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Bush's faith-based funds may help local groups

Feb. 2, 2001

Mission Waco could consider new program



A number of faith-based ministries in Waco plan to capitalize on new funding opportunities proposed this week by President George W. Bush.

On Monday, Bush announced the creation of a new White House office to assist religious organizations in obtaining federal tax dollars. On Tuesday, he sent a legislative package to the U.S. Congress that would allow faith-based social aid organizations to compete with the federal government for tax dollars.

Dr. Derek Davis, director of church-state studies, said the legislative portion of Bush's initiative is actually an extension of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which opened the door for federal funding of social programs sponsored by religious institutions.

Mission Waco, a Christian-based social agency, currently operates two of its 15 programs under federal grants created by the Welfare Reform Act of 1996.

Jimmy Dorrell, the executive director of Mission Waco, said federal money limits what the organization can do in specific programs, but federal funding does not affect programs funded by other sources.

'As long as I have staff that are paid by a grant, they have restrictions on what they can and cannot do. The new one that we are doing right now has broadened that,' said Dorrell, who teaches two classes at Baylor this semester. 'We can talk about the importance of knowing who God is, but we cannot literally try to bring them to faith.'

Dorrell said Mission Waco would consider applying for additional grants if Congress approves more funding for faith-based organizations. He also encouraged other religious organizations to consider applying for funding if they are prepared to work hard to administer the funds properly.

'There is nobody who is going to be standing on the corner passing out money to churches,' Dorrell said. 'There is going to be a lot of money, but it's going to be hard earned to get to the funds.'

Compassion Ministries of Waco, a transition shelter for women and families, also receives partial funding from the federal government. Jill McCall, the executive director of Compassion, said the organization is not totally faith based but that it does receive some support from local religious institutions. McCall also said that Compassion would apply for more federal funding if it became available.

Dr. Gaynor Yancey, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, said that President Bush's new programs are a response to the reality that neither social agencies nor congregations can address societal problems alone.

'Congregations in the community need to be clear about why they are doing what they are doing,' said Yancey, who previously served as a church and community ministry director in Philadelphia. 'To live out the Christian faith is one thing, to proselytize is another.'

Joe A. Carbajal, pastor of the Mighty Wind Worship Center in Waco, said his church sponsors programs to meet the physical needs of people in Waco and is currently working with other faith-based organizations to begin a housing initiative that may seek government funding. Carbajal said that government restrictions should not discourage faith-based organizations from using available funds.

'The compassion that motivates us is strictly from the gospel of Jesus Christ,' Carbajal said. 'Even though our approach may not be evangelistic, the message will still get out.'

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