Gershon Nimbalker has been named National Director of Common Grace – the Christian group that describes itself as “a movement of people pursuing Jesus and justice”.
Nimbalker is a well-known and respected figure in the Christian social justice space, having spent over 15 years working on advocacy, policy, research, and local community organizing. Common Grace Board Chair Kristyn Crossfield said she was delighted to welcome Nimbalker to the team.
“Gershon’s deep love for Jesus, passion for justice, heart for the Australian Church, and broad experience working in government and the nonprofit sector is an ideal combination to serve and grow the Common Grace movement!” said Kristyn.
“We are so grateful to have Gershon join the Common Grace team and look forward to seeing how God continues to work through Common Grace as we bloom together in this new season!”
Nimbalker has been involved with Common Grace since it was just an idea and was even asked if he would consider applying for the job in the past. The timing wasn’t right for his young family then, but now, with his family at a different stage, Nimbalker says everything is “just fitting” as he takes control.
“When I applied for the role, I thought it was quite interesting how the sequence of different things I’ve done throughout my career led me very nicely to this particular role,” Nimbalker told Eternity.
Nimbalker has become the organization’s fourth national director since its launch in 2014. The role was previously led by Jarrod McKenna (2014-2015), Scott Sanders (2016-2019), and Brooke Prentis (2019-2022). The incoming National Director greatly respects what the organization has already achieved, pointing to the financial stability that former National Director Scott Sanders has built “out of sheer necessity”. He also means to Safer, a resource Common Grace released in 2017 to equip churches that respond to domestic and family violence. He says it continues to be “one of the best resources for domestic and family violence that the church or community provides.” has.”
Under Aboriginal Christian leader Brooke Prentis, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, justice has been particularly prominent in recent years.
“I’ve been lucky to learn a lot from Brooke,” Nimbalker says. “I got to work with her quite a bit before she left Common Grace, and it was a humbling experience. It gave me a passion for making sure we keep making progress.”
Plans for Common Grace
“I think what amazed everyone in the Christian justice space with Common Grace is how well they’ve done that formative work — helping us go deeper into our theology, understand Jesus and understand the implications this has for justic,” he says.
“I hope to continue that great legacy of the leaders who came before and expand it. Think more deeply about how we turn that into impact. How do we build a movement of people who are inspired, equipped, and mobilized for justice?”
Since its launch, Common Grace has focused its judicial work on four areas: domestic and domestic violence, climate change, asylum seekers, and Aboriginal peoples of the Torres Strait Islands. These will remain focus areas, and Nimbalker wants to see real progress.
“I am very excited to see how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice has become part of the Common Grace DNA,” said Nimbalker. “That will be part of who moves forward.”
He says Bianca Manning will lead the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice team, assisted by Saffina Stewart and others.
“Approximately half of the team has Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. We will work with Aboriginal Christian and Aboriginal leaders to reflect on how we continue to push Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice.”
Nimbalker is hopeful that Australia’s recent government change could mean “a little bit of momentum” in space.
“We’re not getting everything we want, but there’s room to push that forward in a much more important way,” he says.
Last year, Common Grace ran a hugely successful campaign for ‘climate scarves’. Nimbalker notes that the action had one of the tallest, time-consuming campaign “questions” he’s ever seen.
“Can you knit these climate scarves? It takes 20 or 30 hours,” he laughs. “And we were just inundated with scarves! Between 300 and 400 scarves have been knitted – [so that] every MP or Senator in Australia who wanted one has one. And most of them have had conversations about the importance of the climate,” he says.
“For me, that is a clear indicator. There’s a lot of momentum and energy there [around climate change], which we continue to insist on.”
When Nimbalker works for justice for asylum seekers and refugees, Nimbalker wants to spend a few months “listening to the team and listening to the movement and then strategizing”.
“Instinctively, I think there is a lot of capacity to increase our humanitarian influx and probably our foreign aid to refugees and asylum seekers. They are probably the two biggest, rawest effects we can have as a country in alleviating the refugee crisis,” he says.
And what about domestic and family violence?
“As I mentioned briefly, I think Safer is one of the Church’s best resources,” he says.
“There is a lot of internal transformation work that I think the church can do, and probably should, around domestic and family violence if we can help that process while being aware of the policy changes we can bring about.
“There are several overlapping issues that crisscross the four areas that we’ll probably think about as well. I think poverty and homelessness affect each of our problems in different ways. And even the quality of living, especially regarding the climate, which is associated with the poverty area. That area seems to be a clear theme that centers around our other issues and is also one of the country’s biggest policy areas,” he says.
“When I look at the increasing statistics on homelessness and housing affordability, as well as income poverty in the face of rising inflation, there is this vast area where Australia is currently abandoning its most powerless or marginalized people. We can do much more for people living in poverty.”
Is this possible?
Nimbalker’s high hopes for Common Grace may sound like the aspirations you’d expect from a new director, but this is a “new guy” with the receipts to show he can get a job done.
His previous job as advocacy program coordinator for the nonprofit Baptist World Aid seems to have provided excellent training for Common Grace.
In this role, Nimbalker developed and coordinated Baptist World Aid’s widely acclaimed ‘Behind the Barcode’ research program on ethical sourcing, which received national and international media coverage. He says the program is the key driver in changing ethical supply chain practices in the Australian fashion industry.
‘Behind the Barcode’ required Nimbalker to work closely with other industry NGOs, advocacy groups, government, and opposition to develop policy. In addition, he had to work with local churches to build advocacy groups (they grew from about 15-20 groups when he started to 60-65 groups).
“I think when church leaders and certainly church members develop and become aware – or even begin to recognize in themselves – how closely their faith is tied to justice… they start to say, ‘Oh yeah, I can see how that fits’,’ says Nimbalker.
“So I hope to work very closely with churches and find that common ground across denominations and the breadth of the church — from progressive to conservative — to help build the movement.”
“The things Common Grace says are, I think, so close to Jesus’ heart and so easy to bring out, no matter what kind of Christian faith tradition you’re part of… This is deeply biblical. It is a deep indication to Jesus in the world that he wants us all to inhabit. So I hope churches join us and be part of the journey.”
But it’s Nimbalker’s most recent career experience that he believes will be most valuable at Common Grace. For the past three to four years, he has worked as the founder of Sojourners Social Change Consultants alongside Christian nonprofit organizations (NFPs), a few secular NFPs, and corporations.
“All of that [work] points in the direction I’ve always believed – making the world a better place,” explains Nimbalker. “But I think working multi-denominational has contributed to my experience and insight to find common ground while standing up for the common good and sharing in common grace.”
A useful skill to bring to Common Grace’s national directorship, Eternity would suggest!