Faith on Public Trial (Reflection on Charlottesville)

Last weekend, as I watched the terrible scenes from Charlottesville, Va., my heart was deeply troubled, often full of anger, and distraught at what I was seeing. Sunday morning our choir performed Brandon Boyd’s arrangement of “Jacob’s Ladder.” We were privileged to have Brandon Boyd, a young, gifted African-American composer, with us accompanying the choir. His version includes a moving solo with the words, “Is there anybody here who loves my Jesus?” I reflected that those words are what many African Americans were asking in Charlottesville—words their ancestors had sung since they arrived in slave ships.

On Monday morning I opened Facebook. There my close friend, Tony Vis, a Reformed Church in America pastor from Iowa who has served with me as a General Synod President, posted this: “The white supremacy/nationalist movement in America today is anti-gospel, which means anti-Christ, and evil at its very core. I renounce it, will stand against it, and invite my friends to do likewise.” I could not have said it better.

Of the many shocking images from Charlottesville, one continues to haunt me. White men, mostly younger, are marching and carrying torches in the night with faces full of grim hate and determined anger. It was malevolently reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan’s torch-lit night rallies, with cross burnings and the evil actions and killings that often followed. Even more, it brought memories of the Nazis marching with their torches, slogans, and violence in the 1930s. The neo-Nazis in Charlottesville chanted some of those same slogans.

At times, Christian faith is put on public trial. Public events and movements present a direct confrontation to the gospel of Jesus Christ, requiring us to make a clear choice. The confession of our faith is at stake. That’s what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemoller, Karl Barth, and others saw in Germany in the 1930s. They formed the Confessing Church based on the Barmen Declaration, declaring that faithfully following Jesus placed them in uncompromised opposition to the ideology and political movement spawning the ugly forms of bigotry, moral superiority, and pernicious racism in their time.

Many Reformed Christians in South Africa had a similar response to the apartheid regime. Convinced that the truth and public witness of Christian faith was violated by exclusionary racial practices both in society and the church, they drafted the Belhar Confession. With firm biblical grounding, it condemned racism as a sin and affirmed unity, reconciliation, and peace as intrinsic to our confession of faith. The Reformed Church in America adopted the Belhar as its fourth confessional standard of faith, and the Christian Reformed Church adopted the Belhar Confession as a “contemporary testimony.”

Indeed, it is as contemporary as Charlottesville.

Therefore, both the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America have the foundation that compels us to stand forthrightly, publicly, and unequivocally against the ugly expressions of white supremacy, white nationalism, and unvarnished racism on public display in Charlottesville, and moved like shock waves across the country.

But there is more.

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A Statement from Evangelical Covenant Church President Walter Denouncing White Supremacy

CHICAGO, IL (August 14, 2017) — I join with other Christian leaders to unequivocally denounce hateful white supremacist ideologies, brought into stark focus by the distressing events of Charlottesville, Virginia

Make no mistake. This ideology is antithetical to God, and therefore must be antithetical to all who follow God. It makes a mockery of the Father, our Creator, who knit each of us together in our mother’s womb. It ridicules the cross of Jesus, our Redeemer, in whom there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female. It disdains the work of the Holy Spirit, our Sustainer, who has baptized us into the one Body of Christ.

Friends, it is hateful … and it is heres

In the Covenant, we instead yearn to be found evermore faithful to a Kingdom vision here on earth as it is in heaven: a vision of every tribe, nation, and tongue finding its place of belonging and reconciliation at the feet of Jesus. We don’t always get it right, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.

And so, we press forward with resolve, lament, and the sometimes painful but always powerful work of the Holy Spirit.

We grieve the senseless loss of three lives, Heather Heyer and state troopers Jay Cullen and Berke Bates. We pray for those recovering from wounds, seen and unseen, nearby and far away. We denounce hate-filled violence.

We beseech our just and merciful God to convict us of how we as a nation and Church fail one another. And, we beseech our God to convert us anew to the bedrock reality that Jesus not only can, but Jesus does, break down the dividing walls of hostility.

Creating Beloved Community — CBF church starter blends Mennonite ethics, Catholic peacemaking and Quaker spirituality with Baptist roots

By Ashleigh Bugg

What happens when the efforts of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are combined with the peacemaking practices of the Catholic Workers Movement, a blues-playing Mennonite pastor and international partners from Mexico City?

A “beloved community” is formed, according to 28-year-old pastor and Truett Seminary graduate Cole Chandler. Chandler says partnering with people from various faith communities, races and nationalities helps create this “beloved community,” a term popularized by Martin Luther King, Jr., as the vision for a just and healthy society.

