WASHINGTON (RNS) — The Rev. Alvin Herring announced on Tuesday (May 23) that he will step down next year as head of the congregation-based organizing network Faith in Action, leaving the group he has helmed for five years.
“I think this is a good moment to step aside and give younger leaders a chance to lead, more women a chance to lead and to be their champions on the outside — to herald their work and to continue to lend my support,” Herring, 66, told Religion News Service in an interview.
Faith in Action is still deciding on a replacement for Herring, who previously served as the group’s director of training and faith formation before leaving for a two-year stint at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where he said he helped the organization focus on racial justice and racial equity. He is expected to continue to serve in his current position until March 31, 2024.
The leadership change comes as Faith in Action, a faith-based organization previously known as PICO National Network, gears up for another election cycle. Although the group rejects political labels, it helps member congregations mobilize around a host of issues relevant to their local community — issues often seen as liberal-leaning, such as immigrant rights, the effects of climate change on vulnerable communities and prison reform.
Herring, who is ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, noted Faith in Action assembled a massive voter engagement effort ahead of the 2020 election, encouraging those they contacted to register to vote and show up on Election Day.
“I hope … we will continue to fight for democracy every way that we can, and one of the most powerful ways to fight for democracy is to fight for the right to vote,” Herring said.
The Maryland pastor leaves behind a sprawling network that boasts active efforts in 200 cities across 25 U.S. states. The organization also has emerging efforts in six additional countries abroad such as El Salvador and Rwanda. It’s a fledgling global effort Herring said he has worked hard to expand.
Faith in Action also flourished financially under his leadership, aided in part by a multimillion-dollar grant in June 2021 from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
“Now we are one of the most financially solvent organizations in our environment, with a significant endowment that will ensure the financial health of this organization for many years to come,” he said.
Looking back, Herring said he is proud of many things that occurred while he worked at the organization, particularly the elevation of more women and people of color into leadership positions.
“We’ll continue to advocate that women and young people of color be at the forefront of every important decision made in this country, and at the forefront of every important decision made in this organization,” he said.
As for what’s next, Herring isn’t sure. He expressed a desire to embark on a bike trip across the country or focus on his art.
He still intends to remain involved in organizing, however, and expressed optimism that Faith in Action’s efforts can help bring about the changes they seek.
“I’ve lived long enough to know that sometimes change can happen in an instant if the intentions are right, if the circumstances are right, if the environment has been seeded with enough belief, enough faith,” he said. “I think this organization is the perfect embodiment of that, so I think we have a bright future ahead of us.”