Late last month, the District of Columbia’s embattled mayor, Marion Barry, announced that drug-related violence in the nation’s capital was so “out of hand,” he might soon have to call in the National Guard. On the same day, in a church not far from the D.C. seats of power, mainline church leaders gathered to discuss their own battle strategies in the war on drugs.

The consultation, which drew about 60 denominational leaders from across the country, was called by the National Council of Churches’ (NCC) Prophetic Justice Unit as an “in-house church meeting” to discuss churches’ roles in fighting substance abuse. The purpose was to put forth concrete proposals for an ecumenical response to the drug crisis. According to Kenyon Burke, director of the unit, a report on the consultation will be given to the NCC’s general board this month, and after input from all NCC units, an official program will be developed.

Participants in the consultation agreed that substance abuse is at root a spiritual problem and that churches are thus uniquely equipped to deal with the crisis. “We have wounded people in our churches and our societies. We as Christians and our churches are also wounded [by the drug crisis],” said NCC president Leonid Kishkovsky in convening the meeting. “But being wounded, we can also be wounded healers.”

Several presenters outlined church projects already in place in various locales. In Houston, Texas, the “Families Under Urban Social Attack” ministry of Holman Street Baptist Church set up a satellite drug rehabilitation agency in the congregation’s ghetto neighborhood. The church has purchased eight crack houses and a crack “shooting gallery” apartment complex and turned them into drug treatment centers and a Sunday-school ...

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