United Church of Christ representatives will join interfaith colleagues involved with organizing and seminary education for Building Bridges, a national conference taking place in Chicago on November 16, 2012. The event will address findings of a recent study on institution based community organizing and its impact on faith communities. It will also present an overview of current offerings in theological schools having to do with "public theology," and invite strategies and possibilities for increasing seminarians’ exposure to the methodologies of institution-based community organizing.
With over five million people represented in member institutions, institution-based community organizing has achieved an important historic threshold as an influential mass movement, with participants achieving important outcomes on a multitude of issues such as immigration reform, education, health care, public safety, and economic justice. According to a summary of the report, institutions comprising institution-based community organizing in the U.S. include “approximately 3500 congregations and 1000 public schools, labor unions, neighborhoods associations, faith –based organizations and others (and) collectively represent over 5 million Americans." As a result of these numbers and the “federated structure” of the work built across local, state and national organizations, the report states that “institutional based community organizing has the organizational capacity to make a powerful impact on democratic life, especially if best practices spread across the field.” View the Executive Summary of the Building Bridges, Building Power report.
The United Church of Christ is a member group of the Interfaith Organizing Initiative (IOI), a collective effort of faith communities, congregation-based organizing networks, and funders working to increase our institutional and congregational capacities to engage in public life for justice. The work is guided by a common recognition that effective community organizing pulls congregations and church members into places and situations of relationship-building and collaboration with institutions and people in their communities, increasing opportunities for our public voice and mission to be informed, witnessed and amplified on behalf of the common good.