In Divisive Times, Some in NTC Speak Best Through Good Works

Billy Gray tutoring a child

See how NTC Methodists and others ply their faith in causes they believe in

Divisiveness is pervasive in 2017. Every day, we encounter it in politics and many other parts of our lives.

In the effort to get along, most of us avoid controversial discussions in our workplaces and churches. However, church is the ideal place to work through issues and their complexities. Although it isn’t acceptable for a church or pastor to endorse a candidate, it is certainly appropriate to discuss controversial topics and how our beliefs influence our response.

Faith compels us to stand up for others and our social principles. People all across the country are stepping up for what they believe and getting involved. Alone or in groups, they are working to make a difference in their communities in an new era of activism.

“Churches do a great job of responding to crises,” said Scott Atnip of Texas Impact, an ecumenical grass-roots public policy group. “But we can do a better job at determining how to address the root causes of issues in our communities.”

Speaking at a recent forum presented by Lovers Lane United Methodist Women, he cited his favorite Bible passage, Matthew 25:35-45 (For I was hungry and you gave me food …), and suggested that we are not only to care for those in need, but also work to improve policy so that our mission efforts aren’t needed in the first place.

Dr. Andy Stoker, senior pastor of First UMC Dallas, is one of those putting his faith in action for social good and leading others to do the same. “John Wesley was always in the business of balancing the idea of personal piety and social witness,” he said.

Civic engagement isn’t about one particular issue but something important to you. If a situation tugs at your heart, think about what you can do to make it better.

Here are a few people trying to make a difference in North Texas:

Andy StokerPublic Education

Dr. Andy Stoker, First UMC Dallas

Action: Read with or mentor a child at your local school for one hour each week and you can change a life and change a community.

What He’s Done: Dr. Stoker is involved in Pastors for Texas Children, an organization that supports public education. He encourages pastors and their churches to develop relationships with neighborhood schools and dreams “that all 227 schools in Dallas ISD will have a thriving school-church partnership.”

First UMC Dallas partnered with J.J. Rhoads Learning Center in South Dallas’ Fair Park area in 2014. The church began with 21 volunteer reading partners, then grew to 43 the next year. This school year, the church has more than 200 volunteers involved in teacher appreciation and reading literacy. One church member spends three days a week organizing the school office.


Cynthia Dooley, Tyler Street UMC

Action: Help tenants improve living conditions

What She’s Done: Dooley used her bilingual skills to help a group of Hispanic moms near Christ’s Foundry to work with the City of Dallas City Housing Commission. Their efforts helped lead to improved code standards for apartments, ensuring healthy and safe conditions for families in low-income apartment complexes across Dallas.

An immigrant holds a sign during a rally.(Photo from

Sara Fields


Sara Fields, involved citizen

Action: Becoming informed on political issues

What She’s Done: Fields volunteers at Brookdale Lake Highlands senior living center. The war recollections of men 60 years her senior made her wonder if someday she would be their age and regret never getting involved. Their dedication to the greater good persuaded her get informed and vote. She attended her first town hall meeting, met with her state senator, and plans to vote in all the elections she can, not just the presidential elections.

As these examples show, we can all choose to get involved in some way for causes we care about and reflect our beliefs to improve our communities. Consider it a part of your personal mission and faith journey.

Sarah Walters, Epworth UMC Arlington member

Action: Work to stop discrimination against immigrants

What She’s Done: Inspired by the 2017 United Methodist Women’s Legislative Event, Walters reached out to the Dallas staff of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Troubled by threats to local Muslim groups, she formed a group of 11 people, including the imam of a local mosque, and pressed for fair treatment of U.S. Muslims.

Texas Impact

One + One

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017