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Progressive Faith Leaders Urged to ‘Govern’ With Police, Politicians to Help Communities

INDIANAPOLIS – People of faith have the power to set the political agenda for their communities, and they must unapologetically wield this power more, Bishop Dwayne D. Royster, political director of PICO National Network, said Oct. 24 at a Baptist church in Indiana’s state capital.

He delivered his remarks as part of the Prophetic Resistance Summit, which is organized by PICO National Network and its state-based federations, AMOS Project and IndyCAN. More than 300 clergy, lay leaders, and tribal elders are participating. The groups vowed to dismantle white supremacy and structural racism by using the largest tool in their arsenal: their faith.

“No longer is it sufficient that you would have the phone number and email address of the mayor, but you can’t get the mayor to do what you need him to do for your community,” Royster told progressive religious leaders from across the U.S. who gathered late Tuesday at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis.

“It is no longer sufficient to be able to have political leaders come into our congregations during election season and not show up any other time,” said Royster, pastor of Faith United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. “Tonight, we are demonstrating in a very new way a new relationship where political leaders and faith leaders are governing our communities together.”

PICO National Network, the largest U.S. coalition of faith-based groups, is made up of independent non-profit organizations in 21 states that focus on faith-centered organizing to achieve racial and social justice. The organizations include religious congregations, neighborhood institutions, and grassroots groups.

“Two years ago, in the face of our city planning to build a jail with an added 1,500 beds, IndyCAN stood up for criminal justice reform” and won, said the Rev. Bruce Farr, founder and senior pastor of the Overcoming Church in Indianapolis.

“IndyCAN’s effort paid off,” Farr said, “because people of faith created a plan that would honor human dignity over retribution, recognize the epic mental health dilemma facing our community, and acknowledge that poor people and economically disadvantaged people should not be targeted for being poor.” In 2016, Farr said IndyCAN partnered with the local Chamber of Commerce to fight for a referendum on a mass transit system that would transform Indianapolis and grant access to thousands of jobs.

“We trained nearly 1,300 volunteers to lead five phone banks a week for 12 weeks. During that time we reached out to over 164,000 mostly nontraditional voters and moved 41,000 people to the polls,” Farr said. “There is power in organizing. That’s almost 13 percent of the voters in Marion County, and we won on that referendum by 18 points. IndyCAN, yes we can!”

The summit concludes Wednesday, Oct. 25. More details are here: