What’s the Difference Between Charity and Justice?
Outreach at Asbury First United Methodist Church
A group that Stephen Cady called together in the spring of 2015 spent more than a year pondering the question, "What's the difference between charity and justice?"—among other questions—as it sought to create a unified strategy for Asbury First’s outreach programs. As space needs at the Dining and Caring Center and the Storehouse called for solving, it seemed wise to review all of Asbury First’s poverty initiatives before deciding whether to build a new building, renovate, or seek new space off campus for these legacy programs.
The Outreach Taskforce issued its final report, A Way Forward for Outreach, in October 2016 and that report is now available to read online. It contains the first-ever assessment of each of our outreach programs. To create this assessment, members of the Taskforce interviewed leaders, participants and guests in each ministry. We also created a mission statement supported by common values to guide ongoing outreach efforts.
Two main thrusts came out of our work, embodied in our recommendations for the church. The first is to move the focus of our anti-poverty efforts from solely doling out charity to seeking justice. This means moving from a pattern of one-way giving to having a deeper relationship with our guests and working with them to address the unjust forces that leave some people in perpetual poverty. This a very large goal. It will require us to get to know our guests’ needs better, and look at longer-lasting solutions than food for a week or clothing for a season. These solutions might take the form of healthful cooking classes, or internships that can lead to jobs. And to accomplish them, we will need to partner with other churches and agencies. Meanwhile, however, we fully expect to continue providing merciful assistance.
The second thrust is a recommendation to equip ourselves by training our volunteers and congregation in justice work and by adding staff—a social worker and outreach coordinator, for example. Each ministry will be asked to survey the people it helps each year to more fully understand their needs. We expect to offer training both in volunteer positions and in dealing with diversity and poverty issues. In addition, we hope to bring our missions more closely together so they work in concert with each other.
All this work will take time, phased in over five years. The Outreach Committee has agreed to oversee adoption of this new way of doing outreach. And the Church Council agreed to this new philosophy late last year. Financial details and the original space issues are being worked out.
Now we invite all of you to be justice seekers, too. You can start by reading the report or asking questions of any of the committee members below. In weeks, months, and years to come, you’ll hear about educational programs where you can learn more. We hope you’ll prayerfully consider joining in.
Outreach Taskforce members:
Diana Carter, chair; Gary Brown, Bob Castle, Judy Cohen, Robyn Gage, Carolyn Hamil, Rick Kuempel, John Smalt
Stephen Cady, Katie O’Hern, Kathy Thiel
New: Outreach Mission Statement and Vision
The mission statement and values were developed by the Outreach Taskforce as part of their report which was accepted by Church Council on December 12, 2016. They will help to guide our outreach ministries as we move forward. The Outreach Committee welcomes your participation and support, as we strive to live out this mission.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we cultivate hope and fullness of life.
Faith in Christ- As disciples of Jesus Christ, we model our lives on his words and deeds.
Love- All our actions testify to our love for God and for all people.
Community- We welcome a sense of community and partnership with everyone. The safety and wellbeing of our guests and volunteers is important to us.
Sharing- God has bestowed gifts upon us and others; we share these through fellowship, hospitality and service.
Justice- We believe all people are equal, deserving of having their immediate needs met with dignity and their injustices and inequities addressed righteously.
Stewardship - We are called to be good caretakers of ourselves, our resources and the world God created for us all.
Joy- We share and experience the promised joy of life by reaching out to those in need.