The Episcopal Church at its 75th General Convention, that met in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2006, adopted the Millennium Development Goals as a top mission priority for the Church over the next triennium. This reflects a commitment that has been many years in the making in the Episcopal Church and also has been affirmed in other councils of the Anglican Communion, including the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates’ Meeting at Dromantine in 2005 and by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.
There is common agreement across the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church that the Millennium Development Goals are at the center of the Church’s mission because a world that has achieved the Millennium Development Goals -- a world that is free of poverty and disease that kills so many people every day -- is a world that will look dramatically more like God’s will for it. It’s about -- as our Presiding Bishop-elect has said -- building up the reign of God in the world.
The Millennium Development Goals are a set of eight targets adopted by the nations of the world for the eradication of global poverty. One-hundred-ninety-one nations of the world, including the United States, have signed on to the Millennium Development Goals, which stand for the premise that poverty that kills, poverty that takes the life of one person every three seconds in the world today, can be eradicated in this generation. We have the resources, we have the strategies, we have the knowledge at our disposal; the only thing we don’t have is the moral and the political will. And I think that is where in particular the commitment of churches to the Millennium Development Goals comes in.
The joint pastoral letter from the presiding bishops of the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church was an attempt to collect and gather the energies that have already built up in our two churches and bring a renewed focus to the fight against poverty that both of our churches are taking in conjunction with the ONE Campaign. ONE is the campaign to make poverty history. It is the movement of, right now, 2.3 million Americans and growing every day, who are all united behind the promise of the Millennium Development Goals and the idea that it is fundamentally possible in our time to eradicate poverty.
I think the question of what one person can do to achieve change on a global level and help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals can be a very overwhelming question. We’re dealing with issues of huge global significance and I think a lot of people can feel overwhelmed when they hear about these development goals. The truth is that, as we have seen in the movement against apartheid, as we’ve seen in the Jubilee 2000 campaign for debt cancellation, there is no better catalyst for social change than average people working one by one in their local communities and making their voices heard. Whether it’s emails or calls to members of Congress, letters to the editor of your local newspaper, questions asked at town hall meetings of candidates and elected officials, these are the things that prompt our elected officials to take the hope of the Millennium Development Goals and the promise of the Millennium Development Goals as seriously as the American people are right now. This is how we will build the moral and the political will in our time.
The Bishop of Mozambique, Dinis Sengulane, often says that God has no other hands or feet or eyes of the world than those which are our own. He gets to the heart of Paul’s comment that God in Christ was reconciled in the world to Himself and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation. I think that what that means to us as Christians is that through our actions, through the living of our day to day lives, that when we pray “thy kingdom come” every Sunday or every day in the Lord’s Prayer, what it really means is that we have to follow that up and realize that God is intending to act through us in building up the kingdom of God in the world.
The ONE Campaign is a movement that is now about two years old. It’s part of a worldwide movement that is called the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, but it’s the United States version of the movement for the Millennium Development Goals. There are more than 70 major humanitarian organizations represented, including a number of churches in the ONE Campaign. But it’s mostly about the people who are committed to taking action on a daily, weekly, monthly basis on behalf of the call to end poverty in the world.
What is so important about the Episcopal Church’s engagement in the ONE Campaign through the ONE Episcopalian Campaign, and the Lutheran Church in the ONE Lutheran Campaign, is that it connects the voices of Episcopalians and Lutherans to one another and to other advocates in the movement, so that we’re speaking one by one, but we’re all speaking with one voice, and that that one voice is loudly and clearly heard by those who represent us in Congress and in the Administration that this is something that should stand at the center of American priorities right now in thinking about how we position ourselves in the world.
Churches historically have been very good at charity, have been very good at giving money to various causes, and that is certainly very important and the Bible certainly calls us to that. I think on a more fundamental level though, the scriptural tradition of our Judeo-Christian heritage calls us to build justice in the world, which means creating a world where charity is no longer necessary. So, while the churches will be forever committed to meeting unmet human need in the world, through efforts like Episcopal Relief and Development’s MDG programs, the thrust of the church’s mission of reconciling people to one another and to God is to bring us to a place where the structures of the world reflects God’s will for them so that charity and response to poverty that kills, disease that kills, hunger that kills, is no longer a basic necessity in the world.