Last fall, I drew attention to the Tweets of the former head of the South Carolina GOP who called for the mass executions of Ebola victims. Now that same lawyer is under investigation for domestic violence.
Todd Kincannon, a Columbia attorney and former executive director of the S.C. Republican Party, has been accused of threatening his wife and refusing to let her out of his car Thursday night, according to a report from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. He has not been arrested or charged with any crimes, according to a sheriff’s department spokesman.
From the sheriff's report:
Ashley (Kincannon) continued to tell me she called her mother for help and attempted to call 9-1-1 with an open line in order for the dispatcher to hear James. While driving, James saw a police vehicle and ‘freaked out.’ James threatened he would drive the car into a concrete barrier if the cops became involved. In addition, James also threatened to kill himself if Ashely left. Ashely continued to tell me James has made several threats in the past to kill himself, her, and her family. Furthermore, Ashely said she has past incidents of domestic violence and threats of homicide/suicide recorded. I saw no visible injuries to Ashely, she provided me with a written statement, and was issued a victim’s pamphlet. It should be noted Ashely was trembling as she wrote her statement.
This is a story that will not end well. Kincannon blames his behavior on cough medicine but there would seem much more wrong with this individual.
There is good news: Twitter has deleted his accounts (twice) where he had active followings.
It also appears the S.C. Commission of Lawyer Conduct, S.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel is investigating Kincannon. He has no business holding a law license. Kincannon sued to stop the investigation but the suit was dismissed.
Please pray for his wife and that Kincannon himself is saved from himself before he does more damage.
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Like most Americans (hopefully), I was bewildered to learn that GOP Senate members sent a letter to Iran trying to undermine U.S. foreign policy. Even other Republicans are stunned. Trying to sabotage a sitting U.S. president, as Barack Obama is (see election results, 2008, 2012), is hard to imagine. Who would do such a thing? Thus, my op-ed today in The Huffington Post:
Oregon has the highest rate of poverty on the West Coast.
But let’s talk about Cylvia Hayes’ past.
Journalists have the right (even a responsibility) to report on activities within government and so the role played by Hayes, Oregon’s first lady, is newsworthy. This is particularly true if Hayes has used her influence in ways that might be unethical. Such behavior has been alleged by Willamette Week but not proven.
What Willamette Week has uncovered, and what will define the last weeks of the election for governor, is that Hayes had a secret marriage late in her twenties.
Willamette Week has over the years done some reporting worthy of the awards they have received. Uncovering that Oregon icon Neil Goldschmidt was in fact a child rapist rewrote state history and brought a small measure of justice to the babysitter he victimized.
More the norm, however, are stories like this one regarding Hayes. Nothing regarding her past will impact John Kitzhaber’s term as governor or legacy in the state. Telling this story now simply serves to embarrass Hayes. Willamette Week has a long history of defining people by their worst moments.
As clergy, I long ago came to the conclusion that the human experience is messy. All of us come to the table with a variety of faults (in theological terms we call these sins). Sometimes these personal faults mean that people need to be excused from public life. Other times, particularly when people gain fame from politics or the arts, the media seeks to exploit all too human failings for their own purposes.
The media will now pile on Hayes. Real issues – like poverty, that weren’t being covered anyway – will be ignored even more as “reporters” follow Hayes and Kitzhaber around demanding to know about the state of their relationship.
What will Hayes legacy be in Oregon? That we don’t know. But Willamette Week’s legacy will be part journalistic brilliance that shines way to infrequently and a long record of tearing good people down for the sport (or advertising dollars) of it. On balance, WW has done more harm than good.
Still, no one will ask Kitzhaber or Dennis Richardson how they’ll address poverty if elected in November. I’m certain neither one of them knows.
The sin of poverty ought to be the real story. Hayes' private sins ought to remain private. But there are too few saints in journalism today willing to cover issues of substance over scandal. In journalism, there are sinners too.
During the Great Recession the poorest Americans increased their charitable giving 17%. Much of that money went to relgious group providing faith based social services. The wealthiest Americans? They cut their giving by 4.6%. Unlike their wealthy fellow citizens, middle income Americans joined those with lower incomes in giving away more.
Still, the wealthiest Americans enjoy the Bush era tax breaks while the wealth gap continues to grow. Many wealthy Americans clearly understand that great economic disparity is not good morally or economically. Yet the majority of the wealthiest Americans are forgetting that it is better to give then to receive. Billionaires like the Koch brothers give hundreds of millions to candidates who promise to further cut taxes on the rich.
For people of faith, called to create just systems, it is imperative that we continue the work of building up the common good of this nation and the world. That work must include raising taxes on the weathiest 1% so that we can create living wage jobs, improve public education, further improve health care, and do everything possible to make sure that every child born today has opportunities to thrive well into the future.
My latest on The Huffington Post:
The question we face today is how to employ "Just Peace" as a working model for peace building in a world so torn apart and complex. Without question, the complexities we face now are even more difficult to navigate from what those seeking peace during the Cold War encountered. Can "Just Peace" be a model for addressing the messy conflict in Syria and Iraq, which involves the terrorist group ISIS?
Do Americans put more faith in guns than in God? It is idolatry to worship false idols but the NRA and their allies tell us to trust in weapons as the last refuge of safety. Scripture tells us to trust to God "though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult." (Psalm 46 NRSV)
Arm the teachers, cried the NRA after Sandy Hook. That will stop the massacres. Then came the shooting this year at the Navy Yard where 13 died. Even soldiers at a military compound are not safe from gun violence.
President Kennedy had the best security available of his time and still a gunman took him down and changed history. Later, President Ronald Reagan would be a victim of gun violence. Power and privilege cannot always protect.
The NRA, once a respected hunting organization, has become over years the last defense of terrorists, child killers, and political extremists. Their money and influence controls the debate over how to combat gun violence in America. They are powerful. Yet they wield their power not in defense of the most vulnerable but in support of the most violent. In the end, they have become the greatest obstacle of the Prince of Peace and the Prophets of God who called for weapons to be turned into plowshares.
President Kennedy once said: "Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future."
The NRA must shoulder some blame for the shooting at Sandy Hook that took so many children from us. That day so much hope and promise perished. Every day since gun violence has taken more Americans in senseless acts that could have been prevented if common sense gun control measured proposed by President Barack Obama had been enacted. Even a majority of NRA members supported President Obama's proposals. Tragically, the NRA's allies in Congress put their faith in guns instead of God. That is simply sin. So each day more children die.
