As part of Florida Advocacy Days and Children’s Week, four church leaders and I met and prayed with Governor Crist on Tuesday, March 26. Led by Bishop Timothy Whitaker (Florida Conference, United Methodist Church), the group also included Bishop Leeland (Alabama Panhandle Conference, United Methodist Church),  and the Rev. Wilma Israel (President, Florida District, Southern Province of the Moravian Unity). Together, we prayed through Bishop Whitaker’s words in thanksgiving for the governor’s leadership on issues of caring for our nightbors and the creation, as welll as for the guiding work of the Spirit to bless him and all elected officials in FLorida as they seek to serve the common good and remember the poor in these trying economic times. Bishop McKinley Young (African Methodist Episcopal Zion) also was present and met separately with his church members and the governor.

In meeting Gov. Crist, church leaders thanked him for his environmental work on restoring the Everglades and his support of clean energy by embargoing new coal-fired plants. Special appreciation was shown for his recent meeting with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and his follow-up letter condemning slavery and abuse of workers as well as his insistence that the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange cooperate with the penny per pound program for the farm workers. Church leaders underscored their concern for addressing poverty, especially as suffered by children in Florida, by presenting him with a recent publication of scripture passages Poverty and the Poor in the Bible (American Bible Society, 2008). The booklet includes the Statement on Proverty of Christian Churches Together.

The group also visited with the Speaker of the House and a representative of the President of the Senate. In all the visits, the church leaders underscored the vital support needed for KidCare and children’s nutrition programs. The church leaders also reported on the recent spike in food stamp applications for which adequate staffing was lacking, meaning that many people were not receiving the unemployment benefits for which they are eligible because the paperwork can’t be processed.

Although a request to meet with the governor had been made nearly a month earlier, the request was not finalized until late Friday and the number in the group was limited to five persons.

Working with the Methodist churches and Florida Impact, plans are underway to expand Florida Advocacy Days to all willing religious bodies and to hold a Governor’s prayer breakfast during Children’s Week 2010.