At the National Summit on the Churches and Welfare Reform, the strategic concept of a new federation that can magnify the voices of thousands of local and national faith-based organizations was greeted enthusiastically. The call to bring together people and organizations working to overcome poverty and heal the sins of racism is resonating throughout the country.
Both at the Summit and since, we’ve been asked for information on how to affiliate. At a two-day retreat in mid-March, the Call to Renewal board took steps to implement this new federation. We are eager to build on the momentum created by the Summit that was, in Rev. James Forbes’ words, a "meeting for a movement."
Underlying these decisions is our call to help mobilize and focus the moral energy of the faith community to lead by example and to offer a prophetic voice for spiritual transformation and social change. By bringing the nation’s faith-based organizations and church-anchored ministries into a new national network and voice, we will be stronger than we are separately or denominationally. Together we can motivate the nation to confront the pervasive poverty and persistent racism still present in the richest and most diverse country on earth. In asserting the moral importance of the common good, we can truly be a call to renewal in our society.
Structurally, Call to Renewal will become a federation inviting individuals, congregations, local community-based groups, national organizations, and denominations to affiliate together, each bringing their particular identity, strengths, and resources. Spiritually, we will covenant with each other and before God in this mission for spiritual renewal and social justice.
The goals toward which the Call to Renewal federation will work are:
- To more effectively connect and strengthen the material, spiritual, and human capacity of existing church-based efforts, both in local communities and nationally.
- To create new cooperation and collaboration in order to generate new action, fresh energy, and bold innovation.
- To strengthen the role of faith-based organizations in forming multi-sector partnerships that can generate new civic commitments, resources, and solutions.
- To create a united faith-based voice in the public policy debate that can provide a credible political influence at the local, state, and national levels by giving voice to the most successful grassroots strategies and offering "policy from below" to the political discussion.
The board developed a set of membership and affiliation guidelines for organizations and individuals. A founding membership appeal will be sent out shortly, and affiliation agreements for organizations are also being prepared. As we take these next steps, we are grateful to all who attended the Summit, to those who could not attend but kept us in your prayers, and to God who continues to guide and direct our work together.
Pentecost Sunday is May 23, 1999. For the third consecutive year, churches around the country will be participating in a "Pentecost to Overcome Poverty." Special services and public activities will reaffirm that our society is responsible for the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.
The National Summit demonstrated that the faith community is continuing to mobilize in unprecedented ways to serve and advocate for those being moved off welfare. Pentecost is an appropriate occasion to reaffirm our witness, as we commemorate the Spirit of God entering the early church and empowering it to witness (see Acts 2). As with the first church, we will pray, teach, and share on that day. We will continue our work toward a time when it can also be said of our society that there is not a needy person among us.
These Pentecost activities are an excellent way to encourage the faith community to establish a Call to Renewal roundtable or to strengthen an existing one. Planning an event together can be the vehicle for building a new network in your community. We hope that each of you and your local congregations will plan a Pentecost event.
Resources for Pentecost, including an organizing guide, are available on the Call to Renewal Web site or by contacting our office.
JIM WALLIS is editor-in-chief of Sojourners and convener of Call to Renewal. Sojourners is an active participant in the Call to Renewal network, providing leadership and organizing support. Contact Call to Renewal, 2401 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009; (202) 328-8745; fax (202) 328-8757; firstname.lastname@example.org; home page: www.calltorenewal.com.