"Why Do Christians Care About Economic Justice? My Answer" by Jay Kieve


This is the manuscript for a speech offered in the opening plenary session of the “Equipping Economic Justice Advocacy” conference of the South Carolina Christian Action Council. It was delivered December 4, 2018 by Reverend Dr. Jay Kieve, Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina. This speech introduced themes of racial inequity, predatory lending, and faith that the conference considered in breakouts and other plenary sessions.

**Author’s note: this manuscript was prepared for oral presentation so the sentence structure and grammar may vary from formal or academic communication.**

Download “Why Do Christians Care About Economic Justice? My Answer” Here

Considering Charlottesville

I remain shocked at the violence, racism, and hatred on display in Charlottesville last weekend. White supremacy, Nazism, the KKK, and the amalgam of bigoted nationalism seeking to divide country and community on the basis of ethnicity, origin, or faith is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The tragedy of hatred is compounded by the loss of three lives and injuries to many other people on Saturday. 

In the midst of evil’s chaos, I have been encouraged by the clergy of CBFSC and CBF who have joined their voices for love and prayed for healing of hatred and division. Good people are speaking out against the persistent sin of prejudice. Faithful people are working in congregations to build relationships in diversity, to listen with empathy, and to join together in service.

If you are seeking resources to respond, CBFSC can provide facilitators for conversations about race and faith. You should also visit our partners at the New Baptist Covenant (http://newbaptistcovenant.org/), Ethics Daily (http://www.ethicsdaily.com/), CBF North Carolina's Racial Reconciliation Ministry (http://www.cbfnc.org/missions/racial-reconciliation-), and CBF (https://cbfblog.com/) for additional resources for you and your congregation. Let us pray fervently with heart, voice, hands, and feet that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven.

Blessings with peace,

CBFSC Calls for Applications for 2017-2018 Missions Partnership Grants

Every year, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina awards mission partnership grants to organizations involved in cultivating beloved community, bearing witness to Jesus Christ, and/or seeking transformational development in our state. This past year we awarded $14,000 to seven different organizations across South Carolina. CBFSC is now requesting applications for our 2017-2018 year. Requirements for the partnership grants are as follows:

  • You must be an established organization with a leadership team, board of directors, or other leadership structure that meets regularly to guide the ministry and provide financial accountability.
  • Use funds to further a ministry that compliments at least one of CBFSC’s commitments to cultivate beloved community, bear witness to Jesus Christ, and seek transformational development.
  • 501c3 Status preferred but not necessary
  • Complete an annual partnership update
  • Work within the state of South Carolina
  • Be willing to allow CBFSC to use your organization’s name and ministry in promotional resources

Applications are due to the CBFSC office no later than March 9, 2017. Grant recipients could expect to receive a decision on their application by mid-June. You can apply by downloading this form and returning to our office or to missions@cbfsc.org. You can also fill out our online form here.


In my deep sadness over the killings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas I sought wisdom and hope from an old friend, a 35-year old systematic theology book. It is an old fashioned text and some of its conclusions are dated (frankly, hard to hear with modern ears). But Dale Moody offers his perspective with a love for scripture and a love for Baptists that feels like a visit home for me. So sometimes I read it and sometimes it helps. Today I flipped it open to a section I flagged with a post-it note years ago, section "VI. Sin." Here Moody quotes psychiatrist Karl Menninger: “If one wanted to find a germinal word to link all sins, perhaps hate would do it. In terms of action, however, the long term consequences of hate are self-destruction. Thus the wages of sin really are death.” Moody comments: “On the basis of clinical evidence he [Menninger] has reached one side of the conclusion with which the Scriptures begin. Sin is the disruption of [humanity’s] relation with both God and others.” *

Today I feel the weight of sin. I see it has demanded its wage. I see how high the price.

I did not pull a trigger this week but I still share the debt of sin. Cries of injustice I've glossed over with a channel click. Dedicated service I've taken for granted. A heart for diversity but hands easily distracted from the work. A tyrannical calendar an easy excuse for neglected relationship. A mind too easily tricked into false dichotomies and convenient binaries. Sin disrupts my relationship with people on both sides of the gun, and all sides of the issues and the neighborhood. Sin disrupts my relationship with God because like the couple in the primordial garden I’d rather hide from God than be seen in my shame.

