CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The blessings and challenges of prison ministry

Most of us know that scripture calls us to visit those who are in prison (Matthew 25:31-46). Some of us think we may be suited to criminal justice ministry, while others are cynical or hostile to the thought of sharing mercy with the incarcerated. But there are a number of social and spiritual benefits to this ministry.
A few of these are:
• To help an inmate function more positively within the prison environment.
• To offer a connection between the community and inmates.
• To aid and support families of inmates.
• To prepare inmates for re-entry into society (physically, mentally, morally and spiritually).
• To offer practical re-entry assistance to (Read the full article at:

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Criminal Justice: Ministry efforts not limited to people behind bars

       For more than 30 years I have observed the trends and public response to ministry in the criminal justice system. When this area of ministry became more personal and I became directly involved, I began to look more clearly at the impact that Christian faith can have in the lives of people within the system.
       What I found was that in order to respond and share our faith in Christ we must first more clearly identify who is a part of that system.
     Most people hear “criminal justice” and think “prison” but the definition is more far-reaching than the offender. Oftentimes programs are developed by the faith community that direct our energies to the conversion of the incarcerated while other members of society who have been impacted by the stress of the criminal act are left wounded along the road.
       A comprehensive ministry of criminal justice, from a faith-based perspective, requires us to include ministry and outreach to the victims of the offenders where there are victims, the families of those incarcerated, all levels of law enforcement that work within the criminal justice system, the confined prisoner, and the ex-offender as they are reintroduced to the community.
      According to a recent report released by the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, at the start of 2008 there were 2,319,258 adults being held in American prisons or jails. The latest published reports show that in the state of Georgia, the average daily population being held under supervision of the Department Of Corrections was 57,026 in state prisons, 106 percent of capacity.
       These numbers currently put Georgia in the upper fifth of increase in prison population; and among the eight largest correctional programs in the United States. These figures reveal that for the first time in history more than one in every 100 adults in America are in jail or prison — a fact that significantly impacts our state budget without providing a clear benefit on public safety.

Other facts:

  • One in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, that figure is 233% higher for men of color.
  • The female prison population is increasing at a much faster pace than it is for males.
  • One in every 53 adults in their 20s is behind bars (1.89%). InGeorgiathis number is 16,152 or 29. 53% of the total prison population.
  • The majority of all prisoners are held at the state and local level (not federal)
  • World Prison Brief lists prison population rates per 100,000 residents of each country ~ U.S.tops the list with 743 prisoners per 100,000 residents, followed byRwandawith 595, theRussian Federationwith 559.
  • Reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes, 15.6 million property crimes, and 133,000 personal thefts were committed againstU.S.residents age 12 or older in 2009. This equates to more than 20,033,000 victims. **
       Although we can look at statistics and get a glimpse of the tragedy and heartbreak that surrounds our justice system, we are a people called to respond to the hurt and brokenness in the world and in our community. It is important that we note that prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a matching increase in crime, nor is there a corresponding swelling in the nation’s population at large.
       Instead, what we see is that more people are behind bars largely because of a wave of public policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison. In addition, because of popular “three-strikes” measures and other sentencing laws, longer prison stays are being imposed on inmates.
       In some areas lawmakers are experimenting with a range of community punishments that are as effective as incarceration in protecting public safety. These include a mix of community-based programs such as day reporting centers, treatment facilities, electronic monitoring systems and community service. In addition, recidivism rates have proven to be positively impacted through faith-based programs.
       During the next few editions of the North Georgia Advocate we will have the opportunity to highlight the various facets of criminal justice ministry and how each of us can make an impact for Christ in these areas.
         In scripture we read, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord  require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ (Micah 6:8)
     In this journey we will look at the many ways people in our churches and in our conference have extended the grace of God by doing justice, loving mercy and walking with God.
By: Rev.Pat

What God Wants

“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
… your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
AMOS 5:21-24 (MSG)

Be the Church ~ Love, Act, Walk

Has the church left the building? Are you following Christ into all the world?

Check out these opportunities to Be the Church!

Renters in your community may benefit from this workshop. The Fulton County Office of Housing and Community Development will host a workshop to educate tenants on their rights and responsibilities, Wednesday, November 9. The workshop will be held from 1until 2 p.m. at the Bethlehem Neighborhood Center located at 87 Thayer Street SE in Atlanta. The workshop will provide information on understanding your lease, security deposits, importance of timely remittance of rent, reporting repair needs, and the eviction process. For more information, contact Audra Pender at 404-612-3024.

