Who Are the Greatest Social Justice Leaders We've Never Heard Of?

By Jim Wallis 5-15-2014

We’re trying something new at Sojourners, and I have to say, I’m excited about it. Like all new things, it is a work in progress, but even in its early stages, I’d like to share it with you and to ask for your help.

Over the course of any given year, I work with hundreds of leaders across the globe on issues affecting poverty, immigration, racial justice, women and girls, and the environment. They are academics, activists, nonprofit leaders, entrepreneurs, local pastors, and denominational leaders — but all of them care about changing the world through faith and justice. And over the course of the year, Sojourners' staff members meet hundreds more as they travel. Their work inspires us.

But here is the problem: Hundreds and hundreds of amazing people are doing fantastic work, but many of them don’t know each other. So, we started talking with each other, our board, and the leaders we were working with about building a gathering focused on inspiration, collaboration, and relationships. We are pleased to announce the first of what we hope will be many of these gatherings: The Summit: World Change Through Faith and Justice.

From June 18-21, at Georgetown University, 300 leaders will gather for this inaugural event. This is where we need your help ...

We want you to help us find 50 of them.

There will be denominational leaders like Rev. Sharon Watkins who serves as the General Minister and President of the Disciples of Christ. Veteran leaders like Mary Nelson, a pioneer in asset-based community development, and Dr. Ron Sider, author of 22 books including Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger will both be there.

Programming will range from preaching workshops with Tony Campolo to dinner conversations with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and Raj Shah, administrator of USAID on the intersection of international development and climate change. We’ll hear from Rev. Michael McBride about the innovative work of PICO that is helping reduce gun violence in cities across the country and from Father Greg Boyle or “G-Dog” who is quite possibly one of the few Jesuit priests you’ll ever meet with a street name. Then, Bill George, a Harvard Business School Professor and former CEO of Medtronic, will lead discussions on the vocation of business.

Movement leaders like Rev. William Barber (Do you know about “Moral Mondays” yet? You should.) is coming, as well as Rev. Gabriel Salguero, who is at the helm of NaLEC (National Latino Evangelical Coalition) and is a leading voice for immigration reform. And, if you haven’t gotten a chance to meet Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, you’re going to want to hear about the transformational work they are up to in his community.

Dr. Iva Caruthers — the force behind the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference — is coming, as well as Mimi Haddad, who never ceases to do amazing work with Christians for Biblical Equality. There will be some fantastic thinkers like Dr. Soong-Chan Rah of North Park Theological Seminary and Dr. Terry LeBlanc who leads up the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS).

Each day, we will gather as a group to explore justice issues and how they intersect with each of our areas of work and engage in small group discussions that inspire collaboration. Throughout The Summit, in-depth training — such as media training and campaign development — will be available to participants as well as time to sit and foster relationships.

How can you be a part of it?

First, you can nominate a justice leader you know to attend. We’re not talking the big names; we want the greatest leaders that no one has heard of yet. It could be a promising seminarian or young pastor, an entrepreneur who is creating jobs and solving problems, or another local leader who has been working tirelessly for years to knit a community together. You can click here to fill out the nomination form.

Second, you can help cover the costs for those who are accepted to attend the event. We’ve added up the staff time, space, and food costs to put on the event and it costs Sojourners about $950 a person. That’s a lot! But sponsors, foundations, and gifts from individuals help us reduce those costs dramatically and provide reduced rates and scholarships for those who apply. Click here if you are interested in chipping in to help subsidize these costs in general or have a particular leader you’d like to help support.

Space limitations mean not everyone will be able to attend in person, but we’ll be working to make some of the best content available online and in Sojourners magazine over the coming year.

Help us build a movement by connecting us with a justice leader you believe in!

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided, the updated and revised paperback version of On God’s Side, will be released this spring. Follow Jim on Twitter: @JimWallis.

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