But also like the story in Genesis 3, God seeks and calls. God comes searching in love. In Jesus God declares there is forgiveness and new life. So in response to killings and hatred, broken lives and an easy life, I adopt the posture of penitent, one convicted of sin and determined to turn from it. A penitent, confessing the disruption of relationship and inviting Jesus to change me that I might love God and neighbor more thoroughly, consistently, and boldly. A penitent, enshrouded in systems of brokenness but believing big change is possible. A penitent who doesn’t know all the right words to say or actions to take but knows he needs grace to absorb the disruptions between me, God, and others.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (Ps. 51:1)

* Emphasis of "hate" is original. Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 271.

General Assembly Review, Greensboro 2016

CBF’s General Assembly in Greensboro last week affirmed for me the power and hope of a fellowship engaging the mission of God in the world. When we gather as the Fellowship each year we renew relationships, share stories, dream dreams, and discern the will of God for our corporate work. This year several poignant and important moments stand out for me, including:

  • wonderful worship planned by SC’s Tony Vincent and others that included historic elements connected to founding days (“God of Grace and God of Glory”), “outsider” perspectives on the importance and impact of the Fellowship on the American religious landscape, and moving stories from field personnel that highlighted the power of sustained missionary presence;
  • an emotional prayer exercise that linked the anniversary of the Mother Emmanuel AME murders with the recent murders at Pulse in Orlando by listing the 150 people killed in mass shootings in the U.S. since our last General Assembly;
  • the launch of the 25th Anniversary Endowment Campaign with a $12M goal that has already pledged $8.5M and will give congregations and individuals the chance to sustain missionary presence, create healthy congregations, and nurture young Baptists for generations to come;
  • the Fellowship’s creation of a Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force that will recommend policies and procedures for the prevention of abuse by clergy along with faithful treatment for survivors of abuse (I’ve been invited to serve on the task force);
  • Baptist Women in Ministry’s worship service and luncheon along with their release of the “State of Women in Baptist Life” report. About 5% of CBF-partner congregations have women pastors or co-pastors, a 70% increase since 2005, but still far too few for a Fellowship that affirms women as ministers;
  • and, a renewed commitment to address the challenging questions of justice in our time with the launch of the “Illumination Project,” a strategy for faithful conversation about difficult questions (such as racism, sexism, and the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered, and queer Christians in the Fellowship). Details and resources from the “Illumination Project” for conversations within and among congregations should be available this August.

What joy to be a part of such a Fellowship!

That's a Personal Question

I came home from General Assembly in Greensboro, NC this year with a strong sense of how personal and close to the faithful hearts of Fellowship-folk our work is. Since the Orlando Pulse murders, some in CBF’s grassroots have issued impassioned calls for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the Church and in CBF life. CBF released two profound and touching statements of prayer and support for those affected by this particular shooting and the LGBTQ community more broadly. When a friend gave me a rainbow ribbon as a symbol of support for LGBTQ people, I quickly listed the names of a few people I love for whom inclusion in the church that reared them matters greatly. I also saw in my mind many other people I serve for whom accepting variations of sexual identity challenge their perspective but not their determination to love. I heard at GA how personally and faithfully field personnel take their responsibilities to the ones they love and serve, like when Tina talked about art in a prison and Kirk and Suzie shared the impact of 18 years spent translating the Bible into a little known language while living in the community. I saw the sustaining power of faithful friendship when BWIM honored Ka’thy Gore Chappell as this year’s distinguished mentor. Ideas like evangelism, acceptance, justice, or service mingle with emotional tears when expressed in stories of deep longing and friendship. CBF will, like many other American denominations, grapple with difficult issues like racism, sexism, and inclusion. To engage these issues, I know that I need to hear more stories of personal transformation and love. I need to hear, like I did at General Assembly, the experiences of the marginalized, the passed over, the excluded, along with the established. I need to know people, not issues, because I meet Jesus in others. I need faces and stories to accompany the reading of scripture so that I might feel the heart of the Gospel. I need to know the deep pains and sustaining joys of many different people in CBF life so that difficult conversations come with faces and voices that are loved and embraced not dismissed or ignored. I need to make difficult questions personal in order to imagine the consequences of action or inaction.

