What is the Faith-Rooted Organizing UnNetwork?

Faith-rooted organizing (FRO) = bringing people together to create systemic change in our communities and world in a way that is completely shaped and guided by our faith, taking seriously all the implications of the assumption that God is real drawing on the deepest wells of our faith in order to enable people of faith to contribute our unique gifts to the broader movement for justice.

Faith-rooted organizing was first formed in an interfaith context and is being used by faithful people of many faiths in their respective contexts.  However, the faith-rooted organizing Un-Network is a network of evangelical and other Christians who organize as part of our commitment to whole gospel discipleship and who seek to be faithful in every aspect of our organizing.

We are an “UnNetwork” because we do not want to form an organization that competes with other organizations for funding.  We want to be a place where organizers in any organization or network can help each other do the best faith-rooted organizing possible in our respective contexts.

History

Christians have always been moved by our faith to do justice.  Faith leaders have been at the forefront of many of the historical movements that have sought to build a better world.   However, the term “faith-rooted organizing” was coined at Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) when Rev. Alexia Salvatierra was Executive Director and the Rev. James M. Lawson Jr. was Chair of the Board.   The pioneering, vital faith/community/labor partnership for economic justice in California at the beginning of the 21st century created an opportunity for people of faith to be able to concentrate on doing what we do best.

Rev. James M. Lawson Jr. brought his amazing wealth of experience and insight as the “primary architect of the theory and practice of non-violence in the civil rights movement” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) and the trainer of the students at Nashville.  Rev. Salvatierra brought experience with the base Christian community movement in the Philippines and the Central American Sanctuary movement in the early ‘80s.  They combined their resources with the rich mix of organizing wisdom in the faith-community-labor coalition and then realized that the faith-rooted organizing approach needed to ultimately be shaped by young people.  A group of CLUE interns — young women faith leaders from different ethnicities and faith backgrounds – reflected together and decided that FRO needed to be an “open source” model.

As an open source model, FRO is centered around core questions that are then answered differently on the ground in different contexts.  People doing faith-rooted organizing in their various contexts then exchange best practices and work together to solve common dilemmas.  The FRO UnNetwork exists to provide a context for this sharing.  Our core questions are:

What does our organizing look like when it is completely shaped and guided by our faith?
What are the unique gifts that the Church can bring to God’s broader movement for justice?
How do we organize the Church so that we are able to contribute all our gifts?

Over the past five years, Rev. Salvatierra has been “Juana Appleseed”, travelling the world working with a wide variety of churches, ministries and Christian organizations/institutions to inspire and equip them to engage in faith-rooted organizing.  In 2014, Rev. Salvatierra and Dr. Peter Heltzel published “Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World” (IVP).  We have had two annual gatherings at the Christian Community Development Association conference for people committed to FRO in their context.  There are now hundreds of pastors, church leaders, organizers, advocates and everyday Christians engaging in community development and community organizing using the questions and some of the best practices of faith-rooted organizing adapted to their particular situations.  It is now the Kairos moment to build a web presence where we can share resources and best practices, and support each other.

What does the FRO UnNetwork do?

Share best practices and resources
Brainstorm solutions to common problems – developing creative, cutting-edge ideas
Provide space to reflect on the work from a broader perspective (e.g. how do we move from “wins” to social transformation, how do we integrate children into the movement how do we build truly diverse teams which prioritize indigenous leadership, how do we create justice revivals etc.)
Foster relationships of mutual support which provide a sense of national/international community
Identify strategic collaboration opportunities

How?

Website – Directory, resource links, video library
Facebook Group
Annual and Regional Gatherings
Training for Trainers
Blog/Journal

Structure of the FRO Un-Network?

The FRO UnNetwork is truly open source.  The only funded worker is our communications manager Holly Roach.  Rev. Salvatierra likes to think of herself as the “madrina” (godmother) of the movement, a position with no decision-making authority or financial compensation.  The criteria for membership is self-identified.  Those who sign up for the UnNetwork and offer to do speaking or training are not certified.  We have decided to trust each other. Our Facebook Group page is the only place where we offer some privacy and we are still working out how to provide this space in a way that is congruent with these values (all suggestions welcome!)  In keeping with our understanding of serpent and dove realities, we suggest that you take the time to get to know whoever you would like to collaborate with before making any commitments.