Related Post: One Christian View Against Oregon’s Measure 43
One of the best developments this electoral season has been the growing bi-partisan consensus (not to mention ecumenical consensus) over the importance of sustaining our environment. Americans, fueled by Al Gore's superman-like crusade, have come to see the Bush Administration's environmental policies as shortsighted. Republicans are starting to turn green and that is good for the planet. Those who aren't on board won't be around after November.
Over the last three decades mainline churches (the historical Protestant churches) have been addressing the environmental crisis through various ways. These days even some prominent conservative evangelical leaders are joining the movement.
A coalition of Green Democrats and Green Republicans alongside mainline churches and evangelicals concerned about the care of creation could be a force that literally changes the world.
That scares the Republican Party aligned-Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). IRD spends a lot of time attacking mainline church leaders and "liberals" but now they have also turned their guns on conservative evangelical leaders who have broken from the White House over the state of the environment. IRD and their allies are so close to George W. Bush they routinely confuse his policies for the Gospel.
If pro-environmental candidates and ballot measures win across the U.S. this November the winners will be generations to come. The losers will be those finally unmasked who have tried to question the science behind global warming in an effort to pump up their struggling campaigns and fading electoral chances.
Reprinted from United Church News
Written by J. Bennett Guess
|Sunday, 29 October 2006|
|Nearly a year to the day after members of Cathedral of Hope in Dallas voted to request affiliation with the UCC, the denomination's North Texas Association of the South Central Conference voted to grant congregational standing at its fall meeting on Oct. 28. The affirmative vote was by an "overwhelming majority," one observer described it.|
With 4,300 members, Cathedral of Hope becomes the UCC's fourth largest congregation. The good news of the Association's vote was shared with Cathedral of Hope members on Oct. 29 during the congregation's annual meeting.
“This is an historic day in the life of the Cathedral of Hope,” said the Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor and rector. “We are blessed to be a full partner in ministry with the North Texas Association and the United Church of Christ. We celebrate that our values of compassion, inclusion, tolerance and hope in service to the world by following Jesus are consistent with those of the United Church of Christ. We are proud to be a part of such a diverse body of churches and people.”
The Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, said he welcomed the decision of the North Texas Association.
"We will be enriched by the vitality of Cathedral of Hope's ministry even as we hope that incorporation into our 50 year history will be a gift to them," Thomas said.
In accordance with the denomination's grassroots governance style, issues related to congregational standing and ministerial authority are dealt with at the Association level, meaning that Associations act on behalf of the UCC nationally when it makes decisions, such as receiving churches or ordaining ministers. Decisions by Associations cannot be overruled by the denomination's Conference or National settings.
The Cathedral of Hope touts itself as "the world's largest liberal Christian church with a primary outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." Its local and national ministries, outreach programs, pastoral counseling, and web-based and TV media touch thousands each day.
The Cathedral of Hope began exploring UCC affiliation many years ago when, in 1997, a congregational vote authorized consideration of the move. Over the years, various lay leaders gathered information on the UCC and completed preliminary evaluations.
In 2003, consideration of the UCC was again discussed by the congregation when the church voted to disaffiliate from the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. In January 2005, the church’s board of directors instructed its affiliation and expansion committee to resume exploration of affiliation in earnest. A congregational vote to request UCC affiliation was overwhelmingly approved on Oct. 30, 2005.
Earlier this year, Cathedral of Hope's leadership voted to participate in the UCC's Stillspeaking Initiative and church leaders received training related to the denomination-wide media and hospitality campaign.
In joining the UCC, Cathedral of Hope becomes another in a series of sizeable southern churches to join the UCC in recent years. Four years ago, the 5,500-member Victory Church in Stone Mountain, Ga., became the UCC's second largest church when it was received into the UCC's Southeast Conference.
On Sept. 30, the Missouri/Mid-South Conference received the 300-member Holy Trinity Church in Memphis. And, earlier this year, the 300-member Garden of Grace Church in Columbia, S.C., the 250-member Holy Trinity Church in Nashville, Tenn., and a new African-American church start, Unity Worship Center, in Montgomery, Ala., also became part of the Southeast Conference.
All people shall give as they are able, according to the blessings which God has given them.1
Today at Parkrose Community United Church of Christ we celebrated the Blessing of the Animals. This ritual has become common in many churches across the United States. Part of our offering this morning included gifts to the Oregon Humane Society. In honor of the gift of God’s creation - – every beast, every bird of the air, everything that creeps (Gen. 1:30) – I invite to you to contribute today to your state humane society or to the Humane Society of the United States. Hugo and Hazel, our two dogs, are the ones pictured here. If you ever visit me at Parkrose don’t be surprised to have them at the door to greet you.
1. United Church of Christ Book of Worship
This evening over 500 people gathered at Portland's First Congregational United Church of Christ to mourn the death of James Chasse, Jr. My written remarks and a podcast of those remarks are below. There were numerous media outlets and local bloggers in attendance. Tomorrow, I'll link to some of the other coverage. But let me say that all the speakers brought James to life for those who were there. His family and friends did James a great honor with their comments.
Update: Coverage from The Oregonian
If your heart is broken and anger stirs your soul you are not alone. We gather tonight as a community in grief but committed to peace. And we demand both as Portlanders and as the people of God the justice that James Chasse, Jr. deserved in life and still requires in death. We should not be in this place tonight. But here we are.
Our responsibilities to the Chasse family and to all those in our city are clear: we must be Christ-like in our compassion. It really is not fair to ask for compassion when that would seem to be the last thing that James received the night he died. Yet broken hearts need healing… and compassion – and compassion’s twin which is love – has the power to mend that which is broken.
We hear throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament God calling us to be a people of justice. Our God is the one that freed the slaves from the Pharaoh and the God that declared that the least of these – the widow, the orphan, the poor and the sick – should come first. Where was God the night that James died? God was with James and as our hearts break, God’s breaks, and as we cry, God cries along side us.
There are no easy answers. Reform, yes! Justice, yes! Compassion and love, yes!
Is it possible that we can even in the midst of such deep and profound grief ask of ourselves hope? Hope for a world where every human is treated with dignity and respect? Hope for new treatments for those who suffer from mental illness? Hope that as a city we turn this great tragedy around and use it as a moment to accomplish great things in loving memory of James?
“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” reads the Psalm (Psalm 30:5 NRSV).
Let tears flow freely tonight. But tomorrow and the next day and the next day:
….let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24 NRSV)
Use the below link to download the podcast of these remarks for your iPod or personal computer.
(click with the RIGHT mouse button on the hyperlink and choose “Save Target As” and save to your desktop or other folder – once downloaded click on the file to listen).
Tonight (Friday evening) there will be a candle light memorial service for James Chasse, Jr., who died while in the custody of the Portland Police Bureau, starting at 7 pm at First Congregational United Church of Christ (1126 SW Park Avenue).
Here is the current line-up of scheduled speakers:
Welcome (and hosting throughout) from First Congregational:
Rev. Dr. Patricia Ross and Rev. Paul Davis
Jim and Pamela Chasse
Rev. Canon Catherine Nichols, Trinity Episcopal Church
"Amazing Grace" led by Rev. Paul Davis, First Congregational
Mike Lastra, friend
Katey Kincaid, friend
"Nothing to Fear", recorded song
X J Eliot, friend
Steve Douton, friend
Eva Lake, on behalf of Randy Moe
Rev. Chuck Currie, Parkrose Community United Church of Christ
Avel Gordly, Oregon State Senator, District 23
Debbie Coppinger, Executive Director, Operation Nightwatch
Martin Gonzalez, Justice for Jose Mejia Poot Committee
Jason Renaud, Mental Health Association of Portland
Beckie Child, Mental Health Association of Oregon
Dr T Allen Bethel, Maranatha Church of God
End: Music from Grant Edwards, Organist, First Congregational
My ballot went out in the mail today and Ted Kulongoski earned my vote for governor. There was no choice. He shares my fundamental values on public education, health care and the environment. We need leaders in Oregon who care deeply about these issues and Governor Kulongoski’s opponent this November has demonstrated none of the leadership one would hope for. The governor has produced specific proposals on children’s issues that are particularly important. I’m hoping that the campaign has strengthened Governor Kulongoski’s leadership skills so that a second term will produce the impressive results Oregon needs to sustain our unique spirit.
