The Honorable Senator Ron Wyden
Sent via email
Dear Senator Wyden:
We are writing to both congratulate you on being named the winner of the 2015 Vollum Ecumenical Humanitarian Award from Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO) and to personally take this opportunity to urge you to oppose S.615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.
Both of us have been deeply honored in the past to have our ministries recognized by EMO. Rev. Lore was given the 2013 Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon Award for Justice and Rev. Currie was given the 2003 Vollum Ecumenical Humanitarian Award. We agree you are deeply deserving of your award for opposing torture and standing up for human rights.
As for Iran, we strongly agree with J Street, which has stated:
“With the critical details of a comprehensive agreement yet to be worked out, it is more important than ever that Congress not take actions that will undermine America's negotiators at the table. There must also be no question that, if a final agreement ultimately cannot be reached, the United States is not to blame. We therefore continue to oppose new sanctions legislation currently before the Senate, and remain committed to working with Senators and Members of Congress toward legislation that provides for robust and responsible Congressional oversight of Iranian compliance with any agreement reached.
The diplomatic path being pursued by the United States and its international partners remains better than all the other alternative approaches to dealing with Iran. Military action would delay but not completely destroy the Iranian program, while dragging the United States and Israel into a costly and bloody war.”
S.615 would undermine President Obama’s diplomacy. We have already seen U.S. Senator Tom Cotton publically argue for a bombing campaign against Iran, despite wisdom from current and former military advisors to both political parties who state such action would fail and provoke a larger conflict.
The National Council of Churches “has long advocated for engagement with the Iranian Government, especially with regard to the nuclear question, as engagement is the best means to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation.” We concur.
How members of the Senate vote on this issue may determine whether or not we go to war with Iran – a war that is avoidable if diplomacy is given every chance, as the president has asked.
As clergy in Oregon deeply committed to peace, we urge you to publically oppose S.615 in the strongest possible terms.
Rev. Kate Lore
Minister for Social Justice
First Unitarian Church, Portland
Rev. Chuck Currie
Director, Center for Peace and Spirituality
Pacific University | Oregon
This week a state representative sent me a couple of Tweets regarding the controversy surrounding Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber that seemed disingenuous. These tweets echoed my own calls for prayers (though the representative felt the need to call on the governor to accept Jesus as his personal savior...I know nothing about the governor's faith nor is it my business...nor is it the business of one public official to tell another how to worship).
I finally responded to these tweets by telling the representative that he was a bigot and a bigger embarrassment to Oregon than the governor. Why? There is a long record of this representative, a Tea Party leader and radio talk show host, of making bigoted statements against African-Americans, gays and lesbians, people of faith who disagree with his own very conservative evangelical faith, and even all Portlanders (as if all people in Portland live and believe the same).
Still, it was wrong of me to respond in the way I did and I apologized this morning. My apology wasn't based on the feedback from this representative's fan base - which came quickly on Twitter:
I heard that @RevChuckCurrie is douchebag. Anyone know the clown?— Josh Shoob (@ShoobJosh) February 13, 2015
and on Facebook where the representative sought to stoke the fire:
Mike Broberg Well he is from the same church as "the reverend" Jeremiah Wright so it's not all that surprising that he feels that way...a little surprised he was dumb enough to put it on twitter. Btw who are you a big got for wanting governor Coruptionhaber to get right with JesusKaren Darnell United Church of Christ. The man is a communist to the core.
I've also been encouraging the people of Oregon this week to pray for the bi-partisan leadership of this state. Whatever happens in the next hours or days the state’s bi-partisan political leadership could best serve the public by working in a spirit of cooperation with an eye to reconciliation and reform of any broken institutions. These are difficult days for Oregon. We can lessen the hurt by offering compassion as Oregon moves forward.
Regardless of whether or not this elected official is a bigot it was wrong in the context of this moment to make the claim. I inflamed tensions instead of lowering them. That was a failure on my part. We need to be careful with our words so that Oregon can find healing after too long a winter.
