Category Archives: Social Action

Let’s Give It Another Go

The 2011 Hallett Lecture has been rescheduled for Wednesday, March 23.

Don’t miss out on Father Michael Pfleger and Robert McClory, author of “Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church, and the Fight for Social Justice”:

Michael Pfleger Hallett LectureMichael Pfleger Hallett Lecture

Father Michael Pfleger invites you to work for Peace

“Are we going to be a part of raising the consciousness and of bring about the solutions or is the church going to continue to just see itself as doing the benedictions, and doing the eulogies, and doing the counseling after violence takes the lives of our children and of our brothers and our sisters?”

Father Michael PflegerFather Michael Pfleger shares a message about the need to work for peace in our society and inviting people to be peacemakers in a culture of violence.  Father Pfleger is co-chair of the SCUPE’s 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry to be held in Chicago on March 1-4, 2011.

You can register now at

Peace in a Culture of Violence

“In light of what has just happened in Tucson, Arizona I think addressing the violence is a major and crucial step in regaining our voice.  We have to somehow raise the issue in not only the violence that is tearing apart our families and our communities but is literally killing the future of our children.  And the church has been far too silent”

Peacemaking Insight #4 – Bill Wylie-Kellermann

Urban pastor Urban pastor and SCUPE faculty Bill Wylie-Kellermann talks about the Congress on Urban Ministry and how seminary students can get credit for attending through his Congress Course ‘Good News for the City’.

Bill Wylie-Kellermann Peacemaking Insight #4Bill is a United Methodist pastor who currently serves at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in the Corktown neighborhood of Detriot, MI.  He is a committed Christian activist, frequent contributor to Sojourners, and a theologian in the tradition of William Stringfellow and Walter Wink who specializes in the biblical concept of the Principalities and the Powers.

Bill Wylie-KellermannBill is the author of Seasons of Faith and Conscience (Orbis) which explores the biblical and theological bases for non-violent resistance and “liturgical direct action” and has edited an anthology, A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow (Eerdmans).

For the previous decade he was Director of Graduate Theological Urban Studies at SCUPE in Chicago.  Recently he helped create Word and World, a floating movement school for faith-grounded activists.

Speak Life Spoken Word

Another local opportunity has come to my attention for those of you in the Chicago-land area.  Speak Life will use poetry and prayer to lift up the epidemic of violence in our city.

Speak Life spoken word event

I Care for Peace 5k Walk

What are you walking for on October 2nd?

Why not join the I Care Movement and walk for Peace?

I Care for Peace 5k Walk

The “Do You Care?” campaign was started by 5 interns who worked for the Safety Net Works of Auburn Gresham Youth Council.

The purpose of the “I Care For Peace 5k Walk” is to bring people from all across the city of Chicago together in an effort to raise money to help reduce the high levels of violence in our city.   All of the proceeds from this walk will go towards violence prevention programming for youth.  Specifically, a portion of the proceeds from this walk will go towards creating a Southside Youth Resource Center that is open 24 hours a day for at risk youth.  This resource center will serve youth throughout the city of Chicago, providing them with immediate counseling, gang prevention and intervention services, and other necessary resources.

Did You Know?

  • From January to November 2009, 344 people were murdered in Chicago with guns, which accounted for 82% of the total homicides for the city.
  • From January to November 2009, 213 children and young people ages 0-25 were murdered in Chicago, the majority by guns.
  • Over 210 CPS students, were shot during the 2009 to 2010 academic school year.

Register for the 5k walk.

Join the I Care Movement.

Become a Peacemaker.

Social Justice and Community Development

A partnership between SCUPE and Loyola University
combines Social Justice and Community Development
into one graduate level program (MASJCD).  Susan Rans writes
about how SJ and CD are not unusual bedfellows.

Dr. Mary Nelson' s Restoring Urban Communities Course

Many current and incoming students have asked for a description of the differences between the Social Justice and Community Development tracks of the MASJCD.  In the past, I have answered this question in a kind of shorthand:

Social Justice ‘thinks globally”; Community Development “acts locally”.  Here, I will attempt to put more meat on those bones.

The biggest idea behind the creation of the MASJCD was to join the theoretical and theological study of social justice to a place-based practice and policy approach to change in urban communities.  While the study of social justice leads toward action, the study of community development provides effective and proven tools for action.  So, another formulation might be that the study of social justice reveals why we must act and the study of community development shows what we can do.

