Category: Peace & Justice

CALLED TO DO . . . . . SOMETHING

CALLED TO DO . . . . . SOMETHING

By Kim Naten

It’s Friday morning . . .  and while the calendar says “late Spring” the sky reflects anything but that.  It is gray, chilly, momentarily dry, and an accurate reflection of my mood.  This has been a tough week.  Or rather, a tough several weeks.  Buffalo, Laguna Woods, now Uvalde.  On top of ongoing concern, sadness and rage over the war in Ukraine, the continued erosion of human rights, and on and on . . . 

Often, I turn to our musical scriptures for comfort, for the words to express all those emotions bubbling to the surface.  This week was no exception, and I found many that seemed to accurately reflect my grief, my anxiety, my plea for God to hear our voices, to DO something, to heal us.  When I opened my daily Sojourners Verse & Voice email, however, I found the words that felt right.  It spoke the words which I’d been trying to formulate without rage and anger, but with a reminder to myself, to those of us in Community of Christ, of who we are called to be.  Because honestly, most of the words and feelings I’ve had this week have been, let’s say, less than “Christlike.” 

As I read and reread these lyrics, my heart started to lift . . . just a wee bit.  I hope it lifts yours as well.  As per the annotation at the end, feel free to use this in your worship gatherings.  Perhaps it will bring a glimmer of hope to you and others during these dark days as we struggle to understand a broken world, and our call to aid in its healing.

A HYMN FOR PEOPLE CALLED TO DO MORE THAN SING AND PRAY

BY CAROLYN WINFREY GILLETTE

Originally published MAY 25, 2022.

God, Our Nation Feels the Loss

PILOT 7.7.7.7.7 (“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”)

God, our nation feels the loss
as our children pay the cost
for the violence we accept,
for the silence we have kept.
Rachel weeps for children gone;
God of love, this can’t go on!

Jesus, Lord, we hear you say,
“Don’t turn little ones away!”
May we build a kinder land
where our children understand:
Every child here matters more
than the guns we clamor for.

Holy Spirit, wind and flame,
send us out in Jesus’ name.
May we shout and say, “Enough!”
May we build a world of love —
till the sounds of weapons cease,
till our young can grow in peace.

Tune: John Edgar Gould, 1871. Text: Copyright © 2022 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Permission is given for free use of this hymn for churches and ecumenical services.

Author’s Note: See the reference to the Slaughter of the Innocents: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). This hymn was written in remembrance of the beloved children of God who died in the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Many of us, as individuals, do not accept violence, keep silence, or clamor for guns. Yet, as a nation, we do these things, and as a nation, we need to repent; we need to turn around and live a different way. All of us are called to do more than sing and pray; please work for gun safety laws in your community and state.


Statement on Recent Gun Violence

Statement on Recent Gun Violence

May 25, 2022 | USA Team of Apostles

The USA Team of Apostles released this statement on the recent mass shootings in the USA.

To Community of Christ Leaders, Mission Centers, Members, and Friends:

Community of Christ actively endeavors to share the peace of Jesus Christ in a troubled world. This call is grounded in the Enduring Principles, including Unity in Diversity, Blessings of Community, the Worth of All Persons, and Responsible Choices.

We join other faith organizations and communities who grieve for those families that lost loved ones in recent mass shootings. We unite in prayer for those affected by recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and too many other locations. Sadly, the New England Journal of Medicine in April indicated firearm-related violence is now the leading cause of death for US children and adolescents.

We denounce needless violence that ends and shatters lives. We pray for wisdom as we consider our individual response as disciples in dialogue and action. We affirm World Conference Resolution 1270 urging firearms be used for sporting and professional purposes only. We uphold the urgent need for “members and leaders (to) discuss the role nonviolence plays in the pursuit of ‘peace on and for the Earth’ (Doctrine and Covenants 165:1d) and in the life and mission of the church” (World Conference Resolution 1319).

Doctrine and Covenants 163:2a invites all to “strive to be faithful to Christ’s vision of the peaceable Kingdom of God on earth. Courageously challenge cultural, political, and religious trends that are contrary to the reconciling and restoring purposes of God. Pursue peace.”

In the spirit of Jesus, the peaceful One, we encourage all to share their perspectives with their state and national representatives that together we might courageously call for peace, reconciliation, and healing in our world.


STATEMENT ON GUN VIOLENCE FOLLOWING THE SCHOOL SHOOTING IN UVALDE, TEXAS

STATEMENT ON GUN VIOLENCE FOLLOWING THE SCHOOL SHOOTING IN UVALDE, TEXAS

Released by the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon

May 24, 2022

Today our nation watched in horror as yet another mass shooting claimed the lives of 21 souls. Tragically, 18 of those killed are elementary school students. Our hearts are broken for the lives lost as we stand alongside the grieving.