What Oregonians need now is to look to the future:
Remarks delivered by Rev. Chuck Currie at the Oregon League of Minority Voters dinner on October 30, 2014.
It is with great appreciation that I join with you all this evening.
We are, as you all know, near to an election. There is always cause to celebrate the democratic process. We live in a nation where the people decide on those who will occupy elective office.
For all the gifts of our democracy, however, we are a nation not fully free. A broken system allowed the loser of the popular vote to take the presidency in 2001. Our political system has never fully recovered.
Since then we have given corporations the rights of people and taken away from certain people the right to freely vote. We are not fully free.
The United States keeps company with nations like Russia in incarcerating large numbers of our fellow citizens, and in America those jailings are disproportionally based on skin color and not on crime.
We are not fully free in Missouri or New York or California or Oregon when unarmed African-Americans are killed by uniformed police officers and we know the process of investigation will be neither fair nor balanced.
We are a little less free in Portland, Oregon this month after the Portland City Council decided to fight a judge’s oversight of reforms of the Portland Police Bureau that have been mandated by the federal government which would make us a little more free.
Ours is a disconnected reality. We live in an age where an African-American can be elected president of the United States. We live in an age where a Latino can serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. We live in an age where a lesbian woman can serve as the Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. All of these people serve based on the content of their character.
These victories are a reality because of the work undertaken by many of you in this room here today.
But we are less free when our people are hungry. We are less free when our children are homeless. How can we make the claim that we are the “greatest nation on Earth" when 20,000 or more students will experience homelessness just in Oregon this year? Neither political party pays enough attention to poverty and economic inequity but the harshest judgment must rest with those who have fought investments in jobs, expansion in health care…and with those who have simply turned a blind eye to the people Jesus called the least of these.
The crisis of Ferguson is not an isolated incident but indicative of larger social ills that infect the whole body of our nation.
Only when we recognize the common humanity that we all share will we all be free. We cannot treat one another as if we can do without the other. We are too interconnected.
In his letter 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote about the church being the body of Christ. These are the words his used, as translated by Eugene Peterson:
For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
This is a good message for us as the election nears. We are not fully free because we do not treat the “other” as necessary, as integral, when there is no one, not a soul, that can be left behind. If we do not love neighbor as ourselves, we have no hope.
So I leave you with this prayer, one based on a prayer organically penned by Phillips Brooks, that we often share in the United Church of Christ:
Jesus said, "You ought always to pray and not to faint." Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger women and men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, but for power equal to your tasks. Then, the doing of your work will be no miracle - YOU will be the miracle, and every day you will wonder at yourself and the richness of life that has come to you by the grace of God. Amen.
Still deciding how to vote on Oregon ballot measures? Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO), the state-wide council of churches and faith-based organizations, has produced their annual Voter's Guide to Ballot Measures for the 2014 elections.
What you'll read are the careful theological reflections of Christian leaders trying to discern how the different measures before Oregon voters will impact the common good. Candidates are not ranked or endorsed.
On some issues, EMO makes no recommendations either because the measures do not warrant input from the faith community or because the member bodies of EMO were not able to come to consensus.
You won't be reading a partisan document - like the voter guides published by the Oregon Family Council, a purely political organization complete with a PAC that donates 100% of their funds to GOP candidates all while claiming to be a church council - or a document that insists you must vote with EMO's recommendations to be a good Christian.
I generally agree with the recommendations made by EMO (though I have endorsed Measure 91) and commend these recommendations to you.
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.