Lord have mercy.
Dear Friends, We've all watched the horror unfold in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Yesterday I made a donation to Church World Service - a coalition of faith groups working with communities where the need is greatest. You can trust your money will be well spent. Please give as you are able. - Rev. Chuck Currie
ALERT FROM CHURCH WORLD SERVICE
The estimated number of fatalities from Typhoon Haiyan continues to fluctuate between 2,000 and 10,000. Whatever the final numbers, Typhoon Haiyan's effects have been devastating, with aid channels slowed due to severe damage to infrastructure and officials urging residents of decimated cities such as Tacloban to leave and relocate.
Typhoon Haiyan, with the local name of Typhoon Yolanda, may have been the strongest typhoon on record, with sustained winds of 234 kph and gusts of 275 kph. It made landfall in the Philippines on November 8. The islands of Leyte and Samar were the most devastated by this super typhoon, in terms of number of casualties and damage to property.
At least 982,252 families, or 4,459,468 individuals, were affected in some way, with an estimated 101,762 families or 477,736 individuals displaced, the ACT Alliance reports.
Among what CWS and others know today based on assessments by partners in the Philippines:
CWS is supporting early response and recovery efforts of fellow members of the ACT Alliance that have significant operations in the Philippines. These partners include the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Lutheran World Relief, Christian Aid and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
CWS-supported efforts include providing immediate assistance to more than 200,000 persons. Initial response efforts include providing emergency food to 259,000 persons; non-food items (plastic sheeting, etc) to 192,000; water/sanitation repair to 205,000. As well, programs of cash for work for 63,400; shelter assistance for 90,000 people; and disaster risk reduction programs for 2,500.
Among the food items to be distributed include rice, canned goods, dried beans. Non-food items include plastic sheeting, blankets, and water containers.
ACT members intend to target subsistence farmers, small fishermen, poor urban dwellers and female-headed households among the most-affected by the typhoon, as they have very limited capacity, finances and resources of their own to recover from the recent disaster.
In addition, CWS is providing technical support to members of the Philippines Disaster Response and Recovery Network, known as PDRRN.
The total amount being sought for the entire CWS-supported ACT effort, plus CWS technical support to PDRRN, is $15,418,584. Each of the ACT members has a separate budget; among the largest direct cost items in most of the budgets are for food, shelter and water, hygiene and sanitation items
PLEASE NOTE: This is the first of what is expected to be several appeal revisions related to this response.
Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts may be made online or mailed to Church World Service, Attn.Typhoon Haiyan (#700-M), P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.
I've joined colleagues Sr. Simone Campbell, Jim Wallis and 60 other faith leaders from across the nation in telling Congress: "There is nothing 'pro-life' or Christian about taking food away from pregnant women and babies. It is hypocritical and shameful for those who tout their commitment to family values to show such callous indifference."
regarding the on-going crisis in Syria tonight. He spoke in deeply moral terms about the world’s responsibility to protect civilians from the use of chemical weapons and other WMD. Barack Obama is no George W. Bush.
The current president has argued that a military response is needed to deter Syria from further attacks against civilians using chemical weapons but at the same time we now know the president and Secretary of State John Kerry have been negotiating with the Russians on a proposal to place all of Syria’s WMD under international control so they can be destroyed – a long sought goal.
President Obama is seeking with intention to avoid military conflict as a first resort whereas President Bush used the pretext of 9/11 to invade Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with those terrible terrorist attacks. At the same time, President Obama is honoring the democratic institutions of our nation by calling on Congress to debate the path forward in Syria. Balance is being restored between the three co-equal branches of government – balance under assault since the start of the imperial presidency.
The worldwide Christian community has been nearly unanimous in arguing against military action in Syria. There are many good arguments not to engage in this conflict but I believe very seriously that the world does have a responsibility protect those who cannot protect themselves. We ought to mean “Never Again” when we talk about holocaust or genocide or the use of WMD.
The Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is right, however, when she notes that often such military interventions meant to protect civilians end up causing more harm.
Like other people of faith across the globe, I pray for a peaceful resolution that not only ends Syria of their chemical weapons but also ends the bloody civil war there that has cost over 100,000 lives. The diplomacy undertaken by the Obama Administration with Russia, soon to be debated as a resolution by the United Nations, is a much better option than more war.
As the Obama Administration considers how to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, religious leaders are weighing in. Normally Dr. Susan Thistlewaite and I draw similar conclusions in policy debates but these two op-eds show a difference of opinion on means - though not goals or ideals. Former U.S. Rep. Les AuCoin and other military experts have told me that the arguments I've presented will not, as Dr. Thistlethwaite would also argue, achieve the aim I want of protecting civilians in this conflict. We do have a responsibility to protect, I and Dr. Thistlewaite and Rep. AuCoin, would all argue, but how and under what circumstances? Read and consider the theological and moral issues for yourself:
Lines Must Be Drawn In Syria
by Rev. Chuck Currie
Syria and the ‘moral obscenity’ of war
by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
What course would you advocate?
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It is vital that all of us, whether or not we hold positions of leadership, are held accountable for personal transgressions. Accountability becomes even more important when those who wield authority – politicians, clergy, business leaders and others – abuse that authority for personal gain. In the language of the church, we are talking about matters of sin. All of us, at various levels, fall short.
A century ago, Walter Rauschenbusch, talking about the Social Gospel movement that remains an important source of inspiration in the theological life of the church today (using the language of the time that was non-inclusive) noted that sin is not just about mistakes made by individuals but also about mistakes made by societies and governments that harm the common good:
Still today, we pay far too much attention to personal sin – often times matters that should remain private and within the confines of family conversations with clergy and perhaps therapists. This is not an effort on my part to excuse bad behavior. Sometimes such behavior crosses such a threshold that it remains impossible for people in positions of authority to maintain their positions because for their personal gain they have used their positions to further relationships or financial dealings, or engage in abuse, that is unethical and raise questions about overall judgment. We have seen this from certain Wall Street bankers, clergy pedophiles, and politicians like Bob Packwood and others.
As a society, however, we fall short in recognizing societal sin and the role we all play in that. Which is the worse sin: the politician who engages in an affair with another consenting adult or the politician who votes to cut food assistance to children or prenatal care for pregnant women (or the public that re-elects that politician)? If a politician misuses their office for personal gain perhaps they deserve the 24/7 news cycle that inevitably follows. In a more moral society, however, that same news attention – that same sense of scandal – should follow those political, business and religious leaders who participate in or advocate for sinful economic systems that create poverty, climate change, war and other forms of human suffering.
