Every church in Seattle ought to be providing some form of housing for people in crisis. There is no good reason, and most certainly no reason of faith, that church buildings stand empty at night when over 2,000 folks seek shelter.
Churches can do better than that. The public ought to demand it. After all, church buildings don't pay property taxes. Why? Because the state assumes that churches will help and assist people in crisis. Seattle has a housing crisis that the 2009 budget cannot fix. But churches have buildings to offer that can protect and care for those in crisis. One would think this would be a core value of those who gather weekly to celebrate the God of Jesus, himself homeless. One would think churches would be eager to shelter others in time of need.
I think the public has every right to apply pressure on churches to open their doors and buildings for the benefit of those in crisis. Indeed, it would be a blessing for the churches if the public did that very thing. One of the dynamics that has led to the near collapse of many moderate and liberal churches is that they have abandoned their primary calling to be useful toward others in crisis. Too many churches live simply for themselves. Even the energetic, more conservative churches are guilty of this abandonment. They get themselves all worked up into spiritual ecstasy but forget that the visitation of the Spirit is for the concrete, specific benefit of the poor.
In other words, worship without an outward expression of a relationship with the poor -- worship without binding the wounds of those outside your own community of faith -- is hideous in the eyes of God, and most certainly hypocrisy in the eyes of the public. The tepidness of the Church in fulfilling its public responsibilities to care for those in crisis causes others to scorn the God proclaimed as love. The tepidness of the Church causes the public to lose faith, hope, and heart.
Currently the mayor refuses to sit down and talk strategy with the Church Council concerning the crisis of homelessness. But even if he did, all it would amount to is verbal farting in the wind. I think the public should go right to the practitioner of faith -- that is, the local clergy in the local neighborhood, right down the street. I think the public should insist that the church building be used to house at least one person who is homeless. Not merely house the person, but get to know the person housed, and to use the resources of the congregation to nurse the wounded back into health. If the public would help the churches find their way back to God, perhaps then the churches could again become useful to the public, and truly glorify the reputation and name of their God.