Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World 1st Edition
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"This isn't a book about food pantries, soup kitchens and clothing drives. Rather, the authors show how the call of the prophets is still among us and how the teachings of Jesus can impact the whole of society. . . . [H]elps us see the power of hospitality and the need for congregations to work in their communities toward hope, wholeness and justice." (Todd Outcalt, YouthWorker Journal, March/April 2014)
"Organizing is an old tradition, but for years there was a mindset that it is all about self-interest and manipulating power, whatever the collateral damage. Peter and Alexia bring us to a new/ancient place, social justice with sleeves rolled up, grounded in organizing for good as the deepest expression of faith. Faith-Rooted Organizing weaves Scripture with practice and the prophetic voice with practical steps, presenting organizing as a spiritual act of partnering with God in repairing the world." (David M. Elcott, Taub Professor of Practice in Public Service and Leadership, Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, New York University)
"Too much theology today is written in words rather than deeds. But God sent his Word as a doing verb, and Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel teach and show what it means to share in the doing." (Peter Ochs, Edgar Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies, University of Virginia)
"Inspired by Gandhi, King, Chavez and the work of past and present-day faith-rooted organizers, Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel have taken their visions and written them down. Salvatierra illuminates the spiritual principles that guided the civil rights and farmworkers movements. Heltzel helps us understand how this work is not only about justice in this world, it is the work of the gospel itself. This book is a gift to the church and the world. Definitely required reading for any congregation that wants to put their faith into action in today's world." (Lisa Sharon Harper, director of mobilizing, Sojourners, and author of Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican . . . or Democrat and Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics)
"Faith-rooted organizing is big on faithfulness, hanging in there, building relationships, training leaders, changing social structures and asking what it means to follow Jesus in today's world. It thus combines the best aspects of resource mobilization theory with what is now ubiquitously called 'framing,' and in this superb book by Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel, two leading Christian organizers give us a compelling account of what works and what doesn't." (Gary Dorrien, author of Economy, Difference, Empire: Social Ethics for Social Justice)
"On a cold February night some years ago I experienced a rite of passage in my understanding of mission. Two thousand followers of Jesus created a table in the midst of creation. They met with the mayor of New York City to negotiate issues like crime, drugs, jobs and affordable housing as they struggled to reroot the life and mission of their congregations in their communities. I saw the power and effectiveness of community organizing come alive. I saw the Nehemiah Project literally rebuild burned-out neighborhoods around our congregations with thousands of units of affordable housing. "The arts of community organizing have come a long way since the scuffling days of Saul Alinsky and the Back of the Yards organization in Chicago. For me, over the years, connecting with organizing networks has been life giving and game changing. The arts of listening, power analysis and leadership development have undergirded my ministry as parish pastor, bishop and now denominational executive. "In writing Faith-Rooted Organizing Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel have made an immense contribution to the maturing of the community-organizing tradition in relationship to the mission of the Christian gospel. They begin where people of faith live: in the biblical drama, their local faith communities, their daily walk with Jesus. This book makes organizing accessible to evangelical Christians, and provides renewal and deep grounding for all spiritual journeys. "For example, sometimes Christians encounter community organizing through the lens of power, and they struggle to see its resonance with Christian ethics. The chapter on 'serpent power' and 'dove power,' speaking of power from within the depths of the Christian narrative, is both realistic and hopeful. All through the book I got the sense of an attempt not to make organizing palatable to evangelical Christians but instead to help bring out the great gifts that Christians contribute to any effort to rebuild a just world. The perspective of 'the least of these' always keeps faith-rooted organizing rooted in the perspective of Jesus. "Faith-Rooted Organizing is steeped in real-life experience. Many stories make the concepts come alive. And the book is a love letter from Alexia and Peter to an emerging generation seeking to follow Jesus in lives that matter." (Stephen Paul Bouman, executive director, Congregational and Synodical Mission, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
