Early in my tenure as the Executive Director of the NC Council of Churches, I needed a pithy answer to the question: “What do you do?” I honed the response: “We are the progressive voice of Christianity in NC; the front line of most issues being debated across society and within faith communities.” I say this because it has been our truth since those seminal gatherings of church leaders in 1935 to work for racial equality. Racial equality, or the lack thereof, is headline news in 2016 and few would publicly claim dissention. That was not the case in Durham, NC, in 1935. In 1935, this was progressive stuff!
The Council has continued to be on the leading edge of what eventually becomes mainstream: women’s rights, LGBT rights, fair wages, immigration reform, environmental issues, and the list goes on. From where do we take our cues for these progressive issues that some people of faith would abjure? A singular source– a highly politicized book — the Bible. Our country guarantees the freedom (1st Amendment) to vote on and advocate for issues underscored by faith convictions. In other words, our politics allows us to be faithful.
To claim that religion and politics should remain separate is to deny a basic tenet of our faith, that the one we call Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, was executed as a political enemy of both his own government (Herod, King of Judea) and its occupying government (Pilot, procurator of Rome). He was executed for advocating for such radical ideas as fair wages, tax reform, health care, refugee resettlement, human dignity. Sound familiar?
And, so, to that end, the NC Council of Churches is partnering with Americans United for Separation of Church and State to hold a series of workshops across NC (Sept 21-24) to help set the record straight. People of faith can and should be political, advocating for the issues emphasized by the prophetic witness of the Old Testament and manifest by the Gospel witness of Jesus Christ. We intend to offer guidance for what is appropriate—and legal—for church leaders to say in the political arena. More importantly, we hope to empower people of faith to advocate for faith-filled responses to the political issues of the day. People of faith must stand against economic interests that orchestrate tax codes to benefit the wealthy, environmental policies that harm minority communities, law enforcement practices that unfairly target immigrants, wage practices that disenfranchise the working poor, or any number of issues that would agitate Isaiah and Jesus.
Join us at one of four locations in NC to hear about the rules for speaking out politically and to gain the tools to advocate for God’s righteousness:
Tuesday, September 20
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
401 East 4th Street, Greenville
Wednesday, September 21
First Presbyterian Church
305 East Main Street, Durham
Thursday, September 22
Selwyn Presbyterian Church
2929 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte
Friday, September 23
First United Church of Christ
20 Oak Street, Asheville
Registration is limited to the first 50 people at each site. Workshops will run from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Please use this link, which includes payment options.