Fifty people gathered in Washington on December 7 for Call to Renewals Fourth National Roundtable of Christian leaders, and it resulted in an exciting consensus about Call to Renewals future. Just by gracing a common table, they embodied the Calls vision: Diverse Christians putting aside their differences to focus on overcoming poverty in this richest of lands.
The group included representatives of the U.S. Catholic Conference, Progressive National Baptist Convention, National Association of Evangelicals, National Council of Churches, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Habitat for Humanity, World Vision, Christian Reformed Church, Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints, and the Assemblies of God. Also represented were Bread for the World, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Evangelicals for Social Action, Christian Community Development Association, and Public/Private Ventures, among others.
They had before them a draft document to review and discuss. Titled "A Covenant with Americas Poor," it came out of work done by the Calls Policy Team, a group of researchers and academics chaired by the University of Pennsylvanias John DiIulio and Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, and contained policy ideas to inject into the 2000 political campaign year.
Roundtable participants lost no time jumping into a spirited debate about the meaning of "covenant," the content of the document, its purpose, and the tone it should take. By the end of the day, a consensus had emerged that energized participants and staff alike. As later ratified by the Calls board, there will now be a shorter covenant, substantially the same as the one being used to recruit individuals to become Call members. All national partners and local affiliates will be asked to sign it. (The covenant can be found on the Calls Web site.)
Meanwhile, what the Policy Team proposed to the Roundtable will be turned into a foundational "charter" for a 10-year campaign by the Call to overcome poverty in the United States. The charter will challenge both the church and different sectors of society with five planks representing needed action. The Call will invite business, labor, nonprofits, grant-makers, and government into dialogue about the planksdialogue that will inevitably refine and strengthen them.
Here are the main elements of the draft charter:
"As Christians, we pledge to redouble the efforts of our churches and faith-based organizations to:
Make poverty and poor people a "Sunday morning issue" and an everyday commitment.
Prioritize children and youth who are growing up in poverty with mentoring, monitoring, and ministering on a scale never undertaken before.
Take responsibility for particular neighborhoods and streets where poverty and violence now prevail.
Work to rebuild the bonds of family and community by reweaving the webs of relationship that raise our children, nurture our lives, and hold the civil order together.
Help lead efforts for the revitalizing of economic life.
Commit ourselves to the struggle to dismantle racism.
"We believe that biblical norms and values compel us to promote five goals that we believe every sector in this society should seek in its own unique way to achieve:
1. A living family income for responsible work.
2. Affordable quality health care for everyone.
3. Schools that work for people of all ages, especially our children.
4. Family-friendly programs and policies in every sector of society.
5. Respect for the dignity of every person.
The document is to be presented to participants at the Calls national Summit in Washington, D.C., which begins February 13. A February 16 rally on the U.S. Capitol steps will kick off the campaign for 2000 and beyond.
MIKE BRUINOOGE is national coordinator of Call to Renewal, 2401 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009; (202) 328-8745; firstname.lastname@example.org; or www.calltorenewal.com.