CHAMPAIGN — The way the Rev. Eugene Barnes sees it, there's a lot to be gained if more churches in Champaign County are willing to work together.
He also hopes more churches will take an interest in the Charitable Choice Faith-Based Initiative, which has created equal opportunities for faith-based charities to compete for government money to provide public services without discrimination, he says.
Barnes and the Champaign organization he founded, Metanoia Centers, is inviting leaders of churches, not-for-profit organizations, groups working on social change initiatives and community banks to a conference Monday at the Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., to learn more about the Charitable Choice Faith-Based Initiative.
The conference will run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and admission is free.
Barnes, the associate pastor of New Life Church of Faith, Urbana, says many faith organizations miss opportunities to bring in government resources that could help fill local needs, because they fear getting involved with the government would force them to make compromises they don't want to make. But Charitable Choice provisions draw clear lines that remove barriers to religious organizations receiving federal funding while allowing them to protect their religious character and freedom, he says.
"So with clean-lined demarcation lines, these institutions can partner with the government," Barnes says.
Metanoia Centers, founded by Barnes in 2000, is a faith-based organization that was started originally to expand the supply of housing for low-income borrowers. It is also involved in fighting mortgage foreclosures.
Through this conference, Barnes said, he also hopes to fire up communication among churches.
"We're often working out of silos and not talking to each other," he said.
It's about building relationships and communities of these faith-based institutions that he's after, so they compare their assets, see where the needs are and get more help to those who need it, Barnes says.
"Otherwise, we duplicate services in limited capacity, and we're not all that effective," he adds.
Charitable Choice was created as a provision of 1996 welfare reform legislation (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) and it was advanced under President George W. Bush, who created the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives in 2001.
President Barack Obama continued the Faith-Based Initiative by renaming the office the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009, and outlined four objectives for it: Making community groups an integral part of economic recovery and reducing poverty, addressing teen pregnancy and reducing the need for abortion, supporting fathers who stand by their families, and fostering interfaith dialogue around the world.
Obama made some changes in the rules for religious organizations receiving federal money in a 2010 executive order.
Learn more on the Web: http://www.Metanoiacenters.org