people. "And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rom 5:5).
The Eight Millennium Development Goals include: 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 and AIDS, Malaria and other diseases 7) Ensure Environmental Sustainability 8) Create a Global Partnership for Development with targets for debt relief, aid and trade.