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Evangelical Leaders Challenge Trump’s ‘America First’ Budget

Group of 100 prominent Christians worry severe cuts to foreign aid will reverse progress at reducing poverty.
Evangelical Leaders Challenge Trump’s ‘America First’ Budget
Last month, World Vision’s Rich Stearns met with lawmakers to discuss how foreign assistance can help end extreme poverty.

The leaders of America’s top evangelical aid groups and denominations urged Congress today to reject proposed cuts to foreign aid in a letter signed by more than 100 prominent Christians, including 2 of the 6 clergy who prayed at President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Samuel Rodriguez and Cardinal Timothy Dolan joined the many leaders on the list, which includes InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Tom Lin and Alec Hill and the presidents of Fuller, Gordon-Conwell, Denver, and Princeton seminaries. Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Third Day also signed [full list below].

The Trump administration released its budget blueprint Thursday, which outlines the anticipated cutbacks to international aid programs. The plan reduces the State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) budget by 28 percent.

“As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill,’” they stated. Currently, foreign assistance—America’s contribution to health care and development efforts abroad—represents a fraction of 1 percent of the nation’s budget.

Signatories include leaders from humanitarian aid groups including World Vision USA, World Relief, Compassion International, Living Water International, Food for the Hungry, as well as denominational leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, Wesleyan Church, Church of Nazarene, the Anglican Church in North America, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and the National Association of Evangelicals. Catholic Relief Services and several Catholic dioceses also signed the letter.

These groups are major players in international development and poverty relief; World Vision’s president, Rich Stearns, wrote for CT a few years ago that its $2.8 billion budget ranks among the countries with the 15 biggest economies in the world for overseas assistance.

The 100-plus Christian leaders want America to maintain the international programs they consider “instrumental in saving lives, safeguarding religious liberties, and keeping America safe and secure.” Because of their involvement with such outreach, they have seen firsthand the impact of America’s generous support—and just how far its assistance can go.

“For more than 50 years, World Vision has worked alongside US government partners to address the needs of vulnerable children and families living in poverty around the world,” stated Stearns. “While World Vision proudly raises millions of dollars from the American people each year, government funding enables us to expand our programs and increase their sustainability.”

The letter sent to Congress emphasizes the Christian perspective that America cannot turn away from “those in desperate need” when it has been “blessed” with resources. Stearns went on to suggest cutting programs could halt or even undo the advancements made to eradicate diseases, reduce poverty, and improve education. “We risk losing the hard-won progress against poverty, wasting billions of dollars and decades of efforts,” he said.

The president intentionally focused on domestic concerns, including defense and homeland security, at the expense of the State Department allotment. “It is time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans, and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share,” Trump said.

Following his election, white evangelicals ranked healthcare, immigration, and the economy as the top priorities for the new president—the same top three as American voters overall, the Pew Research Center found.

During the previous administration, a majority of evangelicals favored cutting US assistance to the world’s poor—their top choice for spending reductions. Other popular areas for decreases were government assistance for the unemployed (40%) and environmental protection (38%).

Earlier this month, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, now the chairman of a Christian global health nonprofit called Hope Through Healing Hands, penned an op-ed for CT similarly decrying Trump’s cuts.

Frist wrote that foreign assistance saves lives and furthers security efforts abroad. “Let us heed the call of the Scriptures to uplift the poor, save the lives of millions, and give the world’s poorest the chance at a life of flourishing and abundance,” he said. “This can be a win-win for America and the world.”

Here are the letter’s signatories:

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York

Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Leith Anderson, President
National Association of Evangelicals

Rich Stearns, President
World Vision USA

Bishop Gregory J. Mansour, Chairman of the Board
Catholic Relief Services

Michael W. Smith

Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent
Assemblies of God

Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Immediate Past President
Southern Baptist Convention

Amy Grant

Shirley V. Hoogstra, J.D., President
Council for Christian Colleges & Universities

Tom Lin, President & CEO
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Third Day
Christian Rock Band

Jonathan Reckford, CEO
Habitat for Humanity

Mark Labberton, President
Fuller Theological Seminary

Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita
The Wesleyan Church

Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone
Archbishop of San Francisco

David Wilson, General Secretary
Church of the Nazarene

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President
National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Archbishop of Louisville

Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, President & CEO
Compassion International

John Crosby, Senior Pastor
Christ Presbyterian Church

Rev. Johnnie Moore

Bob Bouwer, Reverend
Faith Church (8 locations)

John K. Jenkins Sr., Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church of Glenarden

Keith Stewart, Senior Pastor
Springcreek Church

Alec Hill, President Emeritus
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Scott Arbeiter, President
World Relief Corporation