"A superb integration of biblical faith and community organizing. This book is both an excellent manual and a vast feast of delightful, empowering stories. A must-read for anyone interested in empowering people to work for justice." (Ronald J. Sider, founder of Evangelicals for Social Action)
"Martin Buber said that the opposite of slavery is not freedom, but community. Such a beloved community is grounded in justice and radical hospitality. Now how do we engage the powers in the struggle for community? Many thanks to Alexia, Peter and InterVarsity Press for gifting the organizing community with this book." (Phillip Lawson, pastor emeritus, Easter Hill United Methodist Church)
"It's tempting to look at all the problems in the world, throw our hands up at God and say, 'Why don't you do something?' When we ask that, we often hear God say back, 'I did something. I made you.' Throughout history, the movements that have changed the world for good have been divine conspiracies, holy collaborations between God and people. For some reason, God doesn't want to change the world without us. Sometimes we are waiting on God, and God is waiting on us. When we ask God to move a mountain, God might give us a shovel. In this book, Peter and Alexia remind us that faith has to have feet--the good news needs to become flesh. The gospel is not just about ideas, it's about action--Jesus does not just offer us a presentation of ideas but an invitation to join a movement. As you read it, keep your eyes open for ways you might be called to become a part of the change we all want to see in the world." (Shane Claiborne, activist and author, www.thesimpleway.org)
About the Author
Peter Goodwin Heltzel is associate professor of systematic theology and director of the Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary. He serves as assistant pastor of evangelism at Park Avenue Christian Church in New York City, and is the author of Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race and American Politics and Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation.
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Faith-Rooted Organizing is in many ways written in conversation with Saul Alinsky’s traditional organizing techniques, and is therefore a work of contextual missiology which insightfully critiques and affirms what the culture has already offered to the world of organizing (perhaps a modern day effort to transform the radical Saul into a redeemed Paul?).
The best section of the book--thanks to their skill in addressing the subject in both its biblical and contemporary settings--is the author’s exploration of shalom justice. Organizing must be directed toward some end. For Christians, that end is the biblical vision of shalom which characterizes the just systems and reconciled relationships of the Kingdom of God. Shalom is the marriage of “justice to peace and love” (34). As such, our methods for achieving justice must be consistent with our goals. Violence and self-interested power grabbing are not adequate Kingdom strategies for justice. Rather, we are to achieve transformation through creativity, relinquishing power to the “least of these,” standing together as a community which embodies our yearnings for the broader world and by loving our enemies.
Unfortunately, this is not an organizing text that can stand by itself. The strength of the book is its reconsideration of organizing tactics through the prism of the Christian faith. However, precisely because it is a ‘reconsideration’ it largely skips on providing basic how to’s. For example, the authors mention “power mapping” in passing but do not equip the reader to power map before moving on to explore power from a Kingdom lens.
Though some practical advice bleeds through their stories, the lack of concrete strategies is an unfortunate oversight that could have been easily corrected.
That said, this is a fantastic book and is now essential reading for any Christian who wants to work with the oppressed to transform unjust power systems.
Rich in theology, Scripture, church history and moving stories, Faith-Rooted Organizing delivers the first must-read of 2014 for any Follower of Christ (or activists and organizers seeking to better understand what churches can bring to your efforts).
I especially appreciate the notes Alexia writes to the next generation of leaders at the end of each chapter.
Not only do they draw heavily on their own experience, but also on the Alinsky model, which is widely accepted (and used). They make tweaks here and there to create the faith-rooted model, which is adapted to be used in churches and other faith-based communities.
Everything about this book is useful and wonderful: The success stories, the organizational strategies, motivational strategies, leadership instruction, use of language, everything you could possibly think of to organize for social justice is in this book. If you are a Christian and want to help people who are disadvantaged, I highly recommend "Faith-Rooted Organizing."
I have recommended this book frequently to colleagues, neighbors, and family members. More now than ever, the silent screams for justice need to be heard and a response made with all the best that our roots in faith have fed us. It is time to bear better, sweeter fruit together.