Despite internecine court battles over property between some local mainline Protestant bodies and seceding evangelical, Pittsburgh has generally been a place where evangelicals and mainline Protestants have lived in harmony.
This is partly because the evangelical and mainline Protestants here tended to be the same people. It’s also because the non-evangelical mainline Protestants tend to be theological moderates rather than left-edge liberals and because the local evangelicals (mainline or otherwise) were never wholly subsumed into the Religious Right.
All of that is a preface to an event that will honor two local pastors, one of them a leading evangelical and the other a representative of a mainline Protestant seminary. Both have been deeply committed to ministry in urban Pittsburgh and to fighting poverty.
On Oct. 28 at 6 p.m., North Side Common Ministries will honor the Rev. Jay Passavant and the Rev. John Welch at its Celebration of Caring dinner in the Grand Hall of the Priority, North
The Rev. Welch is dean of students at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, a school of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that embodies the overlap and overall good relationship between mainliners and evangelicals here. He is also a Pittsburgh police chaplain and the immediate past president of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, a group dedicated to identifying and solving problems that face the urban poor. He may be an academic, but he's a minister who you can frequently find in the streets, looking out for the welfare of the souls he meets there.
The Rev. Passavant is pastor of North Way Christian Community in Pine, one of the region’s largest -- perhaps the largest -- Protestant congregations. It’s a distinctly evangelical church in the suburbs that has maintained a strong mission outreach in the inner city, including an extensive program to provide mentors to students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
The organization that will honor them, Northside Common Ministries, was founded by neighborhood congregations of many stripes to serve struggling members of the community. It runs the largest food pantry in Allegheny County, feeding more than 950 families each year, and operates an emergency shelter for homeless men.
“With nearly 46 million Americans now living in poverty we may be tempted to forget the plight of those living every day under the most serious of conditions,” the Rev. Passavant said. “There are thousands of hungry, homeless and oppressed individuals and families right here in Pittsburgh. Anyone who takes the gospel seriously cannot turn away from these needy but endearing souls.”