Note: Any endorsements that I make for candidates running for public office are personal and do not reflect the position of the United Church of Christ or any other body. Churches are rightfully prohibited by federal law from from engaging in partisan political activity. However, ministers (like all citizens) have the right under the Constitution to express preferences for public office.
Embryonic stem cell research is consistent with Christian ethics but that hasn't stopped the Bush White House and their allies in the Religious Right from doing everything in their power to curtail the science.
Why the fierce fire directed at Fox?
John Nichols wrote a good reflection in The Nation about the controversy and links it back to something Paul Wellstone told him just before the U.S. senator from Minnesota was killed in a plane crash:
Wellstone couldn't stop talking about the actor's (Fox's) autobiography, especially the sections where Fox wrote about his struggle with Parkinson's disease. The senator from Minnesota, whose parents had suffered from that ailment and who had himself been recently diagnosed with a mild form of multiple sclerosis, related to what he was reading. He went on at some length about how important it was for prominent people to be open about their chronic conditions. He felt it helped promote understanding and empathy, which in Wellstone's view was often the first step toward political engagement. And, as the senate's most passionate advocate for medical research and a national health care system, he felt that engaging the great mass of Americans in a discussion about the importance of federal and state funding of groundbreaking -- and sometimes controversial -- studies was essential.
After President Bush's 2001 decision to sharply limit federal funding of medical research that uses embryonic stem cell lines, Wellstone said, "The sharp limitation of federal support may well close the door on some of the life-saving promise of embryonic stem cell research, which can be conducted consistent with basic ethical and legal principles that respect the value of human life. I do not believe that President Bush's decision will be the final word on this important federal policy. In light of this disappointing announcement, Congress, and the American people, will now surely be heard...."
As he was on so many issues, Paul Wellstone turned out to be prescient.
On this, the fourth anniversary of his death in a Minnesota plane crash, stem-cell research is finally emerging as the sort of political issue that Wellstone thought it should be....
This week, Fox began appearing in televised campaign commercials for Democratic supporters of embryonic stem-cell research -- including Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Ben Cardin, Illinois U.S. House candidate Tammy Duckworth and Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle -- who are locked in tight races with Republicans who want to limit support for scientific inquiry.
Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing commentators who once trashed Wellstone are now attacking Fox. Limbaugh has gone so far as to claim that the actor "is exaggerating the effects of the disease," while claiming that the commercials are "purely an act." Why the attacks? It comes back to that point Wellstone made: When a prominent figure who suffers from a life-threatening condition joins the debate over funding scientific research, it can shift the political pendulum. If Michael J. Fox succeeds in framing the stem-cell research fight as the life-and-death issue that it is, then, perhaps, "the American people will now surely be heard." And Paul Wellstone will again be proven right.
Don't forget to vote.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is running a purely racist ad against Harold Ford in Tennessee. Ford, an African-American congressman, is campaigning for the United States Senate. With their hold on power slipping the RNC, headed by George Bush’s appointee Ken Mehlman, is using all their old tricks to hold on to the South. Kanye West was right when he said in the wake of George Bush’s disastrous and deadly slow response to the suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina that the president doesn't care about black people. His party’s racist attacks on Ford prove the point.
Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council- two prominent Religious Right organizations with close ties to the Republican Party - released their Congressional scorecard today (just in time for the elections) ranking House and Senate members for their votes on "pro-family" legislation.
Can you guess how the rankings went?
"They" declared 123 House members --120 Republicans and three Democrats -- to be "True Blue Representatives" who voted in favor of pro-family legislation every time.
In contrast, 142 House members --140 Democrats and two Republicans -- did not support a single piece of pro-family legislation.
Maybe the Religious Right ought to redefine "pro-family legislation" to include economic policies. You see, I'm betting most of those "True Blue" congressional representatives voted for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class... tax cuts so large that to pay for them the government had to cut health care programs for kids, educational opportunities for teenagers, and other essential services.
And I'm betting those same "True Blue" representatives have blindly supported the President's war in Iraq - a war that has increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks against the United States.
Real pro-family leaders are those that work to create a safe and nurturing world for kids of all ages. Our responsibility for children does not end - as the Religious Right would have you believe - at birth.
Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council doesn't care about kids. Neither group works along side children's groups (like the Children's Defense Fund) that attempt to build up schools, advance health care opportunities, or to reduce childhood poverty.
All Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council care about is winning the 2006 elections on behalf of Republican candidates. And they have proven that they'll misrepresent the truth to do that. I give them an "F" for misusing the Christian faith as just another tool on behalf of their partisan political campaigns.
“We believe this ad is dishonest and insulting to other Christian churches," said the president of the Republican Party aligned Institute on Religion and Democracy.
"It is a piece of masterful propaganda, but it is a diabolical misrepresentation of Christianity," said Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Mohler ought to pay more attention to his own denomination. One of their churches actually kicked out John Kerry voters in 2004, a Michigan church was kicked out of the denomination this summer for accepting gay and lesbian members, and this month a church in Alabama was kicked out of the denomination’s Mobile Baptist Association for calling a woman pastor.
A real misrepresentation of the Christian faith is one that tries to deny people a place in the church based on their gender, their politics or their orientation.
A candle light memorial service for James Chasse, Jr., who died while in the custody of the Portland Police Bureau, will be held this Friday, October 27th, at 7 pm at First Congregational United Church of Christ (1126 SW Park Avenue).
A Portlander, Mr. Chasse suffered from schizophrenia. On September 17th, he was arrested during what began as a traffic incident. Mr. Chasse suffered 26 broken bones and other injuries while in custody. The officers involved - in conflicting accounts - said they were trying to restrain him when the injuries that took his life occurred. A grand jury declined this past week to bring charges against the officers but an internal police investigation is on-going.
Mayor Tom Potter has apologized to Mr. Chasse's family and has said that this tragedy must be used as an opportunity to increase services to people in Portland suffering from mental illness.
There is terrific grief in Portland over this death and justifiable anger. No one should have to die this way and our legal system does not appear to be providing the kind of accountability required in a situation such as this.
Mr. Chasse's death raises questions about how police in every city interact with people suffering from mental illnesses and reminds us how people with mental illnesses are often abandoned by our society and government.
I have agreed to participate in the memorial service. The Chasse family has asked that this be a public event and so I invite you to join me there. It will be an important moment for the people of Portland to share their solidarity and grief with the Chasse family as the entire city mourns the loss of a son.
The service is being coordinated by members of the Chasse family, First Congregational Church United Church of Christ, the Mental Health Association of Portland, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Parkrose Community United Church of Christ, Oregon Advocacy Center, Portland Copwatch (a grassroots group promoting police accountability through citizen action), and others.
Today at Parkrose Community United Church of Christ we noted Children’s Sabbath by giving Bibles to our middle school kids and by reflecting on the needs of children both in our community and in the world. During part of the service some of our members shared family Bibles and their first Bibles with the children. This picture is from a copy of the New Testament given to me as a child. One family brought a Bible that was published in the early 1700s. A visitor to the congregation – a man who identified himself as homeless –showed the kids a Bible that he keeps wrapped in plastic so that it stays dry. He said he carries it because it is the word of the Lord and he knows through it that he is loved. The Bible is radical. The Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament offer a vision of what the world could be – a world free from war and poverty, a world filled with compassion and justice. What a great joy it was to share that vision with our kids this morning.
Reprinted from the World Council of Churches
by Alexander Belopopsky
Amidst the quiet vineyards overlooking Lake Geneva is a place that can seem an unlikely setting for the preparation of future church leaders. And yet the WCC's Ecumenical Institute at Bossey has been a unique international centre for Christian dialogue and learning for six decades, since its creation in 1946.
