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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Bishop: Poverty is No. 1 social issue

Taking care of poor more important than fighting gay marriage, church leader says

October 19, 2005

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— Christians should be worrying more about the poor and less about issues such as gay marriage, the state's top Methodist bishop said Tuesday.

"The Bible gives much more attention to poverty and its related issues than it does to sex," Scott Jones said, prompting applause from the audience of 140 pastors, activists and social workers gathered at a Methodist-sponsored conference.

If Jones has his way, there will soon be a new voice in the state's debate over health care and services for the poor.

"In the coming year, I hope you'll be hearing a lot more from the United Methodists than you did a year ago," Jones, bishop for the Kansas Area United Methodist Church, said.

Jones vowed to lead a church-based initiative aimed at reminding the state's conservative politicians that as Christians, they ought to care less about issues such as banning gay marriage, and more about ensuring health care and justice for the poor.

"I am convinced that God cares deeply how we treat persons who are in need and that a faithful, holistic reading of the Bible will lead us to give a much higher degree of attention to issues of poverty than they have been getting in recent political debates."

The state's poor, Jones said, warrant the same level of compassion as do victims of Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami that struck South Asia late last year.

Jones said he and his Episcopal and Lutheran counterparts will issue nonpartisan position papers on several issues prior to the 2006 legislative session.

Rebecca Gant, left, and Sean Atchley pack up food for the poor at First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt. Members of the church hold food drives and assemble kits with heath goods, back-to-school items and baby items to fight poverty in Kansas.

Rebecca Gant, left, and Sean Atchley pack up food for the poor at First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt. Members of the church hold food drives and assemble kits with heath goods, back-to-school items and baby items to fight poverty in Kansas.

In one of the papers, he said, the churches will argue that access to health care should be viewed as a right rather than a privilege for the insured. Recent surveys have found that 300,000 Kansans do not have health insurance.

Jones also said he expects the group to oppose the conservative-led Taxpayers' Bill of Rights initiative. He called the initiative "a great deception."

Jones' comments coincide with legislators looking for ways to limit increases in the state's $1.8 billion Medicaid budget.

Medicaid, a 60/40 blend of federal and state funds, underwrites health care for the poor.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a conservative Republican from Wichita, said she would welcome the churches' input.

"The Kansas Catholic Conference puts together a report every year. I'm Catholic, I read it every year," she said.

But Landwehr, a key player in assembling the state's social-services budget, warned that legislators in 2006 will be hard-pressed to come up with enough money to fund public schools and increase services for the poor.

"I'm very concerned that pretty soon, we're going to have one budget - the schools' - dictate what happens in this state," Landwehr said.

Kansas Catholic Conference executive director Mike Farmer defended gay-marriage restrictions being a priority. With strong support from Catholics and evangelical Protestant churches, Kansas lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that drew overwhelming support from Kansas voters.

"There are a lot balls out there to keep an eye on," Farmer said. "We try not to lose sight of any of them."

Farmer, too, warned that school and Medicaid funding are on a collision course.

"Every year, there's talk of a possible train wreck within the budget," Farmer, a former Republican legislator from Wichita, said. "But there are several freight trains looking like they'll be coming together next year."

Still, Jones' comments struck a chord with Sharlan Graber, co-pastor for four small churches in northeastern Riley County.

"As a church, we've not been heard on these issues for far too long," she said.

Comments

kansasboy 8 years, 6 months ago

I'll help the poor. I'll help them find a job! When was the minimum wage last raised? I think it was back in Reagans' era.

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AlanCobb 8 years, 6 months ago

Tell me how TABOR hurts the poor?

From a September 2005 U.S. Census report on poverty and income

Change in median income from 2003 to 2004

Colorado: increase of .3% Kansas: decrease of 4.2%

3-year average poverty rate, from 2002 to 2004

Colorado: 9.8% Kansas: 10.7%

Change from 03 to 04 Colorado: .1% Kansas: .7%

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princess 8 years, 6 months ago

dirkleisure...

I would like to take this opportunity to say the following to you my friend:

Awwwwww, Snap!!!

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John1945 8 years, 6 months ago

Ahh, I see the censor has a heavy hand again today. Nothing like truncating the debate on one side of the issue. Apparently the referree thinks you guys need some help.

Wir sprechen nur von dem links.

Nicht sprechen von der recht.

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John1945 8 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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dirkleisure 8 years, 6 months ago

I can't think of anything more Christian than the comments blasting Methodists I've just read.

"We're better Christians than you." Romans 3:15? Revelations? Can somebody help me find that?

"Build not giant churches, but dye your hair purple and preach on the television." Is that in John or Luke? Is it one of the Psalms? Song of Solomon?

"Order all those around you to think and act as you do." Wait, I know where that comes from.

Pharisees. All of you. Pharisees and money-changers, taking over the Temple.

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Horace 8 years, 6 months ago

Leave it to the methodists to be the standard bearers of moral decadence.

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Eybea Opiner 8 years, 6 months ago

Bishop Jones is entering the partisan fray. He should worry less about the state's taxation policies and more about separating his flock from their money so that the Methodist church can do more to help the disadvantaged. If they didn't build and own such grandiose buildings they could do more, perhaps.

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lunacydetector 8 years, 6 months ago

he must've known it would play well in lawrence.

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BDub 8 years, 6 months ago

Bishop Jones is absolutely on the right track.

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erichaar 8 years, 6 months ago

Read: Because we're members of the religious left, we're against legislation protecting traditional marriage.

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Bubarubu 8 years, 6 months ago

Preach on Bishop Jones! Five years ago, we were promised faith-based initiatives would help the poor and make it easier for people to get the help they need. I know too many Christians, in Kansas and around the country, who are fed up with the representation Christians currently get when it comes to policy at the state and federal level. If the UMC can take up this banner, in favor of social programs and against these anti-tax straitjackets, then so can other churches, and maybe we can make some significant steps towards aiding the disadvantaged.

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