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Clinton vs. Trump. It has already become a vicious battle. Bread for the World wants to make sure hunger and poverty don’t get lost in the fray.
In fact, in terms of reaching its goal of helping to end hunger by 2030, this election is absolutely critical to Bread. The next president and Congress must take major steps to put our country and the world on track to reach that goal.
And so the work of Bread and its faithful activists starts now – during the campaign – in order to make hunger, poverty, and opportunity a higher political priority for those who are elected in November.
We are asking our members and activists to meet with candidates and ask three questions:
Further, we are asking our members and activists to document and share their visits on social media and report to us their experiences and the candidates’ responses. We also encourage members to take two more steps after learning about all candidates they could vote for:
We have produced resources to support the work of our members and activists. A page on our website lists all of Bread’s elections resources. Some of the newest ones are:
Bread's Election Platform
Steps that the new president and Congress taking office in 2017 must take to put the U.S. on track to end hunger by 2030. A handout to help you in speaking to candidates. You can print this out and leave it behind when you meet with candidates or their campaign staff.
Faith & Elections series on Bread Blog
Bread Blog is exploring faith and elections through the lens of different faith perspectives. Use these regular blog posts for individual reflection or share them with others (congregations have permission to republish/reprint posts from Bread Blog when credit is given).
Hunger and Poverty State Fact Sheets
What is the prevalence of hunger in your state? One-page fact sheets for each state (plus Washington, D.C.) that are ideal for printing out and distributing at public campaign events (such as at an information table at a town hall meeting) so voters can understand the scope of the problem close to home.
Bread will be looking for these specific achievements toward its goal of making hunger a national priority by 2017:
It’s still uncertain which party will control the White House and Congress, but it is still possible that our next president and Congress will be able to agree on policies that would put our country on track toward ending hunger in our country and around the world by 2030.
Watch this monthly newsletter as well as Bread Blog and our social media channels (Facebook; Twitter) for news about how Bread is engaging in the election and for ways that individuals and congregations can be involved.
In a major victory for Bread for the World and people who are hungry around the world, Congress gave final approval to the Global Food Security Act of 2016 (S. 1252) on July 6. The bipartisan legislation passed 369-53. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.
“We commend Congress for passing this crucial, bipartisan legislation in an election year when it has been difficult been to pass other bills,” said Bread's president, Rev. David Beckmann. “The bill calls for a global food security strategy that fights hunger and malnutrition and strengthens food production.”
The bill had broad support in Congress, including more than 140 co-sponsors from both political parties. It will benefit many of the more than 795 million chronically malnourished people, including 159 million children, in developing countries. The legislation will also improve maternal and child nutrition, especially in the key 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday.
The bill puts in place a strategy, similar to the successful Feed the Future initiative, for the U.S. government to help hungry nations develop smart, long-term agriculture programs. Last year, Feed the Future helped nearly 7 million smallholder farmers and reached more than 12 million women and children with vital nutrition programs.
This legislation also authorizes International Disaster Assistance programs, including a program focused on flexible emergency food assistance. This is how the U.S. is feeding Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, and was able to quickly provide life-saving food assistance in the Philippines and Nepal.
“U.S. leadership is vital in the fight against hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty,” Beckmann said. “This vote shows that ending hunger and poverty is not a partisan issue. The bill will help strengthen communities and develop stronger trading partners for our country, creating a more stable and secure world.”
The passage of the Global Food Security Act is a major victory for Bread’s members and partners, who have lobbied for it since last year.
The House of Representatives passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2016 (H.R. 3766) on July 5. Earlier, the Senate passed its version of the bill (S. 2184). The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature. This new legislation is another victory for Bread and people who live in hunger and poverty because of the way it improves the U.S. government's methods of addressing these issues.
“Making U.S. foreign assistance more transparent and accountable will help ensure that our tax dollars are used effectively,” said Rev. David Beckmann, Bread's president. “This is especially important now that the global community has embraced new goals to end hunger and poverty by 2030.”
The bill establishes important guidelines to ensure that U.S. foreign assistance dollars are administered in a transparent, accountable, and effective way. The bipartisan bill was sponsored by Reps. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) in the House and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in the Senate.
The bill requires the president to establish uniform guidelines across all U.S. foreign assistance programs. It also requires a public website — known as the Foreign Assistance Dashboard — with detailed information about how such aid is used. Each relevant federal department or agency would be required to publish and update the dashboard quarterly with such information as budgets, evaluations, and strategies.
