From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Assembly Hears Hunger Report

Date Fri, 15 Aug 2003 12:07:44 -0500


August 15, 2003

ELCA Assembly Hears Hunger Report

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- Lutherans strive to address chronic
hunger and poverty in the United States and world as reported by
the World Hunger program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA) to the 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
     Participants heard of dire need and creative response from
related activities of the World Hunger Appeal, which collects
designated funds for poverty relief and development; Lutheran
World Relief (LWR), which works for justice with partners in 50
countries; and Stand With Africa, an education, advocacy and
giving effort by the ELCA, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 11-17 at the Midwest Airlines
Center. There are about 2,100 people participating, including
1,031 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly is
"Making Christ Known: For the Healing of the World."
     "The World Hunger Program is the way our church has chosen
to be a faithful, reliable partner in the worldwide movement to
end chronic hunger, to say 'yes' to the healing of the world,"
said Lita Brusick Johnson, director of World Hunger Appeal. "The
ELCA World Hunger Program is about saying 'yes' in a complex
world, through relief that keeps people alive in times of crisis
and through sustainable development and long-term companionship
with communities that break the cycle of poverty that causes
     The 1999 ELCA Churchwide Assembly set a goal of increasing
giving to the World Hunger Appeal from $12.5 million to $25
million by 2005. That averages $5 per member instead of 50 per
member. In 2002, $17 million was raised, which Johnson called
     According to Johnson, efforts of Lutheran young people have
been inspiring. Youth challenged each other to bring $1 million
in quarters for hunger relief to the recent ELCA Youth Gathering
in Atlanta, Ga., July 16-20 and July 23-27. Over $660,000 have
already been raised, "more than 16 tons of quarters!" said
     According to the Rev. E. Roy Riley, Jr., bishop of the ELCA
New Jersey Synod, over 31 million U.S. citizens are living below
the government poverty level, 1 million African Americans live in
"extreme poverty" (defined as living at less than half of the
poverty level), and one in six children in this country is living
in poverty. "That's not just a crisis, that's a scandal," said
Riley. "The scandal is ours to deal with. And, by the grace of
God, the reality of hope and healing is ours to deliver," he
     In the New Jersey Synod three years ago, Lutheran business
leaders were invited to help the synod brainstorm on how to
address poverty in their states. Hearing stories directly from
people living in poverty was part of the agenda. "[The business
leaders] were dumbfounded. They had never known anyone who lived
in financial poverty," said Riley. "Their only reference for the
poor was the homeless person they would occasionally see sleeping
on a city sidewalk."
     Kathryn Wolford, president of Lutheran World Relief,
highlighted the organization's efforts for shelter, protection
and economic support for people around the world. "Their lives do
indeed count, not just their debts," Wolford said.
     Among LWR programs making a difference in people's lives is
coordination of fair trade with coffee, tea, cocoa and handicraft
suppliers. "Lutherans are leading the country in promoting fair
trade. Fair trade provides fair wage for some of the poorest
farmers in the world," said Wolford.
     More than $1.3 million has been given by members of
congregations to "Stand With Africa" since 2001 to promote
efforts to overcome the HIV/AIDS epidemic, banish hunger and
transform conflict to peace. An additional $350,000 was
designated by the ELCA Church Council since the 2001 Churchwide
     The World Hunger Program report was concluded by
participants waving colorful scarves from Bangladesh.
     "[The scarves'] story goes back to 1971 when the Lutheran
World Federation, our worldwide Lutheran family, provided food
and shelter to refugees fleeing war. When Bangladesh achieved
independence, Lutheran World Federation returned to help rebuild
and escape the silent disaster of chronic hunger through
comprehensive rural community development," said Johnson.
Assembly participants were asked to reflect upon the soft silk
and calloused hands of the women who pulled the strong fibers for
the scarves. The women who labored to feed their families and the
World Hunger partners whose prayers, gifts and advocacy seeded
the program were described as the "warp and woof of the weave."
"Breaking the cycle of poverty takes hard work, skill and
commitment over time," said Johnson. "The result is luminescent."
-- -- --
Information about the ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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