Friday, February 01, 2008

Urban Ministry: Prophetic Voice for Change

“Speak Truth to the powers and principalities!” Name, unmask and engage God’s people to be a prophetic witness of Christ’s love in the City. J-Term SCUPE (Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education) course, Dimensions and Dynamics of Urban Ministry challenged me to think about the difference between a charity model vs. justice model of action if we are to address issues of injustice. Our focus was on issues of racism, economic injustice and violence.

If we are to truly change the condition of the poor and oppressed charity is not enough. Justice is served only through the changing of the systems (institutional and otherwise) that keep people in poverty and oppressed. The class visited 11 sites throughout Chicago to observe and learn from faith-based organizations; some provide services (charity) others advocacy (justice) and some provided both services and advocacy work.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless works to organize the homeless to help them advocate for their right to housing. This was my first exposure to the art of community organization as the foundation for social movements. Organizing works to embrace the reality of self-interest, agitate (move into action) and empower. The Interfaith Worker Justice organization is doing amazing work for workers’ rights. IWJ is a purely faith-based organization standing in solidarity for the right for workers to organize and have a living wage. Bethel New Life is a wonderful example of comprehensive community renewal using asset based Community Development techniques. Instead of thinking about all that seems to be missing in the community, imagine rejoicing in the amazing gifts and life that God has provided through those around. This ministry is built of the people and by the people in the community. What a tremendous example of ministry and stewardship. All of these organizations in one way or another speak “truth to the powers and principalities.”

What I have shared may resonate with you or it may not but one thing is for certain, how we see and understand issues of injustice depends on the places in which we have sat. God help us to remove the blinders from our eyes, expose to us the injustices that persist in our world and give us the strength and courage to speak the Gospel Truth to the powers and principalities so that your kingdom may reign on earth as in heaven. Amen.

1 comment:

Nathan said...


Sounds like you had a great J-term class. If you want another expression of thinking about Charity vs. Justice work, there is a great article by David Hilfiker and here is the link:

And it sounds like you got to visit a few great places doing good orgnaizing. Hope to hear more about them when I see you next.