Millennium Development Goals: Mobilizing Your Parish for Action!

Sponsored by the DioCal MDG Taskforce, a workshop on the morning of February 2 at Church Divinity School of the Pacific features Holly Hight, field organizer for Bread for the World, one of the most respected Christian organizations advocating for the poor and hungry. The workshop will explore the foundational issues underlying global hunger and poverty, cover the background of the MDGs, discuss parish responses to the challenge of the MDGs, train participants to advocate with Congress and the president to make the MDGs a priority of the US Government, and equip lay people and clergy to lead their parishes in projects and actions in support of the Millennium Development Goals.

Episcopalians are denominational partners of Bread for the World, and Bread for the World is a leading partner in the One Campaign. (Learn more about Bread for the World at www.bread.org.) 

During 2007, our diocesan churches did a terrific job of focusing hearts and minds on the global poor, dramatically increasing compassionate activism and giving. All Saints, San Francisco, raised money for a well in Zambia; St. Ambrose, Foster City, created an MDG vacation bible school;  youth of Holy Cross, Castro Valley, and All Saints, San Leandro, are creating large MDG art pieces; St. Paul's, Walnut Creek, is building relationships with a "squatter's slum" in Honduras; and Episcopal Charities is serving fair trade coffee at all their functions, to name just a few of the creative projects under way around the diocese.

In 2008 we are focusing again on the starting point of the MDGs -- a call to all governments of the world to commit .7% of their national budgets to the alleviation of global poverty. Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Luxembourg have all done so. It is past time for the most powerful country in the world to take a leadership role in this global movement.

In the new year, our emphasis is advocacy, turning the focus of our government towards the needs of the world as seen through the lens of the MDGs. Universal education; eradication of malaria, HIV/AIDS and other diseases; health and equality for mothers and children; and care and promotion of sustainability for Mother Earth can all be accomplished with aid from the developing world to poorer countries through global partnerships. To that end, the workshop will provide a template for parishes to participate in a diocesan-wide Lenten project: an offering of letters to our national representatives in support of the Global Poverty Act now before the Senate.

Why must we as Episcopalians advocate for the MDGs?

At the recent Point Seven Now! conference in San Francisco, Alex Baumgarten, international policy analyst of the Episcopal Office of Governmental Relations, eloquently explained why people of faith  are uniquely positioned to lead the movement for the MDGs.

Baumgarten said, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that the poor have faces, but more importantly, they have something to contribute. They may be poor in terms of economics, but they may be quite rich -- in ways our minds can scarcely imagine -- in other ways. That's why the life of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ shows, again and again, favoritism for those the world calls poor. Poverty impoverishes not just the poor, but the rich as well.

"That is a very vital piece of building the global will to achieve the MDGs, but it's largely missing. When Congress believes that poverty in Africa or Haiti hurts our own nation, hurts the stability of the world, hurts little boys and girls being born today in San Francisco and Sioux Falls -- not just Nairobi and Port au Prince -- that's when real progress will begin."

There is a powerful national movement afoot to make the MDGs a reality. We as a national church have committed to being an Episcopalian part of this train. This is not a short term trip but a long term journey to promote global flourishing. We are using a variety of creative means to reach those who lack food, clean water, clothing, education and, most of all, dignity. Governmental advocacy may be the most important of these means.

Please join us on February 2 to explore how you and your parish can respond to Jesus when he reminds us "whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto to me." RSVP for the workshop by emailing your name, email address, phone number, and parish or organizational affiliation to syoung@stjames.org.

Nina Brooks and Shari Young are co-chairs of the diocesan Millennium Development Goals Taskforce.