Press Releases

Clergy for Justice Announces Gathering to Support Medicaid Expansion

Press release from Clergy for Justice; August 29, 2013:

Hundreds of Ministers from Across Tennessee Descend Upon Nashville to Call on State, Federal Government to Put Politics Aside, Come Together to Adopt the Tennessee Plan to Reform, Retool and Expand Medicaid 

Candlelight Vigils to be Held Across State to Pray for Gov. Haslam and other Officials to Find Compromise that would Provide Health Insurance for Thousands

Thursday, August 28, 2013 – Hundreds of ministers from across Tennessee, representing virtually every faith and denomination, descended upon Nashville today as part of Clergy for Justice’s “Faith Statewide Day of Action” in support of reforming, retooling and expanding Medicaid.

The event, led by Rev. Dr. Marvin Mercer of Mount Olive Baptist Church, brought together hundreds of ministers from every corner of the state to call on Governor Haslam, Lt Governor Ramsey, members of the State Legislature and federal officials in Washington to answer God’s call and find a compromise that would reform, retool and expand Medicaid in the state of Tennessee.

“Fifty years ago yesterday, men and women gathered together in Washington to ask their elected leaders – not as politicians, but as men and women of faith – how they could turn a blind eye to the injustice experienced at that time,” said Rev. Mercer. “ Today, we gather here in Nashville, and in Memphis, and in Knoxville, and in Chattanooga, and in Jackson to ask our Governor and all elected leaders to answer the following question not as politicians but as men and women of faith – How can you turn a blind eye to suffering when you have the power to help and to heal?”

“If the $10.5 billion dollars were for roads instead of health care, we would be building new roads today, no questions asked. Instead,” said Mercer, “We traveled those roads to gather here today, in Nashville, from all across the state, to pray for and encourage Gov. Haslam, our Lt. Governor, State Legislature and Washington to make the right decision to ensure that we can provide health care for all Tennesseans.”

Rev. Roderick Ware, of New Monumental Baptist Church in Chattanooga, said that “If the legislature will do as the clergy have done and pledge support and vote for the Governor’s Tennessee Plan then we will have the necessary funds to provide health care for up to 175,000 Tennesseans and create thousands of jobs. We should do more than just look to heaven for a miracle and instead open our hearts to use the resources provided for us.”

“We urge Gov. Haslam, and all elected leaders both here in Tennessee and in Washington, to put politics aside and to agree to a compromise that would allow us to reform, retool and expand Medicaid in our state,” said Rev. Matthew Kelly of Arlington United Methodist Church in Nashville. “Doing so enables us to faithfully answer the Biblical call to care for those whom our world considers ‘the least of these’.”

“If we pass on this opportunity, hospitals will close and access to health care in areas that are already underserved will become even scarcer,” said Rev. Kelly. “Doing nothing will not only be missing an opportunity to do justice, but actively allowing injustice and suffering to take place. As followers of Jesus, we cannot remain silent at this critical moment.”

“Providing health care saves people’s lives, which is what our faith traditions are all about.” said Rev. Ralph White who made the trip from Bloomfield Baptist Church in Memphis. “It is time that our Governor, Lt. Governor, Legislators and federal officials in Washington recognize what we already know: that this is a moral issue, not a political one.”

“Our Faith compels us to compassion. Uninsured people in Tennessee need this funding,” said Rev. P. Morgan Gordy of Christ Lutheran Church in Nashville. “Our rural hospitals need this funding. Instead of letting our tax dollars go to another state, which is what will happen if we do not accept them, we need keep our tax dollars here to help provide health insurance for up to 175,000 people in our state who today go without healthcare, not to mention the thousands of jobs that this funding would create.”

Following the event at the State Capitol, hundreds planned to gather Candlelight Vigils all across the state in Nashville, Memphis, Jackson, Chattanooga and Knoxville.


