by Mark Howell, Minister of Missions, FBC Frankfort & Chair, KBF Missions Work Group
One of our Core Values as a fellowship is Religious Freedom. We believe in freedom of religion, freedom for religion, and freedom from religion. We support the separation of church and state. These are powerful and freeing words to grant us the right to practice our faith. Unfortunately, sometimes the practicing of our faith does not lead us to speak out in unison for justice for all of God’s children. In desiring to separate the church and state, we have compromised our voice in the public sphere because of fear of blurring the lines.
The focus of CBF around advocacy and particularly CBF’s Advocacy in Action (held March 10-12 in Washington, D.C.) is an opportunity to flesh out our call to be a voice in our local communities, our states and our nation for our neighbors where their voices have been muted. Recognizing Jesus’ comment in the Gospel of Mark that “you will always have the poor with you” simply informs the reality that we can “show kindness to them whenever we wish.” Beginning to be a voice for those marginalized by our society can be overwhelming and scattered as we begin to pay close attention to the realities of the brokenness of humanity in our world. Advocacy in Action was an opportunity to take a closer look at policies where our voices raised in unison can change our society.
Stephen Reeves, CBF Associate Coordinator for Partnerships and Advocacy, and Devita Parnell, CBF Networks Manager, were our tour guides leading us along the raging rivers of predatory lending, on a journey to a foreign land hearing about immigration reform and on a search for food security for all as we visited Bread for the World. They gave us a GPS Navigation System first by grounding us theologically with a "Biblical Basis for Advocacy" by David Gushee and then by linking us with the Baptist Joint Committee and the New Baptist Covenant Coordinator, Hannah McMahan. This pushed us to the mountain so our voices could be heard by all, particularly our political leaders in congressional visits and in a meeting with Melissa Rogers, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director, White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well known parables in our call to care for our neighbors. As we take a closer examination of the parable and we attempt to place ourselves in the shoes of the Samaritan so that we care for those that are beaten and left for dead on the side of the road, we must begin to utilize our resources, our power and privilege to transform the road so that the bandits can no longer be predators and harm those traveling on a journey. Advocacy in Action is an opportunity to join the excursion by being a part of transforming a broken system and working to ensure that the Gospel, the Good News, shows up in our policies for the very ones Jesus the Christ calls us to love by caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick and those in prison. May we all put on our life vests because the ship is sailing, and I hope we are all on board!