A Legacy of Gross Negligence Toward the World's Children Described in New empty tomb Book

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The church in the U.S. has the opportunity to lead out on closing, in Jesus’ name, the Promise Gap, and helping one million children live each year, according to analysis in empty tomb’s new book.

One child dying is hard to ignore. Yet, apparently, one million children dying around the world each year are hard to see.

History recounts great deeds by people in the past, with examples given in the new edition of empty tomb, inc.'s The State of Church Giving series.

In contrast, people in the U.S. are building a legacy of gross negligence toward the one million children of the world who are dying from preventable causes each year.

Who Is Ignoring the Dying Children?

One child dying is hard to ignore. Yet, apparently, one million children dying around the world each year are hard to see.

Contacts made with both secular and religious institutional and media leaders have not produced interest in mobilizing to help the dying children.

Too often, global tragedies are only recognized in the rearview mirror: "Never again." Yet, these child deaths that are happening now are well documented, with calls to stop them going back decades. Still, these children die in what James Grant, then UNICEF executive director, described in 1985 as a "silent emergency." The silence continues on a broad scale.

Who Are the Children Dying?

The one million children dying each year from preventable causes are not dying as the result of some villain's willful actions. The children are dying from collective gross negligence among the rest of the world.

The one million children are caught in what is called the "Promise Gap." In 1990 and again in 2000, world leaders met and "promised" to lower the world's Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) by setting target reduction goals.

Those goals were not met. The difference between the U5MR target reduction goals, and the actual U5MR numbers, is the Promise Gap. Had the goals been met, if the gap did not exist, one million more children would be alive each year. These are the children the rest of the world is ignoring.

It should be noted that progress was, in fact, made toward the U5MR reduction goals between 1990 and 2015. This progress is due, in large part, to the work of the Gates Foundation, as well as academics and governments, churches, religious organizations, and nonprofits.

However, the gap between the target reduction goals and the actual U5MRs has stayed fairly constant from 2000 through 2017, at about 25% between the goals and the actual U5MR. And that 25% difference results in one million children dying a year. Over the 27 years of goal-setting, at least 27 million children died in that Promise Gap.

Who Is in a Position to Lead?

The new book points to the church (across Christian denominations) to lead toward a solution.

The church is in a unique position to provide the leadership for an extra effort at this point in history to close the Promise Gap: 70% of the U.S. population still self-identifies as Christian; the church still maintains a global delivery network, including for medical needs; the church has a broad communication system; and the church has a common basis for holding its constituents morally accountable for the children's survival.

The church should be a leader in vision-casting for the society, demonstrating through service in Jesus' name the power to do good at a scale that matches both the church's potential and the world's need.

Instead, the church has allowed itself to become cultural wallpaper. The new book documents declines in giving as a percent of income, and membership as a percent of population, between 1968 and 2017.

At the same time, the book finds that both youth and adults in the U.S. are struggling. Citing various sources, the book notes young people are evidencing more anger and depression. "Deaths from despair (drugs, suicide, alcohol)" are on the rise, and experts refer to "an epidemic of loneliness."

The mobilization of the church from cultural wallpaper to at-scale vision-casting resulting in broad-based giving by Christians, will not happen without the leadership of one or more key individuals.

Who Is the Church's George Marshall?

The new book cites historical events accomplished in short timeframes, for example: the Victoria Falls Bridge (1903-1905); elimination of malaria in the U.S. (1947-1949); and the Marshall Plan for the post-World War II redevelopment of Europe (1948-1951).

The book quotes an entry about General George Marshall from President Harry Truman's diary: "Marshall is the greatest man of World War II. He managed to get along with Roosevelt, the Congress, Churchill, the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff …" It was General Marshall, as Secretary of State, who guided the plan for the European recovery. Countries in Europe, then facing potential famine and devastated industry, were able to raise their Gross National Products by 15% to 25%.

Today, a movement building on church people's resources and the church's networks is needed to quickly bring 40 countries on track to meet their U5MR target reduction goals by 2025. This extra effort is needed in addition to the ongoing activities that have contributed to the progress made so far.

What Can Be Done?

Based on the information in empty tomb's new book, The State of Church Giving through 2017 (29th edition, October 2019), a proposal was drafted to build capacity for the church in the U.S. to work with the 40 countries to achieve their U5MR target reduction goals by 2025. The proposal suggests one possible strategy: expand empty tomb's Mission Match[R] effort. Mission Match is described in the new book. An excerpt from the proposal follows:

"Background: Because the church in the U.S. does not understand affluence and the need for leadership: 1) Since the 1960s, trends are downward in church giving as a percent of income, and membership as a percent of U.S. population; 2) The church in the U.S. is weakening as an institution, increasingly seen as 'boring' and 'irrelevant'; 3) U.S. society is floundering, for example as reported by Scientific American, 'deaths from despair (from suicide, drugs and alcohol abuse)' are rising (3/20/2019); 4) The percent of income given for the larger mission outside the church shrank faster than that for operations inside the church; 5) A Promise Gap exists between target goals set by world leaders for 2000 and 2015 to reduce the global U5MR, and the actual U5MR, though churches still maintain large global frontline networks where many of these deaths occur; 6) The church has not offered a positive agenda for the more than 60-year old affluence in the U.S. to engage church people's imaginations on a scale both with their financial potential, and the global need of closing, in Jesus' name, the Promise Gap.

