Article

Working for God and Sustainability: The Activities of Faith-Based Organizations in Kenya

Authors:
  • The King's University
  • The King's University, Edmonton, Canada
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Abstract

Faith-based organizations (FBOs) have long played a role in international development, and are increasingly involved in environmental sustainability initiatives. Despite these contributions they have, until recently, been largely ignored in scholarship and by secular agencies. This article adds to the growing recognition of FBOs, exploring the identity and function of FBOs doing environmental and development work in Kenya through document review, qualitative questionnaires and participant observation. A diverse group of FBOs with varied identities and engaged in a broad range of activities revealed several strengths and challenges of faith-based environmental and development work. Of particular note is the key role churches and faith-based agencies can play in effecting sustainable and holistic change in Global South countries, due to their rootedness in the community, the social capital they help to produce, and the respect they receive from the people.

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... These organisations largely arose out of the strong missionary presence in Africa; a presence which is often linked to Empire and colonial rule (Deneulin and Bano, 2009;Henkel and Stirrat, 2001;Moyer et al., 2012). Some studies suggest that faith-based organisations have a growing influence in Kenya (Moyer et al., 2012;Olivier et al., 2015), and at the beginning of this century the country was believed to host the largest number of US Protestant missionaries on the continent (Hearn, 2002). ...
... These organisations largely arose out of the strong missionary presence in Africa; a presence which is often linked to Empire and colonial rule (Deneulin and Bano, 2009;Henkel and Stirrat, 2001;Moyer et al., 2012). Some studies suggest that faith-based organisations have a growing influence in Kenya (Moyer et al., 2012;Olivier et al., 2015), and at the beginning of this century the country was believed to host the largest number of US Protestant missionaries on the continent (Hearn, 2002). ...
... According to Moyer et al (2012), FBOs may be distinguished from other NGOs in a number of ways. Aside from their connection with local communities through religious establishments and networks, they often encourage engagement on spiritual and moral issues as part of their material support, "providing moral leadership and critical voices, influencing behaviour, and introducing hope to an often demoralizing effort" (Moyer et al., 2012: 962). ...
... The findings of this study support arguments that holistic worldviews require holistic approaches to sustainability (Moyer et al. 2012;Havea et al. 2017). This is particularly relevant for Melanesian societies such as PNG where conceptions of the environment fuse "the social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental landscapes" (Banks 2002, p. 41). ...
... Previous research has found that information about climate science can be delivered in ways that are respectful to Christian (and other) belief systems (Moyer et al. 2012). In response to fatalistic views towards climate change mitigation for example, state that information on current and future climate impacts can be supplemented with messaging on stewardship and 'creation care' …to denote the idea that humankind is chiefly responsible for the sustenance, maintenance, or simply the 'care' of God's creation. ...
... (p. 54) Further, drawing from the experience of faith-based organisations in Kenya, Moyer et al. (2012) write that; ...
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This paper describes understandings of climate change among market sellers in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Market sellers in PNG are likely to experience negative impacts associated with climate change due to their dependence on ecosystem services for their livelihood. Based on qualitative interviews at the Madang Town Market, this paper highlights an acute awareness of environmental change among market sellers such as, rising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and unpredictable seasons. Yet the interviews reveal unique interpretations of the cause of these changes. In contrast to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions emphasized in international climate change discourse, interviewees refer to biblical notions of “the End Times”. This appears to give rise to a fatalistic view of climate change, as “God alone” is seen to be in control. Despite this apparent resignation, there is eagerness among market sellers for more information on climate change. These findings stress the need for sustainability practitioners working in PNG to consider the integration of environmental information with Christian beliefs. It is argued that this can be done in ways that respect spiritual understandings, while also promoting practical mitigation and adaptation strategies.
... In many parts of Africa, for example, Christian organizations and agencies have long been involved in development work, driven by charitable impulses, evangelical zeal, and, to some extent, by complicity with the colonial machine. Such work began with mission stations that offered schools and health clinics, and which expanded over time beyond education and health care to include agriculture, water supply programs, and many other projects (Thaut, 2009;Moyer, Sinclair, & Spaling, 2012). ...
