In 2002, the Greater New Jersey Conference Board of Church & Society defined the new role of Public Theology Advocate for local churches. The person filling this role is elected by the local charge conference for advocacy on social issues, with these responsibilities:
- Stay abreast of social issues;
- Educate the local church;
- Advocate for social change;
- Identify specific local actions that can be taken by that church;
- Act as a liaison between the local church and the Conference Board of Church and Society.
I’ve been elected into this new role for Hillsdale United Methodist Church for 2015. Throughout the year, you will hear me speak more about our Public Theology Advocacy. The GNJAC Board of Church & Society suggests that I lead a team of at least 5 individuals - but Pastor Brian and I are hopeful that we can engage our entire congregation in some form of advocacy for social justice. We are dreaming big, but nothing is too great for God’s Kingdom on Earth, as it is in Heaven.
“What is social justice?” by Rev. Mimi Raper of the First UMC of Austin ...
Typically, “service” has been interpreted as works of mercy and charity;; now we are expanding our emphasis on service to include works of justice. Both are good. Both are essential in our culture and in our development as individuals and as the Body of Christ.
Rev. Mimi Raper of the First UMC of Austin uses “The Babies in the River Story” to explain the difference between works of charity or mercy and works of justice. Two persons see a baby in the river and rush in to rescue her. To their dismay, this baby is followed by another. Then another and another. In each case the two people from the bank of the river dive in to save the babies. Finally, one person does not rush back into the river but heads upstream instead. Her partner asks, “Where are you going? I need help rescuing these babies!” To which she replies, “I am going to find out what’s happening at the headwaters of the river, where the babies are coming from. We need to change what’s happening up there that is putting the babies in danger to begin with.”
Another way to describe mercy & justice is the often quoted “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” To this, Pastor Brian adds, “Make the pond safe and accessible to all, and God’s justice will be attained.”
I hope you will join me in the learning, the researching, the creating, and the implementing of our church’s response to injustice, and join me as we join hands with others to build a community where the babies are safe and the pond is accessible to all. Let’s talk ... let’s get started.
In Christ’s Peace, Lisa Schoelles