When I heard him say it, I knew to write it down. It was one of those profound things that I knew would take me a little while to figure out. It seemed controversial at first. How can anyone claim that the gospel isn't sufficient to stand by itself? But, as I heard the bishop describe what his diocese and the Anglican Diocesan Development Relief Organization (ADDRO) are doing, I realized that it would be not only controversial but heretical to disagree.
The Diocese of Tamale is the largest by area in Ghana. It is also the poorest. In this diocese, which covers three regions (think states in the US), 88% of residents are at or below the poverty line of $1 per day. What good is it indeed to tell someone to have faith in Jesus if they are starving to death?
We're going to spend the next two days looking at the work of ADDRO. We heard an overview today. ADDRO has 6 target areas: food security, integrated health, rehab of the physically challenged, gender and reproductive health programs that address traditional beliefs and practices that dehumanize women, disaster relief (floods & droughts), and potable water and sanitation. As I heard the program directors talk about their work, I thought, "This is where the gospel is alive."
The core values of ADDRO are to "promote the rights and dignity of the poor, disadvantaged, and vulnerable." How different is that from redeeming the lost? How different is that from welcoming the outcast? How different is that from reconciling the estranged?
I've always liked liberation theology, but my affection has always been at a distance. It's easy to like a gospel that gives preference to the poor when you're teaching about it in an air-conditioned Sunday-school classroom in a fancy, rich church. Seeing the poor and hearing the gospel changes all of that. I'm not ready to say that the gospel is all social justice--I'm too evangelical for that--but there is nothing threatening to me about what bishop Jacob says. And that suggests that the way I hear the gospel may change during this trip.