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QUESTION OF FAITH

Are most Christians missing the mark in ministry? Question answered by the Rev. Bruce Wright of Refuge Ministries, part of Solid Rock Christian Church, 4224 28th St. N, St. Petersburg.

"Unfortunately, I would have to answer yes to this question. Specifically, I believe that the church is especially missing the mark in relation to the poor and homeless. It has been said that the poor you have with you always. This statement by Jesus has been used by the church, especially the American church, to justify inactivity in relation to helping the homeless and poor. However, Jesus made it quite clear in Matthew 25 that on judgment day, the "sheep' and "goats' would be separated by how they treated the "least of these.'

"Furthermore, if one were to look at the Gospels James 2, I John 3, and the Hebrew scriptures Proverbs, Isaiah 58, Isaiah 10, Amos, to name a few, it would become quite clear that not only do the scriptures address these issues, but they are, in fact, a central teaching of scripture. Moreover, not only do the scriptures speak quite clearly about the necessity to address the needs of the poor and oppressed, but we are to be a prophetic voice speaking out against the injustices that happen to the poor. In the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament and of Jesus' words, we must be proponents of social justice. The gospel implies not only personal salvation, but social justice as well. It is scandalous and an affront to Jesus himself that there exists a gap between the rich and poor that is ever widening. It is incredible that there are churches so afraid of the poor and homeless that they are accused of trespassing on church property. This ought not to be."

SKETCH: "I became a pastor about 12 years ago. I have worked with the poor, troubled youth and homeless for 20 years in both secular and religious settings. I felt called by God as a young adult to work with "the streets' and the disenfranchised. I have been married for 19 years (to Virginia) and have two children, Michael, 5, and Christina, 11. I have bachelor's degrees in theology and social work, a master's in pastoral psychology and a doctorate in ministry. I am member of Critical Resistance, the Department of Juvenile Justice Council, the Homeless Coalition, the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, Tampa Bay Action Group and St. Petersburg Ministerial Association."

TEST OF FAITH: My biggest test of faith is trusting God to encourage support for a work that is often greatly misunderstood. And I struggle with patience in relation to those who judge and mistreat the poor.

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