I don’t know many details about it yet but CBF will launch in August the “Illumination Project,” a strategy for having difficult conversations within and among CBF partner congregations. I am hopeful that sharing our hearts, making these conversations personal in the context of our Baptist commitments, will help us discern avenues toward even more cooperative, faithful, and fruitful life together.

Allendale: A Day of Celebration and Commitment

This past Saturday we gathered in Allendale, SC, as we have for the past 7 years, for the We Care Allendale Workday. For seven years people from CBFSC churches gathered in Allendale for a day of service: building ramps, hanging sheetrock, hosting reading fairs, painting, yard-work, and so much more. Steadily, as the years went by, we saw the make-up of participants slowly shift from being entirely an effort of CBFSC to being entirely an effort of the local Allendale community. That is why this year's workday looked a little different. 

We did gather together to work. Paint was put on walls, sheetrock was hung, and streets were cleaned, but what was more special than that, was the celebration that was to follow. This past Saturday, CBFSC passed the torch of leadership for the workday into local hands. What we began is no longer ours but theirs. And that was something to celebrate.

Celebrate we did! We ate together, shared stories of what the workday meant to us, enjoyed dance and musical performances, and enjoyed "Freedom Park" and the Allendale Farmer's Market.

I'm sure many are asking, "So, does this mean CBFSC is done with our work in Allendale?"

Far from it! Allendale is part of CBF's Together For Hope which entails long-term commitment to holistic transformation in some of the most under-resourced counties in the United States. So we are committed to partnership with the Allendale community, and more than that we are committed to our friends, our brothers and sisters whom we've grown to love over these past seven years.

We invite you and your churches to explore the possibility of going deeper in your commitment to Allendale as well. What would it look like for you to partner with one of our local Allendale partners on a long-term and ongoing basis? Imagine the vitality it could bring to both our Allendale Partners and your church to have friends and family  who you visit, pray with, fellowship with, and work alongside several times a year (both in their community and yours)! We invite you to think about what that could mean. What could you bring to the table? What could they offer you?

If this is of interest to you, contact me (Blake) and we'll begin to explore what that can look like together.

Palmetto Works and CBFSC Enter Three-Year Covenant Partnership

At this year's General Assembly at Timberlake Baptist Church, CBFSC entered a three-year covenantal partnership with Palmetto Works Community Development Corporation in Conway, SC. This ministry, an offshoot of partner congregation Palmetto Missionary Baptist Church, strives to equip everyone for their age and developmentally appropriate work.



The partnership between CBFSC and Palmetto Works has been growing over time. For the past two years, through missions partnership grants, CBFSC has helped fund their Palmetto Kids summer cultural enrichment program which aims to expose children to music, dance, and the arts. This gives these children the opportunity to explore gifts and abilities that otherwise may have gone unnoticed.

This past January youth from across the state joined with Palmetto Works for PilgriMissionSC. During this time of reflection and growth, the youth helped build raised bed garden boxes for Palmetto Works' C.H.O.P.S program. C.H.O.P.S, which stands for  Culinary and Hospitality Operatives Prepared to Serve, "is an 8 month program designed to teach basic culinary skills as well as social, financial and other life skills to returning citizens of Horry County." The gardens will help by providing participants the opportunity to learn about and practice "Farm to Table" food preparation.

We're excited to be entering in to this partnership with Palmetto Works. This three year covenant will allow for a deeper connection between CBFSC congregations and Palmetto Works CDC. If you would like to learn more about Palmetto Works or how you can become involved in their ministry, you can visit their website: www.palmettoworks.com.

The Genius of Congregational Church Government

Very many “yes” and one “no,” is how votes usually went in one church I served.