Bread's work on reforming the way the U.S. government carries out foreign assistance began in 2009. The focus of the Offering of Letters that year was that topic. Over the years, Bread and its members have sought to improve foreign assistance by emphasizing a stronger focus on reducing poverty and clearer accountability for how U.S. tax dollars are spent. Bread worked closely with the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network to advocate for the bill in Congress.
“We thank the congressional leadership for their continued work to pass this common-sense, bipartisan bill,” Beckmann said. “More openness and transparency will help improve our foreign assistance programs and better allocate resources to where they are needed most.”
By Bread staff
All roads lead to Rome, the saying goes. And that’s exactly where Bread for the World’s president, Rev. David Beckmann, found himself in mid-June in an effort to continue spreading Bread’s message of ending hunger.
The Bishop of Rome – Pope Francis – was one of the people Beckmann saw when he was there to address the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on the need to end hunger and poverty. Beckmann was part of a panel of religious leaders that spoke to the WFP executive committee after a speech by Francis on June 13. It was a historic occasion for the agency because it’s the first time a pope has appeared there.
During his speech, the pope said, “A people plays out its future by its ability to respond to the hunger and thirst of its brothers and sisters. In that ability to come to the aid of the hungry and thirsty, we can measure the pulse of our humanity. For this reason, I desire that the fight to eradicate the hunger and thirst of our brothers and sisters, and with our brothers and sisters, will continue to challenge us to seek creative solutions of change and transformation.”
Although Bread is an ecumenical organization – a “collective Christian voice” – it has been pleased with the leadership of Pope Francis in raising the world’s consciousness on hunger. Since becoming pope, the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics has become a major voice from the religious community in advocating for an end to hunger. Bread and others have been latching on to his coattails with his large flock of followers and ability to shine a spotlight on long-ignored issues.
In his remarks, Beckmann discussed how faith-based organizations are uniquely powerful actors to end hunger. In addition to Beckmann, several other religious leaders were invited to appear on the panel during the WFP’s meetings on Inter-Religious Engagement for Zero Hunger.
“The feasibility of Zero Hunger has moral and spiritual implications,” Beckmann’s prepared remarks said. “It is no longer ethically sufficient to help people in need. We aren’t acting ethically unless we are helping to end hunger, which means advocating for the systemic changes that are required. God’s grace leads directly to advocacy to end hunger.”
The Rome event, a major milestone on the road to end hunger, comes during the important first year of work toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 global goals, which have been agreed to by U.N. member states, aim to tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty. Bread believes the WFP should support faith-based and civil-society advocacy for Zero Hunger, the second of the SDGs.
Beckmann urged the WFP to become a hub of communications with faith and civil-society groups about Zero Hunger, the changes needed to achieve it, and how some faith and civil-society groups around the world are making a big impact through advocacy. He stressed that this new function at WFP is important to the achievement of Zero Hunger by 2030.
He affirmed Bread's interest in the WFP’s plans for an Inter-religious Council on Ending Hunger and a worldwide Zero Hunger advocacy network. However, political will to end hunger is critical.
“Ending hunger by 2030 requires strong leadership from the U.S, which is the world's largest development aid donor,” added Beckmann. “That is why it is critical during the 2016 elections that voters elect a president and a Congress committed to making ending poverty and hunger a priority.”
Following the WFP meetings, the agency released a document titled Voices of Faith: Statements from religious leaders and actors. It shows how two dozen religious leaders who were present at the meeting plan to engage in reaching the Zero Hunger goal.
Accompanying Beckmann in Rome were Rebecca Middleton, chief operating officer of the Alliance to End Hunger, and William Moore, executive director of the Eleanor Crook Foundation and a Bread board member. The Eleanor Crook Foundation provides major support to Bread. While in Rome, the three also met with several of the advisers to Pope Francis whom Beckmann visited last summer. Beckmann began building relationships with Vatican officials then as a way to further strengthen Bread’s influence and its emphasis on advocacy as a means to reach Zero Hunger.
Read the wrap-up of Lobby Day on Bread Blog.
By Elizabeth Haberstroh
I may seem out of place, but I am a math major interning for a social-impact nonprofit, and Bread’s Lobby Day reassured me that I am exactly where I belong this summer.