... Faith groups are also actively addressing environmental concerns in Sub-Saharan Africa, where an interfaith alliance of Zimbabwean Christians and traditional practitioners has engaged in extensive tree planting projects. The Faith and Earthkeeping Project, under the auspices of the World Wide Fund for Nature-South Africa, promotes environmental protection, conservation, and sustainable resource use at various levels (Moyer et al., 2012). ...
... In fact, available evidence suggests that some of their services may even be more effective and cost-efficient than similar secular and government programs. They also tend to adopt an approach that goes beyond basic economic advancement or environmental protection, incorporating the social, environmental, spiritual, and ethical in one complete package (Moyer et al., 2012;Sider & Unruh, 1999). ...
... The empirical data on which we base our theoretical reflections were gathered during two field visits to Kenya. After an initial research phase focused on developing a profile of FBOs doing environmental and development work in Kenya (Moyer, Sinclair, & Spaling, 2012), two case study organizations were selected to study learning within the FBO context. Selection criteria included a self-defined faith basis, engagement in environmental or development work, and variety in type of faith affiliation, ethnic, or cultural composition, and area of sustainability work. ...
... These types of learning were rooted both in Kenyan culture and in the activities of sustainability work on the land (Moyer, 2015;Moyer et al., 2014). The consideration of FBOs in sustainability work also underscored the appropriateness of faith-based approaches in Kenya, where they have particular strengths in accessing and influencing communities (Moyer et al., 2012). ...
... Spirituality and faith are ubiquitous and highly valued in sub-Saharan Africa (Mbiti, 1991;Ntseane, 2011), and we observed their prominence frequently in the Kenyan context (Moyer et al., 2012). Our study built on this cultural characteristic, focusing specifically on faith-based engagement in environmental and development work among FBOs. ...
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Transformative learning theory is applied in a variety of fields, including archaeology, religious studies, health care, the physical sciences, environmental studies, and natural resource management. Given the breadth of the theory’s application, it needs to be adaptable to broad contexts. This article shares insights gained from applying the theory’s learning domains in the analysis of learning experiences outside the classroom. The discussion is based on empirical qualitative research exploring how individual learning emerges from the intersection of faith and the pursuit of sustainability within faith-based organizations operating in Kenya. Data were gathered through semistructured interviews and participant observation. Chronicling our analysis process, problems encountered, and solutions adopted, we introduce a new introspective domain and explore the interactions among learning domains.
... In response, I initiated a study of how individual learning emerges from the intersection of faith and the pursuit of sustainability within FBOs working in Kenya. In addition to a broader survey of the group identity and function of organizations combining a faith basis with sustainability work (Moyer, Sinclair, and Spaling 2012) and exploring various theoretical aspects of adult learning (Moyer, Sinclair, and Diduck 2014), I also considered the context in which both learning and the faith-based sustainability activities occurred through case studies with two organizations. While there is growing interest in the potentially unique features of faith-based sustainability work (Gottlieb 2006;Tyndale 2006;Bhagwat, Ormsby, and Rutte 2011), empirical studies are still lacking (Taylor 2011). ...
... Furthermore, the theological integration furnished ARK's staff with a profound and cohesive sense of purpose. Given its rootedness in the Quaker community, RSP's theology was more assumed 5. See Moyer, Sinclair, and Spaling (2012) for a discussion of some of the challenges of faith-based approaches. and implicit, but this connection with the church community provided an effective infrastructure through which the work was accomplished. ...
... My broader experience with Kenyans, however, revealed a deep concern about their environmental situation, a connectedness to religious ideas and language, especially Christianity, and an acceptance of the relevance of faith and environment to each other. Other FBO workers also con rmed the openness to a faith-based, biblical message about environmental and development issues from both the Christian majority and others (Moyer, Sinclair, and Spaling 2012). At the same time, this message was competing with the highly in uential 'prosperity gospel' within evangelical Christianity in Kenya, which preaches that suf cient faith will result in health and material success (Phiri and Maxwell 2007). ...