National free webinar, Strengthening Families Impacted by Incarceration, November 9, Wednesday evening at 7, sponsored by Annie E. Casey Foundation, Evangelism Today Christian Church, Forever Family, Christian Association of Prison Aftercare, and Healing Communities USA. This webinar is for churches and para-church organizations that support families dealing with incarceration and for those impacted by the incarceration of family members or loved ones. Get details and register  

“Dream the impossible dream” with the Saint Mark Drama Ministry as they present Man of La Mancha in November.  Performances are Nov 11-13 and 17-19. Find tickets at tickets.

Mission and the Bible -Rev. W. Harrison Daniel, associate professor in the practice of history and mission at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, will explore how biblical texts inform our understanding of mission and how mission informs our reading of the Bible, Nov. 12, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Candler in Room 102. Daniel has taught at seminaries in Liberia and Austria, is a former commissioned missionary of the General Board of Global Ministries, and has served pastorates in South Georgia, Scotland, and Austria.  This Mallard Lay Theology Institute Disciple Scholars event includes continental breakfast and lunch. The cost is $30 per person with an additional $10 fee for CEU credit. For more information and to register, go to 

Board & Friends Celebration of the Children’s Peace Center at Turner Chapel AME, November 15, 6-7 p.m. PEACE mobile will be open to view and play from 7-9 p.m. Turner Chapel AM, 492 N. Marietta Parkway, Marietta 30060.  Everyone is invited!

RRISA will host an extraordinary benefit concert and internationally-themed reception on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. Proceeds from the concert will support RRISA’s humanitarian programs serving refugees in Atlanta.  Renowned local children’s book author Carmen Deedy and multiple Grammy nominee John McCutcheon have generously offered to entertain a crowd of up to 250. The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, at 2089 Ponce de Leon Avenue in the East Lake area, has offered their venue for the event. John and Carmen will also sign books and CDs for concert-goers after the show. Many Atlanta-area restaurants have graciously agreed to participate in the benefit and are providing a variety of traditional ethnic foods from many of the international populations RRISA resettles and serves inAtlanta. Tickets are available online at and also at Finders Keepers Furnishings, 2753 East College Avenue, Decatur, 30030. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the night of the show. Learn more about RRISA at

The Work of Our Hands Artists’ Market will celebrate its 9th anniversary from November 17 – 20 at the Cathedral of St. Philip located at 2744 Peachtree Rd. in Buckhead.  This show features nearly 75 local and regional artists offering fine art, folk art, and crafts, including paintings, glass, fabric and wood art, pottery, jewelry, sculptures and many other handmade and original gifts in a variety of price ranges. An opening night reception will be held on Thursday, November 17 6:00- 8:00.  Tickets are $15 per person at the door.  Admission to the market on Friday, November 18 – Sunday, November 20 is free and open to the public.  Hours are Friday and Saturday 9:00-5:00 and Sunday 8:30-1:30.  Please read all about this organization and the programs that benefit from this show at  our website For more information on the event contact Carter Hoyt at

The Georgia Teen Institute would like to get out this information of help and interest to those who work with teens or who are pursuing credentials for that work. Click on the underlined names for information.
Fundamentals of Prevention – November 16 and 17, Lawrenceville ;  
Governor’s Office for Children & Families Educators’ Conference – November 30 – December 2, Atlanta ; 
Cultural Competency for the Prevention Professional – December 13, Lawrenceville.

Why I Support Occupy Wall Street

"View in Wall Street from Corner of Broad...

Occupy Wall Street? Image via Wikipedia

I came across this blog post today and found the comments insightful and a realistic voice of outrage and injustice to the economic situation we are living in today. All in all, it seems that a grass roots movement has brought to the forefront what is and has been an “income equality” justice issue. What are your thoughts?

Why I Support Occupy Wall Street
I was disappointed to read a tweet from one of my favorite religious authors, Len Sweet: ‘Isn’t the way to really “Occupy Wall Street” to buy stocks and become shareholders?” Actually, my mouth fell open as if I was watching a Republican primary debate. From what place of privilege does a statement like that emerge?

Of course, a “publicly owned” company allows the shareholder to have voice within a company, but there is too much broken within this system to really allow the other 99% to even own stock, much less to have a voice.

A recent report in Business Insider summed it up pretty succinctly:
1. With a brief except in 1980, unemployment is at the highest level since the Great Depression [Unemployment. Three years after the financial crisis, the unemployment rate is still at the highest level since the Great Depression (except for a brief blip in the early 1980s)]
2. At the same time, corporate profits are at an all-time high [Corporate profits as a percent of the economy are near a record all-time high. With the exception of a brief happy period in 2007 (just before the crash), profits are higher than they’ve been since the 1950s. And they are VASTLY higher than they’ve been for most of the intervening half-century.]
3. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low.[In short… while CEOs and shareholders have been cashing in, wages as a percent of the economy have dropped to an all-time low.]
4. Income and wealth inequality in the US economy is near an all-time high [In fact, income inequality has gotten so extreme here that the US now ranks 93rd in the world in “income equality.” China’s ahead of us. So is India. So is Iran.]

