New Book Explores How Philanthropic Imagination Rose During Cascading Crises

Wipf and Stock
Posted Aug 12, 2021

The years between the 2016 and 2020 Presidential Elections exposed the vulnerability of our institutions—and ourselves—like never before. In the wake of uncertainty, the authors in this volume offer wisdom to make sense of the changes brought by these past four years.

Authors include: Eric Barreto, Amy Butler, Dave Harder, David King, Aimee Laramore, Patrick Reyes, Mieke Vandersall and many more from across denominations, academic institutions, and the non profit sector.

Reflecting how faith and philanthropy converge, they imagine alternative economies for faith communities, academia, and nonprofits, while also marking the unshakable encounter with grief and crisis. Authors linger in the space between what was and what will be to ask: what do we leave behind, what do we bring with us, and what possibilities exist where crisis and care converge? Their words and wisdom kindle philanthropic imagination in this moment of transition and change.

Crisis and Care: Meditations of Faith and Philanthropy is available through Cascade Books, Amazon or your local book store.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “Jesus talked a lot about money, for good reason, as it often represents our values, priorities, and imagination.  Editors Benac and Weber-Johnson understand this, and have gathered an impressive group of scholars to help us explore the interplay between what we face in crisis and what is possible when we who follow Jesus truly care.”

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and author of Love is the Way and The Power of Love”


[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “This insightful collection examines the possibilities for renewal in philanthropy, stewardship, and faith in light of 21st century reckonings with structural racism and environmental catastrophe, offering visions and strategies for a releasing of the commons, otherwise called the abundance of creation, to serve and equip movements for empowerment and social change. I’d give to that.”

The Rev. Winnie Varghese, Priest, Ministries and Program Coordination, Trinity Wall Street


[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “This is a challenging read in the very best sense, one that asks faith leaders to consider whether current congregational stewardship models are ethical, explore the harsh realities of philanthropic redlining, and to ask ourselves who “the development consultant industrial complex” is ultimately serving. Readers will leave with sharpened questions and an ignited moral imagination for addressing the complexities facing Christian communities now.”

Miguel Angel Escobar, Executive Director, Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary


This Q&A with Dustin D. Benac, Visiting Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at Truett Seminary, and Erin Weber-Johnson, Senior Fundraising Consultant with Vandersall Collective and Faculty for Project Resource (College for Bishops), on their co-edited volume Crisis and Care: Meditations on Faith and Philanthropy was prepared and provided by Shanalea Forrest with Wipf and Stock Publishers.

In the early stages of the pandemic, what catalyzed this collaborative work?

We (Co-editors) both felt a need to mark this moment of “crossing over” and transition while also giving witness to the ways we saw care reflected in the form of imagination. As we witnessed how people sought new ways to be with and for one another, we began to wonder how questions surrounding philanthropy served as fulcrum for the imagination in this particular moment. We also sensed that many others may feel this way, so we took a risk. We asked fifteen of our trusted friends, guides, and conversation partners to join us as we tried to capture the wisdom of this moment.

Communities of faith and their leaders face mounting economic challenges. Where do you find hope?

We find hope in the ways alternative economies are being constructed in real time. While multiple crises bring uncertainty, it also sparks imagination and fosters collaboration. In the midst of uncertainty and change, it is vitally necessary, while paying attention to disruptions, to learn from innovative leaders that work across sectors. This constant connection across institutional lines is the foundation for all adaptation. Specifically, it is imperative that we work in collaboration, creating space for voices across academic, congregational life, and the nonprofit sector to reflect on faith and philanthropy.

For readers who want to reimagine the relationship between faith and philanthropy, what’s a good first step?

We (Co-editors) found our own imaginations sparked by being in relationship and conversation with those across institutions and across boundaries of difference. In a time of disconnection, it is vitally important to learn from others outside of our experience. As we marked this time in the volume, we remembered we belong to one another. This reminder, this constant in the midst of change and cultural divisiveness, describes both human need and organizational adaptation. It is fitting then, in belonging, we grow and learn. Finally, context matters, especially as we work to reimagine the relationship between faith and philanthropy. A critical first step is learning to listen, deeply, collaboratively, spiritually, to the places where we find ourselves, and then working to imagine a more hopeful future.

Why should people read this book right now?

We cannot easily forget the feelings of disruption, uncertainty, and loss that mark our individual and collective lives in this moment. We feel it in our bones. The meditations of this volume offer an invitation. Amid the flood and famine of crisis, let us look for and kindle new philanthropic imagination.

What makes this book different from other stewardship publications? (Context, collaboration, etc).

We purposefully bent and blended genres in this volume in order to renew and catalyze imagination. By calling these contributions “Meditations,” we invited authors to craft contextually-centered reflections that engaged the shifting ecclesial ecology where faith is formed and may flourish. We also crafted this work in a thoroughly collaborative manner. As communities of faith, those who serve them, and those who study them explore what is possible in the wake of crisis, we think this type of contextual and collaborative approach creates space to renew philanthropic imagination.

Some of your authors include pieces about death and the letting go of “former things”. How do you find imagination in the midst of these transitions?

The depth of loss, grief, and despair in this moment is unshakable. Like a fog that surrounds us and then fills our lungs, the reality of crisis has been imprinted on and in our collective social body. Working with authors throughout this volume invited us to not shy away from our unshakeable encounter with death; rather, we learned to linger in it, discerning how best to be present to ourselves and to our communities, and only then imagine faith-filled responses.