Article
The enduring problems of poverty and environmental degradation demand new resources for advancing sustainability. Faith-based approaches and learning present two potential avenues. Archival research, interviews, and participant observation conducted with two faith-based organizations in Kenya engaged in sustainability work provide empirical evidence of how faith and sustainability can intersect in practice. A Rocha Kenya, a Christian conservation organization, focuses on bird and forest habitats and community conservation, and the Rural Service Programme delivers rural development programs for the Quaker church. Profiles illustrate the interaction between the faith convictions of the organizations and their members, their organizational culture and structure, their work, and learning for sustainability that emerges. Findings reveal that their sustainability work is undergirded by integrated and holistic approaches and their faith-based motivations and values. Characteristics that contribute to learning include commitment to building and sharing knowledge, a strong management structure, and diversity within the organizational culture.
... For example, an RNGO may operate with a faith-background or secular organization within China, but may be a faith-permeated organization overseas for fundraising and recruiting purposes. Some scholars maintain that RNGOs have innate strengths and contributions given their 'unique' social capital and appeal to certain donor audiences who sympathize with their religious mission (Moyer, Sinclair, & Spaling, 2011). While secular organizations largely have to build their resource and support networks from comparatively smaller social capital bases, transnational religious organizations have these resource and support networks already established around the world through religious communities (Berger, 2003). ...
... Buddhism ) with those in their home nation. In essence, though both secular NGOs and RNGOs operate under essentially the same political and legal frameworks in the public domain, the fact that RNGOs' mission moves beyond just 'reasoned' humanitarian values and is guided by a sense of obligation towards a divine higher power readily mobilizes those who share that mission (Berger, 2003; Clarke, 2006; Moyer et al., 2011). 3 ...
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This article looks at the strategies religious non-governmental organizations (RNGOs) with strong transnational linkages use to maintain a continued presence in mainland China. It does so by utilizing neo-institutional theory as an instrument for analysis, with an emphasis on outlining the coercive, mimetic, and normative pressures RNGOs face. One of the key findings of the study is that there is creative circumvention of isomorphic pressures by working with local agents, fostering trust with the local government, and keeping a low profile. Moreover, RNGOs dealt with the uncertain institutional environment in China through staff exchanges, denominational supervision, tapping into global platforms, and undergoing a professionalization process.
... The majority of these studies have been undertaken in the United States and among Chris�ans (Veldman, Szasz, and Haluza-DeLay, 2014). Interna�onal studies are also beginning to proliferate, par�cularly within the African context (Bhagwat, Ormsby, and Rute, 2011;Sluka et al., 2011;Moyer, Sinclair, and Spaling, 2012). ...
... This tension between building broad networks and appealing to a specific cons�tuency and its worldview is one that FBOs must balance carefully (Ellingson, 2016). Partnerships can also be understood as a facet of holis�c approaches, which are iden�fied in the literature as one of the more unique atributes of FBOs (e.g., Moyer, Sinclair, and Spaling, 2012;Van Dyke, 2010). Another aspect of holism manifested among these FBOs was an integrated vision of jus�ce, including both human and environmental concerns. ...
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... The majority of these studies have been undertaken in the United States and among Christians (Veldman, Szasz, and Haluza-DeLay, 2014). International studies are also beginning to proliferate, particularly within the African context (Bhagwat, Ormsby, and Rutte, 2011;Sluka et ci., 2011;Moyer, Sinclair, and Spaling, 2012). ...
... This tension between building broad networks and appealing to a specific constituency and its worldview is one that FBOs must balance carefully (Ellingson, 2016). Partnerships can also be understood as a facet of holistic approaches, which are identified in the literature as one of the more unique attributes of FBOs (e.g., Moyer, Sinclair, and Spaling, 2012;Van Dyke, 2010). Another aspect of holism manifested among these FBO5 was an integrated vision of justice, including both human and environmental concerns. ...
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In response to growing interest in faith-based environmental engagement, this study explores faith-based organizations in Canada participating in a wide range of environmental work. The research investigated sixteen organizations through interviews, participant observation, and focus groups, detailing their history, context, and activities. Study organizations represented a variety of Christian denominations, and interfaith, Muslim, and Jewish communities. Older organizations began as social justice agencies, later integrating environmental concerns, while newer organizations tended to focus more specifically on environmental issues. Most organizations were small, and relied heavily on collaboration and partnerships. Study findings indicate a wide variety of program areas, including education, theological reflection, advocacy, congregational resourcing, agriculture and food, and conservation. The discussion highlights the strong integration of social and environmental justice within the organizations, and analyses their approaches to advocacy and activism. As a preliminary study, suggestions for future research are also offered.
