New York, N.Y. ( November 3, 2009)—A new coalition of mainstream clergy and academics from houses of worship, seminaries and universities, and ecclesiastical organizations throughout New York City has issued a statement on the U.S. economy, saying “The economic crisis is a moral issue. Therefore, our response to it must be framed in moral terms.” (See “Statement on the Economy”)
In almost every news cycle, religious fundamentalists can be heard raising their voices on a range of social issues. The purpose of the Faith and Public Policy Roundtable is to provide a non-fundamentalist voice of faith in the American public square.
“It has been a long time since prophetic voices in the tradition of Heschel and Niebuhr have been heard in American civic life,” said Rabbi Abraham Unger, Ph.D., rabbi of Staten Island’s Congregation Ahavath Israel and Jewish chaplain at Wagner College.
“We want to serve as a think tank that joins the concerns of faith to the concerns of society,” said Pastor Gary Mills, assistant to the bishop for global and multicultural administration to the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. “It is high time for mainstream, non-fundamentalist religious leadership and scholars to re-emerge in the American conversation on issues like the economy, education, war and peace, and healthcare, to name just a few.”
Unger and Mills, founding co-chairmen of the Faith and Public Policy Roundtable, spoke on the release of their group’s first white paper: “Statement on the Economy,” which addresses the moral dimension of economic justice. The paper emphasizes several points, including the following: The economic crisis is a moral issue. Poverty persists and deepens because of a disengagement of the financial sector from civil society. Our civic and public institutions have weakened as checks on institutional gluttony. Our personal and collective responsibilities to each other — locally, nationally, and globally—are rooted in our belief in the sacredness of human life. The public message of faith today calls on every American to become more profoundly engaged in our nation’s civic life through service and advocacy, to demand deeper accountability of our public and private institutions.
The “Statement on the Economy” has been signed by 33 clergy, scholars, and ecclesiastical officials to date, ranging from the Roman Catholic community to the Lutheran community and the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish movements. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, is among the signatories.
“This economy has opened up a window for discussion of the common values and texts that bind us together as Americans and as members of the human family,” said Patrick Ryan, S.J., the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham, and a founding steering committee member of the Faith and Public Policy Roundtable. “Our task is to articulate those values and provide thinking on their civic and spiritual dimensions.”
To follow up on the release of their white paper on the economy, the Roundtable has organized a Call to Action Weekend involving more than 200 New York area houses of worship for Nov. 20-22, the weekend before Thanksgiving, which will feature:
1. Thematically coordinated sermons among the houses of worship participating in this Call to Action
2. Charitable advocacy calling on religious leaders to encourage their parishioners to seek out charitable organizations and other means by which those persons in need are offered sustainable aid.
3. A lifting up of community-based service programs already in place, and story-telling within our communities relating to social and economic justice.