The latest group of almost forty young leaders from almost as many countries arrived in Switzerland this week for a five-month intensive graduate school. All have a first university degree, and are enthusiastically discovering the study facilities at the Ecumenical Institute, along with the opportunity to share with others their own diverse assumptions and traditions.
Founded in 1946 as a place of healing in war-torn Europe through the efforts of the WCC's founding general secretary, Dr Wilhelm Visser 't Hooft, the first courses brought together concentration camp survivors, those who had served in armies, and members of resistance movements. Together with this central focus on rebuilding dialogue and nurturing reconciliation, Bossey soon developed into a recognized academic institution with ties to the University of Geneva, attracting students from around the world.
One of the newest students, Fritz-Gerald Romulus, a Baptist pastor from Haiti, recognizes that Bossey offers a unique environment for study that will practically prepare him for church work back home, where, he admits, mistrust of ecumenism can run deep in the churches.
Rev. Tegwende Kinda, a minister of the Reformed church in Burkina Faso, emphasizes that dialogue is not a luxury, but can be an existential issue. "This opportunity can help me develop my theological culture and strengthen my understanding of dialogue, much-needed in my majority-Muslim context where misunderstandings among churches and religions can develop too easily."
The Institute has been described as an "ecumenical laboratory" because of its ability to bring together Christians from diverse origins to explore and debate some of the most complex and controversial issues challenging the churches.
Former WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, who is a visiting professor this year, sees the Institute as a privileged space for encounter in spite of divisions, whether in church or society.
"The freedom of Bossey means that people can approach some of the most painful issues facing churches and communities in creative and open ways - something that is very much needed at this time," Raiser says.
Along with the graduate school and post-graduate programmes, Bossey hosts a range of seminars on topics as diverse as religion and violence, Orthodox-Evangelical dialogue, economic injustice and feminist theology.
Among the long list of Bossey alumni are university professors, ecumenical officers, bishops, pastors and priests, as well as political and civil society leaders from all continents. The list even includes an ecumenical patriarch. Over 25,000 people from virtually all churches, confessions and cultures have participated in Bossey courses over the past sixty years.
At Bossey, students learn "24 hours a day," says the Institute's director, Fr. Ioan Sauca, an Orthodox theologian from Romania, himself a graduate of the school. "But the most important and most life-transforming part of the ecumenical formation is in the spiritual life," he underlines.
Besides the formal academic teaching, Bossey students take part in, prepare and lead a common daily prayer life, which places spirituality at the very heart of the community life, Sauca says. "The diverse group of students comes together despite deep-held differences to form an authentic worshipping community, testifying to how Christians can be one body with many members." The theme for this year's graduate school is "Ecumenical Spirituality."
Anna Eltringham, an Anglican student, agrees that the experience can be life-changing. "For me, Bossey is a place where pre-conceptions can fall away and a new understanding of what it means to truly be the Body of Christ in the world can grow. This is felt most dearly through the spiritual life of the Institute, where a depth of authenticity and delight in discovering inter-cultural and inter-denominational ways of prayer are enjoyed."
At sixty years of age, Bossey still looks young, and there is no shortage of ideas for new initiatives. One vision for the future is to enhance the spiritual life of the Institute by reinforcing ties with Christian communities in other places. Linking theology with practical care for the creation is another potential direction, with, for example, the introduction of organic farming techniques to future students, many of whom will return to work in developing countries.
Other current plans include an inter-religious summer school, bringing together young people from the major world faiths, nurturing dialogue and understanding beyond the traditional Christian context. In 2005, an ecumenical research centre was established at the Institute with a particular focus on nurturing just, harmonious and sustainable relations among cultures and religions.
After six decades, Sauca sees the work of the Ecumenical Institute as just starting. "The tremendous social fractures which we are witnessing worldwide, and the accelerated transformations in the Christian world, mean that such a uniquely diverse centre of encounter and learning has rarely before been so necessary. The churches, and the world, still need a Bossey."
(*) Alexander Belopopsky is coordinator of the WCC Public Information Team.
"If people of faith — the so-called values voters — don't come out and let their voices be heard, there are going to be some major implications for this country," he says in the two-part broadcast that began today, much of it recorded at a rally earlier this week in Nashville, Tenn. "There are these statements from the media that values voters don't care this year and that they're going to stay home."
"I'm concerned about my country. I have been concerned in the past, but I don't know that it's been any greater than it is right now," he said. "I have never, ever seen such hatred in my life. I am being bludgeoned in the media. Why? Why now? Well, it's not really personal to me. But they identify me as one of the people who turned out the values voters last time – and they are determined to never, ever let it happen again.
"For two years they have just been livid over what happened in 2004. I'm getting the brunt of it – but you know what, I don't really care about that. And I'm going to cast my vote anyway. Are you?"
Yes, Dr. Dobson, I am. I’m voting against the war, for the environment, against policies that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the least of these, and for the right of women to make their own health care decisions. In short, I’m voting for values this November.
Listening to Christian radio is, I always say, a little like watching a car wreck. You know you should tune it out but for some reason you keep listening. Why? Maybe just to hear how bad it can get.
KPDQ is a Christian radio station here in Portland. By Christian, of course, they mean right-wing Republican. Yesterday I heard one of their hosts railing against “liberal” candidates for Congress and begging listeners to get out and vote for “conservatives.”
And while flipping through the dial this afternoon trying to find some music the twins could listen to I ran smack into another KPDQ host complaining about the ACLU and other liberals. Liberals, according to show, undermine basic American values.
Portland’s Standard TV and Appliance was the commercial sponsor when I listened both yesterday and today and the company’s logo is proudly displayed on KPDQ’s website.
I called Standard TV and Appliance to ask if their company really supported voices on the air that believe progressives are out to destroy America. That's the feeling I got after listening to KPDQ. They directed me to their marketing director who hasn’t yet called back.
So I did a little research and found that William Gander, the company’s president, and his family have given huge sums of money over recent years to Republican candidates and the Republican Party.
Gander is quoted on KPDQ’s website as saying: "KPDQ listeners have proven to be the most loyal customers. Our documented return on investment with KPDQ exceeds any other radio station!"
KPDQ itself is operated by the for-profit Salem Communications Broadcasting. They own 60 radio stations across the nation. Edward G. Atsinger III, the President and CEO of Salem Communications, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican causes, their editorial board includes a number of conservative political activists and Religious Right spokespeople, and they run a political action committee that gives 100% of their money to Republican candidates.
When you listen to KPDQ you get a big dose of propaganda from Republican activists but it would be a shame if anyone listening to their programs confused what they air with the Christian message. If you listened to KPDQ long enough you’d think that God was pro-war and supports abandoning the poorest and weakest among us to the wind.
Companies like Standard TV and Appliance and Salem Communications Broadcasting are exploiting the faith to advance their own political agenda and to make a buck or two in the process. In American they are free to do that. But we don’t have to buy their message… or their products.
From time to time Americans are dragged kicking and screaming to the polls where we are asked to consider which candidates for public office we most trust with the future of our nation and which issues we consider most important. No matter our background we bring with us certain experiences that help to shape the decisions we make. For millions of Americans it is our experience as Christians that help define how and why we vote for certain candidates. Author Jim Wallis tells us that God is not a Republican… or a Democrat. But we also know that God is involved in the life of creation. Jews and Christians remember through Scripture how God set in motion the events which led to the liberation from slavery in Egypt and Christians remember the price of death God’s own son was dealt by the Romans for preaching the justice of God’s Kingdom. God cared then and God cares now. Our obligation in this time is to discern for ourselves what causes and issues God wants addressed. There is a political dimension to God and we will have to find a way to express that in the 2006 mid-term elections.
