December 6, 2016 - Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service (KY)
A petition signed by nearly 10,000 people urges Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass legislation creating economic opportunities by reclaiming abandoned mine sites. (Vivian Stockman/Flyover SouthWing)
LONDON, Ky. – A grassroots message is being sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: it's time for swift action to pass legislation that would help both the economy and environment in distressed coal communities. Three organizers, including Katie Dollarhide of Letcher County, delivered a petition with nearly 10,000 signatures Monday to McConnell's district office in London.
Dollarhide blames McConnell for stalling action on the RECLAIM Act, which would move $1 billion over five years from the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund into areas hit hard by the decline of the coal industry.
"He's the very person who could pick this up and lead it like a champion," she said. "I've been embarrassed, I've been let down, I've been mad. Step up is what we're saying to Mitch McConnell."
Dollarhide said she is a registered Republican and has voted for McConnell in the past. Another Kentucky Republican, Representative Hal Rogers introduced the RECLAIM ACT in the House ten months ago. It proposes creating economic opportunities by reclaiming abandoned mine sites.
A recent poll showed there is overwhelming public support for tapping into the federal fund to spur economic development in Appalachia, including Kentucky, where more than 11,000 coal-mining jobs have been lost since 2009. With Congress about to go on its long holiday recess, Dollarhide said the petition speaks to the coal region's urgent needs.
"It says to make this happen immediately," she added. "This is our chance. If they wait until next session or another time, it's weakening us more and it's making us more of a helpless community."
Another petition has also been delivered to McConnell, urging him to allow the Miners' Protection Act to get to the Senate floor. That legislation would protect healthcare and pension benefits for tens of thousands of former coal miners and their families.
OPEN LETTER TO KENTUCKY CONGREGATIONS
November 1, 2016
With the election only one week away, my thoughts have turned towards what is next. For more than a year we have been bombarded with campaign ads, vitriol and divisive rhetoric. This election has brought out the worst in us, leading to protests, defamation, even violence.
The Church has not been immune. We have been called on to support one political agenda or the other, even at the detriment of our well-protected tax-exempt status. In Kentucky, the Governor encouraged pastors to break the law by endorsing a particular political party agenda. Congregational leaders and members participate in mud-slinging and name-calling. They fight among themselves, sometimes within the sacred halls and parking lots of our church campuses.
The Church is a historically sinful system. The 500th anniversary of the Reformation reminds us that we have often failed to live as God calls us – one body in Christ with a mission of love. Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church to spur discussion and debate. He wanted to Church to examine its practices and repent of its impropriety.
Throughout our 2000+ years of Christian history, beginning with the very first churches, there has been conflict and division, and many calls for repentance and reconciliation. My own Presbyterian denomination has gone through numerous break-ups and mergers, and we are not unique in this.
However, what we are seeing today is different than church separations based on theological and ecclesial disagreements of our past. What we are seeing today is a church caught up in a national crisis of epidemic proportions. We are a nation torn by fear, hatred, racism, distrust and outlandish vulgarity.
It is time for the Church to stop participating and start healing. Our people are hurting – Christians and non-Christians alike. Jesus was a healer, and if we are to be His Body we need to be about the ministry of healing and reconciliation. Could it be that this is the American Church’s new mission?
We are at a crossroads. No matter who wins the election next week, there will be aftershocks. Will the Church continue to join the mass hysteria? Or will we be a beacon of hope shining in this present darkness?
As Executive Director of the KY Council of Churches, I am challenging ALL congregations in the Commonwealth to choose the latter – practice the love and forgiveness of Christ that we proclaim. Hold healing services, prayer vigils, community conversations (contact me to learn more about Holy Conversations), calls for peace, etc. – anything you can do to foster a culture of love, hope, peace and charity. Our state and our country needs us to practice what we preach.
Will you accept the challenge?
Rev. Dr. Peggy C. Hinds
(This letter was sent to news outlets across the state. Please share it with your congregation(s).)