Oregon voters will consider a ballot measure legalizing the sale and regulation of marijuana. Taxes from the sale of marijuana would be directed to fund public education, mental health and addiction services, and public safety. The General Synod of the United Church of Christ has made no pronouncement on this emerging public policy issue and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon has yet to release their fall ballot measure guide. As a minister in the United Church of Christ in Oregon, however, I will vote yes on the November measure and encourage other people of faith to consider doing likewise. My vote is predicated on a theological principle that public policy should reflect the common good. The illegalization of marijuana, a drug that is in some ways medically considered to be less harmful then alcohol, has tragically forced many people needlessly into the criminal justice system. It is worth noting that those charged with drug offenses are disproportionally people of color. African-Americans are four times more likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana use even though usage is the same, according to federal data. This has further institutionalized the sin of racism in our society. Like many young people, I smoked marijuana, but unlike youth of color there was little chance that I would have ever faced legal consequences for my actions. My “yes” vote is not without reservations. There is growing medical evidence that smoke from marijuana is dangerous. I am concerned that marijuana use is often idolized in public culture – the same is true for alcohol, however – and thus some seem to promote use among young people under 21. My hope is that with further public education and drug treatment funds that Oregon can do more to reduce unhealthy drug use among young people. Regardless of my concerns, this issue should be treated as a treatment issue and not a law enforcement issue. Obviously, people of good faith will come to different conclusions on this issue. I’ll vote Yes on 91 with the hope that the legalization and regulation of marijuana will reduce crime and violence now associated with the black market linked with the drug, will provide new funding for treatment, and will undermine the systemic racism that fuels our dysfunctional criminal justice system. All of this would benefit the common good of Oregon.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the official views of Pacific University, the United Church of Christ, or any local congregation.
My latest op-ed in The Forest Grove Leader / The Oregonian:
Good people of faith can have differences of opinion on marriage equality – and the proposed measure making marriage equality legal in Oregon also writes into law that no clergy or religious institution can ever be forced into performing a same sex marriage – but anyone who uses religion as a shield for arguing that gays and lesbians should be subject to discrimination in the marketplace is committing theological malpractice.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber held a summit meeting today to discuss poverty with special guest Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK. The fact that Kitzhaber was discussing poverty at all half-way into a third term is noteworthy. This is the same governor, after all, who proposed lifetime TANF limits on Oregonians more stringent than anything Newt Gingrich pushed as he tried to dismantle America's safety net as U.S. House Speaker. At the same time, in an effort to balance Oregon's budget, Kitzhaber proposed tax breaks for corporations. In other words, he was willing to balance Oregon's budget on the backs of our state's must vulnerable. It is sometimes hard to imagine this is the same man who fought so hard to expand health care in the 1980s. I hope Governor Kitzhaber learned something today from Sister Simone, one of our nation's great moral leaders. The governor talked movingly in his last State of the State Address about the need to confront growing economic inequality in Oregon but those words have not been matched with bold new policies. Will our governor end another four years in office with no concrete efforts to reduce poverty or will he answer the challenge raised by faith leaders and others to make a real difference in the lives of Oregonians who have suffered because of bad economic polices nationally and indifference locally?
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
The Rev. Chuck Currie will join Pacific University in Fall 2014 as director of the Center for Peace & Spirituality and university chaplain.
My latest today on The Huffington Post:
"Most Christians once opposed the fight for equality for gays and lesbians. Today many Christians and other people of faith are at the forefront of the fight to end discrimination against the gay and lesbian community -- even working to support marriage equality."Time to Come Out as People of Faith for Marriage Equality
This is an issue being faced by people all across our nation. In the past, opponents of equality for gays and lesbians could count on religious leaders as allies. Not anymore. The United Church of Christ, where I am an ordained minister, became the first mainline denomination to endorse marriage equality back in 2005. Many Christian leaders have followed since.
Sunnyside Church and University Park Church, the two Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church that I serve in ecumenical partnership, will be holding a joint worship service on Sunday, June 16th at 9:30 am at University Park Church (4775 N. Lombard) before the Portland Pride Parade. Our churches will then be marching with the Community of Welcoming Congregations in the parade. We invite all in area to join us in worship and for the parade.
To learn more about Oregon’s campaign for marriage equality visit: http://www.oregonunitedformarriage.org
Listen to the story about today's event from Oregon Public Broadcasting:
My oped this morning in The Salem Statesman Journal:
"There are at least 90 students experiencing homelessness at North Portland’s Roosevelt High School. That shouldn’t come as a surprise in a state where as many as 20,000 students were homeless at one point during the past school year."Don't leave homeless children behind.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza argued this week that support for gay marriage is surging because more people know gay folks and because of the influence of television (and popular culture in general). I think we should give credit to the Religious Right.
