Interfaith group launches social justice campaign
Plans to raise single voice on social justice issues
More than 300 people gathered Tuesday in Columbus' First AME Zion Church to celebrate the launch of We Believe Ohio, an interfaith group with the goal of making a unified cry for social justice heard in the public square.
"We believe people of faith are meant to build bridges, not construct barriers," said the Rev. Tim Ahrens, senior pastor of the First Congregational Church of Columbus and a leader of the group. "Rather than demonize those with differences, we believe God calls us to unite and heal, because we believe our God is a reconciling God."
The group now includes pastors, priests, rabbis, cantors and lay leaders, according to Ahrens. Goals include advocating for the poor and homeless and getting an 80 percent voter turnout from congregations. The group has set a meeting for April 23 to discuss the May 2 primary election.
Ahrens said We Believe would be open to meeting with Johnson and Parsley.
Parsley said the new group, like his, wants to care for the poor and disadvantaged. "There's common ground when we're holding the word of God that speaks to all these issues," he said.
From the South Mississippi Sun Herald:
New clergy group says it will leave picking candidates to voters
There will be no concern that We Believe Ohio is crossing the line between issue advocacy and endorsements, said the Rev. Allan Debelak of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Columbus, who also signed the IRS complaint.
"One of the great things about this country is we have that line. It maintains the role of government," Debelak said.
We Believe Ohio leaders say they want to unite people on contentious social issues including education, the economy and health care. The group's first goal is to turn out 80 percent of each congregation's registered voters to the polls this year.
The group is concerned that too many people of faith are listening for guidance in this year's election and all they are hearing is the religious right, said Berman, who has been at his temple for 27 years.
"What is going on at the moment involves some people feeling very strongly that voices need to be heard and there are different ways to do that," Berman said.
For the most part, the articles I've been finding have said a lot of the same things, but this snippet from a piece in the San Luis Obsipo Tribune answers a question I have heard a number of people ask:
While no firm plan is in place, the group is looking at ways to move beyond its core of central Ohio, Ahrens said. He took note when the group went shopping for an Internet address and found that "webelieve" wasn't available but "webelieveohio" was.
"We believe that God is good all the time. Maybe that's a message that others can join us," Ahrens said.
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