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Synopsis: Recent years have seen unprecedented attention to faith-based institutions as agents of social change, spurred in part by cuts in public funding for social services and accompanied by controversy about the separation of church and state. The debate over faith-based initiatives has highlighted a small but growing segment of churches committed to both saving souls and serving society. What distinguishes faith-based from secular activism? How do religious organizations express their religious identity in the context of social services? How do faith-based service providers interpret the connection between spiritual methodologies and socioeconomic outcomes? How does faith motivate and give meaning to social ministry? Drawing on case studies of fifteen Philadelphia-area Protestant churches with active outreach, Saving Souls, Serving Society seeks to answer these and other pressing questions surrounding the religious dynamics of social ministry. While church-based programs often look similar to secular ones in terms of goods or services rendered, they may show significant differences in terms of motivations, desired outcomes, and interpretations of meaning. Church-based programs also differ from one another in terms of how they relate evangelism to their social outreach agenda. Heidi Rolland Unruh and Ronald J. Sider explore how churches navigate the tension between their spiritual mission and the constraints on evangelism in the context of social services. The authors examine the potential contribution of religious dynamics to social outcomes as well as the relationship between mission orientations and social capital. Unruh and Sider introduce a new vocabulary for describing the religious components and spiritual meanings embedded in social action, and provide a typology of faith-based organizations and programs. Their analysis yields a framework for Protestant mission orientations that makes room for the diverse ways that churches interrelate spiritual witness and social compassion. Based on their observations, the authors offer a constructive approach to church-state partnerships and provide a far more objective understanding of faith-based social services than previously available.

About the Author:
Heidi Rolland Unruh is Associate Director of the Congregations, Community Outreach, and Leadership Development Project. She lives in Hutchinson, Kansas. Ronald J. Sider is Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, PA. He is also Director of the Congregations, Community Outreach, and Leadership Development Project. Together they are the authors of Churches That Make A Difference: Reaching Your Community With Good News and Good Works (2002).

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