Episcopal, ELCA presiding bishops issue joint statement calling for prayer, fasting for hunger awareness

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have issued a joint statement calling for prayer, fasting and advocacy.

The statement, For Such a Time as This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy, calls for fasting on the 21st of each month through December 2018, at which time the 115th Congress will conclude. 

The 21st of each month is targeted because by that time each month, 90% of SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits have been used, thereby causing the last week of the month as the hungry week in America.

 The fast will launch with a group of national and local leaders doing a three-day fast together May 21-23. These leaders include Presiding Bishop Curry, Presiding Bishop Eaton, and leadership throughout the Episcopal Church.

Video messages

A video by Presiding Bishop Curry is here.  A transcript of the video can be found below.

A video by Presiding Bishop Eaton is here.

Joint statement

The joint statement of Presiding Bishop Curry and Presiding Bishop Eaton follows:

 “For Such a Time As This”: Joint Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy

We are coming together as leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church to oppose deep cuts to programs that are vital to hungry people struggling with poverty. We make this call in anticipation of the May 21 Global Day of Prayer to End Famine. We highlight the importance of foreign assistance and humanitarian relief as members of the World Council of Churches.

We also make a call to pray, fast, and advocate not just on May 21, but throughout the 115th Congress. At the invitation of Bread for the World, we join with ecumenical partners and pledge to lead our congregations and ministries in fasting, prayer and advocacy, recognizing the need to engage our hearts, bodies, and communities together to combat poverty. As the call to prayer articulates,

“We fast to fortify our advocacy in solidarity with families who are struggling with hunger. We fast to be in solidarity with neighbors who suffer famine, who have been displaced, and who are vulnerable to conflict and climate change. We fast with immigrants who are trying to make a better future for their families and now face the risk of deportation. We fast in solidarity with families on SNAP, who often run out of food by the last week of the month.”

Domestically, Americans throughout the country are struggling with poverty, and many government-funded programs allow them to care for and feed their families. As we look overseas, we must acknowledge that foreign assistance and humanitarian relief can help to address regions confronting famine and food insecurity, including South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Lake Chad Basin. We will challenge proposals to eliminate or defund proven anti-poverty programs, at home and abroad.

The story of Esther provides encouragement for our fasting, prayer and advocacy. Esther, a Jew, was the wife of the Persian king. When plans were made to slaughter all the Jews in the empire, Esther’s cousin Mordechai pleaded with her to go to the king and use her voice to advocate for them, even though this might place her life in danger. He urged her not to remain silent, as she may have been sent “for such a time as this.” Esther asked people to fast and pray with her for three days to fortify her advocacy before the king, resulting in saving the lives of her people.

God’s intention is the flourishing of all people and we are called to participate in God’s loving purpose by standing with our neighbor who struggle with poverty and hunger. Following the Circle of Protection ecumenical fast in 2011 to fortify the faith community in opposing cuts to vital anti-poverty programs, we may have also have been prepared “for such a time as this”. We commit ourselves to and invite our members to one day of fasting every month to undergird our efforts to convince our members of Congress to protect poverty-focused programs. 

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Episcopal Church

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 

When does the fast begin? An opening three-day fast begins on Sunday, May 21. We will continue by fasting on the 21st day of each month through the close of the 115th Congress at the end of 2018. We fast on the 21st of the month because that is the day when 90% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits run out for families.

How do we fast? We are calling for prayer, fasting, and advocacy. Fasting is an effort to clear our bodies, our hearts, and our minds from the distractions around us so that we may be more present to God. Fasting from food is one option that many will choose. But we invite people to take on other disciplines of self-denial, such as fasting from technology, or particular habits, which will help them rely more fully on God.

 These days of fasting should also be days of advocacy to oppose cuts to public programs that help hungry people living in poverty. Individuals or congregations who participate in the fast will receive updates, prayer and advocacy action opportunities by signing up for either the Episcopal Public Policy Network or ELCA Advocacy.

Prayer accompanies and undergirds the disciplines of fasting and advocacy. It roots our actions in our total reliance on God’s loving grace and mercy. Turning to God in prayer shapes our advocacy and informs our fasting, grounding our actions in God’s call to love and serve our neighbor.

Presiding Bishop Curry’s video message

The transcript of Presiding Bishop Curry’s video message follows:

There is a wonderful book that was published some years ago titled “Eat, Pray, Love.” I want to invite you to fast, pray, and love by advocating for those who have no one to advocate for them. 

On May 21, I am going to join with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and many of our ecumenical friends, in fasting for the day, and beginning a fast on the 21st of every month, continuing until the end of the year 2018, when the 115th Congressional session comes to an end. 

Here is the reason for that fast: That time of the month, around the 21st of every month, is a very difficult time for people who are on public assistance and have received their assistance earlier in the month. So we will fast and pray, to pray that our government and our leaders will find a way to do what is just and kind and compassionate in the best of the American spirit.

But we will not only fast and pray. We are asking you to join with us in advocating in a variety of ways for the poor, for those who need public assistance for children who are the primary beneficiaries of most of the forms of assistance that our government provides. We are asking you to join with other Christians and other people of goodwill to help our government reflect the best of the American spirit by feeding the hungry, caring for our children, and making sure that everyone has the opportunities for life and liberty not only in our country, but in our world. 