... In Africa, for instance, 40-50 % of all health and education services are provided by FBOs (Tyndale 2006). Yet, while they play a prominent role in sustainability work, and resource and environmental management more generally, occurring in the developing world, this role is often unrecognized and understudied (Berger 2003;Moyer et al. 2012). FBOs also provide a unique platform for learning, in which the context and activities of the organization are likely to facilitate learning for sustainability. ...
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The complex and unpredictable contexts in which environmental and development work take place require an adaptable, learning approach. Faith-based organizations (FBOs) play a significant role in sustainability work around the world, and provide a unique setting in which to study learning. This paper explores individual learning for sustainability within two FBOs engaged in sustainability work in Kenya. Learning outcomes covered a broad range of areas, including the sustainability framework, environment/conservation, skills, community work, interpersonal engagement, and personal and faith development. These outcomes were acquired through embodied experience and activity, facilitation by the workplace, interpersonal interaction, personal reflection, and Bible study and worship. Grounded categories were compared to learning domains and processes described by Mezirow’s transformative learning theory. The findings indicate that for learning in the sustainability field, instrumental learning and embodied learning processes are particularly important, and consequently they require greater attention in the theory when applied in this field.
... Development studies scholars, who have in the recent years become increasingly interested in the role of faith-based organisations in development, have noted the rootedness of faithbased organisations in local communities, and some have argued that this connection provides them with an edge in development work (cf. Clarke & Jennings 2008; Moyer, Sinclair & Spaling 2012). In South Africa churches have been said to represent and mobilise more people than other civil society actors or organisations, from all walks of life (Krige 2008:17). ...
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Theologians speak of the silence of churches’ prophetic voice in the ‘new’ South Africa, whilst the country features amongst the socio-economically most unequal countries in the world, and the urban areas in particular continue to be characterised by segregation. In this context I ask: where is liberation theology? I spell out my reading of some of the recent voices in the liberationist discourse. In dialogue with these scholars I, firstly, argue for the faith community to be made a conscious centre of liberationist debates and praxis. Secondly, I do this by suggesting two theoretical building blocks (i.e. critical deconstruction and radical friendship) for local faith communities that wish to grow in a liberationist fashion.
... Nonprofit organizations and their role in the welfare delivery system have increased notably since the 1996 Charitable Choice Act (Bane and Coffin 2000;Chaves 1999). FBOs not only deliver domestic services within a country but also participate extensively in various issues including environment and human rights (Moyer et al. 2012;Thaut and Laura 2009). Distinguishing services provided by FBOs from congregational service provision is useful because first, the former usually aims at the general public while the latter targets its members. ...
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... African NGOs are increasingly acquiring greater importance in the sustainable development of their countries . In this regard, their positive contributions to aspects such as poverty eradication, democratization, capacity building and environmental protection should be highlighted (Nikoi, 2008; Moyer et al., 2012). ...
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The information included in NGOs’ self-regulation mechanisms is crucial for fostering the good behavior and access to information of the sector. This paper reports on a comparative analysis of national self-regulation mechanisms developed in African countries versus initiatives of an international nature. The main findings show that both cases are characterized by initiatives with low levels of control (code of conduct and performance guide). Moreover, significant differences in the information they contain are identified. In this regard, national initiatives mainly present information that reinforces organizational management, while the international initiatives show a greater preference for stressing the need to improve the social mission. The demand for web disclosure is low in both cases with African self-regulations mainly calling for the reactive communication of information concerning organizational strategy. In contrast, international initiatives are more focused on promoting the proactive disclosure of information regarding the organization’s social responsibility and its commitment to improvement.
... In Australia, this type of TSSO is typified by landcare and catchment groups (Lockie 2004). However, TSSOs include community grass-roots, faith-based and identity-based organisations addressing urban development and lifestyle, placemaking, community well-being, local economic development, and social resilience and justice (Berger 2003, World Bank 2003, Moyer et al. 2012. ...
