The Common Good

Saving the Church's Soul

Sojomail - April 28, 2004

Quote of the Week Proportionality and violence in Iraq
Batteries Not Included David Batstone: Saving the church's soul
Building a Movement Taking it to the Bank (and the IMF)
Action Alert Update Inching out of the corporate cocoon: Caterpillar should investigate human rights abuses
On the Ground Haiti: Turning back the clock
Good News Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu released
Soul Works Thich Nhat Hanh: 'Goodwill is not enough'
Under the Wire News and views you may have missed
Web Sitings Poverty tour | Scary, cute
Boomerang Readers write

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners
Get a free issue of Sojourners

Jim Wallis on TV this Thursday
Sojourners' Jim Wallis will be appearing in the PBS documentary The Jesus Factor airing this Thursday, April 29, at 9 p.m. (Check local listings at ) The one-hour program explores President Bush's connection with the 46% of Americans who describe themselves as "born-again" Christians. To what extent do the president's spiritual beliefs impact or influence his political decision-making? And how closely do Bush's religious views mirror those of the country's burgeoning - and politically influential - evangelical movement?


"My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is overresponsive to the threat they are facing."

- A senior British Army officer in southern Iraq. Source: Christian Science Monitor

Saving the church's soul
by David Batstone

"I'm very discouraged about the direction our church is heading. No, better put, I don't believe our church knows where it's heading. It's getting increasingly difficult to attract new members, and the young families who do attend are talking about leaving because they aren't being inspired. And our pastor takes every suggestion to change as a personal threat to his authority. I guess at root I've lost trust in the process."

I bet this anxious confession strikes a chord with many of you who are involved in a faith community. The concern usually sneaks up on us. We rarely think of a church as an organizational structure - at least when we join - but rather we are attracted to the people who gather together for a more transcendent purpose. Perhaps that's why so many faith communities are plagued by internal conflict and dysfunction; too little intentional thought and strategy go into maintaining the organizational integrity of the operation.

When I was writing Saving the Corporate Soul, I honestly did not have religious congregations and nonprofit organizations in mind. To the contrary, I trained my eye on leadership in the business enterprise. It has turned out to be somewhat of a surprise, then, that a number of congregations and nonprofits are finding the book helpful in evaluating their organizational values and reforming their leadership practices to align with those values.

My subsequent engagement with church leadership councils (I'll turn my attention to nonprofits in a future column) points to some common patterns:

* Congregations are big on the "V" word (vision) but struggle to connect it to the "I" word (implementation).

* Congregations regularly confuse organizational values and desired outcomes. Due to the graying of church members and the general decline in attendance, church councils often admit that their number one priority is to reach young families. As understandable as that goal may be, it is not a mission or a value. It's a desired outcome. The congregation must first step back and identify the five key values that it wants the organization to serve. That first step is the foundation for every other leadership and structural decision that the church makes. It also is the linchpin to how successful the church will be in reaching its desired outcomes. You don't bring in young families unless your community highly values, in a palpable way, the things they care about as well.

* The leadership structure of congregations is typically top-heavy, the pastor/priest carrying too large a burden. We want our minister to be charismatic in the pulpit, affable at our social events, decisive and efficient at the council meeting, and wise when we are in crisis. It's a rare person who can fulfill all these roles. In my experience, the trouble lies at both ends of the relationship. The congregation holds unrealistic expectations and the minister fears losing control, so the organization sputters in misalignment. By the way, it's intriguing to me that the typical minister, like the typical CEO of a business enterprise, leans toward being an introvert; the implications for organizational management are significant.

* Most congregations suffer from a lack of organizational transparency. Above all, the flow of finances and the process of decision-making - why decisions are made, who is involved in the decision-making, and who will be held accountable for each decision - are shrouded in mystery. The transparency gap is often rationalized as not wanting to offend particular members of the community - "for their own good." But in reality it maintains an infantile dependency that inevitably leads to a breach of trust.

* I ask senior managers of for-profit companies to name the promise that they are making to their customers. I then ask them to look at the schedule of activities in their calendar and consider how many of those meetings directly contribute to fulfilling the promise. They often are shocked at the misalignment. It is a worthwhile exercise to practice this same evaluation with the weekly church calendar in the Sunday bulletin. Another way of approaching this theme: What would the church look like if it prioritized "Customer Care"?

I do not make these comments to be harsh. No organization, including the church, is a perfect oasis - despite our worthy ideals, we are embedded in a human story. The truly prophetic actor in the human drama humbly takes stock of its own character as it walks the path of transcendence. Those prophets who fail to do so usually end up lost in a maze of their own making.

Read more commentary by David Batstone at:

Honor your mother and those you love on Mother's Day. When you make a secure online gift to support Sojourners' ministry of peace and justice, your designated loved one will receive a special Mother's Day e-card acknowledging your gift to Sojourners. It will be sent on Friday, May 7, to let them know you have given a gift on behalf of or in memory of your loved one.

