Moving Beyond Charity:
Since March 2020, churches across the nation have had to rethink their ministries. Coronavirus and its related disease, COVID-19, have forced historic changes upon the church that will be studied for generations. A part of what history will reveal with respect to how churches responded in this moment are the incredible ways that congregations organized or enhanced their charitable food outreach. For nearly four months, churches of all sizes have been actively engaged in regular distributions of subsidized food to those in their church and community. To help accomplish this, church staffing has had to undergo reconfigurations, church budgets have been amended, and members of the congregation have been mobilized in service. Almost every week, pictures of churches serving the food needs of their neighbors dominate social media pages. In a way, this feels like an important reset that has helped to point the church back to its biblical roots. Some of our most celebrated scriptural stories include those where hungry people were miraculously fed through the power of God. This reset is also recalibrating popular metrics for ministry. We have moved away from talking about how many members a church has on its roll to celebrating how many people the church served in a week. What a remarkable transformation of ministerial priorities! However, the transformation should not stop there.
How Rev. Vernon Johns Can Help Churches Do Food Ministry Better
8 July July2020 2020||Grace&Glory Grace&Glory 8
As churches lean in with greater passion and resources behind distributing food to those in need, they should be wary of what Andy Fisher calls, “the charity trap.” In his book, Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and AntiHunger Groups, Fisher warns against “toxic charity” - dynamics By Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III within food charity initiatives that corrode human dignity, provide cover for unethical corporate actors, and obscure the root causes of why so many people are without nutrient-rich food in the first place. Food charity programs were not designed to point us upstream to underlying issues of racism, classism, generations of political neglect through public policy and economic divestment from our communities. Many corporate and government-funded food charity programs just want us to focus on doing our part as Christians to “meet the need.” However, when Black Churches, blindly comply with apolitical, culturally-insensitive, “All Lives Matter” definitions of what others say the “need” is, we become complicit in the program that keeps families captive to cycles of oppression. In the name of “doing good,” we can unknowingly cause harm when our blind spot to the larger issues at play stop us from setting the terms for how charitable institutions partner with our church ministries. If we do not move from this posture, the cycle will continue, the same faces will keep showing up each week for free food, anti-hunger groups will continue receiving lucrative contracts to manage our misery and the issues that have so many people protesting across the country right now will continue unabated. With respect to our commitment to addressing food insecurity in our communities, Black