Longhurst: What’s ‘povology’?
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms.
Psychology is the study of behavior and the mind.
Theology is the study of the nature of God.
Povology is — well, just what the heck is povology, anyway?
According to Kevin Wiebe, a Mennonite pastor in Tilbury, Ont., povology is a made-up word for “ways Christians can look at poverty through a theological lens” while also exploring “the intersection of Christian faith and charity, and the way the Bible informs our response to poverty.”
Povology is also the name of a new video series about the church and poverty being produced by Wiebe, 29, pastor of New Life Mennonite Fellowship, an Evangelical Mennonite Church in that southwest Ontario town.
Wiebe and his wife, Emily, came up with the word and the idea for the series when their church began asking about its role in alleviating poverty.
“We wondered what was the best way to use our resources and what was the church’s role in addressing poverty,” he says of the discussions.
“We asked ourselves what Jesus did to help the poor and whether churches today are doing more harm than good” when addressing poverty.
The video series, to be released in 2017, will contain six segments and a study guide. It features interviews with Christians who have wrestled with the issue, including Anabaptist-oriented leaders such as American anti-poverty activist Shane Claiborne; Ron Sider, author of the seminal book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger; and Bruxey Cavey, pastor of the Meetinghouse church in Ontario.
“I’m young — I don’t have all the answers,” says Wiebe of the decision to interview people who are working or thinking about the issue of faith and poverty.
“But there are people who have good ideas in this area, people who know what the issues are, what questions we should be asking.”
Wiebe hopes the series will show churches how they can be “actively involved in alleviating poverty in the communities where we live, and beyond.”
This includes building relationships with people who are poor, not just sending money to charities, and studying and learning about the roots and challenges of poverty.
Wiebe notes that “Jesus spent a remarkable amount of time talking about poverty. And he didn’t just talk about it. He hung out with poor people. He spent a lot of time with them.”
If Christians want to be like Jesus, he says, “then we need to take this seriously.”
Looking back at how churches have responded to poverty over the decades, Wiebe acknowledges there have been “some major failures, but also many successes” — like how so many churches in Canada responded generously to welcome Syrian refugees.
At the same time, churches could do better, he says. Noting the large number of people who are poor in Canada, he says: “We aren’t, as a church, doing as good a job as we could. . . . We need to do more than just talk about these things.”
Through the videos, he hopes Christians will “think more about the link between their faith and poverty and to make the gap between what we believe and what we do as small as possible.”
As for the word povology itself, he acknowledges that “it’s not a real word — at least, not yet.”
John Longhurst, of Winnipeg, Man., is director of resources and public engagement at Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
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