Temple Baptist
Christ Lutheran Church
Seventh-day Adventist
Antioch United Methodist
Arlington United Methodist
Mt. Olive Church Assemblies of God
Bellevue UMC
Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church
Holy Trinity Lutheran
Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention
Vanderbilt Divinity School
Southminster Presbyterian
Wesley Foundation
New Monumental Baptist Church
Bloomfield Baptist Church
Wesley Foundation at the University of TN, Knoxville
The United Methodist Church; former Chaplain at Harvard University
Mt. Olive Baptist Church
Mt. Calvary Baptist Church
New Hope Baptist Church


United Methodist Church
Missionary Baptist
Assembly of God
Seventh Day Adventist
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Church of Christ
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Church of God
Disciples of Christ
Free Will Baptist
Catholic Church

Press Releases

Clergy for Justice Declare ‘Victory’ after Campfield Withdraws TANF Bill

Press release from Clergy for Justice; April 11, 2013:

Clergy for Justice Declares Victory “For Now” as Campfield Withdraws “Starve the Children” Bill; Comes After Author of Bill Runs from Child Who He Dismissed as a “Prop” as She Tried to Explain How Bill Hurts Kids

Thursday, April 11, 2013 – A group of almost 100 citizens, thirty ministers, a children’s choir, a mother and her daughter all came to the state capitol today to deliver over 2,500 signatures and a message to State Senator Stacy Campfield, Republican of Knoxville:

“Don’t starve the children,” said Aamiria Fetuga, the eight year old daughter of Rasheedat Fetuga.

“My daughter came home with tears in her eyes after playing with a couple of friends whose parents receive government assistance to ask me if we our power would be turned off if she didn’t pass her test this week,” said Fetuga, Director of Gideon’s Army which is a grassroots organization that advocates on behalf of children. “As a mother that was heartbreaking and then to have Sen. Campfield just dismiss her and her concerns as a ‘prop’ was just a slap in our face.”

Campfield, whose bills have recently become fodder for late night comedians nationally, condescendingly spoke to the girl and her mother saying that if her mother was “decent parent” she didn’t have anything worry about.

Link to video of Sen. Campfield, Child Encounter

“This goes against everything that people of faith believe,” said Kathy Chambers, Organizer for Clergy for Justice. “It casts judgment solely on lower income families and implies that only their children are struggling in school, thus only those families should be held accountable for their children’s academic performance.”

“Jesus calls those who follow him to feed those who are hungry (Matthew 25:35),” said Rev. Matthew Kelly of Arlington United Methodist Church. “If we as a society take food out of the mouths of those who are already struggling, when we know that children who are undernourished have greater difficulty in the classroom, then we are loudly and clearly saying “no” to the call of Jesus to care for those whom our world has identified as ‘the least of these.’”
“We acknowledge that parents play an integral role in student achievement, but they are not the sole influencer of their child’s performance,” said Taylor Hummell, Acting Nashville City Director for Stand for Children. “This bill is based on the incorrect assumption that parental involvement is the only factor that determines student outcomes.”

The event, which featured a Children’s Choir that sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children” outside the Senate chamber as Sen. Campfield’s “Starve the Children” bill was withdrawn.

Press Releases

TN Clergy Members Deliver ‘Loaves, Fishes’ to State Leaders in Support of Medicaid

Press release from Clergy for Justice; April 8, 2013:

Monday, April 8, 2013 – A group of fifteen faith leaders from across the state of Tennessee gathered this morning to deliver 133 baskets of “loaves and fishes” along with a letter calling on the Governor, Lt. Governor and legislature not to abandon Medicaid expansion if the federal government does not approve the state’s alternative expansion plan.

“Everyone is optimistic that Governor Haslam’s ‘Tennessee Health Plan’ will be approved by the federal government,” said Kathy Chambers, organizer for the Clergy for Justice. “We just want to make clear to our elected officials here in Tennessee that abandoning Medicaid expansion is not acceptable if the Governor’s alternative plan is rejected.”

“The story of the loaves and fishes tells us about an eye-opening miracle: where we are able to see only ‘barely enough for a few’ and Jesus allows us to see true abundance: plenty for all.” said Rev. Thomas Kleinert of Vine Street Christian Church. “We aren’t called to be miracle workers who do wonders with scarce resources; rather we are called to fully participate in the ongoing miracle of overflowing divine generosity and human community. New opportunities for thousands of Tennesseans to gain access to good and affordable healthcare are opportunities to strengthen the fabric of our families and communities. I hope our political leaders will respond to these opportunities with wisdom and courage: there’s plenty for all.”

“When Jesus’ disciples asked him to send the crowds away so they could feed themselves, he told them, “You feed them.” His followers thought that this to be impossible, but Jesus sends out a few loaves of bread and fish, and everyone has more than enough,” said Rev. Michael Williams of West United Methodist Church. “Perhaps when we are willing to take the risk to share there is more than enough to go around, whether that is food or medical care or education.”