The Religious Right has painted God into a corner. I recently said in an interview that if you bring up the term “Christian” many Americans will associate the word with people such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. The Religious Right has been able to convince the media and many in the general public that their positions on social issues are the only legitimate Christian views to hold. However, Christianity has always been a diverse religion and for much of history the Christian voice has been one prophetically calling for social justice on behalf of those Jesus called “the least of these.” Christians across the globe, for example, opposed the US invasion of Iraq and Christians in many nations have been at the forefront of movements for economic justice, opposition to the death penalty, and for environmental protection. Christianity is not liberal or conservative. Those are modern political terms. Sadly, some have tried to co-opt Christianity to advance their partisan political agendas.
Those who narrow God’s message down to one issue – say gay marriage - miss the essence of our faith message. God calls on us to be a people of reconciliation and justice. Can Americans today claim to be following God’s will? We have a president in office that seems to believe that he was divinely installed in the White House and yet he peruses economic policies that have resulted in higher rates of both poverty and hunger in the United States. Rather than challenge current administrations policies that seem in area after area to be in conflict with Biblical teachings the Religious Right works to warp Jesus into a Republican spokesperson. Christians ought to be challenging both political parties on moral issues and not claiming that one or the other is godlier. No political part has ever advanced a Kingdom-centered platform.
Our nation (and the world for that matter) is racked by debates over the appropriate role of religion in public life. There are those who would argue that the United States is and always has been a Christian nation and that our government should be run on Christian principles. Some in the Religious Right would replace America's historical respect for religious pluralism and democracy with a theocracy. Are the teachings of Jesus a guide in this debate? Jesus “directly and repeatedly challenged the dominant sociopolitical paradigm of his social world and advocated instead what might be called a politics of compassion. This conflict and this social vision continue to have striking implications for the life of the church today,” wrote Marcus Borg in his 1994 bestseller Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Christians today should emulate the Jesus-model of non-violently speaking out against the dominate culture in a way that serves the cause of lifting people up and building community. We should always reject theocracy and embrace the democratic values that have allowed our admittedly imperfect society to thrive. In a pluralistic society “churches should not seek to use the authority of government to make the whole community conform to their particular moral codes. Rather, churches should seek to enlarge and clarify the ethical grounds of public discourse and to identify and define the foreseeable consequences of available choices of public policy,” read the United Methodist Social Principles.
My hope is that Christians can constructively engage in the political debates of the 2006 mid-term elections. Not all Christians think alike, of course, and not all will discern God’s will in the same terms. Are there, however, issues that the majority of Christians can (perhaps should) agree on as we consider our votes?
“Our Christian faith compels us to address the world through the lens of our relationship to God and to one another,” said the National Council of Churches (NCC) USA when that ecumenical body representing over 45 million American Christians issued a statement on Christian principles during the 2004 elections.
This blog entry – How Would Jesus Vote 2006 – is meant to help jump start conversations among Christians about what it means to be faithful to God in the voting booth. It is not my intention to tell readers exactly how Jesus would vote on any one issue but rather to raise some of the most controversial issues facing voters from one Christian perspective. Not all Christians will agree with the conclusions that I make about God’s will for us (though many certainly will) but I hope at least that all of us that claim the title Christian will see this election as an opportunity to focus on reconciling ourselves to one another and to the world.
So what are the issues Christians should be most concerned with?
During the last election cycle The Rev. James Forbes and Riverside Church of New York City issued a set of Prophetic Justice Principles. These principles, similar to the ones issued by the National Council of Churches USA, help define some of the most critical issues we face and are worth considering this year:
We, the members of faith communities in the United States, inspired by the Hebrew prophets, lift up the following questions to test public policy against the principles of righteousness and justice in our society. We ask the citizens and leaders of America to bear the following issues in mind as they seek to restore the spiritual, moral, and democratic values upon which our nation was built.
1) Does the policy represent the common good of society rather than the interest of an elite few?
2) Is the policy based on a true analysis and does it disclose its true intention? How likely is the outcome to achieve its proposed purpose?
3) Does the policy hold the prospect of reducing the polarization and fragmentation of the society due to race, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin?
4) Does the policy have the capacity to be good news for the poor? Does it reverse the trend toward widening the gap between rich and poor?
5) Is the policy good for children, the elderly, and the disadvantaged? Does it show sensitivity to the spirit of the golden rule?
6) Does the policy refrain from the arrogant assumption that the powerful have the right to ignore the interests and subsistence needs of the less advantaged segment of the society?
7) Does the policy provide for free press, free discussion, and the expression of dissent, along with fair and just methods of participation in the democratic process?
8) Does the policy encourage respect for persons and nations other than our own? Does it respect the right of self-determination of other nation-states?
9) Is the policy based on a commitment to a global vision of cooperation and mutuality of respect rather than relying on unilateral military actions for empire-building and domination strategies? Does it use diplomacy as a valued instrument of statecraft in resolving international conflicts?
10) Is the policy supportive of strong measures to insure ecological responsibility and sustainability?
If you want to know how Jesus would vote start with these questions.
Keep watching these new blogs written by students at Chicago Theological Seminary. Lots of good stuff to read on theology and the social issues of the day. When you read these sites make sure you leave some comments
Oregon voters will face a ballot measure this November worth serious consideration.
Measure 42 would stop insurance companies from using credit scores to determine insurance rates. The practice makes, for example, car insurance unaffordable for many low-income drivers. Insurance companies claim that people with low credit scores make more claims or are prone to more accidents. Consumer Reports and others have challenged that assumption.
When they endorsed Measure 42 Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon said:
The EMO Board believes the use of credit scores in insurance policies does disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color regardless if its use is not intentionally discriminatory. Access to affordable insurance policies is important to individual and family livelihood. Higher premium rates or lack of coverage leave vulnerable populations at greater risk than necessary. The role of insurance is to help spread risk so that the greatest number of people can enjoy certain benefits like homeownership and automobile transportation. Banning the use of credit scores would not be a hardship for insurance companies nor would it prevent them from accurately assessing risk using other factors.
The only bad part of this measure is the force behind it. Bill Sizemore is the chief sponsor. Oregonians know Sizemore as an anti-tax activist whose campaign tactics have led to criminal charges and fines. Some people might be tempted to vote against Measure 42 simply because of Sizemore’s involvement (and that is the campaign message the insurance companies are betting on). But even really unethical people can every once and awhile come up with a good idea.
Hold your nose and vote Yes on 42.
My sermon this morning focused on the upcoming elections. Our scripture readings were from Am 5:6-7, 10-15 and Mark 10:17-31. There is no podcast of the sermon for this Sunday but my sermon notes are below.
Part of what the Bible provides is a philosophy of how to led both our private and our public lives. If we are compassionate to the individuals we encounter and concerned with justice above all else in community affairs then it is said we are building up God’s Kingdom.
It is always easier for a minister to talk about personal responsibility than it is to talk about what we need to do to improve society. But we cannot as Christians afford to forget about the larger world because Jesus didn’t and part of our obligation as the faithful is to follow Jesus even into difficult places.
Every two years we face a terrible truth: to make it to Christmas we have to get through the fall elections. Ballots here in Oregon will be mailed out soon.
The political process ought to be one that has as a central goal the reconciliation of the American people. But political professionals have found that the easiest way to get votes is to divide people. This can be a disheartening time of year. There are too many times that with great certainty religious leaders announce what God’s position is on an issue or how they believe God would for a candidate. Our faith ought to be free of such political distinctions. God is not a Republican or a Democrat, as Jim Wallis likes to say, and Christianity is not liberal or conservative. Those are modern political terms. Sadly, some have tried to co-opt Christianity to advance their partisan political agendas. All Christians need to guard against that.
Scripture provides us some guidance, however, as we make decisions about how to cast our votes. And if we use Scripture combined with reason, tradition and experience – in the Wesleyan model of doing theology – we can come to some safe bets about where we should and shouldn’t direct our support.
Christians in the United States are some of the most divided people you’ll ever run across. Hot button social issues rip us apart and it may be simply impossible for us to find common ground on some controversial issues.
But are there issues that a large majority of Christians can agree with as we prepare to vote?