Recognizing that, in theological terms, we all sin, perhaps in addition to holding our leaders accountable when they fail we should throw fewer stones and find ways to offer compassion (hard as that might be) even as we take steps to restore the public trust when it becomes broken. There is too much glee in throwing people in with the lions when all of us, and I include myself, fail to measure up to the covenantal responsibilities put before us to make the world a better and more just place.
My latest on The Huffington Post:
"Judy Bright -- a certified nurse midwife, advanced nurse practitioner, public health administrator and my mother -- died before she could take advantage of Obamacare, but as an advocate for public health and someone with a pre-existing condition, she knew the difference it would make for millions of Americans."Why Judy Bright Supported Obamacare
News that the IRS targeted conservative organizations for special review as part of the non-profit certification process is deeply concerning. It reminds me of the Bush-era IRS investigation of the United Church of Christ. The Obama Administration needs to quickly fix the problem but much of this is the messy result of the Citizens United court decision and thus the fix will require an overhaul of corrupt campaign finance laws. The Washington Post notes:
Campaign reform groups have been pressing the IRS for several years to conduct greater oversight of nonprofits formed in the wake of the Citizens United case, given that many have become heavily involved in elections.
“But this isn’t the type of enforcement we want,” said Paul Ryan, a senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. “We want nonpartisan, non-biased enforcement.”
Our government should work better than this. No one should be targed simply for their political views. At the same time, our election system should not be the rigged, corrupt system put in place by Citizens United.
Yesterday supporters of President Obama's gun violence prevention measures - including people of faith - rallied across America to demand that Congress vote on the proposals. I spoke at the Portland press event. Over 70% of NRA members support President Obama's call for universal background checks. This isn't a fight between the White House and gun owners but a fight between Americans and a radicalized NRA leadership that has lost touch with their membership. A few of those out-of-the mainstream voices tried to shout down speakers yesterday - one of them yelling a racial slur - but the vast majority of Americans reject such views and believe that in a democracy it isn't the loudest voice but the strongest ideal that should win the day.
Statment in Support Of Universial Background Checks Delivered
by Rev. Chuck Currie at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Feb 22, 2013
Last month I joined President Obama and Vice-President Biden at the National Prayer Service in Washington, DC as part of the Inaugural celebration. There we prayed for an end to violence in America. Certain issues sometimes divide people of faith but there is strong agreement from the National Council of Churches, representing Protestant and Orthodox Christians, and the U.S. Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops - along with the larger interfaith community – that we must support common sense proposals to reduce gun violence in America. Our schools, houses of worship and movie theaters are places we should expect to be safe. In these places we worship, we learn and we are entertained. But in recent years all these places -- along with shopping malls and restaurants and public parks -- have in moments of terror become killing fields as people with often great mental instability who have access to weapons meant for battlefields open fire on innocent crowds causing mass deaths. President Obama has proposed several important measures, including universal background checks for those purchasing guns, which would make America safer. People of faith support efforts to reduce gun violence. NRA members, many of who are people of faith, support universal background checks. I call on all members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation – both Democrats and Republicans – to put the common good of our nation and the safety of our children before the out-of the-mainstream demands of a radicalized NRA leadership that is out-of-touch with their membership.
Organizing For Action call on Congress to support plan to close background check loopholes. twitter.com/MikeTurnerKXL/…— Mike Turner (@MikeTurnerKXL) February 22, 2013
People of faith across America rallied in support of the Violence Against Women Act - which passed the Senate with strong bi-partisan support. But the Act faces an uncertain future in the U.S. House. Who could be against efforts to stop violence against women? These men.
This morning my sermon - delivered at both University Park Church and Sunnyside Church - reflected on the violent events this week in Oregon and Connecticut. You can download a podcast of the sermon here:
(some browsers - like Firefox or Google Chrome - will allow you to simply click on the link and listen...otherwise 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).
Now On ITunes
You can now subscribe to my podcasts on ITunes by clicking here.
Note: In the prepared notes for this sermon, as in the audio, I talked about the 911 call made by a student at Virginia Tech after the shootings there in 2007 but in the delivery of the sermon I inadvertently said you could listen to the call when I actually meant you could read the transcript from The Washington Post's account. I wanted to clarify this.
The text of the sermon as prepared for delivery is below:
Summer is wedding season and while I'm not overwhelmed with wedding requests I've had a few and there is one that I'm really looking forward to in September. Weddings are, of course, special events. At their best, weddings bring not just two people together but families and even communities in a union bonded together in love. There is a simple joy in all that - even if the reality is that marriage itself is complex and sometimes difficult, just ask anyone who has been married longer than an hour. As we reflect on our reading from Scripture this morning, I want to discuss marriage a bit with you as we understand it in Christian terms, what marriage means as a legal institution, and to share with you some decisions that I have made about my role as a minister as it relates to marriage that have been helped along by my doctoral studies on this issue.
Let me begin by noting the reality that within the United States it is illegal for a minister or any other officiant to marry a gay or lesbian couple, much as it was illegal a generation ago to marry interracial couples. Oregonians voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in 2004 - it is part of our state Constitution - thus banning marriage equality. This state Constitutional amendment plus the federal Defense of Marriage Act will both have to be overturned for gays and lesbians to receive true marriage equality. Federal law does not recognize gay marriages that are legal in states such as New York.
As a minister, I am asked to be an agent of the state when it comes to marriage. One way for a marriage to become legal is for an ordained minister to sign a marriage certificate. The United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church USA are the only two mainline Christian denominations to support marriage equality, and that allow their clergy to perform such ceremonies. However, my religious freedom to provide pastoral care to gay and lesbian couples is curtailed by the government which says that I cannot legally marry same-gender couples - thus denying these parishioners the same care I can provide to straight couples. It does not seem the proper function of the government to tell me as a minister whom I can and cannot provide pastoral care to. That should be a decision of the church. The United Methodist Church, of course, forbids not just gay marriages but commitment ceremonies that the General Assembly of the church has deemed incompatible with Christianity. I look forward with great anticipation to the day this deeply flawed policy of this faithful denomination is overturned.