This massacre follows recent mass shootings in Milwaukie, Buffalo, Palo Alto, Laguna Beach and Chicago. Why is there is a mass shooting nearly every day in this county? We ask this as echoes of the Psalmist ring in our heads, “How long, O Lord?”

The United States of America stands alone when it comes to gun violence. These types of shootings simply do not happen in other countries, let alone with such frequency. In the last five months alone, a gun has been fired on school grounds in the United States 288 times. The next closest country is Mexico with eight.

Something is wrong in our country; most anyone can recognize it. Yet we live in a country where elected officials refuse to take even modest steps to protect the vulnerable. How many more children must die before these elected officials take urgent action? We implore them to do so now. Their “thoughts and prayers” ring ever so hollow and reinforce their cowardice.

Because the all too predictable pattern of outrage and shock has become not only tedious but morally inadequate, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon invites immediate action by supporting the work of Lift Every Voice Oregon (LEVO). Through LEVO, people of faith and good will can pursue with expediency IP17–Reduction of Gun Violence Act.

IP17 is a ballot initiative petition that will reduce gun violence by making gun owners more accountable and ammunition less lethal. IP17 needs signatures by the end of June to qualify for the ballot. Sign the petition at lifteveryvoiceoregon.com.

At least for Oregon, we can make a difference. May we turn our sorrow into hope and actions that will assure the day when gun violence is no longer an everyday occurrence.


<strong>Getting Shameless about Faith and Sex</strong>

Getting Shameless about Faith and Sex

By Sean Langdon

In January 2019, Nadia Bolz-Weber released “Shameless: A Sexual Reformation”. The description for this book reads as follows, “Christians are obsessed with sex. But not in a good way. For nearly two thousand years, this obsession has often turned destructive, inflicting pain, suffering, and guilt on countless people of all persuasions and backgrounds. In Shameless, Bolz-Weber calls for a reformation. To make her case, she offers experiences from her own life and stories from her parishoners alongside biblical theology to explore what the church has taught, and the harm those teachings have caused.” This book changed my life and had a deep impact on my ministry.

Not long after its release, some friends in our mission center and I went to her book tour in Portland. She was electrifying. The truths that she spoke had us clinging to every word. She isn’t a conventional, “cookie cutter” minister which is part of what gravitates me towards her. She’s real and authentic and herself, even when that isn’t comfortable for others. And I love that. And I can relate to that. This book helped me better understand the issues as well as begin healing the parts of me that that have experienced trauma because of how much of Christianity approaches the topic of sex. So much harm has been done because of the messaging and shame that is inflicted on others because of this. Within Community of Christ, I didn’t get a lot of that but instead I got nothing. This was also harmful as the only religious messaging I received growing up were the harmful voices that are out there when approaching this layered topic.

A few months ago, I was invited by Carla Long to be a co-host with her for Community Chat. Community Chat is like an online talk show where we talk about things related to Community of Christ and faith. Our most recent episode was inspired by this book. I encourage everyone to watch it and to please do so with an open mind. Even if you don’t agree or are not comfortable with talking about sex and faith together, it is important to understand why it is imperative for others that these kinds of conversations take place. In this episode, you’ll see a familiar face in Tami Perryman as she lived in Bend, Oregon, for a few years while her husband Craig worked for the congregation there. Joining Carla Long and I is also Jamiann Smith. It is my hope that we can begin to have healthy, open conversations about topics like these in our faith community.

Watch here: https://youtu.be/BNu7MxzDgx8


I cannot say, “Not All Christians”

I cannot say, “Not All Christians”

By Ashley Whitham

On social media these days, I see a lot of people angry and hurting from interactions with Christians. Some of it stems from childhood, some more recent. Hate-filled comments online cursing strangers to hell and denouncing their lives as sinful leaves a bad taste in just about everyone’s mouth. And when I see the videos of people crying because they don’t understand why a ‘Christian’ would tell them their life isn’t worth living, I cry, too. And I desperately want to be the ‘good Christian’ that can show them love and encouragement. But every time I want to write, “But not all Christians are like that! I accept and love you as you are!” I can’t.