Two years ago leaders from the National Council of Churches USA – a body of mainline and orthodox Christians – sat down together and wondered where Christians of all stripes might find such common ground during the elections. They agreed on a set of principles and have asked that all our churches consider them again as we prepare to vote this November. And so, I share these principles with you now for your consideration.
1. War is contrary to the will of God. While the use of violent force may, at times, be a necessity of last resort, Christ pronounces his blessing on the peacemakers. We look for political leaders who will make peace with justice a top priority and who will actively seek nonviolent solutions to conflict.
2. God calls us to live in communities shaped by peace and cooperation. We reject policies that abandon large segments of our inner city and rural populations to hopelessness. We look for political leaders who will re-build our communities and bring an end to the cycles of violence and killing.
3. God created us for each other, and thus our security depends on the well being of our global neighbors. We look for political leaders for whom a foreign policy based on cooperation and global justice is an urgent concern.
4. God calls us to be advocates for those who are most vulnerable in our society. We look for political leaders who yearn for economic justice and who will seek to reduce the growing disparity between rich and poor.
5. Each human being is created in the image of God and is of infinite worth. We look for political leaders who actively promote racial justice and equal opportunity for everyone.
6. The earth belongs to God and is intrinsically good. We look for political leaders who recognize the earth's goodness, champion environmental justice, and uphold our responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation.
7. Christians have a biblical mandate to welcome strangers. We look for political leaders who will pursue fair immigration policies and speak out against xenophobia.
8. Those who follow Christ are called to heal the sick. We look for political leaders who will support adequate, affordable and accessible health care for all.
9. Because of the transforming power of God’s grace, all humans are called to be in right relationship with each other. We look for political leaders who seek a restorative, not retributive, approach to the criminal justice system and the individuals within it.
10. Providing enriched learning environments for all of God’s children is a moral imperative. We look for political leaders who advocate for equal educational opportunity and abundant funding for children’s services.
What do you think? Do these ten items speak to you?
It is very possible that today in other churches ministers are standing up and telling their parishioners that God wants them to vote one way or another on the different ballot measures and maybe even on the races for public office.
Truthfully, there are plenty of times that I myself look at different ballot measures and think that God must surely be opposed (or in favor) of this or that and as an individual – not as a church representative – I sometimes lend my name to different causes. But here is how I approach these issues:
I tell people that after prayerfully considering and studying the different measures and candidates that I have made my decisions on how to vote based on my understanding of where God is calling our society. What I do not do is insist that only my understanding of these issues is the true Christian understanding. We ought to take seriously the Prophet Micah’s call for us to walk humbly with our God.
And during any conversation about church and politics we should acknowledge there is another position that argues that churches should never be involved in political (or social) issues of any kind and should only be places of worship. The desire to remove ourselves from the political fights of the day is understandable but Jesus preached that our call is to build up the Kingdom in the here and now – not simply to wait for someone else to do it – and so we have to be involved no matter the risk to us.
Discipleship is risky business.
As you know, several of us from this congregation attended the fall gathering of the Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ this weekend in The Dalles. One of the speakers was Carlos Madrazos, a missionary attached to Global Mission – the joint UCC-Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) mission agency that we here at Parkrose help to fund. Carlos has just finished working for four years in Indonesia working to develop higher education programs. I was asked to drive him to The Dalles and in the car ride over he told me that in the 1970s he and his wife were forced to flee their homeland in the Philippines because the dictator there considering the liberating message of Christian to be subversive. But instead of simply accepting exile Carlos has accepted positions as a missionary that are equally as dangerous because he knows God calls him to this work.
To be uninvolved during these times would be turning our backs on God. There is simply too much war, too many children dying of hunger in a rich world, too much global pollution, and too much suffering for us to stay silent and risk nothing.
When your ballot comes open it, think about the principles we’ve talked about this morning, and vote.
If nothing else is true this is:
The world right now needs people committed to God’s justice to be engaged.
Let us together answer God’s call.
Catch me this Sunday on Air America's State of Belief
From their press release:
(Washington, D.C.) – On this Sunday’s "State of Belief," The Interfaith Alliance Foundation’s show on Air America Radio, the IRS pays a visit to Reverend Welton Gaddy – no, not for an audit. A tax expert joins Welton to explain IRS regulations on political activity in houses of worship. Later in the show, Welton talks to former Congressman, the Reverend Bob Edgar about the moral landscape of America. And Welton continues to explore the religious blogosphere with Reverend Chuck Currie.
With Election Day right around the corner, political candidates on both sides of the aisle are reaching out to people of faith. But, as IRS expert Judy Kindell warns, religious leaders must be cautious that they do not cross the line into partisan activity. “Political candidates are familiar with state or federal election law, but they may not be familiar with IRS tax regulations. Thus, they may pressure houses of worship to engage in activity that would jeopardize their tax-exempt status,” she said.
However, Kindell notes the IRS regulation apply to intervention in political campaigns, and not all activity that might be described as political. Houses of worship are free to conduct voter registration drives and candidate forums, so long as they give equal time to all candidates and do not advocate a partisan agenda.
Also, former Congressman Bob Edgar discusses his new book, Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right. Rev. Edgar, who is currently general secretary of the National Council of Churches, indicates that not all evangelicals are out of touch with mainstream moral values. "Every time I use the term Religious Right in my book, I use the words 'Far Radical' in front of it,” Edgar said. “Because we do know there are those who get it on global warming, who get it on poverty, and while they may hold different views from mine on civil marriage and abortion, those are the people I really want to see mass together and reclaim the soul of our nation."
Finally, this Sunday’s State of Belief features the second installment of the new feature, “Blogs of Belief.” Welton welcomes the Reverend Chuck Currie, who writes at ChuckCurrie.blogs.com. Rev. Currie’s blog addresses a number of issues that concern people of faith, from Iraq to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. But Currie is also concerned about churches that go beyond issue-based advocacy. “I believe churches should not be (centers) of partisan political action,” he said.
State of Belief explores the intersection of religion with politics, culture, media, and activism. Through interviews with newsmakers and celebrities, reports from the field, and his own commentary, Welton shows how religion and radical freedom are best friends and how the religious right is wrong – wrong for America and bad for religion.
State of Belief, religion and radio, done differently
Brought to you by The Interfaith Alliance Foundation
6:00 to 7:00 PM EST each Sunday on Air America Radio Network
To see where and when State of Belief is broadcast, go to: www.airamericaradio.com
To stream or podcast State of Belief, go to: www.StateofBelief.com.
The Interfaith Alliance (TIA) is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to promoting the positive and healing role of religion in the life of the nation and challenging those who manipulate religion to promote a narrow, divisive agenda. With more than 185,000 members drawn from more than 75 faith traditions and 75 local activist groups throughout America, TIA promotes compassion, civility and mutual respect for human dignity in our increasingly diverse society. - www.interfaithalliance.org
Tonight I’m in The Dalles (thank you Eric Berg for a reminder that I’m not in Dallas) attending the fall gathering of the Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ. To get here from Portland you take I-84. This is the same freeway that I drove across when leaving Oregon for seminary in St. Louis and whenever I come out this way it reminds me so deeply of that journey east. So it was fitting tonight that our keynote speaker came west from St. Louis and Eden Theological Seminary. The Rev. Dr. David Greenhaw, the seminary’s president and professor of preaching, did what he does best in his presentations: he brought the Gospel message. I admire Dr. Greenhaw for his deep commitment to theological education and for how over nearly a decade he has provided leadership to a UCC-seminary during some difficult periods. Tonight he mentioned the genocide in Darfur and I invite you to read his recent op-ed piece on the subject that was published in the St. Louis Dispatch.
My companion in the car ride from Portland to The Dalles was Carlos Madrazos, a missionary with Global Missions, the joint UCC-Christian Church (Disciples for Christ) mission agency, where he serves as a development worker with the GMIM Synod of the Evangelical Church in Indonesia. Carlos told me in the ride over about how he and his wife (an ordained minister) had to flee their homeland in the Philippines during the mid-1970s because their work with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines was considered subversive by the government. Since then they have spent their lives as missionaries across the globe. It reminded me once again that some really do risk the cross today to be disciples. Keep all our missionaries in your prayers.
