As you know, each fall for the last 10 years, Water Street has participated in a community-wide event called the ExtraGive, sponsored by the Lancaster County Community Foundation (LCCF). The event itself has been a great day to celebrate the work of the various non-profit organizations working to benefit our community and the amazing generosity of the people of Lancaster County. Water Street will once again be participating in the ExtraGive this year.
Some of you may be aware that LCCF has made a few changes to its requirements for the ExtraGive this year. One of the changes involves requiring organizations to post their non-discrimination policies for public view. This is causing several faith-based organizations to not participate in ExtraGive this year. These policies are likely to highlight that most Christian non-profits (like Water Street) only hire staff who align with their statement of faith and articulated values related to issues like marriage, sexuality, and gender. As religious non-profits, we are allowed to hold to these standards.
I have been in conversation with numerous faith-based organizations (some who will continue to participate and some who will not). We have encouraged each other to approach our decisions through much prayer and discernment, considering who God has called our organizations to be and how He would desire us to move forward in our relationships with others in the community. We also recognize that we may choose different responses, while doing so in good conscience before the Lord.
Water Street has been a vital partner in serving the most vulnerable in our community. For over 115 years, we have always held clearly to our purpose: to advance the Kingdom of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to do missionary, relief, and rescue work of all kinds. As a Christian non-profit, we are a team of believers in Jesus who align in our faith, purpose, and understanding of God’s work in the world. The love of Christ guides us to serve and care for all who come our way.
Through many years, we have partnered with numerous other organizations of all stripes, faith-based, secular, for-profit, and governmental. We always enter our partnerships transparent about our identity, purpose, and approach. If a partnership enables us to better serve the most vulnerable in our community, whom God has called us to serve, we will do so for their sake. But we will never compromise our mission, purpose, or biblical convictions in order to do so. We look to embody our core values (Dependence upon God, Service to the Church, Partnership with the Community, Authenticity in Relationships, and Grace as our Model), as we determine who to partner with and how to structure partnerships.
Often these efforts to serve others will bring us into relationships with organizations and individuals who have vastly different beliefs and values than our organization, and even many who disagree not only with our faith, but our policies as well. These partnerships allow us to model the love of Christ to those who may disagree with our approach and to the community as a whole. We recognize that LCCF and many organizations that participate in the Extra Give hold different values and beliefs than we do. This has always been the case. But we also recognize that these types of partnerships provide an opportunity not only to serve our guests better but to be a representative of Christ to the community (as imperfect as we may sometimes be).
After much discussion, prayer, and discernment, we plan to participate in the ExtraGive again this fall. The new requirements of LCCF do not force us to change our values, purpose, or policies. We will be posting our non-discrimination policies (for both who we serve and how we hire) on the ExtraGive site so that you and others in the community can understand who and how we serve.
Additionally, we are still very excited about this ExtraGive. We genuinely appreciate the opportunity it presents for us to connect to our community, create awareness about Water Street in Lancaster County, and share our story of Christ-centered care for those experiencing poverty and homelessness with a broader audience.
If you have questions or concerns, we will gladly discuss them with you via email or phone. Please feel free to reach out to us. We’ve also set up a place on our website where you can see our non-discrimination policy and other statements regarding our participation in Extra Give. Simply go to wsm.org/extra-give.
Also, please pray for us as an organization as we navigate through this event in the future. We desire to honor God in all our actions, staying true to the work He has called us to in our city and county.
We look forward to being in touch with you this fall.
In His Service,
President | Water Street Mission