UMNS Commentary: Now's the time to end extreme poverty
by Bishop Peter D. Weaver
Following the Group of Eight leaders' meeting in Scotland, one fact is clear: The world is in a position to end extreme poverty in this generation. The technology, resources and cooperative networks are in place to get it done.
No longer does a child need to die every three seconds of preventable causes. No longer do more than one billion people need to live with little or no food, education or health care. No longer do the poor need to become poorer because of trade injustices.
Jesus' vision of good news for the poor and the human family is within sight. This was the first objective for his spirit-anointed ministry, according to Luke 4:18.
The United Methodist Church is playing a role in the expanding movement aimed at ending poverty. Before the G8 summit opened, I was part of a broad-based, 11-member U.S. delegation that met in London with about 40 religious leaders from Africa and Great Britain. The group was called together by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
This show of solidarity for the poor demonstrated our unity as Christians and challenged the world's leaders to take bold steps to grant debt relief, increase aid and develop just trade policies in developing countries.
Before leaving for the United Kingdom, our delegation met with the senior White House staff members responsible for G8 summit preparations. We affirmed the positive steps the Bush administration has taken and urged the president to take additional, critically needed - and bold - steps. It was also clear that Congress must be encouraged to give full funding for undertakings as the Millennium Development Grants. These grants are established by world leaders to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and other problems.
In London, we met with Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer (the British secretary of the treasury). He is urging U.S. churches to help create the moral and political will to fulfill the goals that have been set, such as dedicating .07 percent of the gross domestic product to eliminating poverty. He spoke passionately about meeting a man with AIDS in Tanzania, who said to him, "Are we not brothers?"
In all of the financial complexity, the central question is "how we will live together as sisters and brothers, justly and compassionately, sharing the resources that God has entrusted to the human family so that, in partnership, all may be empowered and blessed."
Our second major meeting was a consultation of about 50 African, British and U.S. representatives convened by the archbishop of Canterbury to discuss the major issues of the G8 summit from a theological perspective, to craft a statement to the G8 summit leaders and to plan next steps in an international faith community effort to end extreme poverty. As Archbishop Rowan said, "The poverty of one is the poverty of all." It was also noted that most Christians around the world are themselves poor.
This emerging movement of a broad global and ecumenical commitment to end extreme poverty reminds me of the historic 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference that launched the 20th Century Missions Movement, bringing together a wide diversity of Christians for the "evangelism of the world in this generation." Part of the 21st century evangel, or "good news," for the poor for whom Christ came were in evidence at Edinburgh during the G8 summit. Christian perspectives from the global south as well as in the wealthy nations were critical to these meetings. God's transforming Spirit is at work.
By God's grace, some amazing things are emerging and converging in this moment of our history. Consider these recent developments:
Yes, God is moving forward. United Methodists can join the movement to make poverty history. Here are some ways:
More information on the G8 summit can be found at www.g8.gov.uk. Additional information on the meeting of religious leaders in London is at www.archbishopofcanterbury.org. You can learn more about the ONE Campaign at www.one.org.
*Weaver is president of the United Methodist Church Council of Bishops and leader of the United Methodist Church's Boston Area.
Date posted: Jul 11, 2005