Open Letter to US Presidential Candidates: What will you do for the poor?

(Photo by Kike Arnal; courtesy of Open Society Foundations)

(Photo by Kike Arnal; courtesy of Open Society Foundations)

The Christian leaders who make up Circle of Protection are sending the following letter to each US presidential hopeful as they announce their candidacy. We'll post their video responses as they come in.


Dear Candidate:

Thank you for your willingness to stand for election to the office of president of the United States. The calling to public service is a sacred vocation. We hold you, and all of the candidates for nomination and election, in our prayers.

As national leaders from all the major branches of Christianity, we care deeply about many issues facing our country, but ending hunger and poverty is a top priority of our work together. We are praying for a president who will make ending hunger and poverty a top priority of his or her administration. Are you that leader?

We are making a simple request of each candidate and will publicly pursue your positive response:

Please produce a three minute video telling the American people what you would do as president to offer help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.

It is our intention to distribute candidates' videos broadly among our churches and to the public, as we did with similar videos produced by Governor Romney and President Obama in 2012. The Circle of Protection will not publicly evaluate your policy positions or endorse any candidate. Our goal is simply to make ending hunger and poverty part of our nation's election year dialog.

God told Samuel, as he was choosing a national leader from among Jesse's offspring, to look at their hearts (I Samuel 16). We will be calling on people of faith to examine presidential candidates to see if they have a heart for poor and hungry people. We want to know how each candidate proposes to fulfill the mandate to those who govern to "give deliverance to the needy" (Psalm 72).

Your campaign may discuss this invitation with the Rev. Gary Cook by contacting him at We ask that you reply within two months from the date you declare your candidacy.

Thank you again for your public service. May God bless and guide you in the months ahead.


Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, Moderator, Mennonite Church USA
Dr. Paul Alexander, Co-President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Executive Director of Ecumenical Office, Armenian Orthodox Church
Marv Baldwin, Executive Director, Foods Resource Bank
Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., President/CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Networks (G.A.I.N.)
M. Craig Barnes, President, Princeton Theological Seminary
James H. Barnes, President, Bethel Seminary of Bethel University
Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief
Dr. A.D. Beacham, Jr., General Superintendent and Presiding Bishop, International Pentecostal Holiness Church
David L. Beckley, President, Rust College
David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., Presiding Bishop, Church of God in Christ
Rev. Deborah C. Blue, Executive Minister, Evangelical Covenant Church
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston, Executive Director, Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ)
Tony Campolo, Founder, Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education and the Red Letter Christian
Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals
Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network
John L. Carr, Director, Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, Georgetown University
Dr. Iva E. Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
Shane Claiborne, Founder, The Simple Way
Rev. Martin B. Copenhaver, President, Andover Newton Theological School
T. Scott Daniels, Dean, Azusa Pacific Seminary
Rev. Dr. Thomas R. De Vries, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
Wendy J. Deichmann, President, United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio
Pat Donahoo, Executive Director, Disciples Women, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Hal Donaldson, President, Convoy of Hope, Inc.
Robert Duffett, President, Eastern University
Daniel J. Earheart-Brown, President, Memphis Theological Seminary
Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Gary L. Edmunds, President/CEO, Food for the Hungry
Dr. Gaddis J. Faulcon, Interim President, Shaw University
Mark Francis, President, Catholic Theological Union
Art Gay, Minister at Large, Evangelical Initiatives International
Sheila K. Gilbert, National President, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of the United States
Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Lott Carey Convention
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
David Greenhaw, President, Eden Theological Seminary
Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO, Lutheran Services in America
Kevin Hagan, President and CEO, Feed the Children
Ambassador Tony Hall, Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger
Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, Director, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
Herman Harmelink, III, Ecumenical Officer, International Council of Community Churches
Richard B. Hays, Dean, Duke University Divinity School
Mitch Hescox, President, Evangelical Environmental Network
Dennis P. Hollinger, President, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Virginia Holmstrom, Executive Director, American Baptist Women's Ministries, American Baptist Churches, USA
Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland: A Church Distributed
Dale T. Irvin, President, New York Theological Seminary
Edison O. Jackson, Ed. D., President, Bethune-Cookman University
Susan Jackson-Dowd, Acting Coordinator, Presbyterian Women
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
Commissioner David E. Jeffrey, National Commander, The Salvation Army
Sr. Carol Keehan, SC, President and CEO, Catholic Health Association
Bishop David Kendall, Bishop, Free Methodist Church USA
Very Rev. Timothy P Kesicki, S.J., President, Jesuit Conference
Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, President, Claremont School of Theology
Mark Labberton, President, Fuller Theological Seminary
Marilyn Lariviere, National President, Church Women United, Inc.
Eric LeCompte, Executive Director, Jubilee U.S.A. Network
Dr. David Lose, President, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
Jan Love, Dean, Candler School of Theology of Emory University
Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church
Bishop Denis Madden, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Baltimore
Carlos Malave, Executive Director, Christian Churches Together in the USA
Reverend Dr. David F. McAllister-Wilson, President, Wesley Theological Seminary
John McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service
James McDonald, President, San Francisco Theological Seminary
Julius T. Medenblik, President, Calvin Theological Seminary
Mary Elizabeth Moore, Dean, Boston University School of Theology
Dr. Shirley Mullen, President, Houghton College
Rich Nathan, Senior Pastor, Vineyard Columbus
Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren
Randall O'Brien, Th.D., President, Carson-Newman University
Robert Parham, Executive Director, Baptist Ethics Center
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Richard E. Pates, Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Des Moines
Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Roy L. Peterson, President, American Bible Society
Riess Potterveld, President, Graduate Theological Union (An interreligious institution)
Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park University
Bishop Lawrence Reddick III, Senior Bishop, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Andrew Ryskamp, Director, World Renew
Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Bishop Monroe Saunders, Presiding Bishop, United Church of Jesus Christ (Apostolic)
Michael G. Scales, President, Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary
Stephen F. Schneck, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America
Dr. Jake Schrum, President, Emory and Henry College
Rev. Dr. Julius R. Scruggs, President, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
Dr. Ronald J. Sider, Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy, Palmer Seminary at Eastern University
Art Simon, President Emeritus, Bread for the World
Rev. Larry Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision United States
Gregory Sterling, Dean, Yale University Divinity School
Rev. Ervin R. Stutzman, Executive Director, Mennonite Church USA
Dr. Carla Sunberg, President, Nazarene Theological Seminary
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, President of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Concerns, United Methodist Church
Steve Timmermans, Executive Director, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Rev. Samuel C. Tolbert, Jr., President, National Baptist Church of America, Inc.
Javier Viera, Dean, Drew University Theological School
Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
Gary Walter, President, Evangelical Covenant Church
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Dr. Robert K. Welsh, President, Council on Christian Unity
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Facilitator, National African American Clergy Network
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ



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4 Responses

  1. David Young says:

    An open reply:
    What do you believe you will achieve by praying for prospective candidates that you do not believe will occur if you do not?
    What makes you believe that 'ending hunger and poverty' is a job for the government?
    Who is God? What would happen to me if God blessed me? How would it be different from God not blessing me?
    Please explain how Psalm 72 is a mandate for people seeking election to the office of President of the United States of America.
    Please define 'the poor' and 'the hungry'.

  2. Carlton Shardley says:

    David's comment sound less like sincere engagement and more like a deliberate attempt to bog down discussion in calls to define each word. "Depends what the definition of "is" is" tomfoolery. Such questions are always about changing the subject, about making sure a subject isn't discussed. I can't believe for one moment that David is capable of approaching these questions in good faith.

  3. David Young says:

    Can you or can you not invest any of the terms you have used in the text with anything resembling meaning?

  4. David Young says:

    I would suggest that the open letter is pretty vacuous if not even one of those questions can be answered more than half a year after they were originally asked.

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