By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (October 11, 2013)—The government shutdown is impacting people who attend Covenant churches as well as outreaches from congregations, say some pastors.
“For my church it is the ending of the WIC program that has an impact,” said Beth Ernest, transitional pastor at Morning Star Church, a Covenant congregation in Middleville, Michigan. “A single mother with young children will need our help to supplement her lost food source.”
“I am not hearing anything from our church folks about that yet, which doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” said Reid Olson, pastor of Crossroads Covenant Church in Greeley, Colorado. “Sometimes those who are affected by the cost of living, such as the WIC program, don’t want to speak up and be more embarrassed.”
Covenant ministers and others are expressing their frustration with the inability of political parties to reach a deal on the government shutdown, saying the stalemate is hurting the poor and vulnerable the most.
Brad Boydston, pastor of Masterpiece Church, a Covenant congregation in Laveen, Arizona, wrote to his congregation last week that the shutdown has halted employment opportunities for a new immigrant who is participating in the congregation’s English conversation class.
“He just arrived from Iran on Monday with his new green card in hand—eager to jump into American life,” Boydston wrote. “But he can’t work because the government isn’t issuing new social security cards during the shutdown. And you need such a card in order to get a job. Likewise, you need a social security card to get a driver’s license in Arizona. Much to his credit he’s rolling well with the whole thing.”
Boydston and other Covenant leaders say they are angered by the political inability to reach a compromise.
“Regardless of who is most in the right and who is most in the wrong, people are hurt every time we dig our heels in,” Boydston told his congregation. “Usually those people are the weakest and most vulnerable in society. Some of it is unavoidable. But that doesn’t mean that we are blind to the human cost that racks up whenever we pursue change. And frankly, God is more interested in whether we’re looking out for the weak and vulnerable than in who wins the argument.… The political situation is just a grand absurd object lesson of what happens when we lose sight of the people around us.”
Covenanter Lisa Sharon Harper, director of mobilizing for Sojourners, has helped lead “Faithful Filibuster,” a cross-section of Christian leaders who have gathered each day across the street from Capitol Hill since last Wednesday to read what they say are the 2,000 verses in Scripture pointing to God’s call to care for the poor.
“When tens of millions of Americans are having trouble putting food on the table for their families it’s a systemic problem that needs a systemic solution,” she said. “Our government needs to be part of that solution, and it’s hard to do that when our nation’s leaders put politics above public service.“
The ecumenical group Circle of Protection is sponsoring the filibuster. Among those reading Scripture have been Jim Wallis of Sojourners, David Beckmann from Bread for the World, Galen Carey from the National Association of Evangelicals, Kathy Saile of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Carol Busroe of the Salvation Army.
“Our words will not be wasted diatribes or placements of blame,” Wallis wrote on his blog. “Rather, we will use God’s own words—reading the more than 2,000 Bible verses that speak to God’s justice for the poor and vulnerable—until this shutdown ends.”
At times, the growing number of participants have stood under umbrellas in a pouring rain to read verses. People passing by have stopped throughout the time to participate as well.
Debbie Blue, executive minister of the Department of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice, said Congress has the moral imperative to protect the poor and that both parties are failing in that responsibility. She encouraged Covenant churches to communicate with legislators and even hold their own filibusters.