A Bush nominee to the federal bench is under fire this week for participating in a Massachusetts commitment ceremony for two women held four years ago and officiated at by a United Church of Christ minister.
U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, has placed a hold on the nomination of Janet T. Neff, whose nomination by Bush has been approved by the U.S. Judiciary Committee.
The Rev. John Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, issued a statement today saying that:
It's a sad day when participation in a ceremony sanctioned by the church, and breaking no federal or state laws, becomes a barrier to service in the federal judiciary. All churches, regardless of their theological convictions, should be concerned about the chilling effect of such an action on the ability of church members to freely practice their faith according to the dictates of their own conscience.
The Family Research Council, according to The Boston Globe, has also raised concerns about Neff's nomination. The hypocrisy is amazing. Brownback and his allies in the Religious Right routinely claim that conservatives are denied seats on the courts because of religious opposition to gay marriage. Neff's legal views on same sex marriage are not clear. But her participation in a religious ceremony should not be cause for a member of the senate to block her nomination to the bench.
This is not the first time that the theological views of the United Church of Christ have become a political issue. Earlier this fall a Republican candidate in Connecticut running for the U.S. House attacked her opponent simply for serving as a minister in the "liberal" UCC. The Rev. Scott MacLean, however, won the Republican nomination in a landslide.
We had a good turnout tonight for the showing of THE GROUND TRUTH at Parkrose Community United Church of Christ. The film lets veterans tell their own stories about combat and their difficult journeys re-entering American society. All of us were struck by the imagines of dead children and other "non-combatants." It breaks your heart to watch children die.
It is fair to say that most who watched this film left with anger and with a sense that we have all been called in these times to be peacemakers.
Tomorrow I'll be leaving for The Dallas, a city along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. The reason for my trip: the fall gathering of the Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ. The Rev. Dr. David Greenhaw, president of Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO., is our keynoter and I've been asked to introduce Dr. Greenhaw.
Saturday night I've been invited to play poker - a rare treat for me - and will make it back to Portland in time for that.
Then I will be back to preaching this Sunday morning.
On Sunday afternoon, I will also be guest of Air America's State of Belief program. Visit their site for additional information.
Parkrose Community United Church of Christ (4715 NE 106th Ave) will host a special screening of the new film THE GROUND TRUTH on Thursday, October 12th at 7 pm and we are extending an invitation to other churches and people in the community to join us. Please pass this invitation around to those in your congregations and to other friends.
“THE GROUND TRUTH stunned filmgoers at the 2006 Sundance and Nantucket Film Festivals.
Hailed as "powerful" and "quietly unflinching," Patricia Foulkrod's searing documentary feature includes exclusive footage that will stir audiences. The filmmaker's subjects are patriotic young Americans - ordinary men and women who heeded the call for military service in Iraq - as they experience recruitment and training, combat, homecoming, and the struggle to reintegrate with families and communities. The terrible conflict in Iraq, depicted with ferocious honesty in the film, is a prelude for the even more challenging battles fought by the soldiers returning home – with personal demons, an uncomprehending public, and an indifferent government. As these battles take shape, each soldier becomes a new kind of hero, bearing witness and giving support to other veterans, and learning to fearlessly wield the most powerful weapon of all - the truth.”
To RSVP for the film please click here.
Or call 503-253-5457.
To see a preview of the film visit: http://www.thegroundtruth.net/
A discussion will follow the screening.
The screening of this film is co-sponsored by the offices of the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries. Visit www.ucctakeaction.org to learn more about their work.
Parkrose Community United Church of Christ is a neighborhood church. Worship services are held on Sunday mornings at 10 am. All are welcome.
Over the years there has been a growing alliance between partisan political efforts and churches that both crosses the line between the separation of church and state and adversely impacts the ability of congregations to faithfully live out the Gospel message independent of political forces.
There are guidelines that all religious groups should abide by. For example, it is clearly illegal for churches and other non-profits to endorse one candidate over another. Churches, however, may endorse public causes (such as the effort to end the war in Iraq) or ballot initiatives. Clergy, like all Americans, are free as individuals (but not as representatives of their congregations) to endorse political candidates.
Churches may also hold voter registration drives, distribute non-partisan voter guides, and hold candidate forums.
Groups like Focus on the Family and other organizations that are part of the Religious Right routinely blur the lines with their efforts on behalf of Republican candidates. But, as Jim Wallis likes to say, God is Not a Republican... Or a Democrat.
The United Church of Christ - as part of the Our Faith, Our Vote Campaign - has published a 2-page report called "Guidelines for Congregations and Clergy on Political Action" that is available for download.
A more substantial report from the Interfaith Alliance - A Campaign Season Guide for Houses of Worship - is also available online.
Get more information on this issue from the Interfaith Alliance and The Rev. Welton Gaddy by clicking here.
When do we call Iraq a genocide?
From The Washington Post:
A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.
The estimate, produced by interviewing residents during a random sampling of households throughout the country, is far higher than ones produced by other groups, including Iraq's government.
It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group.
The surveyors said they found a steady increase in mortality since the invasion, with a steeper rise in the last year that appears to reflect a worsening of violence as reported by the U.S. military, the news media and civilian groups. In the year ending in June, the team calculated Iraq's mortality rate to be roughly four times what it was the year before the war.
Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.
Instead of liberating the people of Iraq our policies are killing them off.
you love justice and you establish peace on earth.
We bring before you the disunity of today's world;
the absurd violence, and the many wars,
which are breaking the courage of the peoples of the world;
human greed and injustice,
which breed hatred and strife.
Send your spirit and renew the face of the earth;
teach us to be compassionate towards the whole human family;
strengthen the will of all those
who fight for justice and for peace,
and give us that peace which the world cannot give.
Press Release from National Council of Churches USA
New York City, October 9, 2006--The North Korean nuclear test today was condemned by the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA. He urged an immediate return to the negotiating table, the so-called "six party talks" that have been stalled.
"Nuclear proliferation can not be good news for the planet," Edgar said in a statement. "I have seen firsthand the effects of nuclear testing on human beings and God's planet when I visited the Marshall Islands [http://www.ncccusa.org/news
Edgar urgently reaffirmed the NCC's call for the "prompt reconvening of talks with North Korea leading to a non-aggression pact between North Korea and the United States" made in 2003 at a Korean Consultation in Washington, DC, sponsored by the NCC. [http://www.ncccusa.org/news
The NCC and many of its 35 member communions have been active for more than two decades with churches on the Korean peninsula. The Korean Presbyterian Church in America is one of the NCC's member churches. Other NCC member communions have Korean ministries within their churches. There are 45 million members of the Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and peace churches that make up the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
Statement of the Rev. Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA on news of the North Korean nuclear test
The news of the test by North Korea of nuclear bomb is heartbreaking. Time and time again the National Council of Churches USA and several other religious organizations have spoken up for nuclear disarmament.
"Today I set before you life and death," says the author of Deuteronomy (30:19). Nuclear weapons are the ultimate weapons of mass destruction. No good can come from their use. No good can come from their testing. Nuclear proliferation can not be good news for the planet.
I have seen firsthand the effects of nuclear testing on human beings and God's planet when I visited the Marshall Islands where the U.S. government tested nuclear weapons after World War II. These are weapons of mass destruction of the worst kind imaginable.
We urgently reaffirm our 2003 call for the prompt reconvening of talks with North Korea leading to a non-aggression pact between North Korea and the United States, renouncement of pre-emptive attack and negotiation of a peace treaty replacing the present Armistice Treaty of 1953 and the establishment and exchange of liaison offices between the United States and North Korea as a sign of good faith.