My dear friend (let’s call him DF for short) would very often vote “no” because he had remaining questions about the issue, the budget, or the implementation of our plans. DF questioned from a faithful heart and voted with the best intentions for the church in mind…though I suspect that once in a while he voted “no” so our decision making wouldn’t seem like a disengaged and perfunctory “rubber stamp.” I love DF and appreciate how much he treasured the processes of congregational governance because it truly is a God-blessed inheritance from our Baptist forebears.

The genius of the congregation having local autonomy, and the thing that DF’s questions and votes assured, is it makes the church perfectly contextual. The congregation through committees, councils, deacon boards, votes—whatever processes it chooses—decides who leads the church and what it does in the community and world. No one from outside a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-related congregation can tell it who to call as pastor, who to ordain as a deacon, where to send their money, or what mission endeavor best reflects the heart of the church. Local autonomy frees the congregation to tune their life together toward the particular call of God on them. Congregational governance leads to incarnational ministry because your physical location in a community shapes how you live God’s call.

The congregation exists as the highest authority in Cooperative Baptist Fellowship life so the Spirit’s work in the local church guides who we are as a Fellowship. As churches choose leaders and engage in missions, as they adapt to cultural change and adopt future visions, we encourage that autonomy and invite collaboration for missions and ministry together. Autonomy plus collaboration means that there is a lot of diversity among CBF-related congregations because the contexts of ministry vary across the Fellowship. CBFSC’s mission to encourage congregations to thrive, nurture spiritual development, and value innovative and collaborative missions and ministry is shaped by the ministry and vision of local congregations.

Congregational governance makes ministry perfectly contextual. Collaboration lead by local autonomy makes missions and ministry global while expressing the faith and heart of congregations. Dear friends may not always agree with one another but when committed to each other, with the Spirit’s help, they show Christ’s love in unique ways for their community and our world.

Sightings of the Kingdom

The month of June was very busy. On the first day of June I woke up in Kosice, Slovakia where I was visiting Jon and Tanya Parks, CBF Field Personnel to the Roma. I was taking part in a mission immersion trip they had put together as well as scouting out the possibility of taking a team from South Carolina to visit them in June of 2016 (go here for more information).

After a full and meaningful week and a half, I arrived home on June 8, but June 15 came quickly and my family and I took off for CBF Global’s General Assembly in Dallas. If you follow me on Facebook, then you know that trip took a slight detour, being stuck in New York City for a day, but that is another story for another time.

Once we made it to Dallas I got to take part in one of my favorite weeks of the year. I was privileged to see the commissioning of new Field Personnel to Cambodia, I met with old friends from the CBF offices in Decatur and from my time in seminary. I also got to meet new friends and hear of great work that is taking part around the world. It’s also a great time of networking, where I hope to have made connections that will make an impact here in South Carolina. It was also a humbling and encouraging experience seeing the response of love that was offered to our state during the hard days following the Charleston massacre.

Once the General Assembly wrapped up, my heart was full, but my trip wasn’t over yet. My family and I loaded up into a rental car and took off for the eight hour drive to Mission, TX to visit with future CBFSC partners who are doing work along the US-Mexico border. I had the privilege to learn from the ministry of Buckner International and Hearts4Kids in their work in the colonias, large, immigrant settlements along the border.

After about 1200 miles and over 20 hours in the car (Texas is a big state) we were back in Dallas and ready to fly home, this time without being stranded along the way! Now I’ve been back home for a while. I’ve had time to reflect some on these experiences, and even though it was one of my busiest months in a very long time, I’m energized and ready to serve the Kingdom with a renewed fervor.

See, at times when we spend too much time on our little patch of land, we begin to feel as if our work is isolated, or that it has no meaning. It’s easy to fall victim to the belief that there is more evil in the world than good, and that our work is seemingly in vain. We hear news of shootings, of war, of hunger, and of poverty. The pain and heartache of the world seems to eclipse any good we were hoping to achieve.

Over this month, though, I’ve had the privilege of being witness to sightings of the Kingdom, those times when we realize that for all the evil in the world God is at work through faithful people bringing about good.

For every Roma who is cursed in the street for their ethnicity, there are others working to build bridges and educate in order to put an end to such marginalization.

