The inspiration for the Center is the life and ministry of Baptist pastor and church historian, Walter Rauschenbusch, the "Father of the Social Gospel" movement of the early 20th Century. Called one of the most influential American religious leaders in the last 100 years by PBS, Rauschenbusch believed that Christian principles must be translated into actions that promote compassion, justice, and social change. He took seriously the equality of love embodied in Jesus' admonition that we love our neighbors as ourselves.
Between 1886 and 1897, he was pastor of the Second German Baptist Church in the "Hell's Kitchen" area of New York City, an area of extreme poverty. As he witnessed massive economic insecurity, he began to believe that Christianity must address the physical as well as the spiritual needs of humankind. He developed an understanding of discipleship that made the spirit of Christianity the core of social renewal.
As a professor at Rochester Theological Seminary from 1902 until his death in 1917, he developed a theology for the social gospel that emphasized that sin is not just a private matter between a person and God, but in the spirit of the prophets, there are also social sins against humanity that must be addressed for Christianity to have any relevance.
"It is not a matter of getting individuals into heaven, but of transforming the life on earth into the harmony of heaven."