In all 133 baskets of loaves of bread and fish were delivered to the Governor, Lt. Governor and all legislators by 15 ministers and volunteers. Included with the baskets was a letter from Clergy for Justice that was signed by nearly 100 clergy and faith leaders of various denominations from all across the state.

The letter called expanding Medicaid “not only the right thing to do, it’s the moral and faithful thing to do.”

April 8, 2013
To: Gov. Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ramsey, Spk. Harwell, and the General Assembly
We, the undersigned, share Gov. Haslam’s stated belief that providing health care to our most vulnerable, “the least of these”, is a mandate of our various faith traditions and will improve lives of Tennesseans across the state.
Further, the Governor has chosen to propose an alternative to Medicaid expansion (The Tennessee Health Plan), which he contends would provide health insurance to roughly the same number of uninsured who would be expected to enroll under traditional Medicaid expansion.
If this plan is not accepted as an alternative to Medicaid expansion, Gov. Haslam’s rejection of the federal funding to provide health insurance to citizens who earn less than 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL) is not acceptable.
Expansion of health insurance will create high-paying jobs, be good for our economy, and will improve health outcomes for hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans.
The prophet Ezekiel denounced the leaders of ancient Israel whose failure of responsible government included failure to provide health care: “you have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them” (Ezekiel 34:4, NRSV).
Throughout the Scriptures, God asks people of faith to care for our neighbors and to give special attention to those who are most vulnerable. “Care for the widow, the orphan, the stranger among you,” God commands. (Deuteronomy 24) “Who is my neighbor?” a person asked. “The one who showed compassion,” Jesus replied. (Luke 10) God calls, and we, as people of faith, respond.
Now is the time for our leaders to answer God’s call. We support legislation that provides health coverage to all persons who earn less than 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and provides access to affordable healthcare to those who need most, and we expect our elected leaders and representatives to vote in favor of providing basic health care for those in Tennessee who do not earn enough to meet their basic needs. It is not only the right thing to do, it’s the moral and faithful thing to do.


