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Speakers at a recent conference took on the tricky topics of poverty and the Church. (Photo: Handsonblog)

On October 7-8, United Methodists gathered in Camp Hill, PA for the third annual Anti-Poverty Summit. The event, organized by United Methodist Advocacy in Pennsylvania director Steve Drachler, featured panelists and speakers from across the nation addressing the issue of American destitution and the church’s ministry to the poor. Included in the lineup was influential Ohio United Methodist pastor Michael Slaughter, who was joined by other powerful voices within the United Methodist Church. Pennsylvania Bishops Jeremiah Park and Peggy Johnson also attended.

Lorenza Andrade Smith, an activist for the homeless and illegal immigrants, offered the opening sermon. “To be kind is not to be a doormat,” she instructed, “We don’t need our personal holiness to be at odds with our social holiness.” Smith observed, “Law and justice are related, but they’re not always aligned.” She quoted from the Equal Justice Initiative’s Bryan Stevenson: “The opposite of poverty is not wealth — the opposite of poverty is justice.”

From her history, Smith seems to see most political structures as being out of alignment. Her slideshow was filled with her attending civil protests, riding on a migrant train, and getting arrested by police. She was appointed by Bishop Jim Dorff of the Southwest Texas Annual Conference to a roving ministry with the homeless in the conference (especially San Antonio). Her latest escapade of sleeping on a park bench has led to quite the ordeal. She was told she could not stay in a local homeless shelter because her chalice and paten were “potential weapons.” After she refused to pay the city fine, she was sentenced to community service at the same shelter that refused her admittance, which she protested. Reports show that she did serve jail time; she hinted that she was still not welcome in San Antonio by the authorities.

Read more here.