My sixth day as an intern at Bread for the World found me at 7:45 a.m. at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church, where I began a full day of meeting and greeting, speaking, and advocating on behalf of hungry and poor people.
A church full of Bread’s nationwide family united through music and inspiring speakers such as Roger Thurow, author and former foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. We focused our attention on the importance of the 1,000 days between a mother’s pregnancy and her child’s 2nd birthday, the effects of early-age malnutrition such as mental and physical stunting, the need to invest in mothers and children, and prayer for the long day ahead of us on Capitol Hill.
Our mission for the day was to ask the Senate to invest $230 million in global nutrition and ask the House to pass the Global Food Security Act of 2016 and oppose H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016. This last act would fund school meals through block grants to the states, effectively preventing potentially millions of children from getting school breakfasts, lunches, and summer meals.
Equipped with determination and a mission to see an end to hunger worldwide, we divided into our constituent groups to discuss tactics for our advocacy while meeting with our senators and representatives. I was amazed and inspired by my fellow advocates in our group of Alabamian constituents. I was blessed to have had a diverse group of first-timers on Lobby Day and also some knowledgeable warriors of advocacy.
I was nervous and intimidated stepping into the first few offices of our members of Congress, but under the guide of my group I became empowered and realized that we as constituents have the power to really make change through our words and actions on the Hill. Our group also had a very special blessing; we were joined by former U.S. representative from Alabama Spencer Bachus.
It was amazing to witness the power and effectiveness of bipartisanship cooperation. We were met with open ears in most of our offices, gathered either around a large conference table or casually sitting in chairs and couches with representatives in their office. While receiving some push-back from a couple offices, I fully feel that we made a difference.
Elizabeth Haberstroh is a development and membership intern at Bread for the World.
By Hope Watson
A group of 110 Pan-African women gathered in our nation’s capital among the great monuments of the National Mall in June. They congregated across their varied global identities of African ancestry to lift their voices and votes in the name of a social injustice: poverty and hunger.
The recent gathering was reminiscent of another gathering 53 summers ago, when 200,000 Americans descended on the nation’s capital singing freedom songs and crying out for change in the March on Washington. Among those marchers were Pan-African women of faith, answering God’s call to advocate with and on behalf of the voiceless and the disenfranchised. “The Lord will make a way, somehow,” was their rallying cry.
Minister Hazel Cherry from the U.S. attended the recent gathering, the Pan-African Women of Faith International Consultation. The June 9 to 11 event was sponsored by Bread for the World, the World Council of Churches, and Howard University Office of the Dean of the Chapel. Like many of the women attending, the issues of hunger and poverty hit close to home for Cherry. Throughout the consultation, she reflected on her mother’s financial struggles.
“She’s part of the invisible homeless population, meaning she has a place to stay, but it’s not her own. Thinking about her made the issues real for me,” she said.
Personal connections like these united each participant around the cause as they began a journey of lament, celebration, and hope.
The consultation’s first day was marked by empowerment, as songs of worship and Scriptures of praise transformed a somber U.S. Senate chamber into a holy tabernacle. The room, daily a place of decision-making for the nation’s lawmakers, was bathed in prayer for courage from elected leaders. Among those leaders was Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, a guest speaker at the service.
“To tell his story of poverty—he didn’t have to do that, [but] there was a spirit of embrace in those chambers that allowed him to,” said Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church engagement at Bread.
Participant Edyln Jones, from Liberia, described the experience as empowering.
“Hearing the personal stories of each woman helped me know that there are others who look like me that have gone through my same struggles. They made me feel like, if they could do it, I could do it,” she said.
After the service, the women set out to visit their members of Congress, taking with them narratives of struggles overcome and battles fought, fueling their desire to affect change on the issues of hunger and poverty.
The consultation’s second day was one of pilgrimage, beginning with a visit to the African Union’s offices in Washington. Participants were formally received by Senior Political Officer Tarek Youssef. United with all 54 African nations in one room, participants were ushered into a time of consideration for their history and their role as women of faith within it.
“To begin our [pilgrimage] not with slavery, but with our history as kings and queens of Africa and a prominent African presence in the Bible was very powerful,” Walker-Smith said.
A tour of some historical sites in the city led the women in the steps of those who marched before them for an equally noble cause in this very city. The freedom songs they sang, once a cry for civil rights, became an elevated petition for government to answer to the issues of hunger and poverty.
