From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSAnews] GAC applauds Jubilee 2000 campaign

Date 26 Feb 2001 11:50:35

Note #6403 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

GAC applauds Jubilee 2000 campaign 

GAC applauds Jubilee 2000 campaign 

Video about debt-relief campaign will go to Assembly

by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE - Members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly
Council (GAC) took time during a recent meeting here to celebrate the
religious community's success in loosening the chains of international debt.
Responding to a recommendation from the National Ministries Division (NMD)
Committee, the council affirmed the unprecedented debt-cancellation
victories of the Jubilee 2000/USA campaign, which eased the burden of debt
on some of the world's poorest nations by pressuring governments and
international financial institutions to forgive millions of dollars of debt.
The council's action came in response to the NMD panel's report, presented
on Feb. 23, which highlighted the role played by faith groups - including
Presbyterians - in the national, bipartisan grassroots coalition that
organized rallies, wrote and visited lawmakers and successfully lobbied for
debt-relief legislation that will help poor nations feed and educate their
Reading from the recommendation, NMD chair Emily Wigger said the debt-relief
campaign, which was linked to an international Jubilee movement, brought
about "some measure of justice for the world's poorest and (most)
beleaguered citizens," while affirming "God's call to all of us to do
justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God."
Wigger said Presbyterians  - individuals, congregations, presbyteries and
synods - were instrumental in making a success of the Jubilee 2000 campaign,
which is based on a passage from the Old Testament book of Leviticus that
describes a Year of Jubilee that comes once every 50 years, when slaves are
freed and debt is canceled.
Wigger, of Alton, IL, said the denomination's debt-relief work was
accomplished by a partnership of PC(USA) staff and funded by the church's
three mission divisions - Worldwide Ministries (WMD), Congregational
Ministries (CMD) and NMD - and coordinated by the Presbyterian Washington
The Presbyterian Hunger Program, along with the Women's Ministries,
Presbyterian Women, the denomination's social-justice program area and the
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program actively supported the campaign.
 "The Presbyterian denomination really has been the heart of this from the
very beginning," Dan Driscoll-Shaw, a former Maryknoll priest who served as
coordinator of the Jubilee 2000/USA initiative, said during a recent meeting
in Denver, CO, devoted to planning the future of the initiative, now called
the Jubilee 2000 Network. "Frankly, the Presbyterian Church has been one of
the most open and creative to say, 'We're here and we're going to move with
this,' and that's really important."
Wigger referred to the PC(USA)'s long history of involvement in
debt-reduction campaigns. In 1989, the General Assembly (GA) approved a
document called "The Third World Debt Dilemma," providing a policy basis for
advocacy of debt relief for impoverished nations. That document was
reaffirmed by assemblies in 1996, 1998 and 1999.
The Jubilee campaign scored a big coup on Nov. 6, when then-President Bill
Clinton signed into law a foreign-aid bill that included a $435-million
appropriation to the global effort to erase as much as $90 billion owed by
poor nations, most of them in Africa. Supporters say the campaign will free
up millions of dollars for desperately needed social and human services.
The Rev. Walter Owensby, the former associate for international issues at
the Presbyterian Washington Office, helped develop the key debt-relief
concepts that became part of the bill.
Council members were shown a brief video of the White House news conference
during which the legislation's passage was announced. The C-SPAN broadcast
excerpt featured Clinton and, among others, the Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory,
director of the Presbyterian Washington Office. The clip will be included
with the GAC's report to the 213th GA in Louisville in June.
"For these poor nations, the future is almost hopeless because of this
crushing debt," Giddings said at the November news conference. "Hopelessness
is what the Biblical jubilee was designed to avoid, and why it is time to
lift this burden of over 50 years of bad economic decisions that has created
the present debt crisis."
In calling for an end to the debt, Presbyterians joined with other faith
groups, including the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), the Methodist and
Lutheran churches, a number of Catholic orders, and the Union of American
Hebrew Congregations.
"Not Since Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil-rights movement have
religious people at the grassroots level so clearly been responsible for
raising a justice issue and bringing change," the Rev. David Beckmann,
president of the anti-hunger organization, Bread for the World, said during
the news conference.

Jubilee facelift

Jubilee 2000 was conceived as a one-year campaign. However, a transition
team of eight grassroots representatives and six members of the existing
Jubilee 2000/USA Steering Committee - including one PC(USA) staff member -
came together in September to formulate a long-term vision for the campaign.
They decided to continue advocating for debt relief, but to broaden the
group's focus to include social-justice and health-related issues facing the
world's poor, such as HIV/AIDS.
Earlier this month, three PC(USA)-related officials gathered in Denver with
about 75 other ecumenical representatives to build on the Jubilee vision and
ratify the name change. Attending from the Presbyterian Church were Melanie
Hardison, a PC(USA) staffer who coordinated the denomination's Jubilee 2000
efforts, Karen Fritsch, moderator of Presbyterian Women (PW), and DeLaina
Gumbs, an intern in the denomination's Women's Ministries program area.

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