Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
as delivered by J. Herbert Nelson, II, Director for Public Witness

Prepared Remarks for the Release of “Priorities for a Faithful Budget: Acting with Mercy and Justice as One Nation Under God.”

I am proud to stand with my sisters and brothers in the Faithful Budget Campaign to put these budget priorities before Congress.

This Faithful Budget provides a stark counterpoint to the budget conversations going on among Congressional leaders this week.  Right now, members of Congress are approaching budget decisions from a perspective of scarcity.  But this is the wrong approach.  This nation has abundant resources, not only in money and commodities, but in human spirit and a commitment to care for one another.

The faithful budget calls on decision makers to think from a new paradigm. We should not base budget decisions on an artificial understanding of how little there is to go around, but rather, we must identify the need and then meet it.  Budget decisions are not about graphs and pie charts – they are about people, whose lives are affected daily by the budget decisions we make at the national level.

In the Church, we know this.  Our ministries of charity and mercy are the front lines of the fight against poverty, inequality, and injustice.  In a recent survey of Presbyterian churches, we found that nearly 120,000 Presbyterians engaged in congregational mission to people suffering from homelessness, and at least 75% percent report increased homelessness in their region. 

And we know from our partners, as well, that the need is growing, even as resources are dwindling.  Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, reports that demand has risen 46% in the last four years.   

We know that people are struggling, because they come to us first.  Pastors and churches are frequently the first stop after someone loses a job or learns that rent is going up. People who were once generous donors to our ministries now find themselves in need, and receiving the services they once funded.  The faith community needs the social safety net to remain strong.  It is only through a partnership between government programs and private and faith-based charity, that we are keeping millions of heads above water. 

We must ensure that our federal spending reflects our national priorities, and that means realizing that these numbers are really faces.  It means changing the way we do budget altogether.  It means identifying what we need to do, to ensure wholeness and security for all people, and then doing it.  And if that means that those who have been richly blessed must contribute more to the good of all, then let it be so.