Responding to a call from their Third World counterparts, U.S. evangelical leaders are urging church members to pay greater attention to global poverty, saying increased advocacy is necessary in light of the current U.S. financial crisis.

Last month, 21 leaders of churches in Africa, Asia, and South America wrote that the U.S. church has preached the gospel in their lands but "has not also raised its voice in protest against the injustices that powerful governments and institutions are inflicting on the global South."

In response, several evangelical leaders, organized by the group Micah Challenges USA, spoke Monday about the need for action by U.S. churches.

"Those of us in evangelical churches are kind of late to the table on some of these issues because we've been focusing on more personal morality … and we've forgotten to address the issues of public morality," said megachurch pastor Joel Hunter of Longwood, Fla., a member of the board of the World Evangelical Alliance.

"Even though there are a great number of people who are facing financial instability, this is just the right time to find out what your priorities really are and whether or not you're going to love your neighbor as you love yourself."

Brian Swarts, national coordinator of Micah Challenge USA, said the letter to U.S. church leaders was timed to the upcoming U.S. presidential elections and a Sept. 25 summit on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut global poverty in half by 2015.

He said U.S. evangelical leaders that have partnered with his organization will be circulating a letter to be sent in October to presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama seeking their attention to global poverty.

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Micah Challenges USA's website includes audio of a the conference call, which included Lynne Hybels, Richard Cizik, Joel Hunter, Samuel Rodriguez, Ron Sider, and Jo Anne Lyons.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals are outlined on the UN's website.