Beloved Community Mennonite Church (BCMC) is the brainchild of Mennonite pastor Vern Rempel. After finishing seminary in Waco, Texas, Cole Chandler and his wife, Kaylanne, moved back to her hometown of Denver, Colo., and attended Rempel’s first church. One day over coffee, Rempel told Chandler he was leaving their church to start a new one.

“He shared his vision for the church, and it matched mine — but maybe 30 years further down the road,” Chandler said. “His sense was that it was time to move on from success and career-building, to ‘living inside the container he had constructed,’ and to be in authentic community.”

Rempel invited Chandler to help lead the new church. They became co-pastors, creating a mix of elements of Mennonite ethics, courage and renewal methods, Catholic liturgical practices and CBF roots.

“We didn’t set out with a blueprint,” Chandler said. “We have dreams, but they’re not prescriptive. We want to see what emerges.”

Chandler is particularly excited about a church partnership with a couple from Mexico City and the building of a tiny house village for people experiencing homelessness in Denver.

Last February, BCMC welcomed a Mennonite couple from Mexico City who wanted to work with immigrants and refugees in the United States. BCMC hosted the couple who worked at a hospitality center across from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement buildings where detainees were held, helping families integrate into the community, connect with family and find apartments.

“One of the cool things about their being here is that they helped integrate marginalized peoples into the life of our congregation. At one point last year, we had five different households in our small congregation offering hospitality to displaced people without homes:’ Chandler said.

Chandler noted that although BCMC is small in size, because of its flexibility the church was able to work with the couple — something which might have been harder with a more established congregation.

Another church initiative arose out of a response to Denver’s controversial urban camping ban which critics say criminalizes homelessness. The ban makes it illegal to camp in public areas, something which Chandler says pushes homeless neighbors
to the fringes. “We also have hardly any affordable housing,” Chandler noted.

This year, Chandler joined an organization called the Alternative Solutions Advocacy Project (ASAP), a cross-section movement of business personnel, advocates, homeless people and faith leaders. ASAP has brainstormed alternatives to the camping ban which would welcome people into a safe space, especially needed during cold, winter months. According to Chandler, Denver officials initially were not interested. However, after a video of a police officer taking a blanket from a homeless person went viral, the mayor reached out to the group in order to find a solution. “Our plan was to create a safe space owned by a community,” Chandler said.

ASAP is in current negotiations to create Beloved Community Village, a community comprising tiny homes for formerly homeless residents. Chandler reiterates that BCMC’s adaptable leadership style allows them to work on projects like the tiny home village. “We have the opportunity to take risks,” Chandler said. “Our church is not even two years old, and we’re right in the middle of this village project.”

Although Beloved Community has “Mennonite” in its title, it has close ties to the Catholic Worker Community and is a CBF-partner church.

“What if we were a Mennonite church with Catholics which was also Baptist?” Chandler said. “It’s the ‘yes and …’ kind of idea. Why choose ‘either or’ when both fit?”

Although he no longer lives in a predominantly Baptist area, Chandler acknowledges that maintaining his roots is a priority. “I was raised and educated by Baptists,” Chandler said. “An idea that is really important to me is the idea of holding that tension — of not needing to cut ties or move separate ways just for the sake of it.”

Chandler talks about how Beloved Community has tried to uphold traditional practices while leaving room for innovation. This is manifested in several ways, including the addition of blues music, stemming from the African-American roots tradition.

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Catholic Charities Statement on Healtcare Legislation

Catholic Charities USA expresses deep disappointment in Senate vote that could potentially repeal and replace the ACA

Jul 26, 2017

Alexandria, Va. — Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) President and CEO Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, expressed disappointment in response to the Senate vote yesterday to move forward on a bill to potentially repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“CCUSA is deeply disappointed that the Senate has voted to move forward on a bill to potentially repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act without a clear plan to protect access to affordable health care coverage. Throughout the health care reform discussions, CCUSA has insisted that any reform must protect the millions who have access to health care coverage, or gained access to health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and must provide access to health care coverage to the millions still living without affordable health care. 

“As the chamber moves into the amendment process, we urge Senators to work together to reject dramatic cuts to Medicaid coverage and provide a health care bill that truly expands coverage, reduces costs and respects human life and dignity, especially for those who are most in need.”

