Category Archives: Uncategorized

Your Urban Ministry can be strengthened by the Congress

Roger Johnson City VoicesAn invitation from Roger Johnson, coordinator of Church Relations at SCUPE, to come and be exposed to bold ministries and inspirational leaders at the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry.

Before joining SCUPE, Roger worked with International Urban Associates and was the editor of City Voices newsletter.  Roger is SCUPE alum, a graduate of Wheaton College, North Park Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing studies in Evangelism & Leadership at Wheaton College Graduate School.


Jim Wallis on Building Faith-based Social Movements

Jim Wallis speaks at 2006 CongressI’ve been going through some of the old recordings from the past plenary speakers at Congress on Urban Ministry.  As we approach these mid-term elections in a frenzy of political polarization, attack ads, and electioneering I was struck by the relevance of this plenary Jim Wallis did back in 2006.

Jim WallisJim Wallis is an author and the founder/editor of Sojourners.  He has been a crucial voice for American Christianity that crosses the normal, hard and fast, boundaries of left and right, liberal and conservative.

Listen here or below as Jim Wallis  speaks at the 2006 Congress about moving from partisan politics (and partisan religion) towards creating and nurturing a movement for social justice based on faith and hope.

One of the highlights for me is near the middle where, for a couple minutes, he hits upon this idea that the Beloved Community must be built up by moving from ministry to models to movement.  Wallis gives credit to ministries (saying at one point that if everyone in this room stopped their ministry there would be many cities that would literally stumble) but also pushes the Congress to move past ministry and even models that help extend ministry toward movements that bring ministry to bear upon systems and structures of injustice.

Jim Wallis at 2006 CongressI wish Jim would have pressed a bit harder on this as I think many socially mindful/active Christians (Jim Wallis included) are still searching for the way to build a movement.  The civil rights movement is an extraordinary exemplar but, times have changed and I would contend that the powers that benefit from the status quo have successfully developed methods to diffuse social movements created with familiar paradigms.  We must create a new paradigm of movement and then allow it to adapt.  I would contend that the best way to do this is by listening and being responsive to the Spirit.

If you are reading this from a Chicagoland location you might be interested to know that Jim Wallis will be participating in an informal debate out at Wheaton College on this coming Thursday.  He will engage Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, in an informal debate: “Does Capitalism Have a Soul?”.  Here are the details:

Thursday, October 28th – 2010
7pm at Edman Chapel
Debate to be moderated by Washington Post Columnist Michael Gerson.

More info here.


MA in Social Justice and Community Development

Community Leader at Lake And PulaskiSCUPE’s newest degree program is designed for those aspiring to affect faith-based, social transformation in communities as well as to those committed to restoring economic equity, social justice, and ecological health, especially with regard to underserved, marginalized, or exploited populations.

The degree is the MASJCD, which stands for the Masters of Arts in Social Justice and Community Development.  This cross-denominational program engages students through a faith- and values-based perspective and provides:

  • an interdisciplinary foundation in justice theories and religious social teachings
  • a comprehensive, integrated curriculum, useful for various career paths in community development and social justice
  • practical tools in community organizing, social analysis and change, communication and non-violence, advocacy in public policy, working with volunteers, grant writing, and fundraising

The best way to learn about the possibilities of this degree in your life is to attend the upcoming open house hosted by our partner institution the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago.  Here are details on this opportunity:

Loyola SCUPE IPS Open House

You can read more about the connections between social justice and community development in a recent blog posting here by MASJCD program co-director Susan Rans.

Also, stayed tuned for an upcoming SCUPE podcast with the other co-director for the program: Mary Nelson of Bethel New Life.


A Pictorial History of the Year so Far


The Promise Of Despair

“If death had a Facebook profile its interests would not be only putting people in the

grave but killing their dreams, their loves, their peace, their dignity”

The Promise of Despair: The Way of the Cross as the Way of the Church

One of my favorite former professors has just released a brilliant little book called “The Promise of Despair: The Way of the Cross as the Way of the Church“.  Dr. Andrew Root is a practical theologian and professor of Youth & Family at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  Though Root is primarily an academic he draws extensively from his experience in L.A. working with an as urban youthworker and as a gang prevention counselor, in his insightful writing.

Dr. Andrew Root

Allow me to begin by being upfront: this book is not an urban ministry book.  If fact, if there is one critique I would hold up about this book is that it seems woefully unaware of much that is beyond white, suburban, middleclass concern.  What this book does espouse however, is a way of being church together which takes seriously context – the context of people within the community and served by the community – in an entirely different facet that neither race, nor locale, nor class can claim exclusively.

Root’s book supposes that, for the typical American church, the context most easily/often ignored is that of despair.  How many  churches have you been involved with which seemed to have a holy presence in our lives until misfortune reared its head and then suddenly, as if someone had hung a quarantine sign around our neck, the church was wholly distant?  There is a natural temptation in life (and churches are not exempt from this) to actively avoid pain – to go to great lengths to outrun the despair that stalks us like a predatorial beast.

In church language, one might call this orientation towards a non-existent deathless reality a “theology of glory”.  What Andrew Root does so brilliantly with this book is remind us that Christianity is a faith based around a crucified God: a savior hanging from a tree after being publicly executed.  Root’s book stares directly into the cold, beady eyes of death and makes the bold proclamation that: death blinks first.  To be true to this core of Christianity it to be involved in a “theology of the cross”.  Luther’s classic phrase reminds us that just as Systems and Empires constantly destroy our hopes, in an attempt to relegate us to permanent despair, God is the one who meets us in our despair.  In the midst of our suffering, the resurrection takes its hold.

We live in a culture which is involved in the endless task of creating despair within each of us.  The finest example of this despair creation can be found in advertising (which I would argue has become the cultural engine and religion of late-capitalism).  Advertising works by creating a rift between what you have and what you want, between who you are and who you want to be.  The more you can be convinced that your face is too wrinkly,  your belly too bulgy, and your wardrobe too square the more likely you are to spend money on a facial, a weight-loss system, and Calvin Klein jeans.  The brilliance of the constant bombardment of images, telling us to “despair” of ourselves, is that it creates an environment in which you are doomed to never be satisfied with yourself the way you are – the way you were, dare we say, created.

The connection here then is that talking about “the despairing church” and “the urban church” are both ways for the church to become church more fully.  They are both paths to becoming church in a way that authentically and urgently responds to the reality of the community.  We encounter God in the midst of God’s people, not on some holy ground but in the unaltered, unadulterated context of their authentic reality.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that if you are truly encountering people where they are at you are encountering a heavy helping of despair.

Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry

Relationships Unfiltered

Other books by Andrew Root:

+ Root’s BlogTalkRadio site.