The promise of faith‐based social services: Perception versus reality

Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work 01/2003; 22:5-23. DOI: 10.1080/15426432.2003.9960323

ABSTRACT This article explores the tenets that support the history of faith‐based social services in the United States and highlights the role of faith‐based organizations, which have a long and respected tradition in service provision. These tenets are rooted in the religious and secular precepts of duty, obligation, charity, responsibility, participation, community, and justice. As basic as these concepts are, the 2001 political debate about extending public support of faith‐based services has proven to be divisive rather than unifying. The concepts and practice of, and experience with, faith‐based services provide an important perspective by which to view and assess the 2001 Bush initiative to expand the use of faith‐based groups in the provision of social services. There is an inherent danger in raising expectations about the ability of faith‐based groups to meet social service needs and to do so “better” than other nonprofit or government agencies. Based on this review of the purposes, history, and current capacity of faith‐based groups, implications are identified and future scenarios offered in regard to an extended role of religious groups in service provision.

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