We visited the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, the Ohio federation of Faith in Action. Their goal is to build transformative relational power with everyday Ohioans for statewide social, racial, and economic justice. One way they do this is with The Amos Project, a network of congregations, clergy and people of faith organizing with the most vulnerable in our communities for racial and economic justice in the state of Ohio. We talked to Pastor Charlie who has joined the Amos Project.
Tell me about your story.
I’m a 41 year old pastor and preacher that’s been in ministry now for 24 years. Trying my best to serve God in every capacity possible. I’ve pretty much done everything you can possibly do in the church from being an usher at the door all the way up to preaching from the pulpit and stuff in between. Just being able to see how God uses all of us -young, elder, the whole 9 – it’s been the passion of my life, has been the purpose of my life for over half of my life. So just at a place now where we can see that God wants us to do more than just what’s in here but making sure that we’re active beyond the walls to reach the hurting, the maligned. To reach those that are challenged on every side. That’s how I’ve gotten here.
Why is justice tied to your faith?
Scripture teaches us there’s some things that are required of us. I know there are plenty of people that don’t want to hear the Old Testament but it’s pretty clear: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God. I can’t be a person with humility if I don’t realize that there are people that may not be in the same space as I’m in that are suffering. When I see suffering or when I see pain, or when I see people going through all kinds of different things- whether that’s economically, politically, all that kind of stuff- it’s hard to say that I am humble before God if somehow I kick up my dust at those that need the help the most. it’s not that I’m any better than anybody. matter fact if we’re honest about it all of us are one or two steps away from those that we may try to help. actually, if we’re really honest about it, depending on what we’re talkin about. Some of us are in the exact same situation but we don’t realize that we are because we think certain things make us different. The truth of the matter is if I don’t make sure that I do what is necessary for my brother and my sister, wherever they are in the world, I cannot say that I represent a God of this universe and really love the creation that God has made.
What would you say to those that feel removed from suffering, therefore feel like they shouldn’t be agents for change?
I would encourage a few things; number one, for those that feels so removed, I would tell them, “recall your own experience.” Cuz everybody that’s removed, so to speak, in some instances they were able to get away from the same thing that they don’t want to address. You have to go back and remember where you came from so that you mobilize, within your mind and in your heart, the courage to go back from what you’ve been delivered from to deliver others. Number two; people that feel that there is no connection between Justice work and their faith, you need to re-examine your relationship with the Christ that you say has called you. Or if you’re not of the Christian faith, re-examine the tenets of what you say you believe and live by. Because somewhere along that line, somewhere there’s the call to have humility, kindness, the resolve to make sure that your world and your environment is better. If you don’t do it, who is? Number three; recognize that justice work is not just a thing you do, it is a part of the DNA of who you are as a child of the creator. If you deny who you are within than you’re literally denying the one that has made you uniquely for a time like this.
Why do you think voting is essential to pursuing faith and justice?
You have been given the power to make a decision on how your environment can be better. It is not just the power of the vote. It is not just your ability to go into an area, fill out your ballot and fill out the boxes and choose a person. It is literally the reminder that even after election day, because people have come around soliciting for your vote that by their solicitation you have been given the right and authority to hold accountable those who are now in positions to control or to influence your environment. Your vote matters because it is the statement that says, “you are choosing someone to make certain that they fulfill a promise and a purpose to the environment you care about.” So it’s not just something you give away, it is something that you give with the expectation that things will be different. It empowers you to stand up and go beyond election day to let the world know that my environment has no alternative but to change.
What have you done or said as a pastor to let your congregation know and understand that voting is important?
We are connected with different organizations, specifically Amos Project. Through my personal connection with them already, we’ve talked about candidate forms. We have discussed making sure that people know what’s on the ballot. Being connected to all the issues in some way shape or form. Through preaching of the Gospel. In my tradition, and my heritage of preaching, I come from a prophetic tradition where we have no other alternative to not only preach the gospel but to speak truth to power as the gospel pertains to the things of this world. So everything is constantly brought before. From the pulpit, to voter registration drives, to training, to becoming better advocates within our community. To encouraging our congregation to have a social justice ministry that focuses on all the different matters that are at hand and making sure that the people stay informed.
You mentioned the Amos project, can you go a little bit into that and why your congregation is partnering with Amos?
One of my best friends basically hooked me. I was never the guy that wanted to be out in front and I know that sounds kind of whatever being a pastor. But I am, according to my friend, more Howard-Thurman-like than probably Malcolm or Martin. But when you read about Martin Luther King, he always read Howard Thurman. In other words, all of us have a part in what needs to be done. And it’s my opportunity now to do things that I never thought I would do. and I don’t have to be out in front. This is probably the most uncomfortable that I’m going to be right now interviewing. But the truth of the matter is, it is time for us to get over our own things. Place our uniqueness on the table, and realize that we all have a role in making sure that our environment, our communities, are churches, and all of our people regardless of age, race, sex, and whatever. We need to make sure that all are well because if all are not well, then we’re not well.