PHPC Advocacy

Faith in Action:
Empowering Change

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (NRSV)

Our Call

We are called to advocate for those affected by poverty and marginalized communities or individuals.

We are called to educate ourselves on the most effective advocacy strategies and best practices for community development.

We are called to clearly articulate critical issues and equip individuals with the tools needed to engage decision-makers at all levels. Through informed and active citizenship, we are called to catalyze positive change while honoring individual autonomy.

Our Action

Past and Present

PHPC has a rich history of impacting communities facing poverty. As one of the founding congregations of North Dallas Shared Ministries, PHPC played a pivotal role in providing free services to prevent families from falling into homelessness. Additionally, PHPC founded Literacy Achieves (formerly known as Vickery Meadow Learning Center) to teach English to immigrants, offering them a path to success in the US. Through these and other significant partnerships, church members have effectively advocated for individuals in need and promoted educational opportunities in impoverished neighborhoods.

In 2022, the Session of PHPC approved The Christian Call to Advocacy, establishing an Advocacy Impact Team with the goal of broadening our advocacy efforts to address systemic issues perpetuating poverty. A dedicated group of members then engaged in book studies and listening sessions to discern the direction of our advocacy initiatives.

Book Study: The Mission of Advocacy

Present and Future

The Advocacy Ministry Team actively engages with small groups within the church to introduce the ministry, gather feedback, and identify areas of passion for advocacy within the congregation. Additionally, we are committed to educating ourselves about and implementing best practices for sustainable development.

Approaches to Poverty Alleviation

Affordable/Attainable Housing

The lack of affordable housing in Dallas has been selected as an immediate focus based on a recent report from the Child Poverty  Action Lab. Currently, deliberations for The Advocacy Impact Team has collectively chosen to prioritize the issue of affordable housing in Dallas, driven by a May 2023 report from the Child Poverty Action Lab (CPAL). The report highlights a significant gap in rental unit supply, with 33,660 units needed for the city's lowest-income households (earning at or below 50% of the Area Median Income, which is $44,500 for a family of four in Dallas). Without intervention, this gap is projected to increase to 83,500 rental units by 2030 for households at or below 50% of the AMI. With a lower homeownership rate compared to the rest of the state and 52% of renters experiencing housing cost burdens, it is evident that action is urgently needed to address this pressing issue. Dallas Capital Bond allocations include discussion of support for housing in the package under the category of economic development and following on successes in Houston and Austin.  Information for advocacy on this topic is available from the Dallas Housing Coalition.    

Housing in Dallas: A Framework for Action2023 Rental Housing Needs AssessmentDallas Housing Coalition

FAQs: Churches and IRS Guidelines for Advocacy,Lobbying and Elections

What is a 501(c)(3)?

Churches and religious organizations, like many other charitable organizations, qualify for
exemption from federal income tax under IRC Section 501(c)(3)
and are generally eligible to receive
tax-deductible contributions. To qualify for tax-exempt status, the organization must meet the following

  • the organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific or other
    charitable purposes;
  • net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder;
  • no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation;
  • the organization may not intervene in political campaigns; and
  • the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.
What kind of advocacy activities are allowed for churches?

The IRS regulations on the activities of congregations can be summarized as follows:

  • ISSUE ADVOCACY: Without limits on time, effort and expense, congregations and their
    representatives may engage in issue advocacy through activities such as educating and mobilizing congregants
    and the general public. Example: encouraging the public to show concern for global warming by reducing
    carbon emissions. Please note that issue advocacy is only acceptable if it does not involve political campaign
    intervention (see below).
  • LOBBYING: Within narrow limits on time, effort and expense, congregations and their
    representatives may engage in lobbying—defined by the IRS as advocating for or against specific pieces of
    legislation—as an "unsubstantial" portion of an organization's activities. The IRS has not provided a strict rule
    for what constitutes “unsubstantial,” and evaluates on a case-by-case basis. However, courts and the IRS have
    ruled in the past that lobbying activity constituting 5% or less of total activities is acceptable. "Total activities"
    includes the total amount of money, staff, and volunteer time that goes into running the organization. While
    the 5% amount is not a strict rule, it can be used as a guidepost for an organization's lobbying activities.
    Example: encouraging a city council, state legislature, and/or Congress to pass a particular law to reduce
    carbon emissions.
  • POLITICAL CAMPAIGN INTERVENTION: There is a total limit on partisan activity, which the
    IRS calls political campaign intervention. Congregations and their representatives can do nothing that
    advocates for or against candidates for public office or political parties. This includes fundraising on behalf of
    candidates and donating meeting space, among other things. Example: supporting a particular candidate or
    party because of their stance on carbon emissions. Election-related activities such as candidate questionnaires
    and forums may be acceptable if certain guidelines are followed.
What is the difference between advocacy and lobbying?

Advocacy is any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads
on behalf of others. It includes public education, regulatory work, litigation, and work before administrative bodies,
lobbying, nonpartisan voter registration, nonpartisan voter education, and more.

Lobbying is communicating with decision makers (elected officials and staff; voters on ballot measures), about
existing or potential legislation, and urging a vote for or against. All three components of this definition are
required: decision makers, actual legislation, AND asking for a vote.

What are some examples of churches and religious nonprofits that engage in advocacy?

First United Methodist Church, Dallas. “We focus on three core areas to direct our educational and advocacy efforts: Public Education, Social Transformation and Mental Health.”

PC(USA). The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness is the public policy information and advocacy office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Its task is to “advocate, and help the church to advocate, the social witness perspectives and policies of the Presbyterian General Assembly.”

Temple Emanu-El, Dallas. “Advocacy is central to Reform Judaism and to Temple Emanu-El. The Social JusticeCouncil seeks approval of new advocacy positions and efforts from Temple’s Board of Trustees. Our advocacy issue-oriented; not partisan, but often political.”

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis. “Our Social Justice Ministry Team equips members ofWestminster and the larger community to work for justice. Across a broad spectrum of concerns, the team provides educational programming, supports the development of advocacy statements, and promotes action.”

Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas. The Christian Advocacy Ministry is about “equipping the church to be advocates on issues of justice.”

What resources were used to answer the above questions?

Questions 1 & 2.The Real Rules: Congregations and IRS Guidelines for Advocacy, Lobbying and Elections.”Unitarian Universalist Association.

Question 3.Advocacy vs. Lobbying.” National Council of Nonprofits.

Question 4. Websites of indicated institutions.

The IRS Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations is available in Publication 1828 (Rev. 8-2015).