For every immigrant family trapped in poverty in a new and unfamiliar country that surrounds them with messages of hate and rejection, there are good, Godly people who are working to provide economic opportunity and to equip them to meet their basic needs such as reliable, safe shelter.

And for every person who feels alone in their search for meaning and purpose, there are church planters who are working tirelessly to start Kingdom minded communities that strive, together, to learn how to follow Jesus faithfully.

With every example I saw, I was reminded of the possibilities and potential of what can happen when God’s faithful community bands together to bear witness to the Kingdom in a world that so desperately needs it. That leaves me energized and hopeful for what can happen through us in South Carolina.

Transforming Romania Together

We are not called to be agents of transformation at home only. We are called to take the Good News of God's Kingdom to every corner of this world. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina is in a 3-year partnership with the Roma ministries of CBF Global in order to take seriously this call to be global disciples. This year, through your investments in the Beverly Greer Offering for State Missions, CBF of SC was able to take part in Project Ruth's Second Chance Program for adult education. Watch the video below from CBF Field Personnel Ralph and Tammy Stocks, and consider investing more in transformational ministry across our state and around our world.

To give to the Beverly Greer Offering for State Missions, click here and choose "State Missions" in the drop down.

Transforming York Together

CBF of SC partner congregation, First Baptist York, in partnership with Tender Hearts Ministries of York, is actively engaged in transforming the lives of homeless women and children. Tender Hearts Ministries is an independent 501c3 that works to help transition homeless women and their children from lives on the streets to productive lives in society. Through a rigorous process, the women learn self-sufficiency, find work, and learn to care for their family. Tender Hearts desired this program to last 24 months, but due to legal restrictions, they are only able to offer shelter and on-site programming to their clients for nine months.

Answering the call to help, First Baptist York has allowed Tender Hearts Ministries to use their 20140930_133811mission house as transitional housing for one woman and her children at a time. In this setting, the women are able to learn more about self-sufficiency and responsible financial decisions, and the programming of Tender Hearts Ministries can continue for longer than the nine month restriction. This allows for greater success in transforming the lives of these women and children.

CBF of SC was able to partner with First Baptist York through a Project Grant. Their mission house is an older home, and it was in need of a new roof and some flooring so that this partnership could continue.

Your support of the Beverly Greer Offering for State Missions makes such projects possible. By clicking here, you can invest in projects and partnerships like this one. Simply choose "State Missions" in the menu as you make your gift.

Transforming Conway Together

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina’s partner, Palmetto Kids is actively working to transform the lives of some of Conway’s at-risk children. This year, through our partnership grants, CBF of SC was able to partner with their summer cultural enrichment camp, which gave the children a safe place to be, while also teaching them music, art, and dance. [embed]http://youtu.be/4LsWiR7Y948[/embed]

During the year, Palmetto Kids offers after-school programming for these children. On Mondays, the children are part of a Freedom Readers program aiming to achieve higher literacy rates while providing children with age-appropriate books that they add to their home library. The rest of the week, the children take part in arts, theater, music, and dance classes.

Your support of CBF of SC’s Beverly Greer Offering for State Missions helps us to partner with ministries like Palmetto Works that are actively transforming the lives of children around our state. Please click here, and choose "State Missions" in the drop-down menu to invest in this kind of Kingdom work.

Take some time to visit Palmetto Works’ website to learn more about Palmetto Kids and their other, transformative ministries in Conway.

Misogyny, Missions, and a Trip to the Orthodontist

Sometimes my kids talk to me in the car. This happened today on the way to the orthodontist’s office. emma volleyball

“That’s the disease some boys said was in South Carolina now!” fourteen year-old Emma exclaimed, following a radio news story about a man in Texas hospitalized with the Ebola virus. “First of all, don’t believe anything middle school boys say,” I said for the hundredth time. “Second, that story is about a man in Texas who came from Liberia to visit his family.” Then we talked about Ebola, why western Africa is particularly susceptible, how the disease impacts more than just the sick people because it disrupts school, work, and access to food. I told her about friends who are helping (through the Liberian Baptist Seminary and CBF).

