by Hubert Ivery | Pastor, San Francisco, Geneva Avenue UMC
Social injustices continue to be pervasive in our society. How can we best confront them? What is the role of the church?
In years past, many churches have been content to address the symptoms of these injustices by providing food, safety, prison ministry, relation, shelter, and other such services. Rev. Dr. Clayton Childers, outgoing Director of Conference Relations with the UM Board of Church and Society, developed a power-point presentation entitled “Four Quadrants of Caring: The Church and Social Engagement.” He calls these responses “Charity” focused ministry.
Charity focused ministry differs from “Mutuality” ministry which values relationships, “Advocacy” ministry which values just policies and programs, and “Solidary,”ministry which has a “standing with” focus. Charity ministry is essential and must continue. However, despite the best efforts of Christians, social justice concerns remain overwhelming. The root causes of the symptoms are systemic, institutional, and have to do with social-cultural-historical factors.
The United Methodist Church has established a powerful vision "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." Our United Methodist Social Principles sets guidelines for society based on our theology and ethics. We have fallen short on the "transformation of the world" part. Do we wish to limit our work to evangelism, ministry, and service? Or should we extend our reach to imbue the social structures around us with a moral and spiritual order that reflects all that Jesus stood for?
Jesus called such a vision the "Kingdom of God." Jesus taught us that the "Kingdom of God" is, first of all, an intrinsic reality that leads to an extrinsic social reality. "Community organizing" has proven to be an effective approach for Christians and others to address the structural ills of society.