For some reason, our office calendar is saying that we’re already halfway through the month of September – how did that happen? August, which tends to be the quietest month both in Washington, D.C., and at Sojourners, just flew by without pausing for a vacation from the D.C. heat and humidity. Please keep reading to find out what kept us so busy.
The shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo., has been weighing heavily on our hearts. Our Senior Director of Mobilizing Lisa Sharon Harper spent a week in Ferguson, coordinating local trainings at churches throughout the St. Louis area to help provide a bridge for white and multi-ethnic churches to engage in healing and justice in Ferguson. We worked in partnership with faith leaders within the Ferguson community, as well as alongside Rev. Michael McBride of PICO, Sojourners’ Emerging Voices leader Leroy Barber, and Rev. William Barber. Our digital media team also extensively covered the situation in Ferguson with on-the-ground bloggers and other commentators.
We are now in the midst of planning our next steps on how Sojourners can best contribute to turning this moment in Ferguson into a movement. It has been a long-standing priority of Sojourners to address structural racism, implicit bias, the criminal justice system, and violence in our communities, and this summer shows us just how deep a need there is for this work. As Dr. Gail Christopher, at the Kellogg Foundation, so aptly points out, Sojourners and the faith community are needed more so than ever to help turn the tide, just as the faith community did during the abolition movement and the Civil Rights movement (read her full remarks here).
Sojourners’ President Jim Wallis spent the entire month traveling in southern Africa, with most of his time in South Africa. It was a powerful experience for him, especially considering the active role he and Sojourners played in the anti-apartheid movement during the late 80s and 90s. Twenty years post-apartheid, there is a lot to celebrate and honor. There is also a lot more work to be done around reconciliation and economic inequality, and Jim was blessed to be able to spend time with some of the next generation of leaders in South Africa brainstorming and visioning strategy to address these issues. You can read his most recent reflection here. He also posted a powerful piece on Time.com, unpacking the parallels between Ferguson and South Africa. There are many conversations percolating about how to follow up on his time in South Africa, so stay tuned for more over the next few months.
This month, we received powerful affirmation of the effectiveness of our work with the Evangelical Immigration Table from a third-party academic study. This research confirmed the impact of the Evangelical Immigration Table ads that we helped create and promote, finding that these ads had a profound and transformative effect on attitudes about immigration.
The study’s findings, which were highlighted in The Christian Post this week, include:
· Opposition to immigration reform decreased from 62 to 47 percent between February 2013 and 2014 [in states where the radio ads were heard], while support increased by 6 percent from 23 percent to 29 percent.
· In contrast, opposition and support for reform remained roughly stable at 50 percent and 30 percent, respectively, among white evangelicals who lived in states without advertisements.
· White evangelical Republicans became more supportive of immigration reform even as their non-evangelical counterparts became less supportive over time. Furthermore, evangelical attitudes changed most noticeably in states in which the EIT advertised. Both pieces of evidence point to the EIT influencing attitudes.
Despite challenges in Congress, immigration reform continues to remain an important focus of our work.
Women and Girls Leading on Faith and Justice
We are moving forward with partners to determine next steps for implementing resources for pastors to address gender and sexual violence in connection with our Women and Girls Leading on Faith and Justice Initiative. This work will be informed by the poll released at The Summit in June, perhaps the first of its kind in the U.S., on the current state of preaching and teaching in churches on domestic and sexual violence. Poll results and executive summary of the study can be found here . These articles in Huffington Post and Christianity Today, as well as an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun co-written by Jim, provide a good overview of the study.
This issue is all the more pressing, as we watched coverage and conversation surround Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his wife Janay in the media over the past week. This Sojourners’ blog post offers important reflection on survivor shaming and highlights the negative role the church too often can play.
Additionally, Religion News Service published a piece in August on women in church leadership breaking the stained-glass ceiling, written by a journalist who attended The Summit. We are encouraged to see tangible change happening around women in leadership in the church and look forward to seeing more movement going forward.
This work will be bolstered especially with the hire of a full-time Women and Girls Campaigns Associate, a position for which we are currently interviewing candidates.
So while the past month may not have been all that restful, it sure has renewed our commitment to putting our faith into action and responding to the many injustices and heartbreak our world faces.
All that we do would not be possible without the prayers, financial support, activism, and readership of all of YOU! So thank you for walking alongside us and strengthening our work.