A Brief Description of CSCO
several years of planning and individual meetings with hundreds of
Christian leaders across the country, Christians Supporting
Community Organizing ("CSCO") was founded in January 1997
by a broadly-based group of respected Evangelical, Holiness,
Pentecostal and related Christian leaders.
seeks to enlist local congregations of its faith perspectives in the
growing congregation-based community organizing movement in America.
The community organization movement is an effective effort for social, political and
economic justice, for leadership development and church growth and
for building churches as faithful communities. It now involves
thousands of churches and other faith-based institutions across the
country in its activities. Yet few churches of our CSCO faith
perspectives are involved.
make participation in congregation-based community organizing
"thinkable," CSCO has developed a biblically-based
theology. Theologically, our parts of the church share a "high
reading" of the centrality of Scripture. Although justice for the poor, the
discriminated against and the marginalized is a major theme in the
Bible, it is too often neglected in our circles.
general, our parts of the church (with the exception of many
African-American strands) view their faith as a personal or private
matter and view social problems as the result of failures of
individual morality. Yet a majority us, like a majority of
Americans, are deeply disturbed by many things taking place in
American life. For those who are people of color or experience low-income, there are the ongoing problems of racism
and classism. People all through our congregations share a growing
economic insecurity, with longer hours spent working and commuting.
We sense that the country has lost its direction and has a
diminished moral framework for civic life.
American community organizing movement is offering a constructive
response to the present crisis in America. The initiators of CSCO
believe our Evangelical, Pentecostal and Holiness congregations, now
largely absent from this movement, should be part of it. We are
convinced that we can contribute to community organizing and
community organizing can contribute to our mission. Community organizing addresses real problems, fosters
mutual respect among groups of people, understands that both
government and private corporations
must be held accountable and is
deeply respectful of democratic processes and traditions.
Historically, Evangelicals played major roles in movements to
abolish slavery, end child labor, achieve women's suffrage and
unionize workers. By 1920, much of this history was lost. Early
Pentecostal work was multi-ethnic and committed to community but
these commitments also dissipated with time. A major part of CSCO's
work is to review and restore these histories so that they can
inform a strong commitment on the part of today's church to social
and economic justice. CSCO continues to deepen the biblical,
theological and historical bases for its action and makes on-going
biblical reflection and study an integral part of its work.
addition to providing a vehicle to address justice issues,
congregation-based community organizing is also a vital tool for
building the body of a congregation. It deepens existing personal
relationships, challenges members to link faith to action and
provides opportunities for leadership growth and development. It
enables members to act on their own deeply felt concerns and relates
these concerns to larger problems in the surrounding community.
Because congregation-based community organizations are diverse in
character, membership in them links local congregations to other
Christians, as well as people of other faiths, with whom they share
basic values. These broadly-based organizations also create the
opportunity for people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds to
come together, develop relationships with one another and act on
common values and interests. It also provides an opening for
evangelistic work by bringing us into contact with non-believers in
a context when our deeds open a door to our words.
strategy has been to develop a national committee of respected
leaders from among our faith perspectives. Because of who we are and
because of the theological and historical work we collectively do,
we seek to persuade our congregations of the biblical, theological
and historical faithfulness of congregation based community
organizing as a vehicle for mission and community building. Further
we seek to help link our congregations to the more than 200
congregation-based community organizing projects that are now in
every major metropolitan area of the United States.
Founding Meeting took place in January, 1997. A constitution, rules
for credentials, member financial obligation and program were
adopted by the Founders. A national "Leadership Team" was
elected. Since that time, Annual Meetings have taken place to elect
or re-elect the national Leadership Team and to adopt an annual
program. In addition, the Annual Meetings are a time of worship,
deep reflection, celebration and continuing education.
Supporting Community Organizing was initiated by its organizer,
Marilyn Stranske, a respected Evangelical leader, and a small group
of others who view congregation-based community organizing as an
important vehicle for community building and mission. The initiating
group included Dr. Vernon Grounds, Chancellor and President Emeritus
of Denver Seminary, Dr. Robert Linthicum, Executive Director of
Partners in Urban Transformation and author of Empowering The
Poor and City of God, City of Satan, Rev. Kenneth
Luscombe, Director of the Office of Urban Advance, World Vision
International and Dr. Alice Mathews, now an endowed faculty chair
holder at Gordon-Conwell Seminary.
support for CSCO has come from its members, public and private
foundations, denominational bodies and other individual donors.