More than 1,200 faith-based and antipoverty activists took part in the recent Mobilization to End Poverty event in the USA, which aimed to consolidate broad-based support for fresh policies on social justice and deprivation.
Hosted by Washington DC-based Sojourners, a progressive Christian network with a solid evangelical foundation, the Mobilization to End Poverty was supported by 23 denominations, religious societies and groups. It took place between 26-29 April.
One of its funders, he Rev Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), called on participants to “hold each other accountable” for the work they are doing to end poverty.
The event was held to engage participants in making anti-poverty work a political priority, said its organisers. The advent of the new Obama administration provided a fresh injection of hope, but those attending still acknowledged that they had a mountain to climb.
Bishop Hanson was one of six speakers at the “Church Leaders Roundtable—Uniting and Mobilizing the Church in the Fight Against Poverty” plenary session at the event.
Other groups represented on the panel were the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Convoy of Hope, Reformed Church in America, Micah Challenge and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Brian D. McLaren, ‘emergent church’ and progressive evangelical author and speaker, moderated.
During the plenary, panellists were asked a series of questions regarding obstacles to overcoming poverty, pastors’ reluctance to engage in advocacy, congregational members’ accountability and ways to continue the work to end poverty back home.
Bishop Hanson said that if he were serving in a parish he would have adults engage in a “community mutual accountability and discernment” hour. “We would hold each other accountable to publicly live out the mandate of serving the poor or spreading the justice of peace,” he said.
“We would confess it didn’t go as well as God intended,” Hanson added. “Then we would become a community of moral discernment, not splitting conservatives and liberals, but engaging the Word in the world as this community of faith in this context.”
Participants also visited members of Congress and advocated for cutting domestic poverty in half within 10 years.
The Rev Matthew Lenahan, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Akron, Pennsylvania, explained that the mobilization was an “equipping” event, but also an inspiration.
He declared: “We are called to initially go back and ask that one question, ‘What is God calling me to do and be now as a result of this mobilization?’” he said. “I have great hope after my day on the (Capitol) Hill that things can actually change when people of faith care enough to step out of their comfortable place and confront systems of injustice with a word of Scripture and a word of hope.”