The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Holding banks accountable

Pastor, congregation join in activism for financial reform

One ELCA pastor finds empowerment for her congregation and the community by urging people of faith to hold banks accountable in simple yet powerful ways, particularly in light of the nation's home-foreclosure crisis.

"Banks were created for people. People were not created for banks," said Lucy Kolin, a leader of People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO) and pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church, Oakland, Calif. "To that end, our congregations are organizing money in our local communities to reward banks that serve our community by doing good things, including modifying mortgages, ending predatory lending and upholding other positive consumer practices."

Kolin, who grew up in Queens, N.Y., as the daughter of a civic-minded mom, joined the nonpartisan PICO because it offers a faith-based model that allows congregations and community groups to build relationships and take action on issues of urgency.

Initially, Kolin and members of Resurrection were outraged at the role of subprime mortgage and predatory lending that led to a first wave of foreclosures. They soon realized that more foreclosures were to follow, caused by high unemployment, jumbo loans and adjustable-rate mortgages, among other reasons.

Indeed, in the first three months of 2010, there were 930,000 foreclosure filings nationwide — a 7 percent increase from the previous quarter and 16 percent from the first three months of 2009, according to RealtyTrac, which publishes a database of foreclosed, auctioned and bank-owned homes.

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