There is a story in the Bible, in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is the story of the people of God who found themselves in some tough times, and there was a woman named Esther who rose up and accepted the challenge at some risk to herself. A challenge to save her people when they were in jeopardy. At a moment of decision when she was trying to decide whether or not she should enter into the work to save her people, someone named Mordecai sent her a word, and said, “Perhaps Esther, you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” 

Maybe we are Esther. Perhaps we in the Episcopal Church, perhaps we in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, perhaps we who are Christians and people of faith and goodwill have come to the kingdom for such a time as this, to help our country make sure that no child goes to bed hungry. 

“Eat, Pray, Love” is a wonderful book, but I want to invite you beginning on May 21 to fast, to pray, and to love by advocating for our children.

God love you, God bless you, and you keep the faith. 

Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry, The Episcopal Church

Resources

Information about “For Such A Time As This”

The Episcopal Public Policy Network

ELCA Advocacy Network

Bread for the World

WCC Global Day of Prayer to End Famine resources

Comments

  1. Wonderful as this is, it would have been nice to have done it a week ago, so that we could include it easily in this coming Sunday’s bulletin and thus given it the recognition it deserves.

  2. Ronald Davin says:

    “I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”
    Benjamin Franklin

    ― Benjamin Franklin

  3. Richard Basta says:

    Hopefully congress can pass the president’s proppsed infrastructure plan as well. This can create many living wage jobs that can help lift people out of poverty. In addition the oil companies need to get on board with the president’s directive to use American made steel in their energy infrastructure projects. That would also create jobs. In addition” smarter immigration reforms vis a vi employer practices and immigration enforcement hold the promise of raising wages for anerican citizens who have given up looking for work. Just some food for thought.

  4. Sylvia Forbes says:

    I am grateful that the churches are calling attention to the power of praying, fasting, and advocating for the poor in our nation and the world. I was not aware of the importance of the 21st for those struggling in poverty. It will bccome for me a little Sabbath. A reminder that we are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, educate the children, and care for the earth. Thank you for reiterating the importance of loving the family of God.

  5. Lesley Hildrey says:

    Perhaps fasting and donating the money you would have spent on food would help more?

    • Merry wheaton says:

      Donating is a good idea. I suspect that most people who will participate in this fast already donate and are not adverse to donating more. There is, however, an obvious need for polticsl action to call attention to institutionalized poverty and to the attempts of state and federal politicians to cut social services And that is the advocacy which is the advocacy called for as part of the fast.

  6. Christian Goodman says:

    I agree with my whole heart that the Episcopal and Lutheran churches can always do more to help the poor, especially the children of the United States and the World.

    This is a crisis of leadership for the Episcopal and Lutheran churches. Instead of advocating for our two churches to do more, in light of any reduction in services from the Federal government, the Presiding Bishop and Primate call for us to expend our energy in a message of resistance.

    This is not the positive message or mantling of burden I would hope the two Churches to undertake, if these budget cuts are as serious as they allude.

    When the Federal and local governments worked to reduce the ability of Churches to help the poor, independent of the government, the Episcopal church stayed silent. Now that the Episcopal and Lutheran churches have a real opportunity to be leaders in helping the poor they rebel.

    Sorry for not posting my full name previously.

  7. Pjcabbiness says:

    Let us pray that the leftist chains of degradation and dependency may be broken and replaced by a spirit of freedom, creativity and industry.

  8. Bill Thomas says:

    With all due respect, fasting and praying only do so much. Action out in the world is needed. Your local communities and the country at large need you to mobilize as clergy, congregation, and, most importantly as Americans. Without action, you are complicit in the current slide into fascism.

  9. Jawaharlal Prasad says:

    There needs to be some structural changes in that social policies should provide for decent housing, adequate food, good education, medical coverage, etc. etc. We should not quote and hide behind the statement that poor will always be with us. I take “poor will always be with us” to mean as a consequence of natural disasters or unforeseen situations not by deliberate policies intended to keep people poor such as thru’ slavery, casteism, discrimination, etc.
    It is good that people fast and donate money for those in need. Such actions although laudable are a temporary help. Policies led to 2008 type financial disasters, and this seems to be have been deliberately caused.
    I guess we continually have to be vigilant and fight the dark forces. Unfortunately some religion institutions are in collusion with the dark forces.

  10. Pjcabbiness says:

    Yes and in this historical cycle, the fascists are on the left.

  11. Jawaharlal Prasad says:

    Praying and fasting are commendable however there is a need for some structural changes. We as a society need to decide if everyone deserves decent housing, proper medical care, good education, adequate food etc. etc. I sometimes hear people say that “poor will always be with us”. I don’t think it means that we need to put policies in place to deliberately make/keep people poor. I take it to mean that this would be a consequence of say natural disasters reducing society to its knees. How will it help if people are working yet their pay is not enough to allow them to enjoy decent living? Or they are unemployed for extended periods of time reducing them and their dependents to a very difficult living. People in authority should enact policies that are inclusive and fair to all.

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