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Press Release
January 15, 2015

Christian Leaders Challenge U.S. Presidential Candidates

Washington, D.C. – As President Obama prepares to present his plan for his final two years in office in the annual State of the Union address next week, a group of Christian leaders is already looking ahead to what the next president may do to address hunger and poverty.

The group of 100 Christian leaders around the country is challenging the presidential candidates to appear on camera in a video stating how they propose to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad.

“We are praying for a president who will make ending hunger and poverty a top priority of his or her administration. Are you that leader?” a statement from the group asks. Read the full statement.

The leaders, convened by the Circle of Protection, represent a diverse array of Christian denominations, churches, colleges, and agencies across the country. They will disseminate the videos throughout their networks and memberships in order to raise hunger and poverty as an election issue.

“We will be calling on people of faith to examine presidential candidates to see if they have a heart for poor and hungry people. We want to know how each candidate proposes to fulfill the mandate to those who govern to “give deliverance to the needy” (Psalm 72), the leaders said in their statement released today.

According to the latest U.S. Census data, 49 million Americans are at risk of hunger, while 45 million live in poverty. One in five children lives in poverty. That is 15 million children, 5 million of them under age 6.

The challenge to candidates was issued today during a press conference organized by the Circle of Protection. Speakers included Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals; Rev. Sèkinah Hamlin, director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative; Rev. Carlos Malavè, executive director of Christian Churches Together; Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; and Rev. Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners.


“There is broad consensus among faith leaders that our country has been culpably neglectful of poverty, especially in our own country. 100 Christian leaders of all stripes are urging all the candidates to explain, on camera, what they would do to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in our country and around the world.” – Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World

“There are different ways to address the needs of poor and vulnerable people—some more effective than others. Christians who believe government leaders are called to share God’s concern for the poor and vulnerable want to know how presidential candidates would approach this essential responsibility. Silence on poverty is inexcusable.” – Galen Carey, vice president for government relations, National Association of Evangelicals

“We are looking for those who aspire to become president of the United States to seize this moment and take decisive leadership in ways that address the complex yet solvable evil of poverty, particularly as poverty affects nearly one in every five children in America and one in every three children of color.” – Rev. Sèkinah Hamlin, director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative

“Christian leaders from all major Christian traditions have come to have a shared sense that the extent of poverty in this country is unnecessary and shameful. We expect that our president, regardless of which political party he or she represents, place hunger and poverty at the top of his or her priorities.” – Rev. Carlos Malavè, executive director, Christian Churches Together in the USA

“For the 45 million Americans living in poverty, the state of our union leaves them struggling to get by. Helping them achieve their full potential should not be a partisan issue – it’s time for candidates from both sides of the aisle to have a meaningful conversation about advancing the common good.” – Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA.”

“The State of the Union is still not good for poor and vulnerable people in America. Should we also not consider God’s point of view as we look toward this important speech? Throughout the Scripture, we’re told that a society will be judged by how they treat “the least” among them. Our political leaders also must be assessed through the measure of their commitment to the poor and most vulnerable. Though political advisors are telling their candidates that they shouldn’t talk about poverty, as people of faith we must and will disagree. That is why, as each presidential candidate declares, the faith community will hold them accountable by asking them all-Republicans and Democrats alike–to tell answer the question “how will you treat those Jesus has called ‘the least of these'”? How will you address and find real solutions to poverty?” – Jim Wallis, founder and CEO, Sojourners


Dear Candidate,

Thank you for your willingness to stand for election to the office of president of the United States. The calling to public service is a sacred vocation. We hold you, and all of the candidates for nomination and election, in our prayers.

As national leaders from all the major branches of Christianity, we care deeply about many issues facing our country, but ending hunger and poverty is a top priority of our work together. We are praying for a president who will make ending hunger and poverty a top priority of his or her administration. Are you that leader?

We are making a simple request of each candidate and will publicly pursue your positive response:

Please produce a three minute video telling the American people what you would do as president to offer help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.

It is our intention to distribute candidates’ videos broadly among our churches and to the public, as we did with similar videos produced by Governor Romney and President Obama in 2012. The Circle of Protection will not publicly evaluate your policy positions or endorse any candidate. Our goal is simply to make ending hunger and poverty part of our nation’s election year dialog.

God told Samuel, as he was choosing a national leader from among Jesse’s offspring, to look at their hearts (I Samuel 16). We will be calling on people of faith to examine presidential candidates to see if they have a heart for poor and hungry people. We want to know how each candidate proposes to fulfil the mandate to those who govern to “give deliverance to the needy” (Psalm 72).

Your campaign may discuss this invitation with the Rev. Gary Cook by contacting him at We ask that you reply within two months from the date you declare your candidacy.

Thank you again for your public service. May God bless and guide you in the months ahead.


Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, Moderator, Mennonite Church USA
Dr. Paul Alexander, Co-Founder, Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice
Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Executive Director of Ecumenical Office, Armenian Orthodox Church
Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., President/CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Networks (G.A.I.N.)
M. Craig Barnes, President, Princeton Theological Seminary
James H. Barnes, President, Bethel University
Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief
Dr. A.D. Beacham, Jr., General Superintendent and Presiding Bishop, International Pentecostal Holiness Church
David L. Beckley, President, Rust College
David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., Presiding Bishop, Church of God in Christ
Rev. Deborah C. Blue, Executive Minister, Evangelical Covenant Church
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston, Executive Director, Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ)
Tony Campolo, Founder, Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education and a Founder of the Red Letter Christian
Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals
Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network
John L. Carr, Director, Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, Georgetown University
Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
Shane Claiborne, Founder, The Simple Way
Rev. Martin B. Copenhaver, President, Andover Newton Theological School
T. Scott Daniels, Dean, Azusa Pacific Seminary
Rev. Dr. Thomas R. De Vries, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
Wendy J. Deichmann, President, United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio
Pat Donahoo, Executive Director, Disciples Women, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Hal Donaldson, President, Convoy of Hope, Inc.
Robert Duffett, President, Eastern University
Daniel J. Earheart-Brown, President, Memphis Theological Seminary
Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Gary L. Edmunds, President/CEO, Food for the Hungry
Dr. Gaddis J. Faulcon , Interim President, Shaw University
Mark Francis, President, Catholic Theological Union
Art Gay, Minister at Large, Evangelical Initiatives International
Sheila K. Gilbert, National President, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of the United States
Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Lott Carey Convention
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
David Greenhaw, President, Eden Theological Seminary
Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO, Lutheran Services in America
Kevin Hagan, President and CEO, Feed the Children
Ambassador Tony Hall, Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger
Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, Director, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
Herman Harmelink, III, Ecumenical Officer, International Council of Community Churches
Richard B. Hays, Dean, Duke University Divinity School
Mitch Hescox, President, Evangelical Environmental Network
Dennis P. Hollinger, President, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Virginia Holmstrom, Executive Director, American Baptist Women’s Ministries, American Baptist Churches, USA
Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland: A Church Distributed
Dale T. Irvin, President, New York Theological Seminary
Edison O. Jackson, Ed. D., President, Bethune-Cookman University
Susan Jackson-Dowd, Acting Coordinator, Presbyterian Women
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
Commissioner David E. Jeffrey, National Commander, The Salvation Army
Sr. Carol Keehan, SC, President and CEO, Catholic Health Association
Bishop David Kendall, Bishop, Free Methodist Church USA
Very Rev. Timothy P Kesicki, S.J., President, Jesuit Conference
Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, President, Claremont School of Theology
Mark Labberton, President, Fuller Theological Seminary
Marilyn Lariviere, National President, Church Women United, Inc.
Eric LeCompte, Executive Director, Jubilee U.S.A. Network
Dr. David Lose, President, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
Jan Love, Dean, Candler School of Theology of Emory University
Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church
Bishop Denis Madden, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Baltimore
Carlos Malave, Executive Director, Christian Churches Together in the USA
Reverend Dr. David F. McAllister-Wilson, President, Wesley Theological Seminary
John McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service
James McDonald, President, San Francisco Theological Seminary
Julius T. Medenblik, President, Calvin Theological Seminary
Mary Elizabeth Moore, Dean, Boston University School of Theology
Dr. Shirley Mullen, President, Houghton College
Rich Nathan, Senior Pastor, Vineyard Columbus
Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren
Randall O’Brien , Th.D., President, Carson-Newman University
Robert Parham, Executive Director, Baptist Ethics Center
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Richard E. Pates, Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Des Moines
Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Roy L. Peterson, President, American Bible Society
Riess Potterveld, President, Graduate Theological Union (An interreligious institution)
Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park University
Bishop Lawrence Reddick III, Senior Bishop, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Andrew Ryskamp, Director, World Renew
Rev. Gabriel Salguero , President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Bishop Monroe Saunders, Presiding Bishop, United Church of Jesus Christ (Apostolic)
Michael G. Scales, President, Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary
Stephen F. Schneck, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America
Dr. Jake Schrum, President, Emory and Henry College
Rev. Dr. Julius R. Scruggs, President, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
Dr. Ronald J. Sider, Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holisitic Ministry, and Public Policy, Palmer Seminary at Eastern University
Art Simon, President Emeritus, Bread for the World
Rev. Larry Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision United States
Gregory Sterling, Dean, Yale University Divinity School
Rev. Ervin R. Stutzman, Executive Director, Mennonite Church USA
Dr. Carla Sunberg, President, Nazarene Theological Seminary
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, President of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Concerns, United Methodist Church
Steve Timmermans, Executive Director, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Rev. Samuel C. Tolbert, Jr., President, National Baptist Church of America, Inc.
Javier Viera, Dean, Drew University Theological School
Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
Gary Walter, President, Evangelical Covenant Church
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Dr. Robert K. Welsh, President, Council on Christian Unity
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Facilitator, National African American Clergy Network
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