Lutheran—Presbyterian  Congregation-based Community
Organizing Consultation

Ghost Ranch Retreat Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico • October 13-15, 2004

Joint Position Paper on Congregation-based Community Organizing

This position paper comes from a national gathering of Presbyterian and Lutheran
clergy at Ghost Ranch Santa Fe October 13-15, 2005. This event was coordinated by
the Urban Ministry Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Congregation-
based Community Organizing/Leadership Development for Public Life Office of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The twenty-four participants were
congregational pastors and leaders who employ community organizing as a primary
strategy for ministry.

Therefore, we commend to our respective faith communities:

Congregation based community organizing (CBCO) has been a shaping force in cities
and rural areas across the country for more than sixty years. Our own experience and
the research of national organizations like Interfaith Funders have found the state of
the field of community organizing to be as follows:

  • More than 133 CBCOs in 33 states

  • More than 3,500 congregations and synagogues are involved (Lutheran
    churches are 7.9% of the total and Presbyterian churches are 5.7%)

  • 36% of member institutions are predominately white, 35% predominatelyAfrican-
    American, and 21 % are predominately Hispanic

  • Other institutions include public schools, unions, and non-profits

  • Some 24,000 primary leaders are involved in organizations

  • Primary issue areas for CBCOs are public education, economic  development
    and jobs, housing, public safety and drug issues, and healthcare

It is our experience in working in congregations that there are significant contributions
that a community organizing strategy can make to congregational development. They

  • Effective leadership development

  • Increased lay leadership in congregations and public life

  • Development of a relational culture inside the church/deeper relationships

  • Working across faith lines and building bridges of understanding

  • Working across barriers of race, ethnicity, and class on common issues

  • Deepened understanding of each faith tradition’s call for social justice

  • Effective engagement in public policy and public actions

  • Heightened public profile of congregation

  • Congregational redevelopment/transformation, including membership growth

Inasmuch as broad-based organizing has proven to be a revitalizing strategy for
congregations and expands the reach and vision of ministry, we commend the following
strategies to our denominations in order to deepen this work around the country:

For the national church, we advocate:

    Increased funding for CBCO efforts, specifically direct grants to organizations,
    and expanding funds for training.
    Exploration of the ways that CBCO can be a vital part of congregational re-
    development and new church development.  
    Provide resources and training to organizers for the deepening of their
    congregational-development abilities relative to each denomination.
    Working together with other denominations on a national strategy around public
    policy using a community organizing framework.

For regional governing bodies, we advocate:

    Support (including financial) of CBCOs within their bounds
    Support of congregations using CBCO, especially for congregational
    Providing training opportunities for pastors in CBCO

For seminaries related to our denominations, we advocate:

    Serious consideration of CBCO in courses dealing with congregational ministry.
    Faculties of seminaries be encouraged to engage in appropriate learning
    projects related to congregation-based community organizing.
    Provide resources to the larger church of the theological and biblical foundations
    of social justice through a CBCO strategy.
    Training opportunities for seminarians in CBCO in-house or at national network
    training events.

For local congregations, we advocate:

    Employing the strategies of community organizing – individual meetings, house
    meetings, building a relational culture – for congregational transformation
    Using CBCO as a primary strategy for mission, understanding its systemic
    approach as compared to direct service or advocacy.
    Deeper involvement in an existing local CBCO or the creation of new CBCOs
    through denominational offices and national networks.

Outcomes we anticipate the proceeding recommendations will further:

    Expanding the growing field of CBCOs around the country.
    Increased funding for CBCOs from the national, regional, and local levels
    More Lutheran and Presbyterian congregations as member institutions of CBCOs.
    Increase the number of clergy who are active leaders in local CBCOs and receive
    CBCO training, either locally or at national network events.
    More congregations employing the strategies of CBCO in their own internal
    ministry, to deepen their relational life and further redevelopment
    Seminaries providing significant training for students in CBCO strategies.

The signers of the position paper include:

ELCA                                      PC(USA)

Rev. Terry Boggs                     Rev. Frank Alton

Ms. Eva Creydt-Schulte            Rev. Rick Behrens

Rev. Melody Eastman               Rev. Bob Gamble

Rev. Juan Fernandez               Rev. Charles Grant

Ms. Michelle Fox                       Rev. Trey Hammond

Rev. John Heinemeier              Rev. Jeff Krehbiel

Rev. Dennis Jacobsen              Rev. Linda MacDonald

Rev. Terry Moe                        Rev. Jermaine McKinley

Dr. Richard Perry                     Rev. Davis Price

Rev. Denise Sheer                   Rev. William Reinhold

                                        Rev. Pat Thompson

                                        Rev. George Todd

                                        Rev. Phil Tom

                                        Rev. David Van Dyke
Interfaith Funders
Position Paper on FBCO