Alignment: Personal and Public

by Christopher Cox

Associate Director, Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment

A member of cohort one (2009-2010), I loved the experience of being a part of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program. The only Catholic in the group, I welcomed the theological diversity, pulling me into dialogue with theologians and thinkers afield from the bibliographies of my seminary days. I enjoyed the intellectual stimulation of engaging leaders in public life and experts in disciplines apart from my own. I grew in the ecumenical environment we inhabited. Finally, I delighted in the friendships forged through two years of journeying together.

The program describes its mission as “to affirm the high calling of Indiana pastors and to expand pastoral imagination.” I found that it feeds a passion for our vocation. It enhanced my capacity to imagine what faith communities have to say and do that no other institution can. It affirmed my conviction that pastors must be multilingual– not simply English and some other language– but multilingual in being able to speak to multiple bodies, those inside the church, those on the margins, and those in power in public life.

I love the vocation of pastor. I readily agree with Craig Dykstra when he writes: “It is a beautiful thing to see a good pastor at work.” Wabash surrounded me with excellent pastors. Personally, I no longer pastor a worshiping community. I fell in love, and that creates a problem for the employment contract of Catholic priest. Leaving ordaining ministry was a painful process, and, to be honest, I miss the daily pastoral challenges. My Wabash cohort have been among the most supportive amid my transition. The reunion events also encourage me to connect more deeply with a renewed sense of my vocation today.

A fundamental premise of the Wabash Program is that the faith community has a critical voice and a unique capacity to convoke conversations about important issues facing our communities. Today, my ministry is to help faith communities align our wallets with our professed values. In doing so, we have the opportunity to build a more just and sustainable world.

Our faith communities do wonderful work on the ground attending to the concerns expressed in “Matthew 25.” Pastors see first hand the devastation wrought by the opioid epidemic or the damage to families and neighborhoods in the housing crisis. Many of us have known the devastation when a gun ends a life. Climate change increasingly impacts our lives, especially the lives of the most poor, in a myriad of ways. In all those issues, corporations have a role, and we have opportunities to engage them in dialogue.

Faith-based shareholder advocacy aims to make faith communities active owners of their invested funds. I am privileged to help the faith community bring its voice to conversations with corporate leadership.

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