A few days ago, I had one of those uncomfortable encounters I have from time to time in Madison. I had stopped into Barrique’s for a cup of coffee, and sat down at a table to read through the latest Isthmus edition. There were two well-dressed men at the next table having a conversation. One of them saw me and began to ask me about the shelter. What followed was a fifteen minute rant about the evils of homelessness and the need to construct a shelter somewhere else than downtown. Their brilliant idea was to put it down by the Alliant Center, far away from their places of business and residence downtown, far enough away that they wouldn’t be bothered by homeless people, or presumably by panhandlers because they could not get downtown anymore. Continue reading
The Wisconsin Council of Churches has sponsored a series of poverty forums across the state. The intent is to bring Christians (and other people of faith traditions) together to look for areas of common ground on issues of poverty. Madison’s first forum was held this past Sunday at High Point Church. Ken Taylor of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families led off the evening by presenting national, state, and local statistics on poverty. Following that, Pastor Nic Gibson of High Point, Bishop Harold Rayford of Faith, Hope, and Love Family Church, and I offered theological perspectives on the issue of poverty and responsibility. (While no Catholic speaker participated, a number of Catholics were in attendance). Scott Anderson, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches worked hard to bring this program together and will be convening those of us who were on the program to discuss next steps.
It was a remarkable opportunity for coming together across confessional lines. Madison is a deeply polarized city in a deeply polarized state and nation. That’s true politically, but it’s even more true of Christianity in this city. There are few structures in place for Christians from different denominations to meet or connect. Although we live in the same city, we inhabit different cultural and religious worlds. It is my hope and prayer that this initial conversation will build relationships that cross our partisan political divisions and our theological disagreements.
After the jump, the text of what I presented (video of the evening will be available very soon) Continue reading