Justice, faith and politics : congregational engagement in social justice issues.


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Social work and Christianity both have a longstanding history of social justice engagement. Congregations and the profession of social work are both navigating unique aspects of the United States’ current divided and partisan culture. In many congregations, social justice issues that are found in the Gospels are now interpreted as political rather than biblical. Congregational leaders are facing many challenges as they engage social justice issues from the pulpit and as a congregation. The perceptions and lived experiences of clergy and lay leaders that are discussed in the quantitative study and qualitative studies provide insight for congregations as they navigate social justice engagement since the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The quantitative secondary data analysis, Chapter Two, used data from the 2017 Preaching Controversial Justice Issues survey to explore the characteristics of clergy and congregations preaching about justice issues during the 2016 election year. The qualitative studies, Chapter Three and Chapter Four, used an interpretative phenomenological approach to explore the perceptions and lived experiences of clergy and lay leaders engaging social justice, their conceptualizations of social justice, and specifically, their engagement during the 2016 election year. The final chapter, Chapter Five, provides a summary and recommendations for social work practitioners as well as implications for future research.



Social work. Social justice. Congregational social work. Faith and politics. 2016 election. Divisive issues. Church social work. Social justice engagement.