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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

‘Faith without works is dead’: Indy’s Black faith leaders use religious conviction to push community change

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The Black church has been and continues to be a place for Black people to seek refuge. With concerns about violence, mental health and rising prices throughout the city, the faith leaders and their congregations are answering the call for the community.

For Rev. David Greene, president of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis and pastor at Purpose of Life Ministries, his religious conviction is what drives his continuous involvement in community issues.

“Faith without works is dead,” he said. “For me, faith is not something that is just locked in a Sunday service or Wednesday Bible study. The needs are so vast to just sit on the sidelines and pray about it.”

People rely on faith-based communities for not only their religious practices but also for mental health care, financial assistance, day care and education. Like Greene, the faith of many other prominent community figures motivates the work they do for the Black community.

The Black faith leaders and their congregations are also at the frontlines of many of the social justice initiatives. In the last few months, Dr. Carlos Perkins, senior pastor at Bethel Cathedral AME Church, has worked with other faith-based organizations, such as Faith in Indiana and Indiana’s Black Church Coalition, to advocate for better mental health policies in the community.

“For us, the work continues around advocacy and around pushing those legislators as much as we can, to make sure that they are considering the rights of all,” he said.

They have demanded from elected officials, including Mayor Joe Hogsett, action on gun violence prevention and a crisis team to respond to mental health calls. While he said his church is dedicated to community involvement, his religious beliefs are the leading source for his participation in social justice movements throughout the city.

“My faith practice has been the foundation of my community work,” he said. “The practice of our beliefs, faith, requires us to be social justice minded. To provide food to those who are hungry and visit those who are incarcerated and sick, that’s what our faith believes and that’s how it’s manifested.”

Dr. Lionel Rush, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Indianapolis, is a part of another alliance — Indiana Alliance for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Economic Opportunities — to ensure the plan to place electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state will benefit the Black community. He said his faith in God gives him a broader view on life and helps him be consistently involved in the community, like God.

“Faith needs to be consistent,” he said. “I believe in a holistic God, the body, the soul and the spirit. If God is anything, he is consistent, and I believe that applies to every segment in life.”

Contact religion reporter Abriana Herron at 317-924-5243 or by email abrianah@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @Abri_onyai. Herron is a Report for America corps member and writes about the role of Black churches in the community.

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