An Advent Study for HIV/AIDS

The Season for Change

‘Moral Mondays’ in North Carolina

More than 350 persons have been arrested since April 29 in “Moral Monday” demonstrations protesting deep cuts by the North Carolina legislature in programs, such as Medicaid, that help the most vulnerable in society. Shown in the photo is the Rev. Jaye White, coordinator of Nurture, Outreach & Witness at St. Luke United Methodist Church, Sanford.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Both United Methodist bishops in North Carolina have signed a joint statement with Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic leaders urging the state legislature not to make drastic cuts in programs, such as Medicaid, that help the most vulnerable in society.

United Methodist bishops Hope Morgan Ward, leader of the North Carolina Conference, and Larry Goodpaster, Western North Carolina Conference, both signed the statement.

The statement emphasizes that the religious leaders share concern for many of the issues being raised by people who have been gathering on Monday evenings this spring in the state’s capital of Raleigh to “offer vigilant witness on moral issues being considered by our elected state officials.” The weekly demonstrations have come to be known as “Moral Monday.”

United Methodist bishops Hope Morgan Ward, leader of the North Carolina Conference, and Larry Goodpaster, Western North Carolina Conference, both signed the statement.

80 arrests June 10

Religious leaders from across the state led the June 10 rally that resulted in more than 80 arrests, including clergy. “The rally and protest by a number of clergy people was in response to a call from one of my professors at Duke Divinity School,” said the Rev. Jaye White, coordinator of Nurture, Outreach & Witness at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Sanford. “Dr. William Turner asked that we speak out for the folks that Jesus cared most about.”

I know we will not quit.

Several Duke Divinity School professors were there, according to White. She said some spoke and some prayed.

“The weather did keep some people away,” White said, “but I know we will not quit.” She said Bishop Ward was “out in the rain, too.”

White said there have been additional rallies by educators and there is now a call for "Witness Wednesdays.”

Nearly 500 arrests since April 29

Nearly 500 persons have been arrested since April 29 in demonstrations started by the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. Eighty persons were arrested June 10 and 84 more were arrested June 17. Thousands of persons have taken part in opposing cuts to Medicaid and other benefits that affect more than half a million persons in the state.

The faith leaders statement cites a summary prepared by the Rev. Dr. Rodney Sadler of Union Seminary (Charlotte) about the effect of pending and enacted legislation especially on the poor, the aging and children.

The North Carolina General Assembly is passing bills, according to Sadler, that will:

  • remove 500,000 people from the Medicaid roles leaving them without health insurance;
  • remove 170,000 people from unemployment when unemployment rates remain at historically high levels;
  • threaten to replace the graduated state income tax with a consumption tax that will adversely impact the poorest North Carolinians who will face increased prices on basic goods; and
  • force college students to return to their often distant homes to vote or cost their parents their $2,500 dependency deduction.

“These and many other bills will adversely impact those who can least afford it and therefore demand a fervent response from people of faith!" Sadler assessed. Other issues include unemployment benefits and private-school vouchers.

A matter of faith

The joint statement from the religious leaders declares it is a matter of faith with respect to their understanding of the biblical teachings and imperatives to protect the poor, respect the stranger, care for widows and children and love our neighbors.

“Our call to speak grows out of these words that we prayed together at our meeting on June 6: ‘May we be a more vivid symbol of unity to all the faithful. May the witness of our lives proclaim the Kingdom of God,’” they state.

Seven rabbis from temples in Raleigh, Cary, Durham and Chapel Hill issued a letter June 10 in support of the “Moral Monday.”

Bishop Ward wrote to the North Carolina Conference June 11: “I write to you today to witness — and to encourage your witness — in support of the needs of the most vulnerable people in our state. The Methodist church was born as a movement bringing ‘good news to the poor.’ This is still our calling, privilege and responsibility.”

The joint statement by the religious leaders follows:

A Joint Statement by Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic
and United Methodist Leaders in North Carolina

As you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. — Matthew 25:4

We speak as bishops and Christian leaders in North Carolina about the moral issues highlighted by the Moral Monday events. Our call to speak grows out of these words that we prayed together at our meeting on June 6: “May we be a more vivid symbol of unity to all the faithful. May the witness of our lives proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

As you may know, people have been gathering on Monday evenings to offer vigilant witness on moral issues being considered by our elected state officials. We share their concern for many of the issues they are bringing forth.

The Rev. Dr. Rodney Sadler of Union Seminary (Charlotte) recently summarized the effect of pending and enacted legislation especially on the poor, the aging and children:

As you read this letter, the North Carolina General Assembly is passing bills that will remove 500,000 people from the Medicaid roles leaving them without health insurance; that will remove 170,000 people from unemployment when unemployment rates remain at historically high levels; that threaten to replace the graduated state income tax with a consumption tax that will adversely impact the poorest North Carolinians who will face increased prices on basic goods; that will force college students to return to their often distant homes to vote or cost their parents their $2,500 dependency deduction. … These and many other bills will adversely impact those who can least afford it and therefore demand a fervent response from people of faith!

Our concern about the legislative actions cited by Rev. Dr. Sadler is not an act of political partisanship.

Rather it is a matter of faith with respect to our understanding of the biblical teachings and imperatives to protect the poor, respect the stranger, care for widows and children and love our neighbors (Isaiah 10:1‐2, Hebrews 13:2, James 1:27, Matthew 22:39, Galatians 5:14). We recognize and respect other Christian brothers and sisters who may seek to apply these biblical teachings in different ways and through different means.

We speak and act in love and through our understanding that our first citizenship is in the Kingdom of God, and we do so always as faithful citizens of the democratic process.

The Right Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina
The Rev. Dr. Leonard Bolick, Bishop, Synod of North Carolina, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Rev. Ted Churn, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of New Hope, Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Most Rev. Michael Burbidge, Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Raleigh
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, North Carolina Conference, United Methodist Church
Bishop Larry Goodpaster, Western North Carolina Conference, United Methodist Church
The Right Rev. Alfred “Chip” Marble, Assisting Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina
The Rev. Anne Hodges‐Copple, Bishop Suffragan‐elect, Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina

Editor's note: More information about the demonstrations can be found at the following:

Letter to the Editor