Local organization hosts conversations on social justice

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, The Micah Center will host a public lecture discussing immigration reforms. The center, which meets at New Hope Baptist Church, was founded in 2009 to inform West Michigan residents about issues of social justice.

 The Micah Center held its annual fall kickoff in early September, which focused on raising public awareness for the issue of predatory lending in West Michigan.

The organization’s name comes from Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” The center seeks to promote just education and just action.

The center was founded on the principles of Proverbs 31:8-9: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly. Defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Vern Hoffman, a retired pastor in the Reformed Church of America, founded The Micah Center. He discovered his personal passion for biblically-inspired social justice issues in the Old Testament.

Hoffman was especially moved by the book of Isaiah which he felt called him to make taking care of the orphan, the immigrant, the widow and other disadvantaged people a bigger priority in his own life and in the church.

In order to act on this calling, Hoffman gathered a group of likeminded individuals to form a book club centered around the themes of biblical faith and social justice.

Hoffman, who was unsatisfied with studying these issues without taking further action, decided to expand and transform the aims of his book club into what would become The Micah Center.

The Micah Center seeks to educate the public on issues of biblically-oriented social justice issues and to take action against what it considers unjust practices.

On the first Tuesday of every month The Micah Center hosts a public lecture on one of many different topics related to social justice.

Upcoming lectures include a discussion with immigrant families on Oct. 1 entitled “Sharing Our Struggle: The Voices of Immigrant Families,” a speech by state representative Winnie Brinks on Nov. 5 entitled “The Unfinished Work of Health Care Reform” and a conversation regarding Christian conceptions of the tax system with philosopher and Calvin alumnus Nicholas Wolterstorff on Dec. 3 entitled “Of God and Taxes.”

On the third Tuesday of every month, The Micah Center’s advocacy groups gather to discuss which social justice issues they should focus on. The specific emphases of each advocacy group are extensive, covering, but not limited to, issues of health care, poverty and immigration reform.

Each advocacy group seeks to raise public awareness and pushes legislation surrounding a reform idea. The Micah Center’s criminal justice and prison reform advocacy group seeks to persuade legislators to pass “Ban the Box” legislation as well as to promote public understanding of the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative.

The education advocacy group works with public officials to pass education reform legislation that would give greater attention and care to dyslexic students.

All events and advocacy groups are open to the public. The advocacy groups welcome new members, especially younger members from churches and area colleges.