“The government is on the same page as the churches when it offers initiatives for faith-based organizations to reach people who are hurting,” said Barbara Below, who represented the Synod at the first White House National Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives June 1 in Washington, D.C.
Below, director of social-ministry organizations with LCMS World Relief and Human Care, was one of 1,600 at the conference.
“With the government, we share a common goal to provide services to meet the needs of individuals,” Below told Reporter. “But beyond that, the president in this initiative states that we have a common understanding that our faith-based organizations do something that government programs can’t and shouldn’t do. We restore hope to people who are hurting, desperate and in need. We demonstrate and offer a life-changing message to people whose pain goes far deeper than any pocketbook can reach.”
“By feeding the hungry, by healing the addicted, by loving and caring for refugees, you represent the true strength, the real strength, the genuine strength of the United States of America,” Bush told the conference audience. “And I am grateful for what you do.”
Although legislation to give faith-based groups equal assess to government grants has gotten bogged down in Congress, Bush signed an executive order directing federal agencies to “reverse regulations that discriminate against faith-based organizations,” he explained.
He said that last year federal agencies distributed $1.1 billion in social-service grants to faith-based groups — a 15 percent increase over 2002.
“Government can hand out money,” Bush said. “But governments cannot put love in a person’s heart, or a sense of purpose in a person’s life.”
“President Bush says he acknowledges that the church does a better job of caring than the government does,” Below said. “Basically, he has opened up the doors for the church — for what he recognizes we do best.”
For funding guidelines and other information about the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, go to www.fbci.gov on the Web.
Posted June 25, 2004