July 14, 2011/ by Tom Ehrich

With major financial dislocations already happening and even worse possibly coming, what could congregations be doing?

First, they should be dialing down all non-essential expenses. Free up funds to help hurting people and to absorb reduced giving.

Second, ramp up programs to help people with job loss, mortgage foreclosure, downward mobility. Be proactive about making a difference.

Third, document the impact – current and projected – of decisions being made in Washington, and get those stories out. Hardship needs to have names and faces before people will care.

Columbus Avenue, New York City


Q: The Christian counselor husband of Michele Bachmann, now a major contender for the Republican nomination for President, believes gays are “barbarians”. Do you believe the mainline church should ignore such comments out of respect for the belief of others or address such comments as being hateful and ignorant?

A: Some mainline leaders already do respond to such comments. Some don’t. The ones who don’t seem to have several motivations. The one I hear about is not wanting to take positions that are too liberal for conservative constituents to tolerate. That’s an in-house political issue worth considering, as wealthy conservatives don’t hesitate to act on their displeasure.

Clearly, church leaders need to pick their battles. They can’t bristle at everything. Does the viewpoint of a candidate’s spouse rise to the level of requiring a response? Probably not. If the candidate herself were voicing such a view, that’s closer to the line of requiring response. If the candidate were elected and began acting on such views, that definitely has crossed the line.

Strategically, the time to speak up is during a campaign.