“I was amazed at the number of people that stopped to listen to us. It was so poignant to have us walking together in solidarity,” Cherry said.
One of the last stops on the pilgrimage led participants to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech. Once a place of another era’s social justice triumph, participants felt their own power for victory over the social justice battle of their time.
“I really felt it was possible to end hunger. It’s not just day-to-day praying and hoping and wishing—it’s actually possible,” Jones said.
This possibility gave birth to deliberation and design of a message drafted by participants for affecting change. Two truths were acknowledged through this process.
First, around the world, women and children are disproportionately affected by hunger and poverty. Second, investment in a woman’s education is beneficial not only for that individual, but for the whole of society.
The message listed the essential elements for addressing these truths: dedicated prayer, community coordination, and thoughtful advocacy, among many other strategies.
As the consultation concluded and the participants went forth to activate their message, the words of their ancestors echoed across the decades, “The Lord will make a way, somehow.”
Hope Watson is an intern in the church relations department at Bread for the World.
By Noel Castellanos
The metaphor that life is a journey runs deep in God’s Word. I experienced this in a fresh way a year ago, as I was finishing a sabbatical from my work with the Christian Community Development Association, an organization that encourages and equips churches to live and learn to serve alongside their neighbors in the most vulnerable communities of our nation and world.
I completed a 500-mile walk across Spain, called the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James). It was an extraordinary journey. A few lessons that I learned on my journey continue to shape my life as I think about my responsibility as a global Christian:
The Camino is hard: Rosy Instagram posts can make it appear that life is always fabulous and that all of life is a selfie-worthy adventure. However, if life is hard for those of us who are educated and live in the wealthiest nation in the world, imagine how near-impossible life must be for the invisible majority of people on our planet who exist on meager wages, who suffer from hunger and food insecurity on a daily basis, who endure debilitating oppression and injustice, and who have very little or no hope of ever experiencing the kind of life that we enjoy and often take for granted.
Don’t travel alone: All of us intuitively know that we have been hardwired for relationships, intimacy, and belonging. Tragically, most of us settle to walk alone. One of the greatest tragedies in our nation today is the escalating division that is widening along racial, class, and political lines. The rich do not know the poor, yet we are the ones who often create policies to address their needs. Jesus defines the beloved community as a place of belonging — familia. To the degree that we travel, eat, and stay in close proximity to the poor and the vulnerable of society, to that degree are we following the Way of Jesus. Imagine how different our divided world would be if we committed to walk with others who are different than us. Never walk alone.
All we need is our daily bread: I had the privilege of walking the Camino with two of my grown kids. It took us 31 days of hard walking. Because we had to carry all of our belongings in a backpack, we had to travel lightly. Thus we were forced to get our daily meals at every stop along the way. In reality, we were confident that at the end of each day there would be a place to buy food and drink as well as lodging to get a good night’s sleep. The same cannot be said for millions of people in our country and around the world who are not certain where their next meal will come from or where they will sleep. We take so much for granted and struggle to empathize with the poor because of our privilege. Praying for what we need instead of what we want could help us stay close to the poor.
While I was on the Camino, I felt a very clear prompting to connect with our immigrant brothers and sisters who make the dangerous pilgrimage into our nation to seek a better life. In an effort to expose others to the experience of their journey into our country, my organization and Bread for the World have planned a walk — El Camino del Inmigrante (Way of the Immigrant).
El Camino del Inmigrante will take place August 20 to 30 in Southern California. It will begin in San Diego near the U.S.-Mexico border and end in Los Angeles. The Camino’s organizers say the purpose of the Camino is to walk in solidarity with “the sufferings of our immigrant neighbors who have been working and waiting for our broken immigration system to be reformed.” Bishop Jose Garcia, director of Bread’s church relations department, will participate in the 150-mile trek as a core walker in order to draw attention to the linkages among hunger, our country’s broken immigration system, and the importance of the upcoming November elections to these issues. Bread and other partners will host a public event on August 26 at The Crossing Church in Costa Mesa, Calif. More details on how you can pray with the walkers, accompany them virtually, or participate in the August 26 event will be coming soon.
Noel Castellanos is the chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association.
By Bread staff
Overall, the world isn’t fighting all forms of malnutrition fast enough, according to a new report released June 14.
