Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Civic Responsibility in Southern California

Michelle Crotwell Kirtley


October 21, 2011
An interview by Michelle Kirtley

A group of over 30 citizens from the Southern California area met recently with the hopes of organizing into a group seeking to learn and apply the principles of the Center for Public Justice.  Retired school teacher Stan Cole and Providence Christian College student Shelli Cammenga took part in that meeting, and Capital Commentary editor Michelle Kirtley interviewed them to get their perspective on why they became involved and how they see the group developing.

A former board member of The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Stan Cole has been familiar with the Center for Public Justice for years, but his interest had “always stayed on the back burner.”  In April 2011, he was invited by long-time Center for Public Justice Associate Tom McWhertor “to a presentation by [Center for Public Justice senior fellow] Gideon Strauss at the Long Beach Christian Reformed Church.”  The “impressive and winning” presentation spurred him to get involved.

Shelli Cammenga has been nurturing “a passion and a heart for good politics and sound policy for the past few years” and is “delighted” that the group starting in Southern California is providing a Christian context to discuss policy and “openly promote Biblical values.”

Both attended the a convening meeting of the group earlier this summer, assembled from Long Beach, Anaheim, Bellflower, and Pasadena, with a healthy contingent from Providence Christian College.  The group has hopes of “reaching out to Fuller Seminary and to a couple of churches in the Pasadena and Sun Valley areas.”

Although the group is only in its infancy, both Cole and Cammenga have a bold vision of what the group might accomplish.  Personally, Stan Cole articulated a desire “to be involved in a forum which examines the issues of the day with some depth and balance from a holistic Christian perspective…and facilitates vigorous but congenial exchange of understandings and perspectives.”  In his vision, the group could “offer speakers and panels well-studied in the issues and in Christian perspective” and could “engage in conversation with other faith-based interest groups.”

Both Cole and Cammenga want to see the group apply the principles of the Center for Public Justice to an issue relevant to the local Southern California community.  Shelli Cammenga “would love to see this group forming a cohesive front to tackle an issue specific to Southern California head on and bring about justice and the “shalom” that God intended in that situation.”  Although the issue remains to be determined, she “imagine[s] our group could confront [the issue] by raising awareness in the public sphere and offering logical and achievable solutions of policy or other actions that could resolve the problem. By raising awareness and making the topic receive a lot of notice, hopefully a movement will be formed so the suggested measures will be put in place and the issue resolved, or at least openly challenged and/ or countered.”

At the convening meeting, the group “appointed a steering committee and set forth some tentative goals.”  As both Cole and Cammenga mentioned, the group is wrestling with geographical diversity of their group, and is seeking representatives from various regions.  They are planning to have a “conference call soon which will help to narrow our direction.”

To accomplish their goals, the group is planning to draw heavily on the resources of the Center for Public Justice. The steering committee members in the Long Beach/Anaheim area are reading Jim Skillen’s classic book Christians Organizing for Political Service. According to Cole, those in the Long Beach/Anaheim area are considering starting a “discussion group which will discuss relevant topics, possibly using Capital Commentary as a starting point.”  The larger group is also considering inviting speakers—perhaps “from local organizations who are well informed authorities on topics that this group is interested in looking into.”

As they move forward, they are fulfilling their calling as citizens who take their civic responsibilities seriously as a service to God, until the kingdom of God comes in its fullness.”

—Michelle Kirtley is the editor of Capital Commentary and a Trustee of the Center for Public Justice.

For more information about how to become involved in the Southern California group, contact Stan Cole (, from the Long Beach/Anaheim area or Ryan McIlhenny (, from the Pasadena area.




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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”