“Facing a rising tide of white nationalism and pressing issues related to immigration and detention, voting rights, policing and incarceration, LGBT inclusion, and racial violence, North American churches must seek to develop competencies now, more urgently than ever, that will enable us to explore God’s compassion through vigorous engagement with those on the front lines of our new culture wars for social change. ”
We approach this project with the conviction that there is a vital need for North American churches to think within, between, and ‘beyond’ our traditional registers, reimagining public ministry for the common good. Therefore, we seek to understand how churches are responding to and/or are being shaped by the expansive visions of justice, equality, and inclusion articulated in today’s social movements. To not engage in this work risks credibility to the liberating gospel message at the center of our Christian faith. Through collaborative research and dialogue, our team will explore how churches can contribute to wider quests for human rights and flourishing, with an ear toward what social movements can teach churches about creating more hospitable, equitable, and inclusive communities of faith. Activities will include 1) reviewing relevant literature on churches and social movements, 2) conducting focus groups with faith leaders and in-depth interviews among six diverse local congregations, and 4) organizing a consultation that will promote mutual dialogue and learning between clergy, activists, and community members about the role of churches in current social movements. Additionally, we will develop and pilot resources that can help churches and church-related institutions more effectively work towards the common good. Finally, our team will conduct public outreach, sharing our research through blogs, podcasts, public events, conference presentations, and articles.