It can also be said that community development is a form of social justice.  Our religious traditions speak clearly about the injustices of poverty, of war and of oppression of the powerless.  Answering this call often leads students to involvement in justice issues like eliminating poverty and hunger, ending wars, empowering women or welcoming immigrants.  Community development–building strong and liberating communities in which the economy is available to all, in which every member is a valued contributor, and in which access to health care, education and secure housing is a mandate–fulfills the social justice vision.

Community development also concerns itself with systems—their analysis and the ways in which they must change to become equitable and sustainable.  Understanding housing policy and the details of housing production are essential to changing the housing system.  Knowing the economics and politics of food production is necessary to work to provide local communities with access to healthy food.  As one Chicago community developer often says, “We need to discover ways to make big systems work for small places.”  Studying community development leads to that discovery.

In the end, an argument can be made that significant knowledge of both areas is essential to real and lasting change, and that’s why there is an MASJCD.  And toward that end, we do not require students to declare a track until one full-time semester has passed (one year for part-time students).  And we highly recommend that students take courses in both tracks early in their studies and even after they have chosen a track—a sort of major/minor arrangement.  The best mix of theory and practice, of global issues and local systems will produce to the best agents of social change—the goal of our program.

For more info and discussion of the program, feel free to contact me.

-Susan Rans
MASJCD Graduate Program Director

Oscar Grant: Murder as Accident

Last January I was in Berkeley taking an urban ministry class entitled “Refuge in the City” with Bishop Yvette Flunder.  Earlier that month, January 1st in fact, Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22 year-old African American man, was shot in the back by a transit officer on the platform of a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station.  Video capturing the shooting showed Grant subdued by numerous officers, lying facedown on the platform, when he was shot by the officer above him.

Public outrage, protests, and rioting occurred in Oakland in the aftermath of the released cell phone footage captured by at least one passenger on board of a stopped train as the incident played itself out the nearby platform.

Was this lethal use of force a tragic accident or a brutal abuse of police power?  The question still lingers.

The way it comes across in the video it’s pretty hard to image a justifiable circumstance for shooting this young man.  However, footage can be deceiving, especially grainy, cell phone footage.  The officer, Johannes Mehserle, claimed that Grant was struggling and reaching into his pocket so he fired his .40 caliber pistol which he mistook for his stungun.  BART transit officers carry two firearm shaped weapons: the pistol on the right side of their body and a X26 Taser on the left side.  Defense for officer Mehserle claimed that he never received adequate training with the taser while the prosecution highlighted how different the actions of pulling the gun versus pulling the taser would have been.

40 Caliber Pistol & X26 Taser

40 Caliber Pistol & X26 Taser

When I talked to friends back home no one had heard of the shooting.  I was shocked at the lack of coverage in the national news, especially in the face of substantial riots in Oakland.  Flash forward to this July.  The transit officer has just been convicted of involuntary manslaughter – not murder.  The outrage in Oakland is back and so is the lack of coverage… and when the media does cover the story they focus on the symptoms of rioting and looting rather than the injustice which caused them.

While it is shameful to use justifiable outrage and protests as an excuse for rioting and looting, it is just as shameful to use the rioting as a smoke screen for a frank and honest civic discussion of this incident and the verdict.  Something was horribly wrong about this story back in January of 2009 and something is still horribly wrong in August of 2010.

Reaction to Verdict of Johannes Mehserle

People React to the Verdict on July 2, 2010

If the media remains committed to its usual subterfuge and avoidance of critical engagement with vital issues of our day, something must be done.  Is there another forum we can foster where this public discourse can happen?  I suggest that we both hold our media accountable to its vocation as a source of news, dialogue, and thoughtful discernment as well as begin work to create our own forums and open spaces for these lifebloods of democracy.  Democracy itself might just be in the balance.

Jail Killer CopsHere is a New America Media article wrestling with the taser vs. pistol defense and a brief write-up (and link to the aforementioned video) from Mother Jones that doesn’t seem interested in mincing words when one of the words is murder.

Also, here is a podcast that discusses the incident and repercussions in depth and addresses the racial undertow that makes these set of events possible.  The podcast is hosted by a wonderful and fiery author, cultural analyst, poet, essayist, and activist Ewuare Osayande.