Here and Now: William Barber, II and Liz Theoharis

I choose to end our look at tradition (e.g. people and movements) with William Barber II and Liz Theoharis, the two co-leaders of the renewed Poor People’s Campaign.  They represent a growing grassroots movement for reform that is rooted in a commitment to here-and-now living.

Of particular note is the fact that the Campaign has become reactivated as a result of what is called the “Auditing America Report.”  Rather than move on the basis of generic ideas, the Campaign has taken a long, broad look at the nation today and concluded there are five current realities which must be challenged and overcome: systemic racism, poverty & inequality, ecological devastation, war economy & militarism, and a distorted national narrative.  Woven into these five themes are numerous sub themes (e.g. LGBTQ+ discrimination) which add to the urgency and focus of the movement.

Every concern is rooted in present-moment reality, and the Campaign’s ensuing words and actions are in the spirit of Charles Wesley’s hymn phrase, “To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill. O, may it all my powers engage, to do my Master’s will.” [1]

The witness of the Campaign to here-and-now living is laudable, but there is also something very practical here as well.  What might congregations find if they established a “ministry zone” (e.g. three-mile radius of their church) and did an audit to determine the top-five needs nearest to them?

There are approximately 500,000 congregations in the USA.  Think of the territory that would be covered if each one defined and ministered to their respective “coverage area.”  Through such an effort, we would experience what it means to live in the present moment where God has placed us.

[1] Hymn, ‘A Charge to Keep.’ by Charles Wesley

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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