Ecumenical Coalitions

Ben MacConnell, Lead Organizer, Justice Matters

This discussion explored three topics: 1) The intersection between the core faith value – “love of neighbor as self” – and justice and power; 2) the difference between acts of mercy (showing compassion for individuals in crisis) and justice (addressing systems), and; 3) the ability of congregations to achieve power through organizing interfaith justice ministries that act collectively in the public arena.

Ben MacConnell began his career with Green Corps, the environmental advocacy training program. In this role, he was on a national team leading strategic campaigns around national environmental issues (e.g., climate change, toxic waste clean-up, endangered species, clean water, etc.). In 1998, he was hired by Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together (CLOUT) to organize churches in low-income neighborhoods on the priorities they wanted addressed in their community. Leaders surfaced, researched and acted on campaigns to end gang violence among youth, to improve reading in low-performing public schools, to remove neighborhood eyesores. In 2001, Ben went onto the national staff of the DART Center and co-founded the DART Organizes Institute, a training program to identify and train a new generation of community organizers. In 2012, Ben began organizing in Kansas co-founding Topeka Justice and Unity Ministry Project (Topeka JUMP). In 2014, he co-founded the group Justice Matters. In just three years, he has led county-wide/regional organizing drives around mental health services, childhood trauma, affordable housing, and criminal justice reform.

Learning objectives:

  1. Discern the difference between mercy ministry (treating individuals in crisis) and justice ministry (addressing systems which perpetuate injustice).
  2. Understand the process for building a movement within a church that places doing justice on par with other forms of conventional ministry (e.g., worship, scripture study, music and celebration, spiritual formation, etc.).
  3. Understand the challenges and opportunities for collective, interfaith action around issues of justice.