"Choose life," our Deuteronomy author concludes and therefore we should choose a new path with North Korea that leads to peace, nonviolence and a reduction of tensions on the Korean peninsula. This is a critical time in the history of the modern world. God is watching to see what kind of stewards we will be of that world with which we have been entrusted.
Use the below link to download the podcast of this sermon for your iPod or personal computer.
(click with the RIGHT mouse button on the hyperlink and choose "Save Target As" and save to your desktop or other folder - once downloaded click on the file to listen).
Oregon voters will decide on two flawed ballot measures this November that will hurt schools, public safety efforts and social services for the young and old - and everyone in between.
Here is how Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon describes both measures and why EMO – a coalition of “16 Christian denominations including Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox bodies across Oregon” suggests that Christians vote against the initiatives:
Measure 41: Statutory Amendment—Allows income tax deduction equal to federal exemptions deduction to substitute for state exemption credit.
Analysis — This measure would permit state income tax filers the option to substitute the state tax credit for the federal deduction on exemptions in order to reduce state income tax liability. State tax credits reduce the amount of taxes owed by the filer dollar for dollar. The state tax credit was $154 for each personal exemption in 2005. Substituting for the federal deduction would reduce the amount of income used to calculate state taxes owed. In 2005, the federal tax deduction was $3,200. For most tax filers, the net effect would reduce state taxes owed but would increase federal taxes because of a smaller deduction for state taxes under the federal income tax filing. Income tax filers with an adjusted gross income of $15,000 to $20,000 would pay an average of $181 less in state income tax. Income tax filers with an adjusted gross income of $90,000 to $100,000 would pay an average of $439 less in state income tax.
The measure would reduce tax revenue available to the state to pay for public education, public safety and social services. In the first year of implementation, there would be a 6 percent, $355 million decrease of tax revenue. The decrease would steadily reach about 6.5 percent each year. The measure would automatically decrease the size of the tax kicker.
Proponents argue that Measure 41 would result in tax cuts that benefit families. They argue that they would be the biggest beneficiaries. Proponents also argue that tax cuts and smaller government results in greater freedoms for individuals and families. Opponents argue that the value of the estimated tax cut per tax payer is less than the value of public education, public safety and human services that would be lost as a result of the measure. They argue that the most tax relief any taxpayer would receive is $11.17 per month.
EMO Recommendation — Vote “NO.”
The EMO Board believes the net effect of the measure would shrink the safety net for the most vulnerable while providing very little social benefit in return. Measure 41 is very libertarian in philosophy, i.e. the less taxes paid, the greater the common good. This is counter to the Judeo/Christian understanding of the common good as distinct from individual good. Paying less tax does not necessarily translate into better services, social benefits or a just society. Taxes are a financial investment for personal and social benefits not always easily quantifiable in dollar amounts. Taxes should be used to provide services that promote the common good. These services include public education, public safety and health care. Taxes are to fund essential services for civil society that individuals or families are unable to afford on their own.
Measure 48: Constitutional Amendment—Limits biennial percentage increase in state spending to percentage increase in state population, plus inflation.
Analysis — Presently, state government spending is limited to no more than eight percent of projected personal income in a biennium. Federal funds and donated moneys are excluded from the spending limit. In 2001, the Legislature enacted the spending limit to replace an existing limit that was complicated to administer. Measure 48 would require the Oregon Legislature to reach a two-thirds majority in order to refer a ballot to voters to bypass the limit.
Proponents argue that state government spends more for public services than necessary due to administrative inefficiency and incorrect priorities. They argue that state spending should fall in line with inflation and population growth. They also argue that a state spending limit is a rainy day fund for economic downturns, although the measure does not specifically call for one.
Opponents argue that a spending limit would affect the state’s ability to provide public services asked for by citizens. They argue that state government serves specific segments of the state’s populations such as unemployed or laid off workers, seniors, children and prisoners that grow at a faster rate than the general population. Education, human services and public safety spending would be inadequate to serve those populations. They also argue that state health services would be severely cut because health care inflation generally rises faster than the Consumer Price Index.
EMO Recommendation — Vote “NO.”
The EMO Board believes that a restrictive state spending limit like Measure 48 is counter to the common good. Democratic government’s role is to ensure that certain social systems permit people to fulfill their individual and mutual interests such as education, health, personal safety, financial opportunity and recreational pursuits. Measure 48 would hurt the elderly, children, the disabled and the mentally ill who depend on state services. Citizens should demand accountability from its government, but it does not mean harming the most vulnerable in doing so with such a blunt tool. Accountability can be achieved by more constructive ways such as participating in the legislative process, voting, communicating with elected officials and government agencies, and campaign finance and lobbying reform.
Religious Right icon James Dobson - leader of Focus on the Family - has had enough of people questioning the commitment of Focus and the Family and their allies in the wake of the Mark Foley / House Republican Leadership scandal.
From the Citizenlink.com:
"A representative who has been a closet homosexual for years, apparently, was finally caught doing something terribly wrong and when the news broke, he packed up his things and went home," Dobson said.
And that, he said, should have been the end of the story. But it wasn't.
"As we know, the media and the Democrats saw an opportunity to make much, much, more out of it," Dobson said, "impugning the morals and character, not only of this disgraced congressman, but of entire the entire Republican Congress -- and Christian conservatives, including me."
That should have been the end of it?
We know that the Republican leadership was told that a member of their party was inappropriately contacting underage Congressional pages and Dobson thinks nothing should be done? Kids deserve better. Dobson's prayerful wish that this matter will simply go away won't come to pass.
Dr. Dobson, molesting children is serious business.
Dobson is upset because his refusal to break ranks with the Republican leadership over this issue has been called hypocritical in light of his call for Bill Clinton's impeachment for having an affair with an adult woman.
He quoted from a New York Times editorial with the headline "Conservative Coalition appears to be Coming Apart at the Seams" that was written by Paul Krugman.
"It will be interesting to see how Dr. Dobson," Krugman wrote, "who declared about Bill Clinton that no man has ever done more to debase the presidency -- responds to the Foley scandal. Does the failure of Republican leaders to do anything about a sexual predator in their midst outrage him as much as a Democratic president's consensual affair?"
Dobson emphatically said he stands by his assessment of President Clinton's scandal. As for Foley's action ...
"In fact, it does outrage me, Mr. Krugman," Dobson said. "We condemn the Foley affair categorically. And we also believe that what Mr. Clinton did was one of the most embarrassing and wicked things ever done by a president in power.
But it doesn't outrage Dobson enough to believe anyone in the Republican Party should be held accountable.
Of course, Dobson neglected to mention his advocacy on behalf of Republican candidates.
His lack of moral character is showing now more than ever.
The Rev. John Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, today joined a chorus of voices condemning Tony Perkins for his efforts to link homosexuality to the scandal involving disgraced Republican congressman Mark Foley.
Perkins is the head of the Family Research Council, a Religious Right group with strong ties to the Republican Party.
"Perkins recent remarks are destructive to gay and lesbian persons and their families and distract the nation's attention from the real issue at hand, which is protecting young people from sexual predators," said the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president.
On October 2, Perkins issued a statement claiming "the real issue" in the Foley scandal was a "link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse." On Oct. 3, Perkins made similar accusations on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," where he likened homosexuals with "sexual deviants."
Thomas said the former congressman's sexual orientation should not be part of the public debate. The American Psychological Association, in addition to numerous other reputable medical and scientific groups, has found that "gay men are no more likely than heterosexual men to perpetrate child sexual abuse."
Perkins is a strange choice by the Religious Right to be a spokesperson on values in America. He spent his political career in Louisiana as an ally of Neo-Nazis and other racist organizations.
Max Blumenthal wrote in 2005:
Four years ago, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), America's premier white supremacist organization, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke.
If the Republicans keep relying on leaders like Foley and Perkins to be their point people on family values we can only hope that voters hold their party accountable.
