From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 15:18:56


                         By Julian Shipp 
CHICAGO--More than 250 people gathered here to celebrate 25 years of 
partnerships with poor and oppressed people worldwide during the 
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Self-Development of People Committee (SDOP) 
Anniversary Convocation "Journey to Justice" April 21-23. 
     Organized following the 181st General Assembly (1969) of the former 
United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., SDOP is a ministry that works to 
empower poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people who are seeking to change 
the structures that perpetuate poverty, oppression and injustice. 
     "[SDOP] is a wonderful movement in the life of the Presbyterian Church 
and its partners throughout the world," said the Rev. Fredric T. Walls, 
SDOP's coordinator. 
     Keynote speaker was Dr. James Forman, author of the 1969 Black 
Manifesto, a document that called for churches to join in reparation for 
the effects of slavery and capitalism on African-American and Hispanic 
communities in the United States. Forman reflected positively on the 
response from the Presbyterian Church over the past quarter century. 
     "We found a lot of support for [the Black Manifesto] in the 
Presbyterian Church," Forman said.  "And the Manifesto opened up tremendous 
doors of opportunity throughout the church and the world." 
     Other speakers included the Rev. Patricia Lane, SDOP's associate for 
program development; the Rev. Robert Bohl, moderator of the 206th General 
Assembly; and Joel Gajardo, SDOP's committee chair. 
     During the program, workshops titled "Shattering the Myths of 
Poverty," "Community Empowerment for Environmental Justice," "Taking Back 
Our Communities," "Issues in Health Care," "The Economics of Welfare 
Rights," and "International Development" were held. Theological and 
biblical background on SDOP's relevance to the church was also presented. 
     Between speakers and workshops, participants explored the resources 
available from the General Assembly offices and SDOP committees, enjoyed a 
hospitality suite for small meetings, networking and conversation sponsored 
by Chicago Presbytery, and purchased handmade crafts provided by nine SDOP 
partners from around the world. 
     SDOP receives the majority of its funding from the One Great Hour of 
Sharing Offering given yearly during Lent by Presbyterians nationwide. This 
ecumenical offering provides SDOP the opportunity to enter into 
partnerships with communities worldwide. It also supports the Presbyterian 
Hunger Program and Presbyterian World Service. 
     According to conference officials, SDOP committees in 79 synods and 
presbyteries made financial contributions in their geographical areas of 
more than $1.2 million in 1994. The financial contribution by national, 
synod and presbytery SDOP committees since the inception of the ministry 
totals more than $54 million. 
     But SDOP's work is far from finished. For example, Bohl said, 
two-thirds of the world's population live in poverty while approximately 
30,000 children worldwide die each day due to hunger and disease. 
     "The plight of the poor can't wait for the minds of the rich to be 
transformed," Bohl said. "Thank God for [SDOP's] ministries." 
     The Rev. Curtis A. Kearns, Jr., director of the National Ministries 
Division, said as long as there is poverty and injustice in the world, 
there will be a need for the Self-Development of People ministry.  
     "Self-Development is not a relic -- it has a present and future 
[importance] as well," Kearns said.  "There is no way it can be nearing its 
conclusion, for its journey has just begun." 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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