Proposed state budget cuts a “matter of life and death”

By Blogger Sam Fletcher

Sam Fletcher

A gathering of faith and social service providers in Spokane met at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on  Nov. 17  to learn about, and raise a voice of protest to $2 billion of proposed cuts in the Washington State budget (Read the story on the Spokesman-Review).

The emergency summit was convened after Washington Governor Christine Gregoire released a proposed budget that if passed by the state Legislature will slash crucial lifelines for the poor, including broad categories such as housing, disability assistance, and Washington’s Basic Health program, among others.

Bishop James E. Waggoner, Jr. addresses social service providers and people of faith at Holy Trinity. (Photo by Sam Fletcher)

“The answer is not to keep shrinking services,” said the Rt. Rev. James E. Waggoner, Jr., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane, addressing a crowd of more than 60 people. “We know that if state budget cuts go as projected, people will die. It is a matter of life and death.”

With difficult economic times and cuts in state and federal programs, government agencies, non-profits, and faith groups providing services to the needy are pressed to the limits of their resources. Holy Trinity’s Dinner Table program, a weekly meal for residents of the West Central neighborhood, has seen numbers increase.

Representatives from social service agencies in Spokane shared similar stories. A panel of speakers from Catholic Charities, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and Volunteers of America answered questions about how cuts will affect Spokane’s people in need (Read about the proposed state budget here).

The Rev. Kris Christensen, urban missioner at Holy Trinity, and organizer of the summit, said, “The longer I work in ministry, especially in West Central, the more I recognize that the problems of poverty are systemic.”

Christensen said that Christians, and especially those who belong to the Episcopal tradition, are called to take action on behalf of the poor. “Our Baptismal Covenant asks, ‘Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?’ to which the Christian responds, ‘I will, with God’s help.’

Any person, whether Christian or not, can strive for peace, justice, and human dignity, she says. But Christians also have the story of Jesus to look to. “What we have in the story of the crucifixion of Jesus is the world’s ultimate ‘No’ to what Jesus taught us about compassion and justice for the poor and oppressed,” she says. “For a while, it looked like ‘No’ won. But as Christians, we have the resurrection. God turns the world’s ‘No’ around.”

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