If you’ve not been aware of the ‘Not all men’ arguments, let me catch you up. Women and men have been more upfront with discussing the ways that men make others feel unsafe, unloved, unworthy; and there are men who are offended by these statements and reply back with, “Not all men.” This is not a new argument, but has been making the online rounds for many years. And while it is true that not all men attack or abuse women (emotionally, physically, etc.), the ‘not all men’ argument is not allowed. Someone who is vulnerable cannot always tell who is going to abuse them and who is not. Just because someone says, “I’m a nice guy,” doesn’t mean anything. Unfortunately, people lie, manipulate, cheat, etc. And yes, all this goes for women as well. And yes, women can also be the abusers in a relationship. And we shouldn’t leave out non-binary, either.

So yes, I acknowledge that even though there are male abusers, that does not mean all men abuse. But here’s the problem with the ‘not all men’ argument: it distracts. Instead of talking about the ways in which women feel unsafe, the ‘offended nice man’ makes the argument all about him. And we’re no longer talking about the problems of abuse, but the hurt ego of the men who don’t want to included in the statement. So while the man who says, “But not me!” may be accurate in that he’s never physically abused a woman, by taking away the conversation and the woman’s power she held in sharing her story, the ‘nice guy’ is now hurting the woman, and any other woman who could have been empowered in hearing the story. While it may feel awkward, uncomfortable, maybe even hurtful to the man hearing it, it would be more helpful to say, “I hear you,” or, “Thank you for sharing your story,” rather than, “Not all men.”

So what do I do when I hear a gay man share about being muttered at in a coffeeshop, “God hates fags”? Or when a single mom with tattoos talks about the blond, upstanding woman who tells her, “Repent from being a whore or you’re going to hell”? Or when a veteran who lost his hearing is told on TikTok, “God is punishing you by making you deaf… Repent and you’ll be able to hear again”? I am so offended by this hate that is spewed in the name of my God. This does not reflect how my church and my church family believes or behaves. It is because of my Christian love that I see the worth in them. I want to scream, “THEY DON’T SPEAK FOR GOD OR ME!” I want to write, “Not all Christians are like that! I’m not like that!” But I realized that I can’t. I can’t write, “Not all Christians,” because then I’m taking away from their story. I’m not honoring the pain that they’re going through – the VERY REAL pain inflicted on them by people who claim to believe the same way I do. If someone shared about being attacked by a Christian, and then is attacked by more Christians, saying, “Don’t lump me in with them,” that is not loving or healing – that is increasing the pain. We cannot say, “Not All Christians,” because we are inflicting further pain on the victim.

I want to believe I’m different. I want to believe the Community of Christ is different. But I cannot let myself be offended for being lumped under the same Christian umbrella as ‘those other’ people. I cannot make it about how there are different branches of the theology tree, and those Christians don’t speak for all Christians. They are hurting, and do not need a history lesson. What I can do: I can share my love for them. I can share the pain that I feel with them. I can sit with them and remind them that this person’s words do not define them. I can use my belief in the worth of all persons to support them while they move through the healing process.

And don’t get me started on people who say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”…

Oregon faith leaders encourage COVID-19 vaccinations through EMO’s “Faith and the Vaccine” website

Oregon faith leaders encourage COVID-19 vaccinations through EMO’s “Faith and the Vaccine” website

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon Media Release

PORTLAND, ORE., March 1, 2022—Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO) announces the launch of a new website, faithandthevaccine.org, featuring short video testimonies from over 25 Oregon faith leaders in support of the COVID-19 vaccines, as the pandemic continues unabated.

Faith leaders give a wide variety of compelling reasons for vaccination. While their comments are as diverse as the leaders themselves, they share a deep concern for the common good. Some reasons include: “Protection for myself, and for love of my family,” The Rev. Andrew Bansemer. “We have a responsibility to care for others,” Rabbi David Kozak. “To participate in public health and make sure I do my part to help the entire community be safe from the virus,” The Rt. Rev. Diana Akiyama. “I believe in science, and I belive god works through science,” The Rev. Ernestein Flemister.

“The devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in families, local communities—the loss of loved ones, distress of the illness, risk of infection, especially as people gather in churches and other sacred space—prompted the urgency for this collation of commentaries,” explains The Rev. Andrea Cano, EMO interim president. “Educating people about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines is an example of this organization’s compassion and care for the Oregon community.”

The website and videos grew out of a series of meetings EMO convened early in the pandemic with Governor Kate Brown, the Oregon Health Authority, and denominational leaders from around Oregon. Since then, EMO has provided informational resources about COVID prevention guidelines to faith communities and helped set up vaccination centers in traditionally marginalized communities. 

The faithandthevaccine.org site also offers an FAQ page and links to relevant articles and resources. The website welcomes comments and questions at vaccine@emoregon.org.