"The Solution: Provide a positive agenda for affluence and close the Promise Gap by expanding Mission Match[R] exponentially, focusing on the 40 countries that were behind the curve in reducing their U5MRs to target levels, helping them be on track by 2025.

"Mission Match has been shown to interrupt the standoff between the Finance Committee/Trustees and the Mission Committee about congregational spending. From 2002-2016, over 80 congregations applied for and matched over $200,000 to do 113 different mission projects. In 15 congregations that received more than one Matching Contribution, spending on international projects as a percent of total congregational spending increased a weighted average of 34% between the first and last Matching Contributions. Relaunched with the focus on the 40 countries, congregational applications have not yet been received.

"empty tomb uses available UNICEF/IGME data to track progress on achieving target reduction goals for both global, and country-specific, U5MRs. With leadership from the Gates Foundation, UNICEF and other government agencies, and academics, e.g., Johns Hopkins University, progress has been made on global U5MR reduction. However, the Promise Gap continues. According to empty tomb's analysis, the actual U5MR minus the global target reduction goal as a percent of the goal base was 14.6% in 1995, 24.2% in 2000, 26.4% in 2005, 25.8% in 2010, and 24.4% in 2015. However, data indicates it increased to 25.3% in 2017: reduction target, 31 under-5 deaths per 1,000 live births; actual, 39. During the 27 years world leaders 'promised' to reduce the U5MR, an average of at least 1 million children under 5 have died each year in this Promise Gap. This selective genocide, based on place of birth and parents' lack of access to simple solutions experts say could address the 22 causes of death, continues.

"The church, with its delivery networks, theological framework, and potential audience of 70% of the U.S. population that still self-identifies as 'Christian,' can provide interventions to help put the 40 countries on track to achieve their U5MR target goals.

"The Budget: The goal budget is $9.6 billion a year, with 85%, or $8.2 billion, matched by congregations. The resulting $16 billion annually reflects need estimates to help achieve the global U5MR reduction goal.

"Stepwise, over five years, a popular movement, with up to about half of the U.S. population donating $50 a year to Mission Match, would build toward the $9.6 billion.

"To reach that point, initial investment from an estimated one-third of those on the Forbes 400 list who may self-identify as Christian, could provide the $9.6 billion with less than 1% of their wealth the first year (2021), with $8.2 billion of that doubled when matched by congregations. The second year, the super rich donations could decrease by 20%, with increasing popular support of $50 donations from the 'regular rich' (by world standards). Each year, the super rich could decrease their support by 20% of the original amount, with more broadly-based donations from the regular rich.

"An estimated 98% of $15.5 trillion (2018) U.S. Disposable Personal Income is in the hands of the regular rich, those not on the Forbes 400 list. Why, then, focus on Christians on the Forbes 400 list? Because the super rich bring something the regular rich don't have: the confidence that actions they take can make a difference. Too many regular rich just don't believe that their $50 a year can make an impact. The super rich can lead.

"The goal is to close the Promise Gap by 2025, with a global reduction target U5MR of 22.5. The method: assist the 40 countries to reach their 2025 target reduction goals of 30.3 to 36.3.

"For 2019, a suggested amount from a few super rich might be $250 million, with a 2020 amount of $2.5 billion, to build capacity."

The question remains: Will the church contribute to a legacy of gross negligence toward the one million children dying in the Promise Gap, or will the church provide the vision-casting to mobilize Christians to give what's needed to address this critical need?

empty tomb is committed to continue to look for the leader(s) who can mobilize church giving on behalf of the children dying in the Promise Gap, whether through networking to reach self-identified Christians on the Forbes 400 list, or working with a gifted capacity-builder who can take this idea from zero to 100 in a short timeframe.

The new book, The State of Church Giving through 2017: What a Can-Do Attitude in the Church+$16 Billion Can Do in Jesus' Name for the Children Dying in the Promise Gap, the 29th edition (October 2019) is available from Wipf and Stock Customer Service by phone at 541-344-1528 or orders[at]wipfandstock.com. For more information, contact empty tomb at (217) 356-9519.

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Sylvia Ronsvalle
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