The United Church of Christ has developed an inclusive wedding liturgy, in which we pray for couples being married that:
...we come together in the presence of God to witness the marriage of the couple￼, to surround them with our prayers, and to share in their joy. The scriptures teach us that the bond and covenant of marriage is a gift of God, a holy mystery in which two become one flesh, an image of the union of Christ and the church. As the couple give themselves to each other, we remember that at Cana in Galilee our Savior Jesus Christ made the wedding feast a sign of God's reign of love. (So we pray that we) enter into (the wedding) celebration confident that through the Holy Spirit, Christ is present with us... We pray that (the) couple may fulfill God's purpose for the whole of their lives.
It is this idea of covenant that is so central, so important to marriage and there is no Biblical reason the marriage covenant should not be available to gay or lesbian couples.
Last fall, as I was taking a course in Biblical theology at Chicago Theological Seminary for my doctoral degree program, I wrote a piece for The Huffington Post about Chick-fil-A and their opposition to marriage equality. I note this mostly to brag that I wrote about this issue nearly a year before most anyone else was talking about it. ☺
I said then and I'll say now that I love Chick-fil-A. Their plain old chicken sandwich and a sweet tea can send me to heaven. I've always known they were owned by a Christian family and, frankly, I like that they close on Sundays. I'm old enough to remember when more stores did (of course, that often was enforced by law) and I think a (voluntary) day off from shopping and commercialism isn't a bad thing. But I was sad to hear then that the company had donated food to an anti-gay marriage group. Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said the contribution was made because the company believes in a "Biblical definition of marriage." Mr. Cathy has since become even more vocal in his opposition to marriage equality.
What I suggested in my piece in The Huffington Post was that Mr. Cathy ought to read Unprotected Texts: The Bible's Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire, a book from Boston University's Jennifer Wright Knust. This American Baptist pastor and scholar notes that: "When it comes to marriage, biblical laws are almost entirely contradictory." In short, the one "Biblical definition of marriage" that Chick-fil-A wants to promote doesn't exist.
I'm guessing Mr. Cathy never took my advice.
As I've preached, how we read the Bible matters. It is not to be taken literally. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, argued that Christian faith required one to bring Scripture, reason, experience and tradition to the table when trying to discern the will of God. Chick-fil-A is offering fast-food theology to a world that needs more than a bumper sticker understanding of the divine.
In a post for The Washington Post's "On Faith" blog, Knust wrote:
If we do take the time to read the Bible, we are likely to discover that the biblical writers do not agree with us, whatever version of sexual morality we are seeking to promote. Written more than 2,000 years ago at a significant historical and cultural distance, the Bible gathers together a diverse collection of ancient books, edited over time, not a coherent, divinely inspired set of instructions that can easily be applied. Tracing even a few, limited topics from one biblical book to another can make the point: If one book forbids marriage between foreigners and Israelites, the next depicts such marriages as a source of blessing, not only to Israel but to all of humankind. If one insists that women are saved by childbearing, the next recommends that women avoid childbearing altogether in order to devote themselves more fully to God. If one suggests that sex with a relative, the wife of another man, or with a male lover will certainly lead to the nation's downfall, the next depicts heroic kings engaging in precisely these forms of sex. And these are just a few examples.
Knust offers the same argument in her book. Knust writes: "The Bible is complicated enough, ancient enough, and flexible enough to support an almost endless set of interpretive agendas."
That may be true, in part. Taken as a whole, the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament offer (for me) a vision of covenant. My sense is that covenant includes within our relationships between one another and with God that we should - in Paul's words - be subject to one another out of love. That doesn't mean we have an anything goes faith without rules or boundaries. In fact, the opposite is true. You cannot, for example, abandon your family and remain in covenant with God or your relatives. Justice and compassion are central to Christianity. Yet, not all teachings from scripture should be practiced today (if they were, we'd still own slaves, as sanctioned in some parts of the Bible).
We must use an interpretative process to discern God's will for us - and do not think for a moment this isn't just what the different authors of the Bible did during the many centuries it was transformed from oral tradition to the written word. Using Wesley's criteria for discernment, it is important that we open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit - God's own breathe - to help guide us and for us to undertake this enterprise with humility.
A generation ago, as I have mentioned, interracial marriage was outlawed. This was justified by the use of Scripture. Genesis 28:1 reads: "Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, 'You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women." In the past, this piece of Scripture was interpreted by some Christians to mean that Hebrews and Canaanites were of different races and therefore no races should inter-marry.
We may think this silly today but when Barack Obama was born his father - a black man - and his mother - a white woman - were barred from being legally married in many states and the justification was often Biblical. We have discerned over time, led by the power of the Holy Spirit, to understand not only our own error in interpretation but also the reality that some of what is written in Scripture has no moral authority over us today. Or should I quote from 1 Tim 2:11-12? "Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent."
You see, I'm willing to make the faith claim right here and now that God has no problems with interracial marriages, wants women to speak boldly with the voice of Sophia (the embodiment of God's wisdom), and that those who use Scripture to justify discrimination against gays and lesbians are making the same mistake in interpretation that we have made as a people over and over again.
So will I marry gay and lesbian couples?
Right now I'm a United Church of Christ minister serving two Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church. The United Church of Christ affirms marriage equality. The United Methodist Church says homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. And both Sunnyside Church and University Park Church have pledged to welcome all, and are faithfully engaging the larger United Methodist Church to change the rules and truly become a church with open hearts and open doors and open minds.
So yes, I will marry any gay and lesbian couple that I believe is ready to make that commitment, using the same criteria to make that call that I would for any heterosexual couple. To respect the rules of the United Methodist Church, I will conduct those services at Ainsworth United Church of Christ, my home congregation.
Is there a risk is making this announcement?
I remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. who told his church:
No member of Ebenezer Baptist Church called me to the ministry. You called me to Ebenezer, and you may turn me out of here, but you can't turn me out of the ministry, because I got my guidelines and my anointment from God Almighty. And anything I want to say, I'm going to say it from this pulpit. It may hurt somebody, I don't know about that; somebody may not agree with it. But when God speaks, who can but prophesy? The word of God is upon me like fire shut up in my bones, and when God's word gets upon me, I've got to say it, I've got to tell it all over everywhere. And God has called me to deliver those that are in captivity.
So if you're gay or you're lesbian or bi-sexual or transgendered or questioning, I want to make it clear today: I am your pastor too. I am your pastor if you're straight, if you're a Democrat or a Republican, if you're black, white, Latino. And no rulebook or law will prevent me from providing you with the pastoral care I am called to provide.
What I will no longer do after September is sign wedding licenses. Until the day comes when marriage equality is the law of the land I will no longer act as an agent of the state in an institution that is discriminatory. In this, I join a small but growing number of clergy. I will offer you the religious rites of the church but will invite you to have your marriage license signed by a judge or other official of the state.
When the General Synod of the United Church of Christ endorsed marriage equality in 2005, they noted:
The message of the Gospel is the lens through which the whole of scripture is to be interpreted. Love and compassion, justice and peace are at the very core of the life and ministry of Jesus. It is a message that always bends toward inclusion. The biblical story recounts the ways in which inclusion and welcome to God's community is ever expanding - from the story of Abraham and Sarah, to the inclusive ministry of Jesus, to the baptism of Cornelius, to the missionary journeys of Paul throughout the Greco- Roman world. The liberating work of the Spirit as witnessed in the activities of Jesus' ministry has been to address the situations and structures of exclusion, injustice and oppression that diminish God's people and keep them from realizing the full gift of human personhood in the context of human communion.
I find truth in this statement and have love for the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ and the church universal - not as institutions, but as part of the body of Christ. We are all one in Christ. It is in that spirit of love, that I come forth today to share with you God's call to us to love all people in ways that honor and continue the ministry of Jesus. It is a ministry, as we heard this morning in our text from John, that is joyful and where the Disciples - and by extension us - are commanded once again simply to love as Jesus has loved us - without condition or judgment, and centered on God's desire for us to be free from oppression or captivity, in covenant with one another and with God. Amen.
As the people of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church gathered for a joint BBQ and celebration of our shared ministries together we learned of the mass shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. We offered prayers for those killed and wounded. This terrible event reminds us once again that Christians are called to preach a message of love and compassion to a world torn apart by too much violence. Further, it reinforces to need for Christian communities to develop interfaith partnerships and friendships to promote understanding. We are also reminded, without question, that one of the responsibilities of the church universal is to work toward an end of gun violence. No one in a house of worship should be cut down by bullets fired in hate. As we know now, the suspect was a white supremacist. Were his actions motivated by those who preach intolerance towards minority religions? It would not come as a surprise as too many politicians and religious leaders have used faith in recent years as a tool to divide Americans. Our faith should never be so misused and it is certainly the responsibility of Christians across this great nation not only to condemn this act of hate but to work toward reconciliation. This terrible event, just like the mass shooting in Colorado two weeks ago, never should have happened. It is time for all people of faith to join together in opposition to the gun lobby and others who support the legality of weapons of mass killing in our neighborhoods and streets. Enough is enough. Click here to tell President Obama, Governor Romney and Congress that we are better than this.
Sunday was a busy day for the people of University Park Church and Sunnyside Church. Dispite the high heat and no A/C in either church (this is Portland, afterall) we had good turnout for worship at both services. Our focus Scripture was Ephesians 4: 1-16 (using The Message translation):
Later in the afternoon both congregations gathered together for a BBQ. We took time at the start to offer prayers of thanksgiving for the meal and for the victims of the terrible shooting at the Sikk temple in Wisconsin.
Many people of faith supported President Obama's health care reform plan and today rejoice in the Supreme Court ruling that largely upholds the Affordable Care Act. 30 million Americans will receive coverage under the president's plan. Millions already have. All this moves us closer to the Beloved Community. President Obama and those leaders in Congress who voted for reform are to be applauded for their commitment to fixing a broken system that has long created a moral crisis in our nation. The Supreme Court has surprised many with their ruling and they too must be applauded for a wise decision. There is more to do, of course, to fix the health care system. But President Obama has moved us further down the path toward universal health care than any other president since Teddy Roosevelt first made the effort. This has long been a goal of the National Council of Churches and many Christian denominations, along with other interfaith leaders. Today is a good day for our nation.
House Republicans are playing politics with the Violence Against Women Act and it is up to people of good faith to stop them. As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I support the bi-partisan version of this legislation passed by the Senate. The House version strips protections from Native Americans, immigrants, and LGBT victims of violence. Take action now by signing the below action alert from the United Church of Christ (you can modify the language to reflect your religious tradition) or call your House member directly.
JPANet: Violence Against Women Act Protections in Jeopardy
Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a measure which has received strong bipartisan support since it was first passed by Congress in 1994, is currently moving through Congress. The Senate passed its version of the reauthorization (S. 1925) in late April, and it included important enhancements for addressing the needs of Native American families living on tribal lands, immigrants, and those who are living in same-sex relationships and are victims of domestic violence.
These important provisions protecting Native American women, immigrants and LGBT victims of violence are being threatened!
A House version of the VAWA reauthorization, introduced by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), now has the full backing of the House majority leadership and will be moving to a floor vote soon. The House version strips out the Senate provisions strengthening legal protections for Native American women and eliminates essential confidentiality protections for immigrant women seeking protection from abuse. While the Senate version includes provisions for improving services and increasing funding efficiency based on input from thousands of direct service providers, the House version rejects those improvements without any such consultation or review.
The United Church of Christ, in partnership with a diverse coalition of faith groups, has long supported efforts aimed at addressing and eliminating domestic violence. As part of the Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition, the United Church of Christ joined with many others in supporting the Senate version of the reauthorization and applauded the expanded provisions for under-served communities. The House version jeopardizes those improvements and could put many women and families in greater danger with fewer resources and recourse.
Let your representative know that you do not support the House version of VAWA reauthorization. Urge your representative to support a House bill that reflects the Senate version and strengthens protections for women and their families.
Send your letter here.
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There were dense clouds covering between Mt. Hood and Portland this evening that delayed the arrival of the much anticipated "Supermoon." These photos were taken with our simple family camera. It was a beautiful sight.
Psalm 8 1-4 NRSV
To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.
1 O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals* that you care for them?
As a husband, he failed. As a father, he failed. Yet these seem to be issues best left to be resolved between Edwards and God, not a court of law. There is every reason to believe the case against Edwards is overreach.
President Obama once again offered a progressive, moral vision for America during last night's State of the Union Address - a choice between an America where we're all in this together or where some people put their personal self interests ahead of the common good, a return to the policies of the past.
“….The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.”
President Obama inherited the most broken economy since the Great Depression. And some want to return to the policies that brought us to that point? President Obama is correct to call for increased investments in education and our public infrastructure. We need to continue creating jobs.
