Christian Formation and Hunger and Poverty Advocacy
Photo: Jim McDonald, former managing director at Bread for the World, and the current president of the San Francisco Theological Seminary. (Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Theological Seminary)
A recent article written by Bread for the World’s former managing director, Jim McDonald, caused me to reflect on the important relationship between hunger and poverty advocacy and Christian formation, especially in seminaries. When advocacy is understood as an integral part of Christian discipleship, seminary students are better equipped to engage in advocacy, steward their influence, and transform the world once they leave the classroom.
After over a decade of leadership at Bread, Jim became president of the San Francisco Theological Seminary because he believes that religious leaders have an essential role in facing the challenges of our time. He saw it firsthand when religious leaders from across the Christian spectrum would unite around Bread for the World campaigns that seek to change policies that hurt poor and hungry people. Jim said he decided to take the leap into Christian education that promotes “…church leaders who are capable of bringing people together across the political, ideological, and cultural divides, and of bridging those gaps” in the world today. His work at Bread taught him its importance.
Christian formation that happens in seminary—and, even more broadly, Christian formation at every level—has as part of its task the preparation of Christ followers to transform the brokenness in our world through ministry. For example, Christian colleges and universities are creating new interdisciplinary centers for faith and politics, faith and public life, as well as symposiums for faith and justice.
These new centers help students integrate what they learn from across disciplines and what their faith tells them so they can approach the social challenges of our day more effectively.
Bread for the World knows how important it is that religious leaders understand Christian advocacy and engage in the practice of stewarding their faith-informed influence in the world. That is why, in early 2012, Bread partnered with Asbury Theological Seminary and Eastern University’s School of Leadership and Development to produce an online resource for Christian scholars interested in advocacy—evangelicaladvocacy.org.
At Bread’s Hunger Justice Leaders experience last summer, seminary students from institutions including Princeton Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, and North Park Theological Seminary participated in four days of advocacy training and fellowship. They focused on how to use their voice to end poverty and hunger. Many of these seminary students were drawn by the opportunity to practice theology, putting their discipleship to use for the common good.
Some of these seminary students will return to their communities and actually use the pulpit to preach about Christian advocacy. Bread resources like Bread for the Preacher are designed to support the integration of Christian advocacy and faithful action messages at the pulpit.
When our faith influences us to engage in the public square, it ultimately can feed stomachs and nourish souls.
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