Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church is calling on Christians to “Occupy Church” and become empowered to fight for social justice from a spiritual perspective. To that end, they’ve invited three high profile voices in the struggle to share their thoughts.
Michael Eric Dyson, Rev. Dr. Obery Hendricks and Rev. Reginald T. Jackson are scheduled to speak at the church during the 11 a.m. service Sunday.
“The social witness Sunday is something that’s been on my mind for quite some time and I guess you could say that it’s our reaction to what we perceive to be an overemphasis on things such as prosperity and the church being a place just for God to bless you,” said the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel.
“There seems to be a decrease in the emphasis on things that used to be important in the life of the church which is to really be a voice in the community.”
Tyler said that it was a matter of Biblical principle for the church to be a voice that speaks on issues that are important to those that have the least.
“The New Testament reminds us that the church really ought to be about doing for the least of these, and in the city that we live in, very often the least of these have no one to speak for them. So, when school children throughout public schools in Philadelphia find themselves in overcrowded classrooms because of budget cuts in Harrisburg, they have no lobbyists to speak on their behalf,” Tyler said.
“The church can be that voice to advocate for things that are important and for those that are considered to be the least of these.”
Tyler described the scheduled speakers as having a heart for the people. The participants were more than ready to have their say.
“I think those that say the church should stay out of it aren’t Biblically sound and really do not understand what Christ was all about. Christ would be very much involved and engaged in issues such as it relates to the poor,” Jackson said, pastor and pioneer in the fight against racial profiling by police in New Jersey.
“He would very much be involved with issues as it relates to social justice. That’s clear from reading his word.”
Jackson cited reasons why the church has strayed away from its great commission.
“I think one, we have become so caught up with taking care of our priestly responsibilities that we have forgotten that the Lord has also called us to prophetic responsibilities,” he said.
“There was a time when the Black church was a voice to nobody that to speak for them and to fight for those who had nobody to fight for them. We have to reclaim that.”
Hendricks, a Biblical scholar, former seminary president, and author of the new book “The Universe Bends Toward Justice,” previewed what he would he be discussing; much of it will center around his book.
“It’s a book of very wide ranging passionate essays taking on conservative politics and the religious right and the distortions that they’ve conveyed about the church and about the religion of Jesus Christ,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks accused conservatives of not having enough of an interest for the poor.
“They’re not concerned about the have nots. For some reason, their policies are all skewed towards the haves, and that is a direct contradiction and violation of Jesus,” he said.
“Conservatives have always been about conserving wealth and power where it already is, and so what we’re seeing in these recent years is that they’ve just become more bold about it and less concerned about hiding their intentions and one thing that’s helped them do that is that they hide behind religion now.”
Tyler said that gatherings such as these helped to plant a seed within people, which would lead to a harvest of activity.
“In every generation, there is something that is at work that needs good people of faith to stand up and say that this is not what God would want. It’s about identifying within our own time those issues where the voice of the least of these can be heard,” he said.
“I just think that it’s absolutely wrong that we can find money in Pennsylvania to build two or three new prisons and yet we cannot find money to keep funding at a level it needs to be for public school education — and somebody needs to speak about that. Somebody not only needs to speak about it, but do something about it.”
For more information on Social Justice Sunday at Mother Bethel AME Church on Sunday, Nov. 13, starting at 11 a.m. go to http://www.MotherBethel.org or contact the church office at (215) 925-0616.