Envisioning Religiously Diverse Partnership Systems among Government, Faith Communities and FBOs

Jo Schneider
2016 Religions  
Recent U.S. policy regarding faith-based organizations (FBO) envisions "partnerships with government" that include both financial and non-financial relationships. This paper explores the current nature of a three-way partnership among faith communities, FBOs and government, proposing ways that government could more effectively partner with faith communities and their organizations. I use data from the Faith and Organizations Project and earlier studies of refugee resettlement and social welfare
more » ... and social welfare supports. The paper combines research and policy literature with research findings to describe how faith communities organize social services, education, health, senior services and community development through their FBOs, differences among religions and denominations and current forms of partnerships with government. Conclusions provide policy suggestions for U.S. systems. 3 of 28 senior services (hospital systems, retirement communities, clinics, congregation sponsored seniors programs), education (K-12 religious schools) and community development projects (community development corporations, emergency services, youth enrichment). 2 With the exception of one Evangelical congregation's emergency services ministry, all organizations were either 501c3 nonprofits or congregation-sponsored entities with a separate bank account and advisory committee. They ranged in size and age from multi-million dollar organizations several hundred years old with multiple locations to congregation-sponsored ministries in existence for less than five years. We purposely did not include any congregation-based ministries run exclusively as projects of a pastor or committee. The Maintaining Vital Connections Study [24] examined the relationship between 81 faith-based organizations located in the Northeast (from Philadelphia to Northern Virginia), Midwest (Ohio and Chicago) and South (South Carolina) and their sponsoring faith communities. An earlier pilot study of 11 faith-based organizations was conducted between 2004 and 2006 in Philadelphia and the greater Washington Metropolitan area. 3 The project compared strategies used by the various denominations for guiding, supporting and maintaining connections with their nonprofit organizations. Depending on the religion or denomination, these guidance and support activities were carried out primarily by congregations, by higher level judicatories, like Jewish Federations, a Catholic diocese or a Quaker Yearly Meeting, by intermediary organizations, such as Friends Services for the Aging or a Catholic healthcare system, or by a combination of any of these institutions. We focused on pairs of institutions, for example a congregation and the school that it had founded. In some cases, a single faith community founded several organizations. For example, a large, several hundred-year-old Quaker Meeting had founded a retirement community, a senior services organization and a school and was also a key member of an interfaith community development corporation. We also included several interfaith organizations that were sponsored by as many as 30 individual congregations. "Interfaith" in this context usually meant sponsorship from a variety of Mainline Protestant denominations, sometimes with one Catholic parish or Quaker Meeting added to the mix. However, several interfaith organizations had expanded to include Jews, Muslims and secular community groups as supporters, as well. In most cases, the practical theology and primary support system of the interfaiths came from a small number of particularly active Mainline Protestant congregations or a combination of Mainline Protestants and Catholics, so in these organizations, we concentrated on connections to the most active congregations. Jewish and Catholic communities, through various umbrella institutions, such as the Federation, a religious order or a diocese, were responsible for a full range of organizations, and we chose two or three institutions under each of those denominational umbrellas for intensive study. Federations are regional centralized fundraising, planning and support institutions for Jewish non-profits providing a wide array of services [27, 28] . To understand the nature of these relationships, we focused on how they were enacted at several different levels. For example, our research on order-sponsored Catholic hospitals included research on the regional office of one order, the national health system that oversaw all of its hospitals plus those of several other orders and a single hospital located under this umbrella in Baltimore. Jewish Federation research included a local Federation and several of its organizations, also looking at links to local synagogues and national umbrella organizations. The study looked at the faith community's understanding of its overall sponsorship role and the types of organizations it considered to be affiliated with it, as well as at the specific relationships between each faith community and selected organizations. Both studies combine several qualitative methods: Overview history of each faith community's support and guidance of its organizations and ministries, as well as a history of the relationship between the faith community and specific 2 A list of organizations in the second study is available at http://www.faithandorganizations.umd.edu/pdfs/Matrix-Complete.pdf. 3 See Schneider et al. [23] for a complete description of this study.
doi:10.3390/rel7080105 fatcat:53l4btcuhzblxde6yn2faa7snu