Church Coalition Leader Explains His Organization
What is the Inter-Faith Coalition?
Confusion over the answers to that question has lead R. Keith Raney, chairman of the coalition, to issue the following statement:
“ ‘Coalition of Churches’ means different things to different people, yet there is only one Inter-Faith Coalition of Congregations. What is it, what is it doing, and where is it going?
“Evolution of the present Coalition began on Aug. 29. On that day, lay and clergy representatives of 10 churches met to consider appropriate responses to the church sit-in demonstrations, which had begun Aug. 19. The demonstrators were leaders and associates of the Washtenaw County Black Economic Development League, Inc. (BEDL), and the Welfare Rights Organization (WRO). It was agreed among the churchmen that the real issues being presented as well as the individuals themselves could most constructively be addressed collectively. Thus the idea of coalition was born, but not yet formalized in any way.
“On Sept. 1, leaders of BEDL and WRO met with selected representatives of the churches. The meeting was disappointing for both BEDL-WRO and the churchmen, ending with no point of agreement.
“On Sept. 2, there was a second meeting of the original ‘big 10’ churches, together with lay and clergy from approximately 12 additional congregations. This body took two affirmative actions. First, the representatives adopted a motion which was to initiate a coalition. It was to have included existing agencies and organizations such as NAACP, Model Cities, UF, BEDL and WRO, together with the churches in one ‘coalition.’ The resolution further stated that BEDL was not recognized as the sole representative of the poor and disadvantaged, although by implication, BEDL was recognized as one among the several spokesmen.
“What happened to that ‘coalition’? The existing agencies and organizations simply did not agree at that time to work with the churches. Therefore, the idea of formal coalition between churches and agencies representing the poor and disadvantaged disappeared.
“Again, at the church meeting of Sept. 2, in the second action, 10 churches individually endorsed the intent to procure a court injunction against leaders and associates of BEDL and WRO ordering them not to disrupt services or day-to-day operations of the 10 churches in question. This action was taken by the “big 10” churches individually, having no connection with the concurrent efforts at organizing a coalition. What happened to that injunction? After several legal procedures, an injunction was granted, and is in force today.
“But, the court order under which the First Presbyterian Church initiated the show cause hearing in Circuit Court on Thursday, Oct. 8, was their own unilateral action, and is independent of the injunction obtained by the big 10 churches. Postponement of that hearing was granted to Monday, Oct. 12.
“On Sept. 12 at another meeting of land and clergy representatives, it was announced that a joint coalition was not possible, for the reasons given above. However, a steering committee was appointed, for the purpose of documenting articles of agreement as the basis for forming a Coalition of churches from within Washtenaw County. On Sept. 14, these articles of agreement were presented to an expanded church representation for submission to their respective governing bodies for ratification.
“On Sept. 21, the Inter-Faith Coalition of Congregations (IFCC) was formally initiated. There were 17 churches who joined at that time, and 8 more who joined at the meeting of Oct. 4, bringing the present membership to 25 congregations. Where does IFCC stand? Quoting from the articles of agreement, ... the Inter-Faith Coalition of Congregations of Washtenaw County have banded together to respond to social needs in our country through financial commitment, continuing study, and legislative concern. Their four-fold goal is:
“1) To insure ways and means whereby the poor and disadvantaged will participate in the study, decisions, fund distributions, and legislative activity of the coalition;
“2) To receive and distribute funds to achieve the purpose of the coalition;
“3) To make a continuing study of the needs of the poor and disadvantaged in the country with the aid of agencies and persons, public and private, and, in the light of the study and proposed programs, recommend allocation of funds; and
“4) To approach county, state, and national legislatures, and urge them to inaugurate programs to make it possible for the poor and disadvantaged to achieve an adequate standard of living.
It should be noted that these articles do not include procedures for legal action. The mood of the new coalition, the IFCC, is positive, not defensive.
“The following is the text of a motion adopted by the Assembly of the Inter - Faith Coalition of Congregations at the meeting of Oct. 4, 1970:
“The executive committee is instructed to open a bank account to receive funds, and to recommend to our churches that we ought to raise $500,000 for the needs of the poor. Further, the executive committee should have a workable program, ready for implementation, and a dollar figure, to be presented to the assembly of the coalition no later than Dec. 1.1970.
“It should be clear that the goal and enabling motion of the coalition provide a beginning. The coalition is now actively seeking information regarding the actual needs of the people, and soliciting proposals designed to meet those needs.
'The intentions of IFCC' together with the integrity of our society, cannot be attained simply by further extensions of charity. It is essential that our community act as enablers for the poor and disadvantaged, so that they themselves can begin to take responsibility for breaking the cycle of poverty. Therefore, our response to this essential need is keyed to self-help programs. The IFCC does not intend to become yet another welfare agency. The coalition is striving to provide the initial capitalization for projects which, once established would fall in the aegis of existing agencies or organizations, or which would become self-supporting.
“In this way, monies, which shall be raised by individual churches, only after great internal conflict and intentional concern, could be invested with simultaneous financial leverage for the poor, and self-determinate participation of the poor.
“Although the detailed structure of the IFCC program is still being formulated, it is manifestly clear that the need is substantial. Likewise, our community commitment must be substantial. The IFCC has secured the voluntary assistance of several concerned leaders to lend professional expertise to the IFCC finance committee and legislative committee. Likewise, it is essential that every concerned citizen become informed, striving to distinguish between personalities and issues, so that we may constructively address together the real needs within our community.”