Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

11/10 2014

Theology’s Role in Social Work


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theology and social work in pennsylvaniaMicah 6:8 gives the call to all Christians and all social workers: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

I would argue that the values of social workers defined by the National Association of Social Workers Pennsylvania Chapter, of which I am a proud member, fit perfectly with the call of Micah 6:8. The values are:

  • Service
  • Social Justice
  • Dignity and Worth of the Person
  • Importance of Human Relationships
  • Integrity, and
  • Competence.

These values inform every action of a social worker and hopefully of all Christians. The greatest commandment of Christ found in Matthew 22:36-40 is clear: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

A result of the overflowing bounty of the love of God in Jesus Christ is our love of neighbor. Here are the Ethical Principles of Social Workers as defined by the NASW: Social workers’ primary goals are to help people in need and to address social problems, challenge social injustice, respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person, recognize the central importance of human relationships, behave in a trustworthy manner, and practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise.

Certainly, all social workers would not identify themselves as Christians. But all Christians should identify themselves as social workers. Our duty, our call, our responsibility is to serve our neighbor by helping those in need, address social problems, challenge social injustice, respect everyone, emphasize human relationships, and behave with trust and competence through the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Rev. Erin Davenport is a 2005 alumna of the MDiv program. Through the Seminary’s joint degree program, she also earned her MSW from the University of Pittsburgh. A former chaplain, she now resides in Pittsburgh and serves as the Seminary’s Director of the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

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