Comparing Strategies to Maintain Connections Between Faith Communities and Organizations Across Religions. Volume Two of the Report: Maintaining Vital Connections between Faith Communities and their Nonprofits

Citation: 
Schneider, Jo Anne and Isaac Morrison, eds. Comparing Strategies to Maintain Connections Between Faith Communities and Organizations Across Religions. College Park, MD: University of Maryland College Park, 2010. Available at http://www.faithandorganizations.umd.edu/.
Abstract: 

This report is the second publication from our second study: Maintaining Vital Connections Between Faith Communities and their Organizations. The project was funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc., with research activities beginning in March 2008. It examines the relationship between faith communities and organizations founded by Mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals, Quakers, and African American churches located in the Mid-Atlantic (Philadelphia and the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan areas), Midwest (Ohio and Chicago) and South (South Carolina). This report provides details on strategies to maintain connections for each religion, outlines challenges in these relationships unique to each religion, and suggests practical ways that faith communities and their organizations can strengthen their relationship and ensure that faith based organizations receive appropriate support and guidance.

Each chapter provides a brief overview of the history of that religion’s approach to social welfare, health and education initiatives in the United States. We outline the practical theology behind each religious tradition’s approach to justice and charity initiatives as well as their goals for the education institutions they support. Practical theology refers to the formal and informal mechanisms a faith community uses to enact its theological teachings through its religious culture and structures. Practical theology changes over time and varies across regions as well as among religions and denominations. Sometimes practical theology varies among faith communities within the same denomination. Practical theology includes explicit evidence of faith such as quoting theological statements or scripture, displaying religious symbols, and employing religious based practices in governance. More often, however, practical theology is embedded in the culture of organizations, and in the particular nature of the relationship between faith communities and the organizations they have created.

Each chapter also describes how the faith communities and organizations in each religion maintain connections between founding or supporting faith community and the organization. We explore the concept of stewardship of nonprofits related to each faith, defined as the faith community’s efforts to maintain its practical theology of justice and charity in the activities of the nonprofits affiliated with that religion or denomination. While many current religious thinkers have narrowed the religious concept of stewardship to mean fundraising and financial accountability, our primary finding is that faith communities practice stewardship in a much broader sense, including varying forms of guidance and connections beyond simply providing resources, though they may not be able to articulate it. We focus on several issues:

> Strategies to support and guide organizations.
> The unique ways that each religion maintains connections between the founding faith community and the nonprofits its sponsors
> How faith communities and their organizations respond to opportunities for growth
and change.
> Typical problems that arise between organizations and their founding communities
that are unique to each religion.
> Ways that each religion and their organization responded to the economic crisis of 2008-2009.

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