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The number and diversity of civil society or third sector sustainability organisations (TSSOs) have increased in recent decades. TSSOs play a prominent role in local approaches to sustainability. However, the contributions made by TSSOs are not fully understood, beyond a limited suite of quantifiable outputs and impacts. In this qualitative study, we examine how four TSSOs from two Australian regions, Tasmania and Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, contribute to social transformation beyond discrete outputs. We examine the operation, ethos, scope and influence of these organisations over time. In so doing, we identify three common ways in which these organisations facilitate social change: by (i) enhancing social connectivity through boundary work; (ii) mobilising participatory citizenship and (iii) contributing to social learning. We conclude that TSSOs contribute significantly to the systemic social conditions that enable change for sustainability and the development of community resilience and well-being, but do so in ways undervalued by existing metrics, formal evaluation processes and funding models. Clearer recognition of, and strategic emphasis on, these qualitative contributions to social transformation is vital in ensuring that TSSOs remain viable and effective over the long term.
... In terms of the systematic search, the last decade of research on religiosity and generosity included 11 studies attending to African geographies in JSSR, and 7 in Voluntas (Bennett and Einolf 2017;Compion 2017;Dowd and Sarkissian 2017;Elsayed 2018;Finke and Martin 2014;Hayford and Trinitapoli 2011;Kinney 2015;Kumi 2019;Luria et al. 2017;Manglos-Weber 2017;Moyer et al. 2012;Offutt 2011;Offutt et al. 2016;Popplewell 2018;Sarkissian 2012;Schnable 2016;Weber 2013;Woods 2012). Combined, these 18 articles attend to the following countries: Burkina Faso (4); Egypt (4); Ghana (4); Nigeria (4); South Africa (4); Tanzania (4); Uganda (4); Madagascar (3); Malawi (3); Rwanda (3); Botswana (2); Liberia (2); Mali (2); Mozambique (2); Namibia (2); Zimbabwe (2); Burundi (1); Cabo Verde (1) Cameroon (1); the Republic of the Congo (1); Eswatini or Swaziland (1); Ethiopia (1); Gabon (1); Lesotho (1); Niger (1); Sudan (1); Togo (1); Zambia (1). ...
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This paper provides a meta-analysis of the intersection of (a) religiosity and spirituality with (b) generosity, philanthropy, nonprofits, and prosociality. The study is informed by three informational sources, chronologically: (1) informational interviews with scholars and practitioners based within and studying regions outside of the U.S. and Western Europe; (2) discovery search of purposefully selected extant publications, especially focusing on the last decade of contemporary scholarship; and (3) systematic search of relevant peer-reviewed publication outlets since 2010. Reviewed publications are categorized by level of analysis into macro, meso, and micro approaches. Across each level and source, publications are also geo-tagged for their geographic scope. Particular attention is paid to the under-studied world regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The results reveal that Asia is the most studied and Latin America the least studied, and that meso-level approaches are the most common while micro-level are the least common. Additionally, a map of publication counts reveals within-region inequalities by country. Implications of the analysis are drawn for future studies, particularly ways to advance this interdisciplinary field.
... Social justice and environmental integrity are frequently connected across formation, advocacy, and practical activities, whether in the form of "climate justice" activism, community gardens that support food security among the urban poor, or working with and learning from Indigenous communities. Marrying environmental and social concerns and integrating spirituality and morality into this holistic package is common among faith-based approaches to environmental sustainability (Glaab and Fuchs 2018;Hallman 1994;Moyer, John Sinclair, and Spaling 2012). This approach is significant among faith communities, because it links traditional ethical concerns about human welfare (e.g. ...
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Faith communities are increasingly recognised as an important piece of civil society that can contribute to addressing difficult sustainability and environmental problems. This research investigates the environmental activities and engagement of faith leadership organisations in Canada, a region in which faith-based environmentalism has not been studied extensively. The paper traces the evolution of environmental engagement among a diverse, multi-faith group of communities, beginning with the entry into environmental work by some groups in the 1960s and 1970s. Over the years, some programmes have matured, others have faltered, programmes have adapted to address new environmental challenges, and new communities have entered into environmental discourse. The paper also analyses contemporary activities, which can be divided into formation activities, advocacy and activism, and practical actions. Formation activities, such as education and worship programmes, are the most common, and advocacy and activism are often the most contested form of engagement. These activities demonstrate a commitment to a holistic approach, to addressing underlying causes of environmental harm by transforming worldviews, and contributing to societal change through both practical actions and advocacy and activism.