Across the country Catholic Charities agencies provided health care-related services to more than 860,000 individuals. They see the consequences of untreated mental illness, they work to respond to the growing opioid epidemic and they support families who are struggling between the decision to pay their health care bills or rent. 

https://catholiccharitiesusa.org/press-releases/catholic-charities-usa-expresses-deep-disappointment-in-senate-vote-that-could-potentially-repeal-and-replace-the-aca

Presiding Bishop Eaton Message on Healthcare Legislation

July 26, 2017Throughout the debate on the effort to “repeal or repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, Lutherans have joined me in calling on their members of Congress to improve access to health care.

“We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have an enduring commitment to work for and support health care for all people as a shared endeavor. Our commitment comes in grateful response to God’s saving love in Jesus Christ that frees us to love and seek the well-being of our neighbor” (ELCA social statement “Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor,” 2003). 

The Senate is now debating health care reform. In the strongest possible terms, I urge senators to oppose any effort to cut funding to Medicaid that eliminates essential health care for seniors, veterans, children and low-income working families. 

I ask all Lutherans to pray for our leaders and to be advocates with me. Our collective voices make a difference, and we should raise them to call on our senators to stand with the most vulnerable members of our communities. It is time for Congress to work together to find solutions that ensure health care for all in our nation of God’s great abundance.

God’s peace,
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton 

Presiding Bishop

 

National Religious Campaign Against Torture Hiring

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) seeks a full-time Director of U.S. Prisons Program to coordinate national interfaith organizing and strategic state and federal advocacy for its interfaith members working to end the torture of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers. The position is based in NRCAT’s Washington, DC office.

Further details and the job announcement can be found at www.nrcat.org/jobs and https://www.idealist.org/en/nonprofit-job/1e5175c735474e16abd2ea6ea20e35a0-director-of-us-prisons-program-national-religious-campaign-against-torture-washington

RCA MOURNS THE LOSS OF TONY CAMPBELL

(Note: Tony was a friend and strong supporter of the work and vision of Christian Churches Together. CCT staff)

Date Posted: Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Reformed Church in America is mourning the loss of Tony Campbell, the denomination’s associate general secretary and director of mission engagement. Campbell passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday evening, July 18.

“Tony’s death is a painful loss for the RCA—as a pastor, as a friend, as a partner in the gospel, as a leader,” said former general secretary Tom De Vries, who worked closely with Campbell until De Vries’s departure last month. “His passing impacts our denomination on so many levels: personally, missionally, transformationally, and as we seek to live out God’s call for the RCA to live and love like Jesus. Tony was a continuous example of how a leader served and loved others, and how to tangibly live out one’s faith in our world today.

A member of the executive leadership team, Campbell joined the General Synod Council staff in 2013 as coordinator for African American/Black ministries. He soon took over leadership of the RCA’s mission priority area and in 2016 became the director of mission engagement. In this role he coordinated the work of the mission initiatives within Transformed & Transforming: Global Missional Engagement, Local Missional Engagement, Volunteer Engagement, Missional Mosaic, Church Multiplication, and Disability Concerns. He also served as coordinator for the RCA’s African American Black Council (AABC).

“Tony established a grander vision of mission for the RCA that did not stop with words, but demanded action,” said De Vries. “He pushed us to see mission that was tangible and love that was real.”

One of Campbell’s key contributions to the RCA was his effort to address the injustices of racism, De Vries said. Working with the AABC, Campbell continually pushed for unity and harmony within the denomination, working to build bridges that crossed the racial divide.

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Obituary for Antoine “Tony” L. Campbell

Antoine “Tony” Campbell, age 62 of Rockford, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday July 18, 2017. 

Tony was born on December 24, 1954 in Indianapolis, IN, the son of John and Earline Campbell. His life was led by faith and an unspoken code of “making a difference” every day. Tony was always carrying a Bible and whatever book he was reading at that time. He was a phenomenal public speaker and although most people felt he was fairly serious all the time, his family reveled in his humor. One of their favorite things was how Tony would sing at the top of his lungs and march in the shower every day all while laughing out loud at the same time. 

Tony was highly educated, both formally and as a life-long learner. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the United States Naval Academy, followed by five years in the Marine Corps as a Naval Officer. He earned a Master’s degree from Yale School of Divinity and was currently pursuing a Doctorate in Ministry from Western Theological Seminary. 

