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December 19, 2005

ELCA presiding bishop thanks members of Congress

Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, sent a thank-you letter Dec. 6 to members of Congress who voted against spending cuts to human services programs such as Food Stamps and Medicaid in the budget reconciliation process.


David Beckmann (left), an ELCA pastor and president of Bread for the World; Jim Wallis of Sojourners, and Mary Nelson, ELCA member and retired president of Bethel New Life Inc., Chicago, protest what they consider an immoral budget and tax agenda that cuts spending on the poor and provides tax breaks for the rich.

The action was convened in front of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., by Wallis and Call to Renewal, a group of national faith leaders, clergy and faith-based providers of services to the poor. Bob Edgar, President National Council of Churches, also participated. During the event, 114 religious leaders were arrested while kneeling in prayer.
“I wish to thank you for not closing your ears to the cries of the poor during this Advent season,” Hanson wrote.

The budget reconciliation process is comprised of House and Senate bills for spending and tax cuts. Tax cuts for the wealthiest 3 percent of U.S. taxpayers are being proposed by Congress along with spending cuts in human services programs for the next 5 to 10 years. The spending cuts have passed in both the House and the Senate, and differences in the bills are currently being resolved in conference committee. The tax cuts have passed in the Senate, but have not been voted on in the House.

The federal budget is “a concrete expression of our shared moral values and priorities,” Hanson said. “As the number of people living in poverty and without insurance continues to climb at an alarming rate, I believe it is absolutely inexcusable to cut vital programs and services for them in order to leave more money in the pockets of those who need it least.”

Hanson, with all ELCA 65 synod bishops, signed a letter sent last month to senators and representatives, urging members of Congress to vote against the spending cuts and tax cuts proposed in the budget reconciliation process. “Programs such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families help to keep struggling families together and assist low-income working families in moving to higher economic ground,” the November letter said. “This is not the time to cut such important programs while using the cuts to pay for tax breaks for those who don’t need them.”

To those who voted against the proposed spending cuts, Hanson said in his thank-you letter, “In this season of Advent and Christmas, Christians are called to joyfully welcome the Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world anew. This Savior was brought into the world to bring Good News to the poor. Your opposition to these cuts shows your commitment to also bring good news to the poor.”

“I trust I can count on your continued support for the most vulnerable citizens of our society as this process continues,” Hanson concluded the letter.

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