The And Campaign—the organization rallying urban Christians to “faithful civic engagement”—is on track to quadruple its size in the span of a year, with chapters launching in three Southern cities in 2020 and scheduled to launch in another 10 cities in the first half of 2021.
Last year’s convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and political and racial unrest in the United States catapulted organizations like the And Campaign, which were already addressing these complex issues, to a new level of prominence.
“The pandemic had a huge impact on our growth,” said attorney and political strategist Justin Giboney, who cofounded the And Campaign with pastor Angel Maldonado and hip-hop artist Sho Baraka in Atlanta in 2015.
In May, the group’s Statement on Racialized Violence went viral after the death of George Floyd, tripling its social media following.
“When that racialized violence happened, and everyone had their full attention on it because there was nothing else to pay attention to, our executive committee got together and said, ‘Hey, we need to speak into this,’” said Giboney, referencing the killings of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
“So many Christians are trying to find a way to process exactly what is going on in biblical terms. Some are ignoring it because their ideology is too far right. Some are getting too caught up in the moment and kind of changing their convictions because they have gotten too caught up on the left. I said we need to speak into this in a real way, and so we created a biblical statement on racialized violence.”
The statement addressed racism and criminal justice reform—one of the core political issues for the And Campaign, which promotes both social justice and moral order as priorities for Christians.
With established chapters in Atlanta, Dallas, Brooklyn, and Chicago, the And Campaign added chapters in Charleston, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Birmingham, Alabama, last summer and fall.
“There was so much conversation about racial reconciliation and injustice, but there were very few on-ramps for Christian action in Charleston,” said Philip Pinckney, pastor of Radiant Church in Charleston, who founded its chapter after connecting with Giboney at a local multiethnic ministry conference called 1Charleston. “In the city where the Civil War was started, that is still reeling from the murder at Emanuel and that probably has more churches per square mile than any other place in the country, we had to mobilize.”
The Charleston chapter held its first event, a Prayer & Action Rally, at Pinckney’s church on Juneteenth. Though the event received local news coverage and drew attention online, Pinckney suspects the pandemic hurt turnout.
The chapter continued to engage in issues leading up to the 2020 election. It created its own 17-page guide to local races and interviewed some of the candidates.
The founder of the Birmingham chapter, Danny Brister Jr., also heard Giboney speak at a conference—Just Gospel, put on in Atlanta by The Front Porch. Brister, a former pastor and church planter, said he was “bothered by politicking around the pandemic” and looking for a way to be politically engaged from a Christian perspective following the death of George Floyd.
He established the chapter in October 2020. Its six leaders are split between black and white, men and women, and span progressive and conservative political perspectives. Pandemic permitting, Brister hopes to host a public launch event in the spring. In Birmingham, 2021 is an important election year, with seats for school board, city council, and mayor up for election.
Brister, a community liaison for a local charter school and former employee of the City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office, has engaged Christians who plan to run for local offices in the near future with And Campaign materials. “They really want to talk about how they do this faithfully and if they win, how can they honor God and not capitulate their Christianity,” he said.
Even before national attention turned to racial justice issues, the And Campaign took the lead helping churches in low-income locations during the pandemic. Together with ministry partners, the Churches Helping Churches Challenge raised over $1.3 million and will continue to offer $5,000 grants to continue projects in their communities.
The And Campaign also saw growing interest around its political philosophy ahead of the 2020 presidential election, connecting with believers who felt “politically homeless” in the major parties.
“We articulated that there is this false dichotomy that politics forces you to go all the way to the left or forces you to go all the way to the right,” Giboney said. “A lot of Christians say, ‘That’s me. I care about poverty, I care about voter rights, and I care about the pro-life cause.’”
At a recent Zoom meeting for the And Campaign’s Atlanta chapter, they discussed the Georgia Senate runoffs, which put their city in the spotlight of American politics, as well as the Capitol insurrection, President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response plan, and Senator Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act.
On a local level, the chapter is planning on advocating for juvenile probation reform—which leaders believe can be a bipartisan issue for Atlanta Christians—and reaching out to Christian state legislators, urging them to apply their principles to their work.
“There’s this idea that in order to be educated in politics, you have to be educated by the world first and then be educated by your faith, but that is backward,” said Abrm McQuarters, an Atlanta chapter leader.
Leaders across the country are looking forward to resuming in-person meetings and events once COVID-19 risks have died down, especially to build on the momentum in the new chapters preparing to launch in 10 cities this year: Akron, Ohio; Houston; Asheville, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Detroit; Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; Austin, Texas; Pittsburgh; and San Diego.