The annual Global Nutrition Report is produced and disseminated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Bread for the World Institute is a partner of IFPRI and co-hosted the launch of the report in Washington, D.C., one of seven launch sites worldwide.
The report documents progress on global nutrition commitments and makes recommendations to accelerate that progress. This is the third year of the report, which also says that 44 percent of countries with data available (57 out of 129 countries) now experience very serious levels of both undernutrition and overweight conditions and obesity among adults.
This year’s report, titled “From Promise to Impact: Ending Malnutrition by 2030,” comes as many international organizations and institutions and governments are galvanizing around the malnutrition aspect of hunger. This is the first year of work toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition. 2016 is also the start of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition, and new analysis on how much it will cost to reach global nutrition targets has recently been released. The world is poised to make a huge amount of progress against malnutrition over the next 15 years.
During the Washington, D.C., launch, the U.S. announced its new U.S. Government Global Nutrition Coordination Plan 2016-2021. Bread believes the plan will help U.S. agencies work together more effectively to achieve global nutrition targets.
“We are delighted the United States has fulfilled a commitment made at the 2013 Nutrition for Growth Summit and has released its global nutrition coordination plan,” said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. “The plan’s implementation will make it easier to track investments in global nutrition programs.”
From Promise to Impact reports that the world is currently off-track for meeting global nutrition targets. If national governments, donors, and communities continue their current approach to setting political priorities, allocating funding, and implementing programs, malnutrition will continue to affect hundreds of millions of people, mainly women and children.
However, many countries are on track to meet these goals for themselves. And there are proven strategies to help others get back on track. The number of children under 5 who are stunted, a physical and mental result of malnutrition, is declining in every region except Africa and Oceania.
“One in three people suffer from some form of malnutrition,” said Lawrence Haddad, co-chair of the Global Nutrition Report’s Independent Expert Group and senior research fellow at IFPRI. “We now live in a world where being malnourished is the new normal. It is a world that we must all claim as totally unacceptable.”
The report provides examples of the costs of malnutrition to individuals, communities, and whole countries. In the U.S., malnutrition often manifests itself as bad nutrition – getting enough calories but many as “empty calories.” When one person in an American household is obese, the household spends, on average, an additional 8 percent of its annual income in healthcare costs, according to the report.
While dozens of reports on hunger are issued every year, Bread for the World and Bread for the World Institute view them as useful tools in identifying where the problems are. These reports are a first step in rallying political support toward the end of hunger and malnutrition.
“Despite the challenges, malnutrition is not inevitable — ultimately [success against malnutrition] is a political choice: one which we need leaders across the world to make,” said Haddad.
Information from a blog post by Jordan Teague contributed to this article. She is international policy analyst for food security and nutrition at Bread for the World Institute.
Summer means fun for many kids, but for millions of children who spend it without access to free or low-cost lunches, it also means the very real risk of going to bed hungry at night.
That’s why we’re kicking off our summer campaign: raising $40,000 in the next week to demand Congress serve our hungry kids.
Make a special gift by July 15, and every dollar you donate to help Bread for the World reach our $40,000 goal will be matched by a generous group of Bread members – meaning it will go TWICE as far to make a difference for children who can’t get a nutritious lunch this summer.
We need your support today to reinforce the safety net that keeps our most vulnerable children from hunger. Give today.
The Sustainable Development Goals in the United States
In September 2015, the U.S. and 192 other countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – specific aims that will improve the lives of people and help protect the planet. SDG 2 is to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030. It is clearly ambitious – but it is also very feasible.
The SDGs apply to all countries, even our own. Bread for the World Institute’s recent briefing paper, “The Sustainable Development Goals in the United States,” explores how our country can achieve the SDGs, particularly SDG 2. Although the Great Recession technically ended in 2009, many families and communities remain worse off than they were before the recession. For example, about 45 million Americans currently rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) to help put food on the table. The good news is that a variety of advocates, organizations, and elected officials are already engaged in the effort to achieve SDG 2 in the U.S. They include the leaders of all major U.S. faith traditions as well as five city governments and the state of California.
2017 Hunger Report
The next Hunger Report, to be released in November 2016, looks at fragility, which is a significant barrier to ending hunger altogether, but was not necessarily a major concern during the Millennium Development Goals era (2000-2015), when the goal was to cut hunger in half. The report is an annual publication of Bread for the World Institute. Many of the world’s remaining hungry people live in areas that are fragile, a condition that is primarily due to conflict and/or climate change. Refugees, people displaced within their own countries, and others affected by conflict or struggling to support themselves as farmers in a changing climate face complex problems with no easy solutions. Yet ending hunger will require solutions for all of these factors. Watch for more news about the release of the report this fall.
