Serving Money or Serving God?: Radical Justice and Practical Church Finances

Rev. Dr. Sheryl Johnson

How might Christian stewardship/finance be engaged from a anti-racist, decolonial, feminist, ecological, and class-critical standpoint? Many progressive and mainline churches, including the UCC, espouse these commitments (as individual church members, as congregations collectively, and through the denominations of which they are part), but pursue these agendas primarily as distinct initiatives such as themes for study and worship. Conversely, this workshop considers ways that justice commitments can and must be integrative into all of church life and, specifically, inform church financial practices including those related to property, fundraising, investment, budgeting, community partnerships, etc. Alignment between belief/commitment and practice is both ethically and practically necessary. A 2009 Pew Research Study that found that about 50% of those who have become unaffiliated with religion have done so because they find religious people “hypocritical, judgmental, or insincere.” Therefore, alignment between beliefs and church practice matters deeply. This workshop takes a constructive approach to that endeavor and is filled with inspiring and motivational examples of concrete possibilities that can be engaged by churches of all sizes. Case studies and interview data provide further practical guidance and move the analysis between the abstract and the concrete.This worksop arises from and bridges the gulf between the progressive justice commitments that are central to many mainline Christians and their churches - and the church practices that contradict those commitments when they are rooted within conventional capitalist, colonial, patriarchal, etc values and beliefs. My work demonstrates that the gulf, while significant, can and must be bridged for the sake of our integrity to the gospel a truly incarnational faith.

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