Last night, in the GOP response, Gov. Mitch Daniels made the claim that President Obama is "pro-poverty." That's absurd - particularly coming from George W. Bush's budget director whose policies created the poverty crisis we face in the United States today. President Obama's stimulus program, opposed by every GOP member of Congress, kept 30 million additional Americans from falling into poverty (or deeper into poverty) during the worst part of the recession. No president in recent memory has done more on this issue.
My hope is that sometime soon President Obama will take the opportunity to speak directly to those living in poverty in America - the numbers are too high - and offer hope directly to those who struggle each day to find food and shelter, many while working. We cannot afford cuts in anti-poverty programs in the new budget. But make no mistake: President Obama's economic agenda will help reduce poverty if the GOP gets out of the way and stops playing politics with the economy.
I'm deeply proud of our president for again articulating a moral vision for the United States.
Photo Credit: Whitehouse.gov
All people of faith - and all Americans in general - must condemn the firebomb attacks this weekend in New York against a Mosque, a small temple where Hindu services are performed, and two other locations (one a Muslim owned business and another a private home where Christians live). Governor Andrew Cuomo was absolutely correct to say that the attacks "go against everything we stand for as New Yorkers and Americans." 100 worshippers were in the Mosque at the time of the bombing. Thankfully, there were no injuries.
We are living during a time of increased religious bigotry directed largely at Muslims and orchestrated as part of a political campaign to divide Americans along religious lines. Our nation was founded on religious freedom and has grown onto to most religiously pluralistic society on earth. That diversity has brought many gifts to the United States. Those who seek to undermine religious freedom seek to undermine the core principles of our democracy. It is particularly important that those of us who are Christian - the dominant faith tradition in the U.S. - stand up for religious minorities and their right to worship freely. As The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
When one faith is under attack all faiths are under attack.
APM's Marketplace interviewed me for a story aired this evening on the Occupy Wall Street Movement in which they broadcast brief portions of a sermon I delivered at Ainsworth United Church of Christ about the movement and Christanity. For the "other side" of the story they quoted the director of the Institute on Religion on Democracy (IRD) who said: "It’s usually problematic to try to identify Jesus Christ with any particular political or economic agenda." That's ironic since IRD is a conservative political organization and not a religious group that advocates for right-wing economic policies that hurt those Jesus would have called the "least of these."
The Washington Post has a story up tonight via Religion News Services about church involvement in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. You'll read mention of Portland's First Congregational United Church Church of Christ and First Unitarian Church. There are also a couple of quotes from me. Click here.
Last night 25 clergy and other religious leaders stood with Occupy Portland. This morning my sermon at Ainsworth United Church of Christ - What Does The Lord Require of Portland? - reflected on that experience and the overall Occupy Wall Street movement. You can watch the video here.
Slower internet connection? Hit the "HD" button to turn off the high definition and watch this video in standard definition.
Occupy Portland was dismantled late this morning by the Portland Police Bureau - while we were in church - after a mostly peaceful night. Our aim in being present all-night Saturday into early Sunday morning was to bear witness to the events and to promote non-violence. We offered prayers for the demonstrators and police, lit candles and sang hymns.
A statement of support for Occupy Portland was also issued on Friday evening by Portland's larger interfaith community.
We concluded our service today with a prayer for our city:
Below are some photos taken by K. Kendall that are used here with permission of the interfaith gathering at Occupy Portland on Saturday evening. Additional photos can be seen here.
Related Link: Occupy America: A Great New Awakening
Lore is the social justice minister at Portland's First Unitarian Church and Currie is a minister in the United Church of Christ.
This weekend I had the pleasure of preaching at Arlington Community United Church of Christ in the Bay Area. The Rev. Tony Clary, a seminary colleague and friend, is the pastor. My sermon dealt with the Christian church's responsibility to support the goals of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. You can watch the video below:
Slower internet connection? Hit the "HD" button to turn off the high definition and watch this video in standard definition.Occupy America: A New Great Awakening
For Christians, supporting the Occupy America protests should be clear-cut. The protesters are lifting up principles of compassion, justice and love. These principles are central to the Christian faith.
I came out here today to show my support for the protesters. The United Church of Christ is concerned with the growing inequity in this nation--it's a deeply moral issue. -Reverend Chuck Currie (via Oregon Public Broadcasting)
Earlier today I stopped by Occupy Portland to show my personal support for the non-violent protests occurring across our nation that are calling attention to growing inequity and poverty in the United States. I'm particularly impressed with the number of young people involved.
For Christians, supporting the Occupy America protests should be clear-cut. The protesters are lifting up principles of compassion, justice and love. These principles are central to the Christian faith.
We need to do more to address the truly fundamental problems facing our nation. As a start, we need Congress to pass President Obama's American Jobs Act.
But we also need to dig more deeply and make the American economy work not just for the wealthy and the largest corporations but for the common good of all Americans - while at the same time taking note of our place in the global community.
I'll continue to support the Occupy America movement as long as it remains non-violent and positive and I urge the Portland Police Bureau and other cities to treat protesters with respect as they exercise their democratic rights to assemble and speak.
Supporting the Occupy America movement is the Christian thing to do.
God of love and justice, we come to You this Labor Day asking for Your presence and guidance. You have asked us to walk with our brothers and sisters and told us there are no strangers among us. Yet, we still turn against You and the law You have given us to love one another as we love ourselves. As the Psalm says, we know that good will comes to those who are generous and lend freely, and to those who conduct their affairs with justice. However, we have sometimes failed to be generous with our time and resources, and have neglected opportunities to treat others with human dignity.
God, as we remember those who are struggling and organizing for a living wage, healthcare, and human dignity in their workplaces, remind us this Labor Day that You have called us to walk in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, as we conduct our affairs with love and justice. May it be so.
- reprinted from Interfaith Worker Justice
The attacks this week in Israel, as Human Rights Watch reports, are unjustified and undermine the cause of peace:
(Jerusalem) – Attacks by unidentified gunmen that killed at least six Israeli civilians and wounded dozens more in southern Israel on August 18, 2011, were an egregious assault on the right to life, Human Rights Watch said today.
“Attacking civilians with firearms, bombs, and rockets shows an abominable disregard for human life,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Churches for Middle East Peace noted the response:
At least six Palestinians in Gaza were killed in Israeli airstrikes in response to the attack. A correspondent for Ma’an News said that the home in Rafah that was bombed belonged to Popular Resistance Committees official Khaled Shaath. Official Israeli sources said the IDF raids in Gaza had killed the PRC leaders who it suspects organized these raids as well as the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who has been held captive by Hamas since 2006. The IDF says that at least 10 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel following Israel’s airstrike. Two of the rockets caused damage and injuries in the Israeli port city of Ashdod.
