Emory Report
Oct. 16, 2006
Volume 59, Number 7


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Oct. 16, 2006
Speakers challenge faithful to ‘move politics’

BY elaine justice

From a rafter-shaking sermon by the Rev. James Forbes to calls for action by religious leaders and activists such as Atlanta’s own Andrew Young, Candler School of Theology’s “Faith, Politics and Policy” conference Oct. 9–10 presented attendees with a host of alternatives for navigating the troubled waters of modern American politics.

Jim Wallis, executive director of the Christian ministry Sojourners and editor-in-chief of Sojourners Magazine, drew a capacity audience and several reporters with a talk mirroring the title of his recent book, “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.”

“I really believe the monologue of the religious right is over and a new dialogue has begun,” said Wallis. “The country is hungry for a new moral center. We don’t need to go left or go right, but go deeper. We need a new dialogue that will challenge selectively the assumptions of both the left and the right.”

“I don’t want you to join politics,” said Wallis, “I want you to move politics, change politics. What changes politics are social movements, and the best social movements always have a spiritual foundation.”

In a morning session titled, “To Live in the Reign of God,” Bishop Minerva Carcano, the first Hispanic clergywoman to be elected a United Methodist bishop, spoke of how Methodism’s history has built a tradition of striving for social justice for the oppressed. When a questioner asked how to work with local church leaders who seem to be at odds on social and political issues, Carcano reminded her to capitalize on Methodism’s strong connectional ties, which bring Methodists from around the world together to work for change.

In his sermon titled “No Time for Foolishness,” Forbes, the nationally known senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York, posed some questions—and he expected some answers.

“Do you believe that all Muslims are God’s children?” he asked as part of a series of questions singling out various racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation groups. When the audience responded with a ringing “Yes!” Forbes, delighted, said: “I think we’ve got a consensus here that every child coming from the womb of a woman is God’s child!” The response was thunderous applause.

But Forbes wasn’t finished. “Maybe that’s why the tax structure ought to be changed. How are you going to balance the budget on the backs of God’s children?” he asked. Forbes managed to get in several more exhortations, about being good stewards of what God has provided, and taking care of everything from the environment to one’s own mental and physical health.

Audio recordings of conference plenary sessions are available by contacting Doug Sasser at dsasser@emory.edu or 404-727-0714.