Who Will Provide? The Changing Role of Religion in American Social Welfare.

Citation: 
Bane, Mary J., Coffin, Brent, and Thiemann, Ronald eds. Who Will Provide? The Changing Role of Religion in American Social Welfare. Westview Press, 2000.
Abstract: 

Published in the backdrop of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (1996), this collection of essays is the outcome of an inter-faculty seminar held under the auspices of the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at the Harvard Divinity School. About twenty-five scholars from seven Harvard schools and departments met over a period of three years discussing the broader implications of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act and the historical circumstances in which the said legislation was passed.
Proposing to go beyond the divide between the Religious Right and the Secular Left, the essays engage with changes in welfare laws, the traditional role played by the government, the involvement of faith-based organizations, and the prospects and perils of partnerships between the government, secular non-profit organizations, and faith-based organizations.
The essays are divided into three groups: (1) historical overview of social welfare programs in America, (2) public religion and social provision, and (3) strategies for partnerships in providing welfare services. Religious organizations and federations have historically played a central role in providing social care and services flowing out of their religious identities and their sense of responsibility and obligation to those who cannot provide for themselves. The second group of essays attempt to overcome the Religious Right and the Secular Left divide by calling attention to the ancient traditions of social justice going back to the Hebrew prophets and the early Christian church. The third group of essays address structural possibilities and limitations of partnerships between faith-based organizations, civic organizations, and government agencies; they also express the concern that religious identities of faith-based organizations need to be preserved even as they are called upon to engage in partnerships with the government and secular social service organizations.
With specific reference to faith-based organizations, the concluding essay proposes greater and personal involvement with the poor and their families, community organizing in disadvantaged neighborhoods through congregational ministries, and knowledge and skills development in local parishes to shape the moral dimension of social services.

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