... This creates more functionality and sustainability of development in people and in the environment, especially in the African traditional worldview and culture (Mbiti 1991:15). Therefore, it can be rightfully said that faith‑based NPOs " are communicating with people on a plane which touches them deeply and which resonates with their way of engaging with the world " (Moyer et al 2011Hope is something that no one can take away, for it is a gift, and it changes both the staff member and the beneficiary from the inner identity of a person to where it manifests in that person's daily life. This unflinching hope helps with maintaining sustainability in the faith‑based NPOs' staff and management, for " this sense of calling and purpose, the knowledge that the work is not being done by human power alone, and the powerful bond of communal prayer serve as defences against despair and sources of hope, enabling people to persevere " (Moyer et al 2011:29). ...
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Religious non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are active in development efforts, yet the role faith plays in these organizations—and its effects on programs—remains unclear. Drawing on evidence from a study of Kenyan NGOs, I find that faith rarely emerges in the programs of Christian religious NGOs. I argue that both secular and religious NGOs are constrained by donor restrictions and a need for legitimacy that simultaneously remove religious elements from religious NGOs and promote minimal religious practices within secular organizations. The second half of the article discusses the nuanced ways in which faith does manifest within the organizational characteristics and practices of NGOs. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Nachhaltige Entwicklung als gesellschaftliche Veränderung hin zu Nachhaltigkeit gilt seit den 1980er Jahren als „globaler Imperativ“ (Clausen 1982). Während der Brundtland-Bericht 1987 die intra- und intergenerative globale Gerechtigkeit ins Zentrum stellte (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987; Greiling et al. 2015b), konkretisierte die Konferenz für Umwelt und Entwicklung der Vereinten Nationen (UN) 1992 nachhaltige Entwicklung als das ausgewogene Zusammenspiel der drei Dimensionen Ökologie, Soziales und Ökonomie (Vereinte Nationen 1992; Greiling et al. 2015b).
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One arena with the most diverse wealth of ideas is environmentalism. The environmental consequences experienced since the beginning of the industrial revolution and throughout the entire post-Fordian era have raised genuine concerns on how to combine the commodities of modernity with sustainability. These concerns have been discussed from different positions, one of which is Religious Environmentalism. Presented by Roger S. Gottlieb as a proselytizing document written from a militant's point of view, Religious Environmentalism finds its foundation in the idea that, either by probability or divine intervention, the existence of the entire universe must be seen as a miracle. Humanity must be seen as the guardian of the universal miracle, the steward of natural resources and the slayer of environmental crises. In the introduction, the author solves the meta-ethical question "What is goodness?" by claiming that goodness is the ecumenical God and all that is created by Him. In order to preserve goodness, Gottlieb suggests that "occidental" morals must shift into a more spiritual and conscious appreciation of the world that surrounds us. To attain the moral shift, the author makes it clear that Religious Environmentalism has to rise into a strong political voice.
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This article sets out to establish a taxonomy of Christian faith-based humanitarian agencies, challenging assumptions that such agencies are similarly informed by Christian theology and pursue a uniform mission. Christian principles and missionary efforts are central in the development of humanitarianism, and the agencies associated with the Christian tradition comprise a prominent and growing portion of international humanitarian agencies. Little, however, is known about how Christian faith-based agencies diverge from one another in their orientation and operations, how their theological tradition shapes their humanitarianism, and whether or how they are distinct from secular agencies. Examining the humanitarianism of Christian faith-based agencies in light of their theological roots, this article delineates three classifications of Christian faith-based agencies: Accommodative-Humanitarian, Synthesis-Humanitarian, and Evangelistic-Humanitarian agencies. The study demonstrates the importance of distinguishing not simply between faith-based and secular agencies, but among faith-based agencies themselves. © 2009 International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University.
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Jack Goody asks whether religion impedes or advances development. He presents some philosophical arguments that have dominated the debate. He starts with Max Weber's conclusion that Protestantism was particularly adapted to the development of capitalism and discusses the influences of different religions on societies over time. This historical overview gives an important background to current debates on religion and development. Development (2003) 46, 64–67. doi:10.1177/1011637003046004010
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