Church Must Be 'Social Therapists,' Says Theologian

A prominent African-American theologian called on the Church to act as “social therapists” during a general assembly of churches on Wednesday.

Some 250 delegates at the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS) listened as Robert M. Franklin Jr. urged the Church to heal the political, economic, global religious and racial wounds in society, reported The Presbyterian News Service on Wednesday.

“In our time, therapy and healing have become privatized and pathology has become personalized,” said Franklin, who was the former president of the Interdenominational Theological Center and was a visiting professor to Harvard Divinity School, according to PC News. “We need to rediscover the gospel of Jesus Christ as a means to both personal and social transformation, to practice Christian ethics as a social therapeutic.”

The NCC and CWS General Assembly is taking place from Nov. 7-9 in Orlando, Fla. Delegates from all 35 member communions are expected to gather for the General Assembly, which is the highest decision-making body of the NCC and CWS.

In his speech, Franklin listed four wounds that need healing: political, economic, global religious and racial wounds.

He called on clergies to “engage in the social therapy of reconciliation” if they were responsible for “divisive rhetoric” during the elections.

In terms of economic wounds, Franklin noted that 18 percent of U.S. children live below the poverty line.

“It is a moral scandal that there’s so much poverty in our land of riches,” said Franklin.

The situation in Iraq was used by Franklin as an example of global religious wounds. He criticized the U.S. action in the country and asked the Church to question itself on what it can do to show solidarity with people of other faiths.

Racial wound was the last point the theologian addressed during the Wednesday small-group discussion.

“The color line that was once black-white has become a series of color lines,” he said, “with the prospect that soon there will be no ethnic majority in America.”

Franklin said historic black and white churches “aren’t doing very well in managing our diversity.” He believes “new energy” may come from Latino churches.