Biblical Social Economic Justice

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I’m taking a class this week called, Biblically Based Soci0-Economic Justice and the Mission of the Church. This intensive is a part of the Doctor of Ministry program that I’m currently in at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Even though I pastor an urban and multicultural church that also has a faith-based community development organization connected to it, I’m really being pushed and stretched in some great ways this week. 

In some ways this class taught by Dr. Sam Rima, is helping me revisit my ministry roots. Since I became a Christian during my junior year in high school, I’ve been heavily influenced by Dr. John Perkins, Tom Skinner, and Tony Campolo. I grew as a Christian at an Evangelical, multi-ethnic, and urban United Methodist church in South Minneapolis. Early on in my Christian life I was convinced that church should be Christ-centered, multicultural, and about social justice. I never bought into the church being divided between the evangelical church and the church of the social gospel. In the Evangelical Covenant Church we see this as connecting, coming to know Christ as Savior with expanding the kingdom that Christ proclaimed and participated in. These roots in my faith walk of connecting evangelism and social justice were my on-ramp into ministry.

The other way in which this class is pushing me is around what Biblical economic justice and reconciliation should look like today. What should it look like in the North Minneapolis area where my church is located? What does it look like in Chicago, Atlanta, or Johannesburg(South Africa)? My friend Neeraj Mehta (former program director for the Sanctuary CDC) said to me a couple of years ago that, “dealing with poverty is about dealing with disconnected relationships. I agree with this, and I would add “relationships of empowerment and humility.”

I’m being pushed this week that I can be an even stronger advocate and voice for the marginalized and poor. My church is doing some cool things in this area but I believe we can be even more innovative. I’d love to hear from others on what they’re doing individually and corporately to forge biblically-based socio-economic justice in their local communities and beyond. To learn more about what we’re doing go to www.sanctuarycov.org.

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0 responses to “Biblical Social Economic Justice

  1. Hey Efrem,
    I wanted to expand on what you mentioned about poverty being about disconnected relationships. That disconnection or actually brokenness has to do with our relationships with each other, ourselves, god, the environment and systems. By understanding poverty in these ways it does two important things:
    1. It takes it out of simply an economic equation. Being poor is not just about not having money.
    2. It allows us each to see how we all have some poverty in our lives.

    A friend of mine, Mark Van Steenwyk, also talks about poverty as being about those w/o power. Which I think also can be very very true.

    I’d love to hear about ways the Sanctuary Church will continue to grow out its work in this area. I agree with you that there are a lot of interesting ways to do it!

    One last question: Does the conversation about values ever come up in your class. I feel like too often the church is good at teaching about two values and leaving one important one out. We like to talk about spiritual and moral values, but we rarely touch on social values. And I think when we’re talking about Biblical Social Justice in America the church needs to be empowered to teach about social values as well.


  2. It’s refreshing to hear an “Evangelical Pastor” speak to these issues, Efrem!

    Personally, I see that the mainstream American socio-politico-economic-Church complex has been almost exclusively focused on individual purity/morality…and at least in part for financial reasons.

    Not that I shouldn’t be concerned with my own individual Spiritual health, maturity and growth, and whether certain things I’m doing are Godly or unGodly. But, the question I should ask myself is why am I concerned about these individual purity issues. Is it so that I can become a healthier, more involved participant in the expansion of the kingdom Christ proclaimed (here on earth as in heaven)? Or is it so that I (or my people group) can feel morally superior to other folks (or their groups)?

    Is it so that I can feel “closer to God” than…..those folks.

    I suggest that “morality” actually feeds racism and other isms and schisms by consciously or unconsciously encouraging us to play comparison games with each other. Taken a step further, the morality matrix justifies the economic/power/resource imbalance within America itself, and also between America and most of the rest of the world. ie — those folks don’t “have” because those folks don’t “do” right.

    Last thought/question. I’ve never been all that interested in a serious study of the book of Leviticus, but I’ve been told there are some downright subversive economic “policies” (by American standards) in the book of Leviticus. Is that true? Can you share any wisdom on Biblical Economic Social Justice you’ve found in Leviticus?

    Thanks Pastor Efrem. I’m loving your new blog site!

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