Tony is survived by his wife Molly (Piechocki) Campbell; his children Ben, Sarah, Paul (Tamar), Emma and Madison; his grandson, Micah John; his parents John and Earline Campbell, and in-laws Mike and Pat Piechocki; his siblings Renee (D’Juan) Miller-Cotton and Erik Campbell, brother-in-law Mike (Casey) Piechocki and Marne (Piechocki) Marshall; Nieces and Nephews: Glenn, John and Amy Miller; Jack (Heidi), Eden, Becca and Josh Piechocki; Noah and Gabbie Marshall; many treasured aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. 

A funeral service to celebrate Tony’s life will be held at 11:00am on Saturday, July 22, 2017 at Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church, 4865 11 Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341.

Visitation will be held on Friday, July 21, 2017 from 2-4PM and 6-8PM at the Pederson Funeral Home, 127 N Monroe Street in Rockford. There will also be visitation one hour prior to the service on Saturday at the church.

Private burial for the family will take place in Blythefield Memory Gardens.

For those who wish, memorial contributions may be sent to Mike Piechocki at 7783 Oakmont Ct NE, Rockford, MI 49341 who will be setting up a college fund for Emma and Madison. Envelopes will also be available at the funeral home. 

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

USCCB Chairman Expresses Ongoing Support for DACA

Calls on Administration and Congress to Ensure Permanent Protection for DACA Youth 

July 18, 2017

USCCB Office of Public Affairs

 

WASHINGTON— Over 750,000 youth have received protection from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) since its inception by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2012. While DACA provides no legal status, it does provide recipients with a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization for legal work opportunities in the United States.

 

In response to the recent petition to the U.S. Department of Justice to terminate DACA, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Chair of the Migration Committee and Bishop of Austin, Texas, expressed support for DACA once again, stating:

 

“The Catholic Bishops have long supported DACA youth and continue to do so. DACA youth are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected.

 

I urge the Administration to continue administering the DACA program and to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation.

 

However, DACA is not a permanent solution; for this reason, I also call on Congress to work in an expeditious and bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for DACA youth as soon as possible. My brother bishops and I pledge continuing efforts to help find a humane and permanent resolution that protects DACA youth. Additionally, I note the moral urgency for comprehensive immigration reform that is just and compassionate. The bishops will advocate for these reforms as we truly believe they will advance the common good.

 

Lastly, to DACA youth and their families, please know that the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you. We recognize your intrinsic value as children of God. We understand the anxiety and fear you face and we appreciate and applaud the daily contributions you make with your families, to local communities and parishes, and to our country. We support you on your journey to reach your God-given potential.”

We Need Advocacy for the Poor and more…

Ecumenical Advocacy Days Conference Event Planner-Director Position Search

Job Description

 

Mission Statement

“Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a movement of the ecumenical Christian community, and its recognized partners and allies, grounded in biblical witness and our shared traditions of justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Our goal, through worship, theological reflection and opportunities for learning and witness, is to strengthen our Christian voice and to mobilize for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues.”

 

Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice is seeking an event planner-conference director for our April 21 – 24, 2018 Advocacy Days event. The Event Planner-Director will build on the dynamic tradition established by fifteen successful previous annual meetings and be committed to facilitating an ongoing exploration of ways to make the 2018 event even more exciting and powerful, with an expanded impact on the domestic and international policies we address.  

 

The EAD Event Planner-Director is a contracted position from September 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. It calls for the execution of the essential deliverables listed below as the primary planner and coordinator of the April 2018 Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference. The contractual payment for this period is within the range of $55,000 – $70,000, depending on experience. Flexibility is required, as the January through April time period is intensive. As a contractor, the EAD Event Planner/Director provides her/his own workspace, determines which hours s/he works with the understanding that the essential deliverables must be performed, and supplies her/his own equipment, such as computer and cell phone. Health or other benefits are not offered.

 

Ecumenical Advocacy Days Event Planner-Director Contract Deliverables

 

Primary Purpose

Our vision is for EAD to be the nation’s largest and most diverse grassroots ecumenical community of witness moving U.S. public policy toward a more just, peaceful and ecologically sustainable world. The Event Planner-Director will provide general oversight and planning for the 2018 Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) conference and related activities to be held in the Washington, D.C. metro area, April 21 – 24, sponsored by more than 40 national religious and non-profit organizations. Held annually, the EAD conference brings 700-1000 people of faith from throughout the U.S. to the Washington, D.C. area for worship, education, and advocacy with policy makers.

 

EAD works with the Ecumenical Community including denominational offices, Church World Service, National Council of Churches and several Catholic and inter-denominational organizations active in the Washington Interfaith Staff Community. Establishing and maintaining relations with these groups is important to the success of EAD.

