Religious groups join together to support social justice, share spirituality


GREENVILLE — Rabbi Marc Wilson of Beth Israel Congregation wants Greenville Faith Communities United to be “the primary inclusive religious voice in the community.”

Greenville Faith Communities United is a developing alliance of faith communities formed to promote outreach, social justice, mutual support and shared spirituality. The alliance is the brainchild of four people working together — each of whom gives credit to the others — Franciscan Sister Margie Hosch, director of Catholic Charities for the Piedmont Deanery; J.P. McGuire, director of Social Ministries and Missions at Buncombe Street United Methodist Church; Bishop Alfred Simpson of Pentecostal Move of God Church; and Rabbi Wilson. Bishop Simpson has since resigned for health and personal reasons.

Invitations were sent out this past March to every church of every religion listed in the Greenville yellow pages asking “Can Greenville’s congregations draw together and become a ‘beloved community’?” More than 50 representatives from a variety of denominations attended the first general meeting on April 27.

Max Heller, mayor of Greenville from 1971 to 1979, spoke about social justice issues at the May 25 general meeting at Beth Israel Synagogue. He said he left Austria in March of 1938 because of Hitler and arrived in Greenville in August of 1938. (He and his wife eventually lost 90 family members to the Holocaust.) Heller said he was convinced that “America was the only place we should go” because of freedom and opportunity, but he soon found himself confused and disappointed by the realities of the segregated South. A lot of progress has been made, but there is still plenty to do. He stressed the need for action to increase social justice and the importance of appealing to “the people who are sitting on the fence.” His Hebrew teacher always told him, “If you save one person, you save the world.”

Sister Hosch adapted the following pledge, the Jubilee Pledge of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for the Third Millennium and the Jubilee Year 2000, for an interfaith audience:

“As faith communities committed to share in spirituality, mutual supportiveness, public advocacy and in efforts to promote charity and social justice … we pledge to:

“Pray for greater justice and peace.

“Learn more about social issues in order to protect human life, stand with the poor, and care for creation.

“Reach across boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and disabling conditions.

“Live justly in family life, school, work, the marketplace, and the political arena.

“Serve those who are poor and vulnerable, sharing more time and talent.

“Give more generously to those in need at home and abroad.

“Advocate public policies that protect human life, promote human dignity, preserve God’s creation, and build peace.

“Encourage others to work for greater charity, justice, and peace.”

The alliance adopted the pledge at their May 25 meeting. Based on this pledge, they committed themselves to formulate 100 action strategies before their next general meeting on June 22.