Churches must bridge political divides and find not just a common voice but an independent one in the fight for economic and social justice, faith leaders said at an international gathering of their colleagues in Dallas on Thursday.
“The church has to pull up its chair at the table and remember who they’re there to represent,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C. “Everybody has a lobbyist in Washington but the poor. The church is supposed to be the lobbyist of the poor.”
Jackson made the remarks as part of a “think tank” session at the 2017 International Pastors and Leadership Conference, held at The Potter’s House. The cross-denominational event is expected to draw about 10,000 faith leaders and church administrators during its three-day run at the Dallas megachurch.
The session, called “The Polemics of Politics and the Pulpit: Rightly Dividing Between Church and State,” examined the intersection of faith and politics in an increasingly divided nation following the 2016 presidential election.
White House correspondent April Ryan moderated the discussion, which in addition to Jackson included Paula White-Cain, longtime spiritual advisor to President Donald Trump and senior pastor of Orlando’s New Destiny Christian Center; Joshua DuBois, who led President Barack Obama’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; and Father Michael Pfleger, a social justice advocate and senior pastor of The Faith Community of Saint Sabina.
Ryan, who made headlines late last month when she tangled with White House press secretary Sean Spicer during a news conference, began the evening by noting the political divide that has cut through the country since Trump’s election.
“Never before has there been such a chasm,” she said.
From there she led the discussion through a cavalcade of issues running from jobs and criminal justice reform to education and abortion rights, and how churches could, or should, play a role in improving things. She also called for people to be informed as much as to rely on their faith.
“Faith without words is dead,” she said. “It’s one thing to read the Bible, but you’ve also got to read the newspaper.”
But it was Potter’s House founder Bishop T.D. Jakes who stole the show with a variety of colorful rants from his front-row seat – for instance, pointing out the hypocrisy of those who demand that pregnant women in poverty carry children to term but then fight against programs that will help them care for their kids.
He also railed against the stigma that impedes those with criminal records trying to get back on their feet and out of poverty by derailing their efforts with a single question. “The same person who says I should be working is the same person who won’t hire me,” he said.
Jakes drew people to their feet with a tirade pouncing on “the narrative heralded from pulpits all over America, that the welfare of the poor should be provided by the Church.”
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SOURCE: Dallas News – Marc Ramirez