In Oregon, we have been forced to debate a series of anti-gay ballot measures put forward by conservative Christian organizations since 1988. Those conversations – perhaps more than any other factor – have forced Oregonians to consider what it means to discriminate against those who are neighbors and family members. People “came out” to oppose these measures and that meant for the first time many of us met gay people (or realized we already knew them). It forced churches and other faith bodies to reconsider traditional teachings on marriage in the much the same way the Civil Rights Movement forced many churches to reevaluate Scripture – which had been used to justify slavery and Jim Crow, by some – and that process has lead many to conclude that God’s overarching call for love and compassion trumps ancient understandings of relationships (or even misinterpretations of Scripture). In a very real sense, part of the surge in support for marriage equality comes as direct – but obviously unintended result – of the anti-gay marriage movement (and anti-gay movement more generally).
Jerry Falwell, Pat Roberton and Albert Mohler may be America's greatest advocates for marriage equality - though I'm sure they didn't mean it to turn out this way.
P.S. Live in Oregon? Join the people of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church for Easter in Portland. All are welcome.
The Oregon Family Council (OFC) called my office this morning to see if I’d be joining their "Pastors Day at the Capitol." This is where they bring “Tea Party Jesus” to the politicians.
On Facebook, the OFC has stated that the “Oregon Family Council serves over 2,000 Churches and over 40,000 families from across the state who come from a broad spectrum of denominational backgrounds within the Christian community” and that as a 501 ( c ) non profit they “are not affiliated with any political party. Party platforms or points of view play no role whatsoever in our evaluation and recommendations on ballot measures.”
What they fail to mention is they also operate a political action committee that gives 100% of their money to GOP candidates.
What ballot measures have they endorsed in the past? Those that benefit the wealthiest Oregonians at the expense of those Jesus would have called the “least of these.”
Their stances have been opposed by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, our state’s association of churches and other faith leaders who view public policy through Christian theology and not just a political agenda.
Let’s be clear: this isn’t a Christian organization but rather a political machine to support GOP candidates and causes.
At their "Pastors Day at the Capitol," the OFC claims to be coming to protect religious freedoms under attack:
Our religious freedoms are under direct assault on many fronts today. This year’s event is a must for every pastor and church leader from around the state. Local and national experts on religious liberty will be in attendance to address where we stand in regards to our religious freedoms and how we can preserve these freedoms for future generations.
The most hotly debated issue concerning "religious freedom" has centered around President Obama's health care law - passed with the strong support of the National Council of Churches - and the argument that it infringes on religious liberty has been rejected by nearly all.
Sally Steenland, Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress, notes this is part of a national movement that has nothing to do with religious freedom:
…conservatives are setting up religious-liberty caucuses in states across the country. One of the goals of this effort is to pass laws with broad exemptions allowing those who oppose reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples, and other measures of gay and transgender equality the ability to opt out of antidiscrimination laws and policies without being sued. This is not a new political strategy. It turns out we’ve been down this road before. In fact it is a road that has deep and all-too-familiar ruts from similar fights decades ago.
During the civil rights battle in the 1960s, for example, segregationists used religious justifications to oppose interracial marriage and integration. God created the races to be separate, they argued, which was why he put them on separate continents. To support any kind of race mixing—whether in stores, restaurants, movie theaters, schools, churches, or businesses—was a sin. Civil rights opponents denied they were bigoted. On the contrary, they were simply following biblical teachings and obeying God’s will. Forcing them to abide by civil rights laws would be a grave violation of their conscience and an assault on their religious liberty.
Fortunately, segregationists did not get the religious exemptions they desired.
It is important that people of faith stand up to political groups like the Oregon Family Council and their agenda that in the name of Jesus seeks to shift ever further economic policies so that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, while at the same time they advance proposals to discriminate against people all in the name of religious freedom.
