Denominations Tackle Race, Class, Injustice Exposed by Hurricanes

America’s mainline denominations, historically known for fighting poverty and social injustice around the world, are calling on their members to address the issues of race and class raised by Hurricane Katrina and to speak out against the crippling poverty that exist within this nation’s borders.

"Hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast, especially Katrina, graphically exposed the extreme decay of our inner cities," Jan Love, the chief executive of the United Methodist Women’s Division, told directors during an Oct. 7-10 meeting in Stamford, Conn., according to UMNS. “New Orleans is not the only urban area riddled by poverty, racism and violence, but when a natural calamity like a hurricane collided with New Orleans' long-standing human-made disaster, the flood washed away our ability as a nation to deny these harsh realities."

The women’s division adopted a statement entitled “Be Repairers of the Breach,” which urged United Methodist Women to study biblical and ethical obligations to “respond and address both immediate and long term system injustices.”

"While we identify and address the systemic and institutional sources of injustice, we must also recognize our own culpability," the statement read.

The women were urged to affirm the rights and self-determination of those affected by the disaster, actively work for the return of the thousands displaced by the hurricane and to advocate for the building of government capacity to serve those with the greatest needs.

Meanwhile, within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Conference of Bishops agreed to hold its spring 2006 meeting possibly in New Orleans to emphasize the church’s call to speak and work against poverty, hunger and racism, according to ELCA news service.

At their Oct. 3-7 gathering, the ELCA’s 65 bishops expressed a desire to help residents and talk with local church leaders in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast while they were there.

"This is an opportunity for us to connect in a 'kairotic' way with the situation in New Orleans," said the Rev. Ray Tiemann, bishop of the ELCA Southwestern Texas Synod, Seguin, and committee chair.

The meeting in New Orleans has been tentatively scheduled for March 2006, pending the availability of hotel space, much of which is currently being used by evacuees and relief workers in the area.

Together, the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America devoted more than $30 million in offerings and gifts for rebuilding the gulf shore states.