Go to:

Taking it to the Bank (and the IMF)
by Elizabeth Palmberg

Becky Lozada of the Philippines spoke of how water prices have more than tripled in Manila, depriving the poor, because of a World Bank-pushed privatization of the water system (a privatization that the World Bank charged $6.2 million to plan). The new owners, including mega-corporations Bechtel and Suez, have reneged on their initial promises to keep rates low.

Dickson Mundia of Zimbabwe described how his family was flooded out of their ancestral land, without any compensation, by a World Bank-funded dam on the Zambezi river. And Fides Chale of Tanzania reported that education, health services, and small farmers and miners have all suffered, while mortality rates have risen, under the "structural adjustment" forced on her country since the 1980s.

These are just a few of the thousands of people who showed up in Washington, D.C., last weekend to protest the 60th birthday of the World Bank and IMF. Both institutions, protesters charge, force countries in the Global South to adopt a cookie-cutter recipe of slashing social spending, selling off water and power services to multinational corporations, staying in bondage to crippling Cold War-era debts, and focusing on export-based economics that leave the poor behind.

Read more at:

Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2004

Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2004"Join us in Washington as we tell politicians and the nation that reducing poverty is a religious and electoral issue in 2004. Our convictions on other issues do not prevent us as Christians from uniting to overcome poverty." - Jim Wallis

Join Us For a Pentecost Show of Unity
May 23-25, 2004
Washington Plaza Hotel, Washington, DC

* Plenary Panels * Washington National Cathedral Worship Service featuring Rev. James A. Forbes * Keynote Luncheon with Bill Moyers * Congressional Prayer Breakfast and more! Register at:

Inching out of the corporate cocoon: Caterpillar should investigate human rights abuses
by Liat Weingart and Cecilie Surasky

Contrary to popular perception, the vast majority of Palestinian homes are destroyed for lack of permits - which are nearly impossible to obtain - and not because of connections to terrorism.
On the very day that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush held a press conference on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, investors gathered at the annual Caterpillar Inc. meeting in Chicago became the first stockholders ever asked to investigate a U.S. corporation's role in the violation of human rights in the Palestinian-occupied territories. ...

This resolution was filed by Caterpillar shareholders Sisters of Loretto and the Ursuline Sisters, at the request of the Jewish peace group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Sister Valerie Heinonen of the Ursuline Sisters told Crain's Chicago Business, "We believe that (the Israeli actions) are a violation of the Palestinians' human rights," and argued that Caterpillar should establish a set of human rights criteria that would govern equipment sales.

Read more at:

Take action - ask Congress to investigate Israel's use of Caterpillar equipment to demolish Palestinian homes:


Born with cerebral palsy, Sam has received services from Easter Seals for 19 years. Now a college student, he wants to give back to the organization that has given him so much.

Click here to watch his inspiring short film and donate online to help him reach his goal. When you give, Mass Mutual will match your contribution dollar-for-dollar up to Sam's goal of $50,000. Help us spread the word - tell your friends, colleagues, and family about Sam's campaign!

Haiti: Turning back the clock
by Tom F. Driver

Haiti has suffered a terrible humiliation at the hands of the United States.... The clock of Haitians' self-government has been set back at least 50 years. On the surface, life can appear rather normal, but awful fears and hatreds lie just underneath, ready to ensnare or explode. ...

We met with groups loyal to Aristide and groups who hate him, but only one group - dominated by wealthy businessmen - failed to condemn in the strongest terms the occupation of Haiti by the U.S.-led multinational force. It is an insult to Haiti's spirit of freedom and self-worth, and it has come, perhaps not by accident, during the 200th anniversary of Haiti's declaration of independence in 1804.

Read more at:

Clergy Leadership Institute

Alaskan Cruise and Appreciative Inquiry Training
From Seattle, WA. August 22-29, 2004

Come and enjoy the wonders and beauty of the Alaskan coastal region and complete 20 hours of professional development in Appreciative Inquiry (AI). This is an incredible opportunity for clergy and their partners to share in the appreciative identification of those things that give them life that they may work and love from and within these life-giving resources.

For registration and information about our other Appreciative Inquiry based programs:
Clergy Leadership Development, Interim Ministry, Coaching, and Appreciative Soul Friending
please visit us on the web at: or by phone at 503-647-2378.

Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu released

After serving an 18-year sentence for blowing the cover on Israel's secret nuclear weapons program, Mordechai Vanunu was released on April 21 to cheers by supporters and insults and threats by critics. Hailed by some as a "hero of peace" and denounced by others as a "traitor and spy," Vanunu spent nearly 12 years of his imprisonment in solitary confinement and claims he suffered "cruel and barbaric" treatment because he is a Christian convert. One of his first acts upon his release was to pray at St. George's Anglican cathedral in Jerusalem. He will remain under house arrest for a year and is forbidden to leave the country or talk to foreigners without permission.

In 1986, while a technician at an Israeli nuclear reactor, Vanunu gave pictures and an interview to a U.K. newspaper exposing the extent of Israel's nuclear arsenal. He was abducted by Israeli agents in Rome later that year and imprisoned for treason. Israel has never admitted to possessing nuclear arms under its policy of "strategic ambiguity."



