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Churches To Take On Gang Issue Sojourners Founder To Lead Two-Day Interfaith Workshop

Pastors, preachers and gang members will be part of a two-day workshop in Spokane this week led by Jim Wallis, a nationally known activist and author.

First Presbyterian Church is sponsoring the event, “A Call to Action.” Staff at the downtown church hope the seminar will create an alliance of congregations throughout Spokane dedicated to combating youth violence.

“This is one issue that affects all churches, across all lines,” said Pat Copeland-Malone, director of missions at First Presbyterian. “Conservative, liberal, urban, suburban - the entire church community should be engaged in this.”

Wallis has led similar conferences involving gang members and church leaders across the country, including the 1993 National Gang Peace Summit in the wake of the Los Angeles riots.

A self-described “liberal evangelical,” Wallis is the pastor who founded the Sojourners community in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood where residents work to keep out violence and vice.

Wallis preaches a strong connection between Biblical faith and social activism.

When Copeland-Malone recently returned to Spokane after an extended absence, he said he was stunned by the level of gang activity and youth violence in his hometown.

Since then, he has worked to bring churches together to address the problem.

“The church community, along with a number of other community groups, are behind when it comes to gangs and youth violence,” Copeland-Malone said.

Mainline denominations have been particularly slow to react to the increasing violence among Spokane’s youth, he said.

“The evangelical churches respond, because it is central to their theology,” he said. “The mainline church - and I’m from a mainline denomination - is behind in the way it perceives evangelism.”

In addition to church leaders, Copeland-Malone has invited members of the Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office gang units.

While the prosecutor’s office will be represented, as of Friday the police department had not responded. Attempts to reach police administrators Friday were unsuccessful.

“The general reaction from police is they don’t want to be involved in a forum involving active gang members,” Copeland-Malone said. “That’s the difference between the state and the church. We believe everyone should be saved. They believe some of these people are disposable - that they are going to end up in Walla Walla (state penitentiary).”

With or without the police department, Copeland-Malone said the gang summit should go a long way to educate church leaders about effective ways of stopping youth violence.

“The best vehicle to reach current gang members is former gang members,” he said. “The second-best vehicle is anybody who will care.”

, DataTimes MEMO: These sidebars appeared with the story: WORKSHOP Information is available by calling the First Presbyterian Church, 747-1058.

‘A CALL TO ACTION’ All events are open to the public: Student forum at Whitworth College’s Cowles Auditorium, starts at 11:15 a.m. Friday. Admission is free. Roundtable discussion with faculty, clergy and church leaders about challenges facing the Christian church in America, starts at 2 p.m. Friday in the college’s Lindaman Center. Admission is $5. Wallis’ lecture, “Cry for Renewal.” A gospel choir also performs, 7:30 p.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church, 318 S. Cedar. Admission is $5. First Presbyterian hosts a men-only breakfast at 7 a.m. Saturday. Cost is $3. Participants must register in advance. Daylong workshop on solutions to youth violence, starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the church. Cost is $20. Gang summit featuring former and current Spokane gang members, begins at 2 p.m. Saturday at the church. Admission is included with $5 workshop fee.

These sidebars appeared with the story: WORKSHOP Information is available by calling the First Presbyterian Church, 747-1058.

‘A CALL TO ACTION’ All events are open to the public: Student forum at Whitworth College’s Cowles Auditorium, starts at 11:15 a.m. Friday. Admission is free. Roundtable discussion with faculty, clergy and church leaders about challenges facing the Christian church in America, starts at 2 p.m. Friday in the college’s Lindaman Center. Admission is $5. Wallis’ lecture, “Cry for Renewal.” A gospel choir also performs, 7:30 p.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church, 318 S. Cedar. Admission is $5. First Presbyterian hosts a men-only breakfast at 7 a.m. Saturday. Cost is $3. Participants must register in advance. Daylong workshop on solutions to youth violence, starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the church. Cost is $20. Gang summit featuring former and current Spokane gang members, begins at 2 p.m. Saturday at the church. Admission is included with $5 workshop fee.



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