From the Ebola conversation Emma declared that she wants to go on a mission trip to another country. Because Emma values differing languages and cultures as well as any 8th grader I know, she understands how important it is for Americans to listen and honor the countries they visit as missionaries. We talked about times when trying to help can actually hurt (I told stories like you can hear here). It was cool to hear her heart for others as an expression of her faith.

Back on the radio, the local morning show guys led a conversation comparing a “size 12 woman” and a “size 20 woman.” How much larger is one than the other? Should they work out (not for health sake but appearance sake)? Within the hour the hosts also confessed that they track a female coworker’s “PMS” on a calendar. They implied she is a less capable worker a few days a month. Emma learned the word “misogyny” on our ride though I suspect with “entertainment” like this she’ll be very familiar with its experience.

I am blessed to serve among CBF folks, and Emma is blessed to worship in a CBF-partner church, that honors the callings and lives of women and men as we respond to people in crisis with faithful and culturally sensitive missions and ministry. I’m sure no one gets it right all the time, but being among these folks has helped me have the right conversations with Emma.

Worship Responds to Bad News

I have struggled to watch the news these past few weeks. My heart breaks for Palestinians and Israelis locked in violent conflict, West Africans besieged by the Ebola virus, immigrant and refugee children and families in North America and the Middle East frightened and fatigued, and frustrated anger in Ferguson, Missouri. I sometimes feel helpless to respond. What can I do? What can I do? On my best days, I remember what my ethics professor taught me 25 years ago: when we come to worship we rehearse ways to follow Jesus in the world. The news is so bad, what can I do? Perhaps I can do what we do on Sunday morning.

Jay Kieve preaching

Sunday’s prayer of invocation acknowledges God’s presence in our midst and embraces God’s power to accomplish more than we can imagine or intend. When I watch the news, my worship reminds me of God’s presence. What can I do? I can trust that God is at work even when I can’t see how.

Sunday’s songs create solidarity of voice declaring the truths of faith. Hymns and choruses proclaim the holiness of God, the love of Jesus, the guidance of Holy Spirit, the depths of grace, and the promises of heaven. When I watch the news, my worship tells me that what I see and hear are not the only things to be said and heard. What can I do? I can stand and join my voice with others sharing Good News.

Sunday’s prayers present to God the concerns of our communities for healing, for help, for guidance, and for strength. We pray for the Kingdom, for forgiveness, for daily bread, and for deliverance from evil. When I watch the news, my worship teaches me that prayer is part of my power to respond. What I can I do? I can pray. And even when I don’t know what to pray, I have a model to follow.

Sunday’s Bible reading and sermon invite, challenge, and inspire me to hear from Jesus the truth about me, my life, and the world. The Invitation demands from me a response, a renewed commitment to follow Jesus in the truth I’ve heard. When I watch the news, my worship shapes me to see and to hear through the lens of Jesus’ life and teaching. What can I do? I can respond with a renewed commitment to follow Jesus in the world; a commitment that might lead me to protest or deeper prayer, to political organizing or teaching toddlers in Sunday School, to volunteer or to vacate a long held position.

Sunday’s offering gathers the gifts of creation and human labor, and presents them to God for blessing. Money supports ministry in the world. When I watch the news, my worship shows me how money is part of God’s power for life. What can I do? I can write a check that will fund the help and good I hope to see. (see: Resources for Giving and Learning at the end of this post)

Sunday’s Lord’s Supper begins with betrayal “on the night Jesus was arrested” and ends with blessed nourishment and the promise of a heavenly banquet. When I watch the news, Sunday’s table calls me to acknowledge my own betrayals, sinfulness that limits knowledge, will, and perspective. Sunday’s table assures me that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection overcome my sinfulness and our enmity to bring people together. What can I do? I can, with humility and grace, share a meal and seek unity. (see: Resources for Giving and Learning at the end of this post)

Sunday’s benediction turns the Church with a blessing toward the world. When I watch the news, my worship reminds me that my faith formed on Sunday mornings transforms the rest of the week. What can I do? I can trust, sing, pray, respond, give, and gather because I am not helpless. I am a follower of Jesus who every week participates in the practices that bless and change the world.

**Resources for Giving and Learning