Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Church Growth"

Dr. Joe Clifford, Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Dallas, has been stirring things up a bit since he hit town a few months back.

It seems that the good Reverend takes exception to the City of Dallas' efforts to, as he says, "criminalize" homelessness. He objects vigorously to the recently enacted panhandling ordinance, saying that the way to address the problems facing the homeless poor is not by writing citations or hauling folks off to jail for a few hours.

No, Joe wants us to consider alternatives like adequate funding for mental health services, substance abuse treatment, counseling and permanent supportive housing development. You know, approaches that actually work!

Joe's a unique guy in these parts.

But, he takes it further. He argues that addressing homelessness in these more comprehensive and pro-active ways will be just as good for Downtown business and redevelopment as it is for the homeless. And, get this, it will cost a lot less with more return on investment than our current approach.

I agree with him on all counts! Joe's just right.

The needs are clear. The cost-benefit analysis for Dallas lines up with the experience and data of other cities we've studied. The fact is, it is just cheaper to work with and care for our homeless brothers and sisters than it is to fine them and treat them like they are criminals.

Not long ago, in response to the City's crackdown on the street population, Joe opened his church's parking lot at night to his homeless neighbors so that they could bed down in safety for some rest. Interesting, this notion of parking lot as sanctuary, don't you think?

It is my understanding that in a recent Sunday morning sermon to his congregation ("Living Out in the Open," October 14, 2007) Joe noted, "We are up to four Porta-Potties now – a new way to measure church growth!"

This guy is a creative, honest spokesman for what is simply right for our community.

Here's my prayer: that more communities of faith would begin to employ significant metrics, like Porta-Potties, when measuring their growth as congregations.

Keep speaking truth, Joe. We love you over here!



Steve Puckett said...

It's great to encourage and partner with Christ-hearted, compassionate people! Peace to your work in Dallas.

KentF said...

Thanks Larry. I was in Dallas on business last week and flipped over to KSKY (I think it's 660 am), listened to Michael Medved's take on the homeless. His comments were just unreal - equating homeless people to stray animals, and, if you take care of them they'll just come back for more. Of course, he got lots of folks agreeing with him.

Just utterly amazes me how calloused some people have become to the issue.

Anonymous said...

Medved must take SouthPark (the TV show) seriously... Because I think they had a whole episode based solely on that stereotype. Just another example of how our TV's lie to us...

Anonymous said...

But SouPark is meant to satirize this position, not support it.

Karen Shafer said...

I met Dr. Joe Clifford this week, and he has perhaps the best grasp of the issues around homelessness of anyone I've met -- both the big picture and the nitty-gritty details.

Joe and his church are taking a moral stand that is, to my knowledge, unprecedented here, and not an easy one to take. Although he's the first to deny it, what he's doing downtown is heroic, and he deserves all the kudos that come his way.

Thanks, Larry, for pointing this out.

Anonymous said...

Never heard of Michael Medved, don't listen to junk radio, but what must it be like inside the mind and heart of someone who says those kinds of things? Icky, really really icky. And daaaaaaaaaark.

belinda said...

off the subject, but have you seen this:

Larry James said...

Didn't hear Medved, don't listen to that genre of radio, but what's interesting here is he claims to be a champion of family values and morality in media and life. So, when did dismissing the pain of the poorest and the weakest become moral. God help us!