Take a look at this graph which shows how CEO salaries have skyrocketed in the past 20 years while worker wages have had an incremental increase:

Read the complete article by Karen Oliveto on her blog here: “INTO THE DEEP END

Supreme Court Takes Up Church Employment Disputes and the “Ministerial Exception” – Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

FROM: Pew Forum

On Oct. 5, 2011, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that could help determine how much latitude religious organizations have in making employment decisions about clergy and others who perform religious duties. The case centers on a legal doctrine known as the “ministerial exception.” The Supreme Court has never expressly ruled on the doctrine, but judges in lower federal courts have used it to exempt religious organizations from anti-discrimination laws and other statutes that regulate how employers treat their workers. These decisions have emphasized that courts should not intervene in employment matters when doing so would require them to evaluate the qualifications or performance of employees who carry out religious functions, such as preaching or leading worship. In Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the Supreme Court will decide whether a teacher who devoted part of her day to religious duties should be considered a ministerial employee in a wrongful dismissal suit. More importantly, Hosanna-Taboroffers the court an opportunity to shrink or expand the reach of the ministerial exception, thereby putting its stamp on an important doctrine that has been applied in different ways by lower federal and state courts.

How did this case arise, and how did it reach the Supreme Court?

The Hosanna-Tabor grade school in Redford, Mich., was operated by a congregation affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). (The congregation closed the school in 2009.) Like other schools run by the LCMS, Hosanna-Tabor employed two types of teachers: lay teachers, who were hired by school administrators to serve one-year, renewable contracts; and “called” teachers, who were approved by the congregation and hired on an open-ended basis.

The notion of being “called” has deep roots in Christianity. It refers to the belief that certain individuals are chosen by the church to perform religiously important tasks or roles. In the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, teachers can be called only after they meet specific requirements, notably the completion of significant theological and other coursework. Even then, someone can be called to teach only by a vote of the congregation for whom he or she will work. Once a teacher is called to his or her position, he or she is deemed to be a “commissioned minister,” a position without the preaching or sacramental duties of ordained ministers but with important religious functions.

Teacher Cheryl Perich received her call from the Hosanna-Tabor congregation in 2000. Perich taught her fourth-grade students a range of secular subjects, including math, social studies and music. She also taught religion four days a week, regularly led her students in prayer and in a daily devotional, and planned and led worship services – duties also assigned to lay or contract teachers at the school.

In June 2004, Perich was hospitalized for what was eventually diagnosed as narcolepsy, a chronic sleep disorder that can make people fall asleep at inappropriate times. During the first months of her illness, Perich was put on disability leave, given full pay and benefits, and told that she would have a job when she returned. In December 2004, Perich’s doctor informed her that she would be able to return to work in two to three months, information that Perich passed along to school administrators. However, around this time, the school hired another instructor to teach Perich’s class for the remainder of the academic year. In addition, school officials expressed concern that Perich would not be able to fulfill her duties if she returned, a judgment ratified first by the school’s board and then by the Hosanna-Tabor congregation.

On Jan. 30, 2005, the school, citing concerns about her health, asked Perich to voluntarily resign her call. Perich refused, reiterated that she was ready to report back to work and even showed up for work one day – without the school’s permission. During this time, Perich also said that if the dispute could not be resolved, she would take legal action under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibits all but the smallest employers from discriminating against people with disabilities. The act also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who attempt to assert their rights under the act.

On April 10, 2005, the Hosanna-Tabor congregation voted to rescind Perich’s call, citing a number of factors, including continuing concerns about her health and ability to function as a teacher. The church also said it wanted to be fair to the teacher who had been hired to replace her and who would have to be let go if Perich resumed her duties. In addition, the congregation claimed that it was troubled by Perich’s threats to sue, especially given that the church has long taught that Christians should resolve disputes internally rather than in the courts.  (Perich would later say that she was never informed about the church’s internal dispute-resolution process.)

On May 15, 2005, Perich filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that Hosanna-Tabor’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC and Perich then filed suit in federal district court alleging that the church had retaliated against Perich – in violation of the ADA – by rescinding her call after it learned that she had a disability and was contemplating legal action. On Oct. 23, 2008, the district court decided Continue reading

turn – It’s your’s!

“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” ~ Matthew 25:36

What would it look like if 300 men voluntarily went in to a maximum security prison to be challenged and taught by inmate preachers?

What would it look like for fathers and sons to gather together around a table with convicted felons to talk about God and life?

What would it look like for ‘free’ men to spend the night sleeping in a cell in a former death row cellblock?

Turn Logo

March 23-25, 2012
For two days, inmates are Continue reading