St. Paul Pioneer Press, 16 Oct 99

ELCA bishops to write pastoral letter on people in poverty 

The Conference of Bishops of the ELCA is expected to prepare a pastoral letter for church members on ministry with people living in poverty.

Concern for people living in poverty has been at the top of the bishops' agenda for two years, said the Rev. Charles Maahs, chairman of the conference for the last four years and bishop of the Central States Synod, Shawnee Mission, Kan.

``Jesus certainly directed us to the deprived as the ones who gave shape to his continued presence in the world,'' said Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson.

The denomination has designated $3 million for ministries with people in poverty, including support for hunger programs.

``We are in the midst of a four-year economic boom,'' said the Rev. E. Roy Riley, bishop of the ELCA New Jersey Synod. Still, he said, 34.5 million people are living below the poverty line.

``In this country we think of the poor as losers,'' he added. ``Jesus didn't see people living in poverty as losers. We must get to know the people in poverty in this country. They are not losers. They are people with gifts and abilities. They just lack access.''

The shape of the letter has not yet been determined but is likely to build on the church's social statement on economic life adopted by its Churchwide Assembly earlier this year.

-- Religion News Service