Reprinted from United Church News
|Written by J. Bennett Guess|
|Wednesday, 04 October 2006|
|A group of about 30 clergy and academic Christian leaders, including several prominent pastors within the United Church of Christ, sent a strongly worded letter on Oct. 2 to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert calling for the “repentance and resignation” of all House members who knew about Congressman Mark Foley's sexual misdeeds against children and failed to stop them. |
"The bitter irony is that the leaders of a political party that emphasizes family values may have deliberately betrayed those values for political gain," the letter states. "This is a moral failure — and a symptom of a Congress that has lost its moral compass."
Joining the signature list were the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Rev. Otis Moss III, both of Trinity UCC in Chicago; the Rev. Robin Meyers, senior minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City; the Rev. Peter Laarman, a UCC minister in Los Angeles and executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting; the Rev. Daniel Schultz, a UCC minister in Lancaster, Pa.; and the Rev. William Chrystal, a former military chaplain and pastor of First Congregational UCC in Reno, Nevada.
"No matter how much some politicians talk about moral values,” the letter continues, “protecting sexual predators at the expense of children is nothing short of sinful."
This fall UCC-related Chicago Theological Seminary is offering a course on public theology and one of the assignments for students is to publish their own blog. It was recently my pleasure to present a lecture to the students and to answer their follow-up questions (all online).
Take a look at some of their work, leave some comments, and show some love:
Reach Out Reach Round
Related Link: Welcome Chicago Theological Seminary!
It was announced today that The Rev. Bob Edgar will not seek another term as the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA. Edgar has already served two four-year terms. During his tenure the council stepped back from the brink of financial ruin and boldly proclaimed the Gospel message both faithfully and prophetically. Conservative political groups - and their leaders -upset over NCC's peacemaking and anti-poverty work have targeted Edgar over the years but he has remained steadfast in his commitment to God’s church and ministry. This is an appropriate moment for him to take his leave from the council and to allow new leadership to govern the ecumenical movement in America. My own hope is that the council calls a noted ecumenical leader with a demonstrated and deep commitment to justice issues to serve as the next General Secretary.
Related Link: Podcast Interview: The Rev. Bob Edgar On "Middle Church" (2006)
Press Release from the National Council of Churches USA
New York City, October 3, 2006 — The Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, told the governing board and staff of the Council Monday that he will not seek a third four-year term as chief administrative officer of the nation's leading ecumenical body.
He will conclude eight years of service when his present term ends December 31, 2007. A third term would have been unprecedented in length of service in the general secretary position. Edgar's action clears the way for a seamless transition process to begin.
"I care deeply about the Council and have invested my best self in the work. The Council has been returned to financial stability and has reclaimed its place as a prophetic ecumenical voice heeding Christ's call to serve the least among us," Edgar said.
The Rev. Michael Livingston, current president of the NCC, expressed appreciation for Edgar's leadership, which brought the Council out of prolonged financial deficits to a dramatic turnaround, with four consecutive years of positive cash flows and the addition of more than $8 million in reserve funds.
"During Bob Edgar's watch, we have worked to build unity among our diverse families of faith and a strong witness within the wider society. All of the Council's programs have undergone renewal and expansion, and important concerns such as poverty, the environment, human rights and peacemaking have been addressed. We will have much to thank Bob Edgar for when his time of service becomes part of the Council's honored history," Livingston added.
A search committee for a new General Secretary will be named this fall and will begin its work in early 2007, Livingston said.
Edgar, an ordained United Methodist elder, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1987 as a Democrat elected to six consecutive terms from a predominantly Republican district of suburban Philadelphia.
He later served ten years as President of Claremont School of Theology, a United Methodist graduate school in Southern California. He has also been a pastor, a campus minister, and head of a public-policy think tank, and is a frequent guest on national TV and radio discussion programs.
His recent book, "Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right," was published last month by Simon and Schuster.
The National Council of Churches is a joint ministry of 35 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historically African-American and Living Peace communions, whose 100,000 local congregations encompass 45 million adherents in all 50 states. It was founded in 1950 and has offices in New York City and in Washington, DC. A sister agency, Church World Service, is an international humanitarian ministry of the NCC’s member communions.
Religious Right Blames Gays For Mark Foley / Republican Leadership Scandal
The Family Research Council - one of America's most prominent Religious Right groups - has carefully considered the ramifications of the scandal faced by Republican leaders in the U.S. House after the Speaker and others were warned long ago one of their members was sending inappropriate e-mails to underage pages and now know who is to blame:
Democrats seeking to exploit the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) are right to criticize the slow response of Republican congressional leaders to his communications with male pages. But neither party seems likely to address the real issue, which is the link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse. Foley, an unmarried 52-year-old representative, had always refused to answer questions about his sexual orientation. Now that his emails and messages to teenage male pages have been revealed, it appears clear that Foley is a homosexual with a particular attraction to underage boys. While pro-homosexual activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. Although almost all child molesters are male and less than 3% of men are homosexual, about a third of all child sex abuse cases involve men molesting boys--and in one study, 86% of such men identified themselves as homosexual or bisexual. Ignoring this reality got the Catholic Church into trouble over abusive priests, and now it is doing the same to the House GOP leadership. They discounted or downplayed earlier reports concerning Foley's behavior--probably because they did not want to appear "homophobic." The Foley scandal shows what happens when political correctness is put ahead of protecting children.
Of course, there is no serious scientific evidence that suggests that gay men are more likely to molest children than straight men. FRC provides no sources for the statistics they do list. What's the truth?
"Gregory M. Herek is a Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Davis (UCD). He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from UCD in 1983, then was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. He subsequently served as a faculty member at Yale and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York before returning to UCD, first as a research psychologist and later as a tenured professor," according to his biography on the UCD website. He writes:
Members of disliked minority groups are often stereotyped as representing a danger to the majority society's most vulnerable members. Historically, Black men in the United States were often falsely accused of raping White women, and commonly lynched as a result. Jews in the Middle Ages were accused of murdering Christian babies in ritual sacrifices.
In a similar fashion, gay people have often been portrayed as a threat to children....
In recent years, antigay activists have routinely asserted that gay people are child molesters. This argument was often made in debates about the Boy Scouts of America's policy to exclude gay scouts and scoutmasters. It also was raised in connection with recent scandals about the Catholic church's attempts to cover up the abuse of young males by priests....
The empirical research does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children. This is not to argue that homosexual and bisexual men never molest children. But there is no scientific basis for asserting that they are more likely than heterosexual men to do so.
Dr. Herek's well researched (and footnoted) article Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation is available online.
Gays aren't the problem here.
The problem is the corrupt leadership of the Republican Party which apparently desired so deeply to stay in power they covered-up possible sex crimes against children in an effort to retain a safe Congressional seat in Florida.
A third school shooting in a week occurred today. Girls were lined up against a wall and shot execution style. They won’t be the only Americans killed by gun violence today.
From the Brady Campaign:
Nearly eight young people aged 19 and under are killed a day by a firearm in the United States. Nearly 36 per day are non-fatally wounded. The scourge of gun violence frequently attacks the most helpless members of our society - our children.
Are you a person of faith who wants to make a difference?
All people shall give as they are able, according to the blessings which God has given them.1
In a world filled with human injustice we are called by God to seek a better world.
Neighbors In Need expresses the United Church of Christ's commitment to ministries of justice and compassion in the United States and Puerto Rico, as we speak prophetically to those in power and advocate for the voiceless. In the spirit of Christ, we seek to confront evil in the world and to alleviate suffering through justice advocacy and direct service. Sunday, October 1, is the suggested date for the Neighbors In Need special mission offering.
This denominational effort supports critical programs.
Neighbors In Need supports ministries that address poverty, economic development, human rights, peacemaking, violence, racial and economic justice, environmental concerns, and public policy advocacy.
1. United Church of Christ Book of Worship
Use the below link to download the podcast of this sermon for your iPod or personal computer.
(click with the RIGHT mouse button on the hyperlink and choose "Save Target As" and save to your desktop or other folder - once downloaded click on the file to listen).
The window in this photo comes from Parkrose Community United Church of Christ.