This is my latest post for The Huffington Post on last week’s Sojourner’s Summit meeting in D.C.
Sojourners, a national Christian organization, is celebrating more than 40 years of faith in action for social justice. It has become an important movement within Christianity as it continues to “inspire hope and build a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church and the world.” Recently, Sojourners has taken on crucial issues such as the global economic crisis, health-care reform, immigration reform, climate change, racial justice and issues of gender.
To this end, Sojourners held its first Summit, a gathering of 300 leaders, selected to ensure attendees from diverse fields and backgrounds who are committed to issues of social justice and social action from a Christian perspective. The Summit was held at Georgetown University on June 18-21, 2014. It created a conducive venue to share and discuss these pressing issues of our time and also empower the attendees to continue their efforts to engage in the work of Christ.
Sojourners’ CEO, Dr. Rob Wilson-Black, expressed gratitude that the 300 nominated and invited participants were open to sharing their passion and expertise with one another in service to issues of justice. Dr. Wilson-Black states:
Business leaders discussing values in supply chains with women religious leaders who were engaging on immigration and creation care met up with mass incarceration activists who dialogued with leading foundation and government officials; Cory Booker and John Lewis dropping by to talk with us was also inspiring.
There were several dynamic speakers and panelist who are movers and shakers of the work of Christ. Speakers such as Dr. Diana Butler Bass, a public theologian and author of Christianity After Religion, affirmed women’s roles in the church by stating that “Woman are not the issue, nor are women an issue. Rather, how institutions have treated women is the issue.” Her talk redirected the conversation of women to allow the listeners to realize that the church needs to reexamine how women are treated and affirmed.
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, was a plenary speaker at the Summit who offered inspiration, encouragement and hope through his address. He shared a bit of his life story and recalled how his grandfather was one of the early Christians in Korea. He grew up in a strong Christian home and his mother is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. As president of the World Bank Group, Dr. Kim is leading an effort to end extreme global poverty by 2030. In this important position, he is working within the framework of Liberation Theology and urging Christians to give a preferential option for the poor. Within this new framework, he is redirecting the efforts of the World Bank. He reminded the participants that “Hope is a moral choice.” Each of us has a moral obligation to give hope to the world, which is suffering in poverty.
Dr. Kim optimistically pointed out that “this is the first time in human history that we have a chance to end global extreme poverty;” therefore we should all participate in this journey. In his leadership position, Dr. Kim has met with Pope Francis and Gustavo Gutierrez to be in conversation with those who are engaged in the work of Christ to reach out to the marginalized within our society.
With an empowering prophetic voice from such an unexpected place of power, Dr. Kim is giving extraordinary leadership not only at the World Bank but for the world-wide Christian community. At the end of his talk, he challenged us to “to think about your theology anew. The poor now want not our alms, but a seat at the table.” He reminded us that Jesus in the Gospels embraced this egalitarianism.
As Christians live a life of stewardship and discipleship, we need to be reminded of what Jesus did for the poor. Jesus didn’t blame the poor, as one may be inclined to blame the victim. He lived and preached among the poor. Within our context, when we point fingers and place blame on others for the poor in our society, we should be more like Jesus and do what he has asked, “When you do it to the least of these, you do it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University. She is the author of 6 books, Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style” co-written with Joseph Cheah, Reimagining with Christian Doctrines co-edited with Jenny Daggers (Palgrave), Contemplations from the Heart (Wipf & Stock), Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot), The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press). She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.