[Hpn] Joint welfare can=?ISO-8859-1?B?uQ==?=t inspire weary pastor

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Sat, 27 Jan 2001 18:39:04 -0700


Sounds like someone's testing the waters for right-wing editorial advocacy
pieces for "charitable choice." Get used to it, it's going to be a trend.

It's also going to be a good yardstick by which we can identify our enemies.

chance
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http://www.toledoblade.com:80/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?Avis=TO&Dato=20010127&K
ategori=COLUMNIST03&Lopenr=10127050&Ref=AR

Toledo BLADE

Article published January 27, 2001

Joint welfare canıt inspire weary pastor
Roberta de Boer

When Donald Taylor rose to speak, the set of his shoulders hinted at
weariness.

This was last spring, at a public hearing on the aftermath of welfare
reform. Twenty-four others spoke before him. The afternoon had disappeared
slowly into a long parade of hard-time tales. When Pastor Taylor took his
turn, he went right to his point.

"More and more, I hear people say, ŒLet churches take the responsibility.ı
We have been taking responsibility, and Iım here to say we canıt take any
more."

The 39-year-old pastor squared his shoulders and continued.

"I am concerned that the least vocal among us will be forced to deal with
circumstances we cannot imagine. In talking with other clergy, we really
want to do something, but we feel overwhelmed."

On that day in May, the minister from St. Paulıs United Methodist told
anyone who would listen that his uptown-area church - near the homeless
shelter that shares its name but operates separately - was forced to turn
"more and more people away."

Eight months later, he gives a different report.

"I think things are worse," says Pastor Taylor. "More people are knocking on
our doors, requesting services. Before, the resources we had could last till
the middle of the month. Now, weıre seeing that if we go to the pantry on
Monday, by Thursday, weıre out."

And yet next week, President George W. Bush will begin scouting ways for the
government and religious groups to become social-service partners.

Pastor Taylor wonders about this. The Methodist minister has a masterıs
degree in public administration from Ohio State and worked as a city planner
in Columbus. Before coming here nearly two years ago, he was pastor at two
Cincinnati inner-city churches.

"Itıs good for churches to get involved," he says. "But there are some
things churches cannot do and shouldnıt do, because we donıt have the staff
or expertise. And thereıs the chance of clients being caught in the gaps."
It sounds good, perhaps, entrusting God-believing people with social
welfare. But there are those, including Pastor Taylor, who question the
finer points.

"Churches are not strong enough, in terms of administrative procedures and
systems, to be held accountable for the funds. Most churches operate with a
pastor and a part-time secretary."

And even if federal grants allow religious groups to hire staff, Pastor
Taylor still has concerns.

"In that case, what weıre doing is establishing social services within
churches. And the question is, for how long? After two or three years, will
there be another policy? Who will continue long-term funding? Do religious
groups take from what theyıre already doing to focus on new initiatives
without knowing how long theyıll be able to carry through?"

So many questions, on so many different levels.

But not for one minute would Pastor Taylor suggest that people of faith
arenıt morally obligated to care for others. Itıs just that it must be a
two-way street.

"It comes back to the interpretation of what is governmentıs responsibility.
Some people argue that itıs basically just police and fire. I hold that the
purpose of government is to provide for the basic needs of society. A
society will be judged by what it does for the least of its members. This is
a basic social-justice issue."

İ2001 The Blade.


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