From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Clinton Looks to Churches to Support

Date 11 Mar 1997 10:37:30

              Clinton Looks to Churches to Support  
                      Welfare Reform Program 
                          by Tracy Early 
                 Ecumenical News International   
NEW YORK--President Bill Clinton is looking to the country's churches to 
support his program of moving people off welfare and into jobs. 
     Clinton chose the significant setting of Riverside Church, New York, 
to make his appeal Feb.  18 to the churches. Riverside, a large 
interdenominational congregation, has long been a leader in liberal causes 
in the United States. 
     Clinton, who has promoted himself as a new-style, more centrist 
Democrat, was widely criticized last year by his liberal supporters in the 
churches and elsewhere for signing a bill passed by the 
Republican-controlled Congress and designed to end many traditional 
guarantees of government assistance.  
     He has acknowledged that more jobs must be found for those forced off 
welfare and has called on churches, other nonprofit organizations and 
businesses to help provide the jobs. 
     At Riverside, Clinton suggested that if even half the larger churches 
would employ one person on welfare, that would do a lot to make his reform 
program work.  
     Clinton apparently decided to spotlight Riverside when he learned from 
its pastor, the  James A. Forbes Jr., that it was itself hiring a number of 
former welfare recipients and launching a new "partnership of hope" program 
to help others obtain jobs.  The church was  ready to enter into 
partnership with Clinton to achieve "emancipation from  poverty," Forbes 
     Clinton was joined at Riverside by a number of panelists chosen to 
speak about the welfare situation from different perspectives.  
          Paul H. Sherry, president of the United Church of Christ and one 
of the panelists, told Clinton the churches were "eager to enter into 
partnership."  But he also called for greater efforts to tell the nation 
how serious the  problems of poverty were and to secure a national 
commitment to "the well-being of families and children."  
          Clinton defended his action in signing last year's welfare bill 
after one man charged it would destroy a "safety net" needed by many people 
but acknowledged, however, a need for a  change to restore benefits the 
bill denied to legal immigrants. Clinton also said he opposed rules that 
would make people on welfare attending college withdraw to take jobs.  
          By coincidence, the executive board of the National Council of 
Churches (NCC) was meeting at the nearby Interchurch Center at the time 
Clinton was at Riverside Church and accepted an  invitation to send a 
delegation to join some 200 people invited to the  presidential appearance. 
Craig B. Anderson, an Episcopal bishop, the president-elect of the NCC, 
told ENI  that the event had been "helpful" and that he had found the 
president "open."  
          But he warned: "The church can do a limited amount, but it cannot 
carry the weight of what's being asked for." 

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