By Jennifer Gonzalez
Joyce Rothermel is no stranger to the issue of hunger.
She is co-founder and former CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. She also help found Jubilee Kitchen, a soup kitchen in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.
So when she recently sat down with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) during Bread’s Lobby Day – her third – she was both gracious and to the point. She wanted him to support increased funding for nutrition in global health programs. She also asked him to support a strong federal child nutrition program and the Global Food Security Act.
“I became a Bread member because I believe that good public policy is the best way to lessen and ultimately eliminate hunger at home and abroad,” Rothermel said. “Bread for the World concentrates on the improvement of U.S. public policy to do just that.”
Rothermel, 70, and others from southwest Pennsylvania also visited the offices of Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Patrick Toomey (R), and dropped off letters at the office of Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-12). “Our Pennsylvania delegation is great in diversity, number, age, and race. It makes me proud to be a Christian in Pennsylvania,” Rothermel said.
Rothermel grew up on a farm west of Canton, Ohio. She was the oldest of four children – and only six years old – when her mother died. While in junior high, her father remarried, and three more children were added to the family. After high school, she entered the Sisters of the Humility of Mary and later attended St. John’s College in Cleveland, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education followed by a master’s degree in education from the University Dayton in Ohio.
Rothermel taught math and religion to Catholic junior high school students from 1967-77, before helping found the Jubilee Kitchen in 1979 and a year later co-founding the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
She served as the food bank’s executive director from 1987 until her retirement in 2011. She said she is most proud of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Food Security Partnership she was able to shepherd during her tenure.
“It is awesome to me to see how a community can respond so effectively together to address a community need,” she said.
Her passion for advocacy stems from her immersion in Catholic social teachings and her association with the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh. She said Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement inspired her to make the guarantee of people’s right to food her life’s work. The missions of Jubilee Kitchen and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank became very practical ways to pursue that focus, she said.
Rothermel said that at the core of the teachings “is respect for the dignity of each and every person and that the most basic way to show respect is to ensure that each and every person's basic needs and basic rights are ensured.”
Her advocacy took further root at the Merton Center, which is focused on peace and social justice issues. Rothermel worked on staff from 1977-87 and is now a board member. She said she and her husband, Michael Drohan, share their time and talent with the Merton Center because “it gives us a communal way to live out our values with fellow travelers who are also committing to building a more peaceful and just world.”
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
Editor’s note: Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures presents a multi-faceted look at God’s nature as advocate and our response as God’s imagers. Co-authored by Bread for the World staff, the book provides a theological rationale for advocacy and guides readers through discerning and acting on a call to advocacy. Books may be purchased at a special discount rate at the Bread store. Use the promo code CHURCH16 for a 15 percent discount.
By Steve Offutt
When evangelicals think about how to alleviate poverty, they rely on two books: When Helping Hurts (2009) by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert and Walking with the Poor (1999) by Bryant Myers. When Helping Hurts has been wildly successful in reaching the evangelicals in the pews. Moody Publishers reports selling more than 300,000 copies. Walking with the Poor has informed evangelical faith-based development initiatives around the world. It has been translated into numerous languages and can be found in many field offices of organizations like World Vision and Compassion International.
The approach to poverty both books take is called transformational development. It ultimately defines poverty as, and traces its causes to, a series of broken relationships – with God, other people, creation, and oneself. Transformational development is the restoration of these relationships, and the goal and ultimate result of such efforts is shalom. The approach has done much good, and these two books have energized evangelicals to care about poverty and provided theoretical coherence to evangelical community development efforts.
There are, however, several downsides to this approach. Advocating for Justice points to four of these. The first is that privileging the definition of poverty as broken relationships over that of a lack of material resources represents a deviation from the biblical notion of poverty, which repeatedly focuses on economic and material concerns. Second, even though the authors of When Helping Hurts and Walking with the Poor are obviously concerned with ending material poverty, this definitional conflation leads to confusion. This is because some who are materially rich have a “poverty of relationships” with God and others, but they are not and should not be considered poor by any normal definition of poverty. Moreover, those who are poor often have excellent relationships with God, others, and themselves. Third, and related to the second, this kind definition feeds the temptation of evangelicals (and many others) to view the poor as spiritually and relationally inferior because the default assumption is that those who are materially poor are also spiritually poor, and vice-versa, which is ironically one of the very things that these authors warn against.
