Center Profile

Interfaith Coalition to Promote the General Welfare (2005)

(Interfaith)


Description

The Interfaith Coalition to Promote the General Welfare is a congregational ad-hoc coalition.

Coalition Building for Statewide Change

The Interfaith Coalition to Promote the General Welfare began as an ad-hoc coalition of congregations to respond to the 1996 Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) legislation. Its formation was initiated in 1997 under the direction of the Tikun Olam Committee - that is, the Hebrew Social Justice Committee - of Mishkan Shalom, a Jewish synagogue in West Mount Airy, Pennsylvania. Mishkan Shalom, which was started by individuals who wanted to include social justice work in their faith practice, garnered the support of 10 other local congregations who also had social justice initiatives in place to form the Interfaith Coalition. According to Vivian Schatz, a representative of the Interfaith Coalition, this was just “a local expression of what was happening around the state," as other interfaith groups, such as the Statewide Coalition of Christians and Jews, were lobbying for welfare reform.

Member Bodies and Relationships

The coalition encompasses religious congregations in three neighborhoods located in the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which include West Mount Airy, East Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill. Each congregation has a coalition representative who serves as the key congregational contact person and who participates on one of the group's three committees: the planning committee, the legislative lobbying committee, or the committee to share religious services together. The representative is responsible for sending frequent e-mail updates and supplying information via congregational newsletters and church bulletin inserts. Quarterly reports and action alerts regarding current lobbying activities and legislation are also distributed by the coalition representative.
In total, individual member support for the coalition includes approximately 300 people, and 90 of these members have been involved in direct advocacy. Such individual support comes primarily from the members of the coalition's core congregations. The coalition has also established working relationships with the Northwest Interfaith Movement and the Northwest Interfaith Hospitality Center. In addition, the American Friends Service Committee has worked with the Interfaith Coalition to keep them up-to-date on information regarding the TANF legislation at the national level.

Working for Change

In its efforts to repeal the 1996 TANF legislation, the coalition had advocates write letters to their congressmen and meet with state representatives at the legislative headquarters in Harrisburg. The coalition also invited state representatives to join public discussions and for local speaking engagements. Through these endeavors, the coalition successfully contributed to the effort which helped extend the categories of those who were eligible for welfare benefits in Pennsylvania.
In addition to tackling statewide issues, the group has gathered locally to address employment concerns. For instance, the coalition organized individuals to attend City Council meetings and to advocate for legislation which called for a minimum wage increase for city employees. Further cooperative efforts have taken place through ad-hoc coalition building with other groups in the Philadelphia area – namely the Pennsylvania Unemployment Agency and Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY). On November 10, 2003, for instance, the group sponsored a discussion entitled, “How Does Welfare Reform Look Seven Years Later?” with keynote speaker Katherine Fisher, the head of the Watching Out Project for the PCCY, to reflect on both past and possible future efforts in the name of welfare reform.
Although the group continues to support local initiatives, it remains largely inactive because the 1996 TANF legislation was extended and has remained unchanged.

Congregations most recently involved:


3 Quaker Meeting Houses
Canaan Baptist Church of Germantown
First United Methodist Church of Germantown
Germantown Jewish Synagogue
Mishkan Shalom
St. Martin’s Episcopal Church
St. Paul’s Church
St. Vincent’s Catholic Church
Summit Presbyterian Church
Unitarian Church of Germantown
Unitarian Universalist Church
*Our Mother of Consultation Catholic Church was also active in the group's early stages.