Two very different Dallas churches inspired by callings for social justice are surmounting racial and geographical differences to minister to their city’s poor.
Friendship-West Baptist and Wilshire Baptist churches came together formally in 2014 with a covenant of action through the New Baptist Covenant. They set their sights on combating predatory lending practices and widening and strengthening the fellowship between them, ministers at the two congregations said.
The alliance between the predominantly African-American Friendship-West and the mostly Anglo Wilshire began with a relationship between the congregations’ pastors, Frederick Douglass Haynes III and George Mason.
But it became clear that despite their differences, the two churches share a passion for ministering to the whole person and community.
Hoping to go deeper
“It’s not just dealing with the soul, but dealing with the body,” says Danielle Ayers, minister of justice at Friendship-West.
Ayers said the congregation is guided by a liberation-theology approach to ministry, giving it a strong social justice character.
“Engaging in ways that make a difference socially as well as spiritually — that’s what we try to do at Friendship-West,” Ayers says.
Wilshire Baptist has taken a similar approach to its mission, says Katie Murray, Christian advocacy specialist for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship congregation.
The church seeks to address the root causes underlying social ills like poverty, hunger and deficiencies in public education, Murray says. That approach often entails tackling problems on the policy level by working with citywide coalitions.
Working with Friendship-West is a way to increase Wilshire’s effectiveness while also addressing racial reconciliation.
“In Dallas, there has been a history of pulpit swaps between the races but that is as deep as it has ever gone,” she says.
“Our hope is to create something that really gets at the roots of racial reconciliation, and our hope is it would inspire other churches to do the same.”
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