 

The Event Planner-Director will lead this collaborative effort by facilitating various volunteers, working groups and committees including: a Leadership Team that provides general oversight, made up of representatives of sponsoring organizations, a “Track” Leaders group that organize workshops, and other committees as needed. The Event Planner-Director is responsible for deliverables covering all aspects of the conference including, but not limited to:

 

Essential Event Planner-Director Deliverables

 

1. General oversight and planning

a. Call and facilitate planning meetings of Leadership Team, and Track workshop organizers.

b. Serve as an ex-officio member of the EAD Executive Committee

c. Maintain communication among all committees and sponsors

d. Maintain communication with EAD sponsors and potential sponsors and other income sources to receive financial contributions for the conference

e. Work with the Leadership Team of sponsoring organizations as each member takes on specific assignments toward planning the conference.

f. Work with the fiscal agency to maintain financial accounts (track ​income/expenses)

g. Report progress on registration and budget to Leadership team

h. Ensure efficient registration process

i. Ensure smooth and effective lobby day activities and meetings

j. Ensure preparation and distribution of meeting minutes

k. Work with the Leadership team to grow the conference with new sponsors and participants, especially from unrepresented and under-represented constituencies

l. Work with the audio-visual company on website, live feeds, App, etc., Contact this christian church website design company to help you with your digital needs

 

2. Hotel negotiation and planning

a. Manage negotiations and relationships with the hotel (conference site)

b. Coordinate food for conference

c. Maintain regular contact with hotel staff- monitor hotel room block

d. Make room assignments for conference sessions – plenary, track, and pre/post

e. Determine room set-ups and audiovisual needs

 

3. Conference program oversight

a. Convene and collaborate with Leadership Team to visualize and implement general program

b. Coordinate with Track Leaders to ensure strong track program on key issues

c. Work with Leadership Team on general plans and plenary speakers

d. Help facilitate immediate pre/post events planned by sponsors

e. Coordinate working groups for the event, e.g.:

i. Workshop “track” organizers

ii. Worship team

iii. Lobby Day working group, including development of the Lobby Day “policy ask”

iiii. Young Adult program and scholarship team

v. Hospitality committee

f. Manage production of materials for registration packets such as:

i. Program booklet

ii. Conference schedule

iii. Nametags

iiii. Congressional visit report forms

v. Conference evaluation form

vi. Coordinate packaging of the packets

 

4. Online registration and communication

a. Oversee management of website for promotional, educational and registration purposes

b. Oversee online and offline registration procedures

c. Oversee the update of the website and workshop track pages with information as available

d. Ensure and oversee the reception, recording and reporting of registration progress

e. Manage development, printing, and distribution of promotional brochure and other materials

f. Coordinate design and placement of advertisements in print and electronic publications ​(denominational and public)

 

5. Post-conference

a. Ensure reception of all remaining committed financial contributions and the payment of all outstanding bills

b. Provide a final post-conference financial report

c. Manage production of a registration report

d. Produce or oversee the report from conference evaluations and ensure its distribution

e. Ensure distribution of lobby visits reports to workshop tracks

f. Meet with hotel staff for evaluation

g. Maintain communication with EAD network to follow-up on issues highlighted by past conferences

 

Qualifications:

 

Education: Advanced degree in related field or related experience.

 

Experience:

Demonstrated organizational abilities of event management and planning. Proven experience in volunteer management that engages and motivates volunteers to carry out successful events, fund raising and program activities. Minimum three years of successful experience in working with ecumenical relations and faith-based organizations, and a working knowledge of the denominational church world and familiarity with Christian theology. Experience and skill in fundraising and financial oversight. Skills and experience in computer literacy, including word processing, spreadsheet, database, electronic, Internet, and social networking applications (facebook and twitter).

 

Must possess ability to think creatively and strategically; demonstrate initiative, be self-motivated and function independently; work within a team environment; be flexible; possess high energy; exhibit a positive “can-do” attitude; and attention to detail. Strong interpersonal and public verbal communications skills and demonstrated ability to write clearly and persuasively are required.

 

Accountability:

The Director of EAD will report to the Ecumenical Advocacy Days Executive Committee and to the Director of Advocacy of Church World Service, which serves as the fiscal agent for Ecumenical Advocacy Days. The Event Planner-Director shall provide a weekly summary of activities on the deliverables to the EAD Executive Committee.

 

Please submit resume and cover letter by July 21 to:

Martin Shupack

Church World Service

Email: mshupack@cwsglobal.org

110 Maryland Ave. NE

Washington, DC 20002