While serving as Yale University chaplain, the Rev. Frederick Streets has been active both internationally and locally, participating in the Harvard University Program in Refugee Trauma as well as serving as interim master of Trumbull College last year. He is now delving into another area of public service.
Streets recently joined the 27-person National Committee of the Clergy Leadership Network, a group of self-proclaimed progressive clergy members who hope to reach like-minded religious people and inspire a leadership change in the country.
The CLN has targeted many of the views held by conservative politicians and religious figures alike.
“We realize that there are a lot of religious people that don’t fall into what the conservatives have defined as faithful,” Streets said.
Beyond a change in leadership, the CLN has come out against further military action in Iraq, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the current condition of church/state relations.
“Today we are seeing the principles and practices of church/state separation being undermined, perhaps even for election purposes,” the CLN Web site reads.
Streets said a group of clergy members “called out to” liberal religious people across the nation and received thousands of responses from those who “feel this kind of discontent.”
The CLN itself has taken shape over the past few months, drawing many of its members from the older religious group the National Council of Churches, which has many goals in common with the CLN. The religious leaders of the CLN include the Rev. Albert Pennybacker — who serves as the committee’s CEO/chairman — the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg.
Streets emphasized that the CLN is “not just a reaction to the religious right.”
“We’re trying to help people respect the relationship between religion and social justice,” Streets said.
To reach these untapped masses, Streets said the group hopes to run a grassroots campaign, reaching out to local leaders who sympathize with the CLN’s primary goals. Streets also said the group plans to aid in voter registration drives.
In this way, Streets said the group can “help people to understand to vote their hopes rather than their fears.”
Stephen Stinton ’06, a Yale Christian Fellowship member, said he too feels that religion inherently calls for social justice.
“There is definitely a link between Christianity and social justice that most Christians don’t see,” Stinton said.
Stinton said although he does not necessarily question the motives of the group, he is wary of Streets himself adopting a political view.
“As Streets is the main University chaplain, I’m not sure about him taking a political stance,” Stinton said. “[But] as long as he bases it on his faith, that’s fine.”
Streets recently returned from the monthly meeting of the CLN national committee in Washington, D.C., at which the committee started planning the CLN’s future. Streets said the CLN will also conduct regional meetings.
He said he is hopeful about what the next few months will bring.
“We think there is a higher plane that people want to be on,” Streets said.
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