News & Media Coverage

Faith and Justice II

June 11, 2014  |  The Fact She3t  |  Link to article

By Elijah Romulus

This is a continuation in covering progressive moments in faith based organizations. Theprevious piece focused on the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina.

The Brockton Interfaith Community hosted a forum Saturday June 6th at Messiah Baptist Church in Brockton where they invited Bishop Dwyane Royster, executive director of Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER). Bishop Royster and POWER have been vital in organizing against unfair wages in Philadelphia as well as the decline in public school education and its funding as two students in the last year have died due to lack of school personnel. 

Below is an excerpt of his presentation that morning on how churches and religious entities can rally together for faith based organizing: 

"Interesting statistics have come out over the course of the last year that I have been reading over and over again. Many of our churches are in decline. Our denominations are struggling. People are leaving the faith, any faith tradition because they are saying what is the sense of having faith, it’s irrelevant. They don’t want to engage they don’t want to be bothered one way or another. And as a result of that we are seeing decline. 

I feel like since the end of the civil rights movement the church has taken itself and kind of gone back inside of its four walls. And has been concerned with some of its own internal issues and has not really concerned itself with the community and the issues that are going around with the people surrounding those four walls. 

And so we are no longer pressing and challenging society but instead we are the ones challenged by society and they are saying ‘Is there a word from the Lord?’ and we’re not answering the question We’re basically telling folk get saved and that’s satisfactory and that’s good for heaven but what about right now? What about in this moment? What about this season? Is there a word from the Lord in this season? 

When you have neighbors making minimum wage and some of you have studied and learned this but the minimum wage today is equivalent of less than what it was in 1962. If you know that what is the good news for somebody that’s making minimum wage trying to raise a family right now? If you have children that are in public education systems that are struggling right now and reports are coming out most recently that show public education is as segregated as it was in 1950 and that schools that are suffering the most are traditionally schools of people who are poor or people who are of color what is the good news for folk who are in those circumstances right now? What does God have to say about this matter? When we begin to look at people who are struggling with housing issues and foreclosure what’s the good news? I think God’s got something to say about all of those issues. I think God cares deeply about people who are struggling and people who are suffering. I think God cares deeply about those who are suffering in minimum wage jobs because they went to poor education systems and couldn’t get into college and then couldn’t get decent jobs to begin to live with. 

I think God cares about the immigrants that have come to this country because when they are trying to get ahead here they are not being welcomed in this strange land but instead they are being oppressed on every side. I think God’s got something to say about that and if God’s got something to say about that then guess who ought to have something to say about that as well? It’s the people of God who have a responsibility to say something about that. For far too long the Christian church has been complacent in the oppression of people in this country and it has to end. 

Where are the modern day prophets? Because the movement we are talking about is a prophetic movement. It is about calling and speaking truth to power and calling the powers to line up with the will of God.

I believe that the church in this age is called to operate with that power to be able to call back and bring the country back into order so that everybody in this country is not just barely surviving but everybody has an opportunity to thrive.  Direct service doesn’t change anything it just reinforces the status quo because ultimately what you are doing is where there are gaps the church is making up the gaps. They say the church will make up the gaps in many instances but if the people are struggling the church is struggling as well. It is important to provide those social services in communities that are hurting but we must also organize. Organizing what is does is that it builds a more just world by teaching people of faith how to build and exercise their power to address the roots cause of any problem they face."

Brockton Interfaith Community and POWER are sister organizations under PICO and are part of an ever growing movement of faith based organizations banding together for the betterment of the disenfranchised.