On-going violence is not the only factor that continues to hinder peace efforts:
As protests about the high cost of living in Israel continued in the streets for the fourth week, the Israeli government continued with its effort to expedite the construction of new housing in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. With Monday’s announcement of plans for 277 additional units in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, the government has approved the construction of more than 5,800 new homes in the occupied territories in less than two weeks.
In a statement announcing the approval of new construction in Ariel, the Israeli Defense Ministry stated that more than one-third of the new units will house settlers evacuated from Gaza in 2005. With a population of around 18,000, Ariel has seen few housing approvals in recent years. The settlement is located deep inside of the West Bank, more than 10 miles from the Green Line or pre-1967 line. Israelis insist that Ariel will be kept in any final agreement, but Palestinians say they need the area for a future state.
The Middle East Quartet released a statement on Tuesday expressing great concern about Israel’s recent announcements about new building plans in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The document asserted, “The Quartet reaffirms that unilateral action by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community.” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday, "Like every American administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity."
J Street, the U.S. Jewish group which condemned the terrorist acts along with Human Rights Watch and others, also issued a statement earlier stating that further Israeli settlements will destroy efforts to develop a lasting peace:
J Street strongly opposes the Israeli government’s announcement of new housing development in the outlying settlement of Ariel.
In calling the new housing “unhelpful” or “counterproductive,” the Obama administration is understating the enormous damage that daily announcements of new settlement construction are doing to the chances for a two-state solution.
This month, over 80 Members of Congress are visiting Israel. We urge them to see – as their fellow Congressmen who visit the region with the J Street Education Fund do – the damage that ongoing settlement construction in places like Ariel or the Jerusalem suburbs over the Green Line are doing to the chances for a peaceful two-state solution.
These announcements constitute exactly the sort of unilateral action that undercut Israel’s argument that the Palestinians should refrain from unilateral steps such as appealing to the United Nations as they try to create a viable state on the West Bank.
We urge the Members of Congress visiting Israel to gain further first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground by visiting the expanding settlements and to take advantage of the opportunity they have in meeting with Israeli officials on their trip to make clear America’s long-standing opposition to these developments.
Please keep the people of Israel and Palestine in your prayers and reach out to members of Congress to demand that they fully embrace a two-state solution.
Despite all the "bad news" there is good news in a new poll:
A decade after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a Gallup poll released Tuesday found that the vast majority of Muslim Americans say they are loyal to the United States and optimistic about the future, even though they are more likely than other religious groups to say they recently experienced discrimination.
Nine out of 10 Muslim Americans said that their co-religionists in the United States were not sympathetic to Al Qaeda, the group held responsible for the 2001 attacks. Majorities in other religious groups agreed that Muslim Americans did not sympathize with Al Qaeda, but the percentages were much lower.
The poll in many ways contradicts the stereotype of Muslim Americans as an alienated and discontented religious minority. It was conducted by telephone from Feb. 10 to March 11, 2010, and Oct. 1 to 21, 2010, by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, a Gallup-affiliated research group based in the United Arab Emirates. The poll, which included interviews with 2,482 adults of whom 475 said they were Muslim, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus seven percentage points for Muslims.
“The prejudice and discrimination are definitely there, and that’s something we have consistently seen in the data,” Mr. Younis said. “But at the same time many of the people in the Muslim-American community seem to be doing relatively well, and part of their doing well is being able to be full-fledged Americans, to participate in the American experience.”
The poll found that Muslim Americans were the most likely of any religious group to express confidence in the fairness of elections. The researchers speculated that this might be because of their high levels of support for President Obama, who said early in his term that he would make it a priority to repair relationships with the Muslim world.
One of President Obama's greatest successes since assuming office is largely changing the nature of America's reputation across the globe from one that is adversarial to one that is partnership based. His speech in Cairo went along way toward building bridges in the Muslim world.
More importantly, President Obama's steadfast support of Muslim Americans has helped to build trust that was violated during the previous administration. President Obama deserves credit, for example, for speaking out in support of building a new mosque in New York City and for having his administration refute charges made by U.S. Rep. Peter King that Muslim Americans are disloyal.
Muslim Americans have proven time and time again that like most Americans they are committed to our democracy - we witness this daily as they serve in public office, serve in the armed forces, and work as first responders - and believe as all good Americans do that E pluribus unum - Out of many, one. Those in the Tea Party and on right-wing talk radio will continue to bash Muslims to divide Americans along religious and cultural lines but each day ordinary Muslim Americans show us the path to a better America is built through unity and common purpose.
From United Church News:
The United Church of Christ has issued a $250,000 emergency relief appeal for drought- and famine-impacted communities in the Eastern Horn of Africa.
One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) emergency relief grants have been shared with Church World Service (CWS) and Action by Churches Together (ACT) to support immediate emergency food relief in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. The UCC is a member communion of Church World Service and an affiliate of the ACT Alliance.
As part of Our Church’s Wider Mission, OGHS is one of the UCC’s four special mission offerings.
This year marks the driest period in the Eastern Horn of Africa region since 1995, with the lowest level of rainfall in more than 50 years. More than 10 million people are affected by the drought. In Somalia, some 3.7 million people face a crisis, while in Kenya the estimate is up to 3.5 million people.
The United Nations has declared that famine exists in two areas of southern Somalia, southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle.
My latest on The Huffington Post. Pls "like' the article there, share on Facebook, comment, call and read to your grandmother over the phone, etc.
From the World Council of Churches:
God of life, God of love:
In the face of unbearable tragedy we turn to you;
hear our cry, listen to our prayers, to our words, to our silence ...
God of healing, God of mercy:
Hear our prayers for the people of Norway;
for all in deep distress, for all who grieve, for the injured and the shocked, for those in despair.
May they be cared for and comforted.
For all in the emergency services working long hours to search, to listen, to care, to protect, to heal.
May they be given strength and also find support.
God of mercy, God of peace:
Hear our prayers for all around the world facing terror and unspeakable violence;
May violence be overcome and the path to peace be found.
All human life is fragile, each of us is precious in your eyes,
Teach us to value one another as you value us.
