At the Justice Declaration Symposium 2019, ERLC president Dr. Russell Moore challenged 80 pastors and church leaders to remember the prisoner.
In 2017, Prison Fellowship® launched the Justice Declaration, a statement proclaiming the unique responsibility and capacity of the Church to address crime and overincarceration. Since then, more than 4,700 Christians and prominent faith leaders have signed the declaration, including Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The ERLC serves as the moral and public policy agency of the nation's largest Protestant denomination. Along with the Charles Colson Center for Christian Worldview and the National Association of Evangelicals, the ERLC has partnered with Prison Fellowship to shape the public debate on justice by engaging churches and communities.
In September, Dr. Moore gave the keynote speech at the first Justice Declaration Symposium. Hosted by Prison Fellowship at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., the event brought together 80 pastors and church leaders to discuss victim care, prison ministry, caring for families with incarcerated loved ones, welcoming returning citizens, and justice reform.
DR. MOORE’S CHALLENGE: REMEMBER THE PRISONER
Dr. Moore shared from the Gospel of John, highlighting Jesus’ exchange with Pontius Pilate. Using the Scriptures, Dr. Moore identified two priorities for the church on justice reform and other social issues:
- The priority of the Kingdom
- The priority of discipleship
"Remember," Dr. Moore urged the audience, "Our incarcerated brothers and sisters are joint-heirs with Christ."
Dr. Moore explained that pastors and churches who choose to interact with social issues will come under fire from those who will find fault with their motives and actions.
"Pastors, you're going to have some church members who will say, 'Well, these are people who have done bad things, so why would we invest our time and effort in ministering to them?'" he shared. "You're going to have others who will say, 'Well, if we get involved in this, we're going to be distracted … [we are] becoming too political.' And still others who will say, '… You’re not political enough.'"
But Dr. Moore encouraged listeners to remember that "when we are shaped by the kingdom of God, that means we're going to have a different vision—a different view of what matters. And a different vision and … view of who matters."
Pastors and churches who engage in justice reform and prison ministries will be noticed. Others will ask, "Do you really believe that—the Gospel? Do you really believe that—the love of Christ? Do you really believe that—the fellowship of the Church?"
"And our answer in everything that we do," Dr. Moore concluded, "in designing ministries, in educating people, in advocacy—has to be communicating in, as best we can, a Galilean Accent, 'Yes, that's what the kingdom of God is like.'"
You can read the rest of Dr. Moore's keynote speech here.
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