Power from the pew: developing leaders for advocacy

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Social justice and civic engagement are important for faith leaders and community development. In this dissertation I explore the importance of faith leaders’ development and involvement with advocacy. Scholars have suggested that faith leaders should be engaged in the political process because Jesus Christ was truly an advocate for the poor. As such, I investigated the faith leaders at New Beginning Church of Philadelphia about their civic engagement and social justice involvement in the community. I tested the faith leaders’ knowledge and participation with sermons, Bible studies, DVDs, workshops, training, and field trips. I also examined how many faith leaders of New Beginning Church of Philadelphia voted in the last election. Finally, I tested whether faith leaders understood the difference between a faith leader advocate and merely a person promoting a cause. Findings from a quantitative investigation of 12 faith leaders show that advocacy is related to several domains of social justice and civic engagement: biblical, prayer, community, helping, and sharing. Advocacy brings about connectedness between faith leaders and the Bible—the connection between the faith leader’s responsibility and the Bible is stronger for faith leaders involved in advocacy. Further, through a qualitative investigation of 3 faith leaders of New Beginning Church of Philadelphia, evidence suggests that faith leaders struggle with mixing politics and the Bible. Moreover, these faith leaders consider their own role in constructing positive outcomes “faith leaders’ responsibility” as well as stumbling blocks that constrain faith leaders’ engagement. This research broadens our understanding of developing leaders for advocacy through a snapshot of biblical social justice and biblical civic engagement among faith leaders.  
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