Parents across Portland are expressing concern regarding the arrival of “The Good News Club” – a fundamentalist Christian organization that works to recruit young children in city parks and public schools. The Constitution may afford this group the right to operate outside of regular school hours but parents have every right to be wary. The message being spread by ‘The Good News Club” is a far right understanding of the Christian faith outside the mainstream of even many traditional conservative evangelical churches. Faith as understood by their organizers is fear based and centered on sin. Children as young as five are told they are doomed to a life of eternal hell without accepting the theology of “The Good News Club.” They present this as a universal understanding of the Christian faith but that is not the case. Most Christians would reject this type of thinking and tactics out of hand. As a seminary educated clergy member in the United Church of Christ, I see the tactics used by “The Good News Club” as a form of coercion similar to a cult. Parents who send their children to clubs that operate on fear should be prepared to see their children suffer from mental health issues. God affirmed the goodness of Creation. Yes, sin is an important concept that Christians wrestle with. What we don’t do is wield fear of sin as a weapon to convert children who do not have the cognitive abilities to determine on their own what is right and wrong. Responsibile churches teach children about God's love, the need for all of us to be good community members, and the responibility we have to respect everyone regardless of their religion. Before the Portland Public Schools allow “The Good News Club” to use school facilities or to promote their activities on campus it would seem appropriate to allow mental health professionals to further investigate the activities of this group. Learn more at Protect Portland Children.
It is with great sadness that I note the death of Sister Mary Kay Lampert, my friend and long-time colleague. After several difficult bouts with cancer, Mary Kay passed away on July 1 and a funeral was held July 11. At the time of her death, we were out of town and I only learned the news today. Sister Mary Kay and I first worked together at Baloney Joe’s, a multi-service center for men experiencing homelessness, and later shared the job of coordinating the activities of Burnside Advocates Group (BAG). We last had the chance to visit in March. Mary Kay was a teacher for many years at Central Catholic High School, and also taught both at Marylhurst University and the University of Portland. She volunteered for years at Our House, a facility serving those with AIDS, and often invited people to join her for lunch at a gay bar across the street from the agency. Sister Mary Kay believed that women should be ordained – I was proud to invite her to preach on the mission of the church when I served Parkrose Community United Church of Christ – and was a strong supporter of unions. My sadness is tempered only by the knowledge that she is with God and that she lived a life fully present with God – working to build the Kingdom and advancing the needs of the least of these here on earth. I will miss my friend and partner of over twenty-five years deeply but know that she joins that great cloud of witnesses that loves us through space and time. Gifts in her honor can be made to the Sisters of the Holy Names Retirement Fund, P.O. Box 411, Marylhurst, OR 97036. Please pray for her family and friends, particularly Sister Rosemary Anne Parker.
This is what the city of Portland has come to: an attempt to erase Mark Kruger's Nazi past from history. Capt. Kruger must see this as a victory. But his worship of SS troops might be erased from a city file as part of some bizarre move after he harassed a female colleague - another incident he has not been held fully accountable for - but Portlanders will remember this police officer who dressed as a Nazi and built a shrine in honor of Hitler's most fearsome troops. We won't forget. And our trust of the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland City Council will be further diminished because of this day. The U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the Portland Police, which found a pattern of civil rights abuses by Portland officers, didn't go far enough. There is a cancer in our bureau and no effective civilian control of this entity whose employees can get away with literally anything.
I agree with Les AuCoin and others who have noted this week the number of progressives who declared in 2000 there was no difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Many of these people voted for third-party candidate Ralph Nader or didn't vote at all. The results of that election include not only the war in Iraq and the crash of the U.S. economy, but also the make up of the U.S. Supreme Court today. Elections do matter. All of us should make principled decisions in the ways we vote and conduct our public lives. Part of being principled is being smart and strategic. 2000 cost us a needless war and resulted in the Supreme Court rulings the majority of Americans oppose today. That election also resulted in a decade of inaction on climate change and a massive increase in inequality. It is a lesson worth remembering in 2016 and in the elections to follow.
And these are the folks who want to keep assault weapons on our streets. There is too much violence in our nation - too many of these mass shootings - and we can do something about that. Intertwined with the issue of how to prevent gun violence are issues of bigotry directed toward people of color, different faiths, and women (as some of the tweets I got about Secretary Clinton showed). This makes the work of faith communities even more important. Creating justice includes creating space for reconciliation. But for progress to be made we have to recognize how these issues are intertwined.
Sunday will be my last day as the minister of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church. It has been an honor to serve these two Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church as part of a covenantal relationship with the United Church of Christ.
Please join us Sunday at University Park (9:30am worship with early 8:30am coffee reception) and Sunnyside Church (11am worship with reception to follow). All are weclome!
Two years has not been enough time but they have been filled. I’ve been blessed to work with parishioners at both congregations that take the social Gospel teachings of Jesus seriously.
In that spirit, we have reached out to support those experiencing homelessness, joined anti-hunger efforts such as Bread for the World, raised funds for relief agencies like Church World Service, and worked for the equality of all God’s children.
We’ve expanded ministries through the use of social media – reaching people that never would have heard a progressive Christian message. Pastoral care has been provided. We’ve mourned the loss of some beloved members of our churches and watched children be born and grow.
Like many older congregations, we have been blessed with older buildings that can be both a community asset and a drain. Sometimes it has been difficult to focus on mission instead of building needs.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley kicks off Oregon's marriage equality campaign at Sunnyside Church
My ministry began with a lot of “issues” on the plates of both churches. We’ve thoughtfully and prayerfully worked through many of those issues only to uncover new ones. Faith is a journey, of course, and not a fixed destination. Still, working with new clergy - The Rev. Christopher Gudger-Raines at Sunnyside Church and The Rev. Julia Nielsen at University Park Church – answers to those new questions will help determine the future of both churches.
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek visits University Park Church on MLK Sunday
As for me, I’m off to Pacific University. There I will serve as the Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain. Pacific is historically related to the United Church of Christ. The community is religiously pluralistic – with many diverse faith traditions represented among the students, staff and faculty (and I respect that many at Pacific don't have a faith tradition but share a commitment to civic engagement) – and I look forward to both teaching and learning at one of the Northwest’s most important centers of higher learning.
During the summer, before assumng my duties at Pacific, I'll have time for vacation and to work on the last leg of my Doctor of Ministry degree at Chicago Theological Seminary. The summer will be busy. Pacific has kindly allowed me to open my office before the fall starts so that I have a place to work on my D.Min.
Members of Our Occupy The Bible Class
The people of University Park and Sunnyside will always remain in my prayers. I invite your prayers as my new ministry begins.
Rev. Chuck Currie
P.S. Visit Facebook to check out photos from the last two years but click on these photos for a sampling.
Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the views of the United Church of Christ’s national offices in Cleveland or any local UCC congregation. External links made from this site should not construe an endorsement. Rev. Currie has no more editorial control over such content than does a public library, bookstore, or newsstand. Such external links are made for informational purposes only.