God of justice, God of courage:
We pray for all leaders in times of crisis,
That they may act for the common good, offering hope and not fear.
God of courage, God of transformation:
We pray for our churches,
That they may be places of openness and forgiveness, planting the values of peace and justice in society.
Transform all fundamentalism and vengeance into attitudes that make for reconciliation.
May we learn to be children of your kingdom of love.
God of all grace and all thankfulness:
In gratitude we pray, giving thanks for the prayers and encouragement which come from so many people and places at this time of suffering, pain and mourning. We learn global solidarity in a time of crisis; may we not forget one another in less stressful times ahead.
These prayers and the heavy silence of our hearts we offer in the name of your son Jesus Christ who trod the path of peace in the face of violence.
“This is our homeland, this is my homeland; I condemn these attacks and the Islamic Council of Norway condemns these attacks, whoever is behind them.”
- Mehtab Afsar, secretary general of the Islamic Council of Norway
"World Council of Churches general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit was in Oslo today. With people around the world He prays with the people of Norway, his home country."
- Tweet from the World Council of Churches
Together all people of good faith condemn the terrorist attacks which took place in Norway today. Innocent lives were taken - a claim of responsibility that has yet to be confirmed has been made by a radical Islamic group according to The New York Times (and such early claims often prove to be false) - but those who carried out these attacks were not the legitimate representatives of any religion. Those responsible are war criminals who dishonored God by committing crimes against humanity. Let us continue to hold the people of Norway in our prayers this day as we continue to pray for peace and reconciliation across the globe.
Update 6:37 PM Pacific: In a sign of how quickly these stories change it is now being reported that a conservative Christian is the key suspect in the attacks.
Update 3:45 PM Pacific: The following press statement has just been issued by the World Council of Churches:
“Norway has today experienced an unprecedented and horrible level of violence against innocent people,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, a Norwegian Lutheran pastor and general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
Tveit, who is currently in Norway, had just left Oslo when he learned of the bombing of a government building that has left several injured and seven dead.
Norwegian authorities also say a gunman dressed as a police officer fired on youth attending a political camp on Utoya Island killing at least nine.
Late Friday evening Norwegian authorities were quoted as saying the bombing and shooting may be linked and that they had apprehended the shooter on the island.
“Attacking the core institutions of a democratic society and innocent youth gathered for a workshop to discuss political issues, leaves me shocked,” he said. “Being close to these events, I am deeply saddened, realizing that this has happened in my beloved country, with its people, its leaders, and its institutions.”
“In times like this the Norwegian people and government need the solidarity of the international society and the prayers of the world wide church,” he said. “Now we know the reality of so many others in the world were violence pierces the lives of the innocent.”
Tveit has asked the member churches of the WCC for their prayers and solidarity, saying “we pray that Norway might be able to stand together as an open, peace-loving country also in the future.”
“Let us all stay together for a world of justice and peace, without hate and revenge, but with the values of democracy, caring for the dignity and the human rights of every person,” he said. “We are all created in the image of God.”
Tveit said the worldwide fellowship of the WCC offers its prayers and condolences to the families who have lost loved ones and are victims of today’s violence, to Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his fellow Norwegians.
Additional statements from religious leaders will be posted as they become available.
Our nation was graced with the presence of Betty Ford in the White House as First Lady of the United States during the presidency of Gerald Ford.
As her official White House biography notes: "She did not hesitate to state her views on controversial issues such as the Equal Rights Amendment, which she strongly supported" along with the right for women to make their own decisions regarding abortion.
Her passing today at the age of 93 should give us pause to thank God for all her accomplishments.
Perhaps her two most lasting contributions to our nation where personal and not political.
As First Lady, she publicly fought breast cancer during a time that the disease was seen as a social stigma. Her public fight brought awareness to breast cancer - and other forms of cancer as well - and helped people become more accepting of those fighting the disease.
She also waged a public battle with alcoholism and addiction, and later helped launch the Betty Ford Clinic. Once again, she fought the stigma of a disease and offered millions hope.
Mrs. Ford will be remembered as a great American who advanced the rights of women and helped the nation recover after the wounds of Watergate.
"While her death is a cause for sadness, we know that organizations such as the Betty Ford Center will honor her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life," said President Obama this evening.
Photo Credit: Official White House portrait
Press Release from the National Council of Churches
Washington, June 30 -- National Council of Churches officers and heads of NCC member communions have joined other faith leaders in calling on President Obama to take bold action for peace between Israel and Palestine.
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, NCC president, and the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary, signed onto a message that points out that "time is not on the side of peace."
The letter, drafted by Churches for Middle East Peace, urges the president to issue a comprehensive statement prior to the convening of the United Nations General Assembly this fall "that addresses all final status issues, including the need for Jerusalem in the future to be the shared capital of both states, a just resolution on the issue of all refugees, and assured access for all faiths to their holy places."
The letter to the president comes at a time when the path to peace is strewn with hurdles and both Israeli and Palestinian leaders face unprecedented domestic political challenges.
Recent weeks have seen comments by both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu and a reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Currently, a humanitarian flotilla is about to head to the Gaza strip, and the Palestinian Authority is considering bringing the question of statehood before the United Nations in the fall. There is a growing recognition of the increasingly desperate situation on the ground and that time is not on the side of peace.
“All of these events make it even more pertinent for President Obama to take immediate leadership toward a comprehensive peace agreement,” said Jordan Blevins, Advocacy Officer and Ecumenical Peace Coordinator for the National Council of Churches and Church of the Brethren.
The letter is signed by a wide range of evangelical, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox leaders. In addition to Chemberlin and Kinnamon, signers representing NCC member communions include:
Father Mark Arey, Ecumenical Officer, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, NCC past president, Armenian Orthodox Church of North America; Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey, Minister for Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists; and Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Reformed Church in America.
Also, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church; His Beatitude Jonah, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Orthodox Church in America; and His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church,in the Eastern United States.
Also, the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service; the Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA; the Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller, President, Provincial Elders' Conference, Moravian Church in America, Northern Province; Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren; and Dr. Harriett Jane Olson, Deputy General Secretary, the Women’s Division of General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church.
Also, the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church, (USA); the Rev. Tyrone Pitts, General Secretary Emeritus, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Radar, Ecumenical Officer, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church; Dr. T. DeWitt Smith Jr., Immediate Former President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; the Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); and Bishop John F. White, Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer, African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Add you name to the statement by clicking here.
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.
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