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon is a statewide association of faith partners working together to improve the lives of Oregonians through direct service programs, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, creation justice and public policy advocacy.

A  prayer for peace in Ukraine, by Michael Ramos

A  prayer for peace in Ukraine, by Michael Ramos

The last several days have held many emotions for people all over the world: fear, anger, sadness, confusion, compassion . . . and in that time, I have read about a dozen different prayers for Ukraine and the world from a variety of sources, being shared over social media and email.  Each prayer I read reminds me of who we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, the Peaceful One, are called to be in a world where peace is elusive and greed, abuse of power and hostility seem to reign. 

Michael Ramos, Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, with whom we have a close relationship and kinship, shares the prayer below, and I share it with you today.   May each of us take a moment today and in the days, and perhaps weeks, ahead to pause and uphold the people of Ukraine, of Russia, the surrounding nations, and the leaders of those nations, for peace, comfort, safety, and the assurance of worldwide neighbors standing with them in support.   Let us truly move toward the Peaceful One in our efforts to live, love and share God’s kin’dom with the world.

War is Contrary to the Will of God
O Source of Being,
We cry to you this day, for another war has started, violating your ways.
We know that war is contrary to your will for humankind.
We pray for the people of Ukraine, who seek to live in peace and freedom.
We pray with the prophet Isaiah for those who promote and perpetrate war to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks – let nation not make war on another nation.
We acknowledge that violence lies within all of us and that nations that promote empire will ultimately be cast down in the imagination of their hearts.
War so offends You; You feel its oppression with us, just as you suffer when you witness the oppressions of racism and poverty, gender-inequity and violence, and greed.
Ultimately, You teach us that war is the primordial act of unfaith in You, a form of idolatry.
We grieve our addiction to war, this human-made dis-ease.
We lament our inaction to promote peace and our complicity with systems that make siblings into others and even enemies, although in your Creation we are all siblings, we are all related.
This includes residents and citizens of a nation under attack and residents and citizens of nations with whose governments we are opposed.
How long, Source of Being, must we keep dividing and destroying one another in the name of ideology, in the name of kingdom building, in the name of religion, even in the name of “peace”.
You tell us not to worship falsely, not to afflict the marginalized, the vulnerable, the impoverished, but rather to desire the well-being, the wholeness of all, for we each are part of your Creation, made good and beautiful and holy.
Your presence is felt wherever there is in conflict the pursuit of peace, justice, and mercy through diplomacy and negotiation – human beings in relation to human beings, with a shared destiny for life and beloved community.
You remind us that steps toward cessation of hostilities and disarmament are marks of sanity.
You implore our acceptance of co-responsibility for our common humanity, for we are all are each other’s kin, as today so Ukrainians and Russians are kin, even in the face of overwhelming aggression.
Peacemaking is our shared vocation.
Turn us in a new direction.
The path of nonviolence is the most profound yearning of citizens who refuse to yield to the false distinction between “us and them.”
We beseech you with unmitigated urgency: to prevent further destruction of life, the crushing of civilians, the seizure of a sovereign people, the disfiguring of a people who love God.
A people who have known suffering and loss of land and denial of freedom and discarding of humanity.
Thank you for reminding us of our relationship to the people under siege. Our fates are intertwined in ways that You know beyond our capacity.
We remember the nuclear bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and shout out, “Never again!”
And yet, the proliferation of nuclear weapons has led to this newest threat:
War today runs the risk of escalation into nuclear conflict. Shed with us your divine tears!
Thank you for showing us that another way is possible: the way of peace with justice.
We are grateful that you made us for kin-ship and not earthly kingdom, for solidarity across borders and not manifest destiny, for circles of cooperation not spheres of influence and military control.
Guide our long walk to construct peace. With St. Francis, make us all instruments of your peace.
We declare that you are our security, our Source of refuge in a time of need, such as this.
Be compassionate upon us, even as we are compassionate to one another, without qualification or exclusion.
We are conscious that the human cost of war lies far beyond the zone of military confrontation.
Waging peace is our destiny and our integrity.
Being peace is our lens and our compass, our practice and our horizon.
From such a calling, may we not desist.
From such a moment, may we be courageous risk-takers for a just peace.
May our prayers rise to you at such a time as this.
May you receive us and our plea for an end to this war and all war, confident that abiding your ways will transform our world.
May there be peace in Ukraine, this day and ever-more.
Amen.

Michael Ramos, Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle
Originally published here: https://thechurchcouncil.org/war-is-contrary-to-the-will-of-god-a-prayer-for-peace-in-ukraine-by-michael-ramos/
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