April 15, 2018
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist
The community and the church should be closely connected, but often the church has deferred to government to solve problems in the community. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall wants to change that.
“We need to engage locally with the churches in various areas to be a part of changing lives and changing behaviors,” Marshall said in a recent interview with The Alabama Baptist. “What better (way) than to expose people to the idea of grace and Jesus and to engage the faith community in some issues where they can make a difference.”
Message of engagement
Marshall is taking that message of engagement to churches in a series of four Faith Forums to be held in April and May. The forums will focus on three major problems facing Alabama churches and communities: security risks in houses of worship, opiod abuse and violent crime.
These areas are fertile missions fields for churches, Marshall said, which is why he wants to bring people from all denominations together to talk about the issues and challenge churches to play a more prominent role in finding solutions.
“Our idea is not just to bring people together and educate them but it’s really an effort to motivate specific actions toward these particular issues,” Marshall said.
‘Be hands and feet’
Marshall said whether Alabamians realize it or not, addiction and violent crime are two major concerns in the state.
Alabama ranks first in the U.S. for the number of painkiller prescriptions per capita and ranks in the top 10 of states with high violent crime rates, Marshall said. Churches can make a difference in the lives of addicts and would-be criminals, but they must be willing to reach out.
“Jesus was criticized for hanging out with sinners,” Marshall said. “The reality is that for us to live out the Great Commission we have to be far outside the boundaries of the church building and be the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Keynoting the Faith Forums will be Marshall; Shannon Royce, director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Robert T. Thetford, treasurer and operations manager, Institute for Criminal Justice Education.
Royce has been instrumental in developing a tool kit for churches on various issues, Marshall said. Thetford, a former FBI agent, will talk specifically about church security, from the “nuts and bolts of the law” but also a systematic plan for setting up a security policy and plan.
Marshall will speak to issues of violent crime.
The Faith Forums will be held in four locations:
• Montgomery: April 26 at Church of the Highlands, 4255 Taylor Road, 8:30 a.m. to noon.
• Mobile: May 1 at Mount Hebron Church Ministries, 2531 Berkley Avenue, 1–4:30 p.m.
• Birmingham: May 3 at Briarwood Presbyterian Chapel, 2200 Briarwood Way, 1–4:30 p.m.
• Huntsville: May 15 at The Rock Family Worship Center, 3401 Holmes Avenue NW, 8:30 a.m. to noon.
The Faith Forums are free and any interested members of the faith community are invited to attend.
To register for any of the Faith Forums, email email@example.com or call the Attorney General’s office at 334-242-7401.