Social Work Students Hear Jim Wallis' Call for a "Deep Center Committed to Being Moral"

July 30, 2007
Eleven students from the Baylor School of Social Work traveled to Dallas July 25 to hear Jim Wallis speak at the Texas Freedom Networks' Faith and Freedom Speaker Series.

Wallis, president of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, is best known for his leadership in a faith-based social justice movement encouraging Christians to address poverty in new ways. One campaign in this movement, known for its phrase "God is not a Republican or a Democrat," seeks to promote Christian interest in civic engagement.

Citing the role of people of faith in the abolitionist movement, the Civil Rights movement, and recent efforts to address poverty and AIDS in Africa, Wallis encouraged the crowd of more than 1,000 to be principled not political. Rather than criticizing the religious right or advocating a so-called religious Left, he encouraged a "deep center committed to being moral." He then presented a broader view of morality that would move Christian civic engagement beyond abortion and sexuality to issues of peacemaking, fighting poverty and caring for the environment.

"This was an extraordinary trip for our group of young leaders," said Jon Singletary, director of Baylor's Center for Family and Community Ministries. "We heard Jim speak and afterwards several of our students talked with Jim and Chris LaTondresse [special assistant to Wallis] about the issues relevant to our common understandings and desires to pursue social justice as an expression of our faith."

Singletary and Angela Dennison, CFCM associate director as an employee of Buckner Family and Children Services, accompanied the team of students as a part of the work of the center's work. Singletary, Dennison, and many of the students attending the event are members of the CFCM's "Walking Alongside: Strengthening Congregational Community Ministries" project.

Students commented that Wallis' leadership keeps them motivated and challenged to be more involved in the church's ministries to people who are poor. Using one of Wallis' examples, students discussed ways of "looking upstream to stop whoever is throwing people in" rather than merely "pulling people out of the water one by one." This example is familiar to social work students who hear it in community practice and policy classes as a way to consider the role of larger social systems in perpetuating cycles of poverty.

Mallory Homeyer, a graduate student in the SSW and George W. Truett Theological Seminary, also attended a young leaders track at the Sojourners Pentecost Gathering earlier this year in Washington, D.C.

"I think it is exciting to see our community becoming a place known for its prophetic voice for social justice," Singletary said. "From Mission Waco to our new Baptist Immigration Services and from Waco Friends of Peace to Seed Publishers. Knowing much of this is due, in part, to Baylor social work students is amazing."

For more information, contact Jon Singletary.
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