Dissemination of the findings of the Discipleship/Citizenship Project

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Wed, 05/01/1996
End Date: 
Tue, 12/31/1996

This grant enabled the dissemination activities of the Discipleship/Citizenship Project. Under this project, John A. Coleman and associates researched six diverse social and political actions groups in the United States in order to understand how Christian concerns inform their outlook and the myriad ways in which their social vision is articulated. The six organizations were: (1) Bread for the World, (2) Operation PUSH, (3)Focus on the Family, (4) Pacific Institute for Community Organizing – PICO, (5) Habitat for Humanity, and (6) Pax Christi, USA. Over a three-year period beginning in 1993, Coleman and associates examined the literature produced by each of these organizations describing their mission, activities and organizational history, and conducted extensive on-site interviews at key service delivery location for each of these organizations.
Researchers sought and gathered information along the following questions: (1) How much do these organizations encourage a congregational and parish-based strategy for their service delivery activities? (2) What are the difficulties involved in sustaining their activities at the local church level? (3) How do the personnel in these organizations experience and articulate the tension between citizenship and discipleship? (4) How do these organizations view the relationship between citizenship and discipleship? (5) What specific problems do these organizations encounter in using discipleship language in public and in employing notions of citizenship within their base in Christian discipleship? All of these inquiries were driven by the underlying quest to understand the relationship between commitment to one’s religion and to one’s nation.
The findings of the study were presented in a national conference at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California on September 8th and 9th, 2000. Approximately one hundred participants attended from across the country besides the local academic community. Coleman, the principal investigator, gave the keynote address. As a result of the extensive three-year long study, Coleman concluded that para-denominational organizations such as the ones this study researched, arise out of efforts to transcend the localized nature of religious congregations. Additionally, these organizations are motivated by the desire to address the root causes of social problems rather than merely ameliorating their effects. Para-denominational organizations stand as a unique interface between religious beliefs and public engagement.