CharityAdvantage serves thousands of nonprofits through technology programs:

LAPTOPS!.........Laptops from $395
COMPUTERS!...Pentium II's from $149/Pentium III's from $279
COMPUTERS!...New Intel-powered from $399
MONITORS!.....Monitors from $49
MICROSOFT!.. Save up to 70% Office XP @ $129/Office XP Pro @ $149
WEB SITES!......Only $99 setup & $29 monthly for hosting/updates/tech support
DONATIONS!...American Nonprofit Technology Alliance

Visit us online at

'Goodwill is not enough'

As you continue to progress on the path of mutual understanding and acceptance, you become an instrument for social and political change. If you do not succeed in your community, don't hope for quality, because without that base of operation you cannot achieve much. People are motivated to do things, there are plenty of them, but without the capacity of listening, of understanding, of being compassionate, what they do cannot help. They can make the situation worse. So, goodwill is not enough. There must be the capacity of understanding, of compassion, and of working together in harmony before you can hope to do something.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Read more at:


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.

News and views you may have missed

Why John Kerry needs the needy [requires free registration],1,3443906.story?coll=la-sunday-commentary

Rise in hate groups inspires communities to respond

Priests to begin peace pilgrimage in Colombia

U.S. tactics in Iraq taken from Israeli playbook - and are just as successful at ending terrorism

Native Americans seek funds lost and stolen by the U.S. government [requires free registration]

Guatemalan government admits its responsibility for the murder of rights activist Myrna Mack

Poverty tour

What does it mean to be poor in America? This multimedia presentation produced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops puts the abstract numbers into perspective:

Scary, cute

For mindless animated entertainment, try The Exorcist in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies. It's definitely the PG version, but still about as disturbing as cartoon bunnies can get.


This Mother's Day, skip the flowers and candy. Honor the special woman in your life by making a gift to Women for Women International in her name. Your gift will help women in war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo get the skills and training they need to rebuild their lives. Find out how at:

Readers write

John A. Jostad writes from Fort Collins, Colorado:

Thanks, Jim, for your thoughts on Rosemarie Freeney Harding [SojoMail 4/21/2004]. I needed to pause and think about her and her life, as the radio delivers news of a need for more billons of dollars for war. Rosemarie embraced the good in everyone, and when you were in seminars with her, you saw her bring that good in everyone closer to the surface. Your reflection helped me to remember a seminar that I attended with Rosemarie and Vincent Harding. After Vincent guided our self-introductions, Rosemarie brought out pans and towels, and we all washed each other's feet. Yes, she healed us all that day. And as I sit and remember Rosemarie, I feel grateful to know that there is real goodness in the world.


Bob Heltman writes from Hendersonville, North Carolina:

In the edition I looked at the following is mentioned ["Civilian casualties in Fallujah," SojoMail 4/21/2004]: "Hospital workers reported 518 Iraqis killed by U.S. fire, including at least 157 women and 146 children. Of the children, 100 are under age 12 and of those, 46 are under age 5. More than 1,200 have been wounded." What I wonder about is what lies behind the numbers. We know from other news over the months that the Saddam loyalists have sent forth women clad with bombs, children likewise, as well as the use of women and children as shields behind which the shooters hid. These fanatics also use their mosques as hiding places and shields, desecrating their own "holy" grounds.

I believe that the coalition forces (only "U.S."?) allowed windows of time for civilians to leave the fighting area. I also doubt strongly that U.S. troops - our friends and neighbors and their children in uniform - are deliberately shooting to kill or maim women or children. Our troops weren't brought up that way, unlike the Saddamites. Thus, there is something fishy about the data you set forth and it gives, in my opinion, a false and negative picture that "the good guys" are somehow deliberately causing the "collateral damage."


Gwen Berry writes:

[Regarding "A gospel of personal wealth meets the gospel of commonwealth," SojoMail 3/24/2004]: Thank you for your time of service in El Salvador and the many ways in which you use the gifts God has given you. I agree we are called to be a prophetic voice, to stand on the side of truth and justice. There is something in your retelling of the story that leaves me uneasy. Did you wait 20 years before confronting Mr. Novak with your feelings; were they made known to him by surprise during the open forum in front of many, many people? I hope not. Certainly, this retelling in SojoMail goes out to many more. You will have to be the judge of how hard you tried to reach him in humility and love to correct him. Otherwise, I see this more as damaging to a person's name than help to those unjustly treated. Perhaps it is the purity of intention in the article that I'm grappling with.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: . We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

Donate now to support our work.

David Batstone Executive Editor
Ryan Beiler Web Editor
Molly Marsh Associate Editor
Lester Wall Advertising Director
Bob Sabath Chief Technologist
Tucker Ball Publisher

SojournersT 202.328.8842
2401 15th Street NWF 202.328.8757
Washington, DC 20009
For more information, e-mail

Copyright (c) 2004 Sojourners. All Rights Reserved.
SojoMail material may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution:
Source: Sojourners 2004 (c)

Browse | Search

Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your address. Read our privacy policy.

If this SojoMail was forwarded to you, click here for your free subscription.