Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing

Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing

Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing

Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing


Doing Justice is an introductory theology of congregational-based community organizing rooted in the day-to-day struggles and hopes of urban ministry and in the author's 14 years of personal experience in community organizing ministries.

Drawing from the organizing principles of Saul Alinsky, Jacobsen weaves the theological and biblical warrants for community organizing into concrete strategies for achieving justice in the public arena. Designed to be used by congregations and church leaders, as well as by ministerial students, Doing Justice opens new vistas for community action in support of the poor, the disadvantaged, and the disenfranchised of our society.


“I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I
will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will
answer concerning my complaint. Then the Lord answered me and
said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may
read it.” (Hab. 2:1–2)

This book was written on the run, here and there between pastoral responsibilities, devotion to spouse and children, and various efforts for justice in the public arena. It is intended as an introductory theology of congregation-based community organizing for those who are similarly on the run. Any vision found on these pages flows from the hundreds of clergy, laity, and organizers whom I have come to know and admire in the faith-based struggle for a just society in this country.

Since 1992 I have been honored to be one of the presenters at each annual Gamaliel National Clergy Training in Techny, Illinois. in this setting, my colleagues and I in the Gamaliel network of congregation-based community organizations have reflected on some of the basic concepts of community organizing from a theological and biblical perspective. Several chapters in this book flow from presentations that I have offered at Techny. Those familiar with organizing training events will recognize the standard concepts that are considered in this book: the world as it is, the world as it should be, the public arena, power, self-interest, one-on-ones, agitation. Other chapters consider additional concepts key to the organizing enterprise.

I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people who have influenced my biblical understanding of justice ministry that it would take another book to name them all. I would be particularly remiss if I did not name a few. Thanks to Daniel Berrigan who taught me, among other things, that the claim to be a Christian carries with it the cost of where conscience leads. Thanks to Gregory Galluzzo who entrusts me with the role of director of the Gamaliel National Clergy Caucus and who sees in me more than I see in myself. Thanks to Dick Snyder and other faculty of New York Theological Seminary for training me to think theologically . . .

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