Martha Newsome, President & CEO
Medical Teams International

Ron Byler, Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee

Mike Mantel, President & CEO
Living Water International

Carol Bremer-Bennett, Executive Director
World Renew

Gary Edmonds, President & CEO
Food for the Hungry

Anita Smith, President
Children’s AIDS Fund

Shepherd Smith, President
Institute for Youth Development

Bruce Wilkinson, President & CEO
Catholic Medical Mission Board

Steve Stirling, President & CEO
MAP International

Peter Vander Meulen, Coordinator in Office of Social Justice
Christian Reformed Church in North America

Joel K. Johnson, Pastor
Westwood Community Church

James H. Barnes III, President
Bethel University

Steve Moore, Board Chair
World Relief

Deborah Smith Pegues, Board of Directors
World Vision USA

Rev. Jonathan Odom, Pastor
Asbury UMC

Dr. Mark Wilbanks, Senior Pastor
Wieuca Road Baptist Church

Dr. Stephen Treash, Senior Pastor
Black Rock Church

Laura Truax, Senior Pastor
LaSalle Street Church

Jeffrey Moes, Senior Pastor
Sunnybrook Community Church

Gino Grunberg, Co-Pastor
Harbor Christian Center

Rev. Jay Madden, Pastor for Mission
Peachtree Presbyterian Church

Chris Cramer, Pastor
Orchard Grove Community Church

Chad Hayward, Executive Director
Accord Network

Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations
National Association of Evangelicals

Scott Garber, Author

Ken Wytsma, Senior Pastor
Antioch Church

William Minchin, Pastor of Business Administration
Grace Fellowship Church

Rev. Eugene Cho, Lead Pastor & Founder
Quest Church/One Day’s Wages

Bishop Horace E. Smith, MD, Senior Pastor
Apostolic Faith Church

Ted Esler, President
Missio Nexus

Rev. Dr. Michael L. Henderson, Senior Pastor
New Beginnings Church

Dr. G. Craig Williford, President
Multnomah University

Carmen Fowler Laberge, President
Presbyterian Lay Committee

Colin P. Watson, Sr., Director of Ministries and Administration
Christian Reformed Church in North America

Dr. Don Argue, Ambassador at Large
Convoy of Hope

Scott Ridout, President

Rev. Dr. Liz Mosbo VerHage, Associate Pastor
Quest Church

Gregory Loewer, Pastor for Missions,
Columbia Baptist Church

Jim Lyon, General Director
Church of God Ministries

Constantine M. Triantafilou, Executive Director & CEO
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC)

Alan Robinson, National Director
Brethren in Christ, U. S.

Mark S. Young, President
Denver Seminary

Craig Barnes, President
Princeton Theological Seminary

Adam Pray, Minister

Dennis Hollinger, Ph.D., President
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Alan Cureton, President
University of Northwestern

Jon Middendorf, Pastor
OKC First Church of the Nazarene

Rev. Bobby Griffith, Jr., Pastor
City Presbyterian Church

Rev. David Cassidy, Pastor
Christ Community Church

Dr. Timothy J. Brooks, Lead Pastor
South Portland Church of the Nazarene

Rev. Doug Serven, Pastor
City Presbyterian Church

Rev. Dan Claire, Rector
Church of the Resurrection

Rev. Joel St. Clair, Pastor
Mosaic Community Church

Dr. O. Alan Noble, Assistant Professor of English
Oklahoma Baptist University

Rev. Dr. Irwyn Ince Jr., Pastor
City of Hope Presbyterian Church

Rev. Russ Whitfield, Pastor
Grace Mosaic Church

The Right Rev. Dr. Steven A. Breedlove, Diocese
Christ our Hope, Anglican Church in North America

Rev. Alan Cross, Executive Director
Community Development Initiatives
Montgomery Baptist Association

Rev. Dr. James C. Howell, Senior Pastor
Myers Park United Methodist Church

Rev. Don Flowers, Jr., Senior Pastor
Providence Baptist Church

The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach, Archbishop
Anglican Church in North America

Dr. Chris Ellis, Minister of Mission and Outreach
Second Baptist Church

Dr. Stephen Cook, Senior Pastor
Second Baptist Church

Dr. Christopher Pollock, Lead Pastor
Midtown Church

Peter Greer, CEO
HOPE International

David W. Kendall, Bishop
Free Methodist Church, USA

David T. Roller, Bishop
Free Methodist Church, USA

Matthew A. Thomas, Bishop
Free Methodist Church, USA

Justin B. Fung, Pastor of Teaching & Formation
The District Church

Jason Surratt, Pastor of Stewardship and Global Missions
Seacoast Church

Dr. Gregg Okkesson, Dean
Asbury Theological Seminary

Stephanie Summers, CEO
Center for Public Justice

Ruth Anne Reese, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament
Asbury Theological Seminary

Brandon Heath

Dr. Stephen Offutt, Assistant Professor of Development Studies
Asbury Theological Seminary

Matt Maher

Jonathan Martin
Writer and Speaker

Aaron Graham, Lead Pastor
The District Church

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