Finally, privileging the relational definition as a cause of poverty tends to lead to a shying away from acknowledging the role political advocacy can play in reducing poverty. For example, while Corbett and Fikkert explain the “systems” that make it difficult for the poor to escape their poverty, they do not include addressing these power structures through political advocacy in the three action categories they offer to alleviate poverty: relief, rehabilitation, and development. Similarly, when Bryant Myers produced an otherwise excellent revised and expanded edition of Walking with the Poor, he gave only a perfunctory nod to political advocacy. He does expand his comments on advocacy from a page and a half in the first edition to scattered mentions on 13 different pages in the later work. But clearly, the most widely read books by evangelicals on poverty reduction largely leave the tool of political advocacy to one side.
Advocating for Justice argues, on the other hand, that an evangelical theory and practice of development must be willing to address power through what it calls transformational advocacy. It defines transformational advocacy as intentional acts of witness by the body of Christ that hold people and institutions accountable for creating, implementing, and sustaining just and good policies and practices geared toward the flourishing of society. In this way it calls evangelicals to continue with their evangelism and community development efforts, but to also “swim upstream” when needed.
Advocacy efforts that are consistent with evangelical praxis and identity should be grounded in local congregations, embedded in discipling relationships, and bathed in prayer. Further, evangelicals should seek truth together and be committed to top-quality research and findings even if the findings contradict their dearly held beliefs and can be used as an argument for the other side. This transformational approach aims not only or even primarily to achieve the political results evangelicals seek. Rather, it encourages evangelicals to faithfully carry out God’s call, whatever the issue, in such a way that people come to know the abundant love of God and the saving power of Jesus Christ and redouble their commitment to nurture their discipleship and struggle with their sin, just as evangelicals struggle with theirs.
In summary, Advocating for Justice hopes to contribute to the transformational development tradition of numerous leading evangelical thinkers over the last several decades, including Myers and Corbett & Fikkert. Advocating for Justice argues that the evangelical definition of poverty should more clearly foreground its material components, that the political sources of poverty should be identified and highlighted, and that the tool of political advocacy, practiced in the way just described, should more regularly be part of the evangelical development practice.
Steve Offutt is co-author of Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structure. The original version of this article was published June 22, 2016, on David Swartz’s Anxious Bench blog channel on Patheos.
In April, Bread’s president, Rev. David Beckmann, received the Julia Vadala Taft Outstanding Leadership Award from InterAction. The award honors outstanding and distinguished leaders in the association's community. The award was presented at a gala banquet during InterAction’s annual convention April 18 to 20 in Washington, D.C.
InterAction is an association of U.S.-based organizations that work in international development and aid, and Bread for the World is a member.
InterAction is continuing to honor Beckmann for his achievements, and to that end it has produced a video about him.
Interaction's CEO, Sam Worthington, writes:
"As CEO of InterAction – the largest coalition of U.S.-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and partners – I have met many uniquely impressive leaders.
"These individuals inspire others, both from within the NGO sector and outside of it, to advocate for a more equal and just world. They spark innovation and encourage partnerships across physical and intangible borders. They make a lasting impact.
"Every year, InterAction celebrates and honors the achievements of these remarkable individuals by presenting the Julia Vadala Taft Outstanding Leadership Award to an individual in the community of U.S.-based international NGOs whose career and vision has transcended his or her own organization by raising the influence and profile of the U.S. NGO sector as a whole. It celebrates the very best of who we are as a sector...
"Even on paper, it is easy to see how David has dedicated his life and career to helping others rise out of poverty and alleviate hunger. We are honored to recognize this commitment, and look forward to working with David, Bread for the World, the Alliance to End Hunger, and all of our members to make this mission a reality."
These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C.
Good nutrition is a critical part of ensuring that all human beings can use their bodies and minds to live an active life and reach their full potential.
Dear Members of Congress,
As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...
This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-African people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.
Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.
Bruce Puckett urged...
These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C.
In 2017, 11.8 percent of households in the U.S.—40 million people—were food-insecure, meaning that they were unsure at some point during the year about how they would provide for their next meal.
Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.
Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...