the special leadership of faith-based communities
The following material is excerpted with written permission from How Smart Growth Can Stop Sprawl, a briefing guide for funders by David Bollier. (Washington, D.C.:Essential Books), 1998.

Interestingly, faith-based religious communities have been one of the most active forces helping to organize new regional coalitions. In Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, St. Louis and other cities, ecumenical groups have convened people from throughout the metro area, including the affluent suburbs, to shine a light on regional polarization and the legislative remedies being proposed.

State Senator Myron Orfield describes how the Metropolitan Interfaith Coalition for Affordable Housing "had an enormously positive impact on the tone of the [affordable housing] hearings, which became much less nasty and more substantive" after priests, ministers, rabbis and other clerics testified before packed auditoriums.

Organizing faith communities to mobilize metropolitan coalitions is the singular priority of a new project, the American Metropolitan Equities Network (AMEN), with backing from the Gamaliel Foundation. The project has four fronts: organizational development, sophisticated regional issue strategies, massive public events and multi-state action on national issues. Although still in its early stages, the AMEN project hopes to harness the moral leadership of the faith community in the cause of regional equity and smart growth.

 In a political environment that frequently seems paralyzed by cynicism and stalemate, religious groups can play a transforming role by staking out a higher moral ground, convening diverse political constituencies who might not otherwise come together, and bearing witness to a better, more idealistic vision of what metro regions could become.

National Religious Partnership for the Environment
The Partnership whose members include; U. S. Catholic Conference, National Council of Churches of Christ, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life and the Evangelical Environmental Network recently announced their ten-year initiative to act on such  issues as air pollution, urban sprawl and forest preservation. 
Contact:  Paul Gorman 212-316-7441.

Chicago Theological Initiative for Eco-Justice Ministry, Metropolitan Alliance of Congregations: Sprawl and Sustainability
This coalition, in the initial stages of formation, has put together the "Interreligious Sustainability Project of Metropolitan Chicago"to address sustainability in general and sprawl inparticular in the Chicago area.  The coalition advocates greening congregations and mass transit issues.  Contact: Clare Butterfield  773-278-4800 x 125.

Diocese of Cleveland: The Church and the City -- Sprawl and the "SHARE" team
The Diocese of Cleveland has undertaken a number of intiatives designed to help reduce sprawl as part of Bishop Pilla's "The Church and the City" pastoral initiative.  For example, they have worked on helping redevelop brownfields, have become active partners in regional anti-sprawl coalitions and advocacy campaigns, and set up the SHARE team (Student Helpers & Advocates for Renewing the Earth), an after-school program involving middle school students studying the environmental impacts of urban sprawl and pollution in their local area.  Contact:  Len Calabrese 216-696-6525 x 306.

United Synagogue Youth, B'nai Brith Youth, Akron Jewish Day Schools, and Akron Jewish Community Center: Urban Land Laboratory
These groups have together started "Tikkun" (repair/healing) Village, a multi-purpose environmental education program.  Its first project is to create an urban land laboratory behind the local JCC, including nature trails, organic gardens, and learning stations.  Contact:  Rich Swirsky, Ohio Citizen Action 330-864-8464.

Archdiocese of Hartford: Anti-Sprawl Initiatives
The Archdiocese of Hartford has sponsored a number of anti-sprawl initiatives such as brownfield sites.  The goal is organizing parishes to participate in developing reuse plans that can directly benefit the effected communities through an increased tax base, job creation and remediation of environmental hazards. Contact: Jeanie Graustein 203-777-7279.

The Fillmore Gospel Garden, Dioceses of San Francisco, CA: Urban/Suburban/Rural Student Partnership for the Environment
Sacred Heart Parish educated suburban and rural Catholics about the environmental problems of inner city neighborhoods through the use of the story of their garden project, which serves as an urban-suburban exchange site.  Contact:  Sister Catherine Marie Murray 415-861-5460.

1 Myron Orfield, Metropolitics:  A Regional Agenda for Community and Stability (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1997).