From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LCMS - Harrison says fed views people of faith as allies

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Mon, 30 Dec 2002 11:38:34 -0800

The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
Board for Communication Services

LCMSNews -- No. 82
December 27, 2002

Harrison says fed views people of faith as allies

The "most significant" aspect of an executive order issued Dec. 12 by
President George W. Bush as part of his faith-based initiatives "is that
people of faith are increasingly viewed by the federal government as allies
and aids in the quest to build a more decent, compassionate, just and caring
society," said Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, executive director of LCMS World
Relief and Human Care.

Harrison was in attendance when Bush signed the order in Philadelphia, and
spoke with the president afterward, thanking him for his work on behalf of
faith-based organizations.

Titled "Equal Protection of the Laws for Faith-based and Community
Organizations," the order prohibits federal funding agencies from
discriminating on the basis of religion, giving religious organizations
wider access to federal money and, in the process, strengthening their
ability to meet social needs in their communities.

It basically puts religious and secular charities on equal footing when it
comes to receiving federal money for social-service programs, according to

Hundreds of Christian leaders and representatives of other faith-based
groups attended the signing in Philadelphia, which included workshops
designed to help religious organizations obtain government funding.

"Faith-based groups will never replace government when it comes to helping
those in need," Bush told those attending.  "Yet government must recognize
the power and unique contribution of faith-based groups in every part of our

"And when the federal government gives contracts to private groups to
provide social services, religious groups should have an equal chance to
compete.  When decisions are made on public funding, we should not focus on
the religion you practice; we should focus on the results you deliver."

With the new order in place, "there will be fewer instances of gratuitous
discrimination," Harrison said, citing the case of a Lutheran institution
that was asked to remove the word "God" from its mission statement in order
to receive federal funds.

Harrison said the order provides "a tremendous opportunity to reassert our
core Lutheran and Scriptural values" -- including displaying Christian
symbols and wording -- "where we are already receiving federal program

That's significant, he said, when you consider that LCMS-recognized
institutions are part of Lutheran Services in America, the nation's largest
non-profit organization and the largest recipient of federal funding for
human services.

Synod entities, particularly congregations and districts, Harrison said,
"must make use of the tremendous opportunities we have for new participation
in the full range of social service, funded whole or in part by government,
and to remain decidedly Lutheran in doing so.

"The expanding opportunities for a congregation to become a catalyst for
inner-city housing construction in its neighborhood, or for the construction
of housing for seniors or the developmentally disabled, is very exciting,"
he said.  "And though the provisions [of the order] are crystal clear that
no federal dollars are to go to explicitly religious activities" -- such as
Bible study or worship -- "still, the church is free to be who she is, and
make responsible use of the myriad opportunities to touch lives in love with
the Gospel spoken."

The order is the latest in a series of actions taken by Bush to "rally the
armies of compassion" in America.  Early in his presidency, Bush established
the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives (FBCI), and later
established FBCI offices in each of the federal government's Cabinet-level

The Philadelphia meeting gave Harrison a chance to reconnect with FBCI
Director James Touey and Mel Martinez, secretary of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD).  He and LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick met in November
with both at their respective offices in Washington.

Now, as a result of Bush's order and encouragement from Martinez, Harrison
said he plans to apply for a HUD grant that would enable his office to
provide housing funds and technical assistance -- such as legal advice and
how to partner with others -- to LCMS districts and congregations.

Harrison said LCMS World Relief and Human Care has been "inundated" with
requests for housing assistance, even though its ability to provide funding
is "very limited."

The president's initiative, he said, will "increase our capacity
one-hundredfold for assisting these projects."

For information on housing assistance or other human care ministries,
contact LCMS World Relief and Human Care at (800) 248-1930, Ext. 1380.


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