Rev. Danny Rhodes, Belle Meade United Methodist Church, Nashville
Ken Edwards, Belmont United Methodist Church, Old Hickory
James Hewgley, Hamilton United Methodist Church, Mt, Juliet
Mark Forrester, Vanderbilt University Chaplain, Nashville
Rev. Clifford Bahlinger, St. Luke Lutheran Church, Cordova
Rev. Brian Rossbert, Dalewood United Methodist Church, Nashville
Andrew Fiser, Edgehill United Methodist Church, Nashville
Kevin Strickland, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Nashville
Paul Eknes-Tucker, Holy Trinity Community Church, Memphis
Alan Green, Glendale Baptist Church, Nashville
Angela Dillon, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Nashville
Sonia Walker , First Congregational Church , Memphis
John Crawford, Southminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville
Rev. Jay Voorhees, Old Hickory United Methodist Church, Old Hickory
Melisa Derseweh, Andrew Price Memorial United Methodist Church, McMinnville
James Cole, Hillcrest United Methodist Church, Nashville
Hope Hodnett, Vine Street Christian Church, Nashville
Bishop Melvin Talbert, Retired Bishop, the United Methodist Church, Hermitage
David Lay, St. John’s United Methodist Church, Nashville
Robert Travis, Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Knoxville
Richard Spry, Hillcrest United Methodist Church, Nolensville
David Spencer, Riverside United Methodist Church, Columbia
Christophe Ringer, Howard Congregational Church, Nashville
Ellen Armour, Professor of Theological Studies, Vanderbilt Divinity, Nashville
Diane Sasson, West End Synagogue , Nashville
Rev. Merrilee Wineinger, Tennessee Conference of the UMC, Hendersonville
Rev. Dr. Michael Williams, West End United Methodist Church, Nashville
Rev. Viki Matson, Asst. Prof. of the Practice of Ministry, Vanderbilt Divinity, Nashville
Rev. Dr. Sandy Shawhan, St. Bethlehem United Methodist Church, Nashville
Bettie Corey, Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Knoxville
Melissa Boling, Alive Hospice; Vanderbilt Divinity School, Cane Ridge
V. H. Dixon, Jr., Hobson United Methodist Church Nashville
Erin Racine Brentwood United Methodist Church, Nashville
Judy Cummings, Edgehill United Methodist Church, Nashville
Cherisna Jean-Marie, New Covenant Christian Church, Nashville
Andy Andrews, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Memphis
David Linge, Retired Prof. of Religious Studies, UT Knoxville, Knoxville
Glenn Graber, First United Methodist Church, Oak Ridge, Knoxville
Rev. Jason Brock, Disaster Response Coordinator, UMC, Nashville
Elder Kenneth Edmondson, Woodbine United Methodist Church, Nashville
Mary Louise McCullough, Second Presbyterian Church, Nashville
Rev. Adam Kelchner, Belmont United Methodist Church, Nashville
Rev. Heidi Hudnut-Beumler, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Nashville
Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom House at Scarritt Bennett Center, Murfreesboro
Dan Williams, Hillsboro Presbyterian Church, Nashville
Bill Campbell , Murfreesboro First United Methodist Church, Murfreesboro
Ann Cover, South End United Methodist Church, Nashville
Roderick Belin, Kairos Community A.M.E. Church, Nashville
Darris Doyal, Retired minister, the United Methodist Church, Sevierville
Kathryn Spry, Hillcrest United Methodist Church, Nolensville
Christine Perkins, Antioch United Methodist Church, Antioch
Betsy Dwyer , Glenmary Home Missioners , Ashland City
Rev. Bettye Lewis, Connectional Ministries Director, UMC, Nashville
Barbara Garcia, Retired Clergy, the United Methodist Church, Nashville
Eugene TeSelle, The Witherspoon Society, Nashville
Matt Steinhauer, St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Hendersonville
Bill Friskics-Warren, United Neighborhood Health Services, Nashville
Todd Jenkins, First Presbyterian Church, Fayetteville
James Zralek, Diocese of Nashvlle, Nashville
Bindy Snyder, All Saints Episcopal Church, Memphis
Henry Lenoir, Pastor, Holston Conference of the UMC, Knoxville
Dan Rosemergy, Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Church, Nashville
Mary Early-Zald, First Unitarian Universalist Church, Nashville
Carolyn Dipboye, Grace Covenant Church, Oak Ridge
Father Wilfred Steinbacher, Glenmary Home Missioners, Madison
Kathy Plourde, Chaplain, Gallatin
Kenneth Townsend, United Methodist Church, Brentwood
Melissa Snarr, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Vanderbilt Divinity, Nashville
John Ripley, Holston Conference of the UMC, Knoxville
Mary Jane Ripley, Holston Conference of the UMC, Knoxville
Verna Fausey, Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville
Bill Vilk, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Bulls Gap
Patricia Lynes-Tway, St. James Episcopal Church, Knoxville
Andrew Schleicher, Hillcrest United Methodist Church, Nashville
Rev. Dan Kelly, Church Street United Methodist Church, Knoxville
Rev. Kaye Harvey, Brentwood United Methodist Church, Brentwood
Rev. Beth A. Richardson, Edgehill United Methodist Church, Antioch
James Kendrick, First United Methodist Church, Somerville
Van Sanks, Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church, Knoxville
Rev. Rebekah Fetzer, Cokesbury United Methodist Church, Knoxville
Rev. W. A. Sinkfield, Presiding Elder, North Nashville District, AME Church, Nashville
Anna Lee, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Knoxville
Ann Lucas, St. Stephen Catholic Community, Mount Juliet
Randy Hoover-Dempsey, All Saints Episcopal Church, Madison
Jackie Shrago, Vanderbilt University, Nashville
Kimberly Peeler-Ringer, Vanderbilt Graduate Department of Religion, Nashville
Bruce Morrill, Society of Jesus, Nashville
Jonathan Jeffords, Pastor, Covenant United Methodist Church, Cordova
Charlotte Sydnor, Senior Pastor, Woodfork Chapel AME Church, Nashville
Dickie Hinton,Tennessee Conference of the UMC, Monterey
Kara Oliver, Glendale United Methodist Church, Nashville
Mike Ripski, Senior Pastor, Lebonon United Methodist Church, Lebanon
John McCullough, Pastor, Woodland Presbyterian Church, Nashville
Lucinda Nelson, Kelley’s Chapel United Methodist Church, Murfreesboro
Rev. Brian Marcoulier, Charlotte-Fagan United Methodist Church, Clarksville
Charles Overton, Hillcrest United Methodist Church, Nashville
Kira Schlesinger, Priest, Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Nashville