I told the caller I won’t be attending the Oregon Family Council’s "Pastors Day at the Capitol." Instead, I’ll be joining with people of faith to oppose their plans.
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
Oregon voters will be asked to consider marriage equality in 2014 - and this time people of faith will be leading the charge.
This morning Oregon United for Marriage launched a campaign to qualify a measure to make marriage equality the law of the land. A packed church hall was the site of a diverse faith leaders breakfast where clergy and others became some of the first to sign the petetion.
When the General Synod of the United Church of Christ endorsed marriage equality in 2005, they noted:
"As religious leaders, we stand in solidarity with Oregon United for Marriage," said the Rev. Tara Wilkins, pastor of Bridgeport United Church of Christ and executive director of the Community of Welcoming Congregations. "Many of our religious traditions support the freedom to marry, and we believe the time is now to make it legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry in Oregon." Rev. Wilkins notes that the proposed initiative protects religious freedom, and no religious community will be forced to marry same-sex couples. Over 250 clergy and faith leaders have already signed on in support of the Freedom to marry in Oregon. "Marriage is about families and the freedom to marry reflects our values of treating all of our congregants the same, said Rev. Wilkins".
In that spirit, I signed my name to the petition this morning as a United Church of Christ minister serving two Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church.
Some religious leaders in Oregon will obviously oppose marriage equality. But they can no longer claim to speak for God or for the church universal. A generation ago many churches used the Bible to oppose interacial marriage. They were wrong then. Many Christians today believe it is wrong to use to Bible and the teachings of Jesus, which call for inclusion and justice - to oppose marriage equality today.
A Portland-area bakery recently refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple based on their religious objections to same-sex marriage. As I told KOIN-TV this weekend, the response wasn't Christian but discriminatory.
Let's be clear: homosexuality is not a sin. Bigotry is. A generation ago - when Barack Obama's parents were married - interracial marriage was illegal in many states and businesses refused to accommodate interracial couples. These private businesses often used the Bible to justify their discriminatory acts.
This incident is no different. Oregon law protects gays and lesbians from discrimination. A private business has no right to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation. The Oregon Department of Justice is now investigating. They will determine whether or not a crime has been committed.
But certainly a sin has been committed by the owners of Sweet Cakes Bakery. Their website says they make cakes for "any occasion." Unless you are gay, apparently. What they have done is no different from those who a generation ago turned away interracial couples. As a minister ordained to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I find no place in Holy Scripture that justifies such discrimination. My hope is that the owners of the bakery have an opportunity to prayerfully reflect on this issue and repent.
This sermon was deleived by The Rev. Chuck Currie at a special joint service of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church in Portland, Ore. on Sunday, January 20, 2013. Our Scripture readings were Amos 5:21-24 and Isaiah 11: 1-9.
You can download the audio 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).
The text is below:
This Sunday – this special day when we celebrate the life and ministry of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – we have cause to celebrate.
Tomorrow our nation will witness the inauguration of Barack Obama to a second term as President of the United States of America, the first African-American to hold that position. He lives in the White House, a grand symbol of freedom, but a building created with slave labor. How far we have come.
What political party Barack Obama and Tina Kotek represent is unimportant to us this morning.
It is unimportant what political party Tim Scott of South Carolina belongs to. What is important is that this month he becomes the first African-American to represent a Southern state since Reconstruction in the United States Senate.
The walls of injustice are tumbling down. Frances and Katherine, my daughters, can dream any dream thanks to Harriett Tubman, Susan B. Antony, Hilary Clinton and Tina Kotek. Our children have opportunities that once seemed impossible because of discrimination of all kinds. Change has come.
We read in Scripture today that what impresses God is not the grandness of our buildings or the pomp and circumstance of worship but the boldness of our vision, and the focus of our actions in building up the Kingdom of God, which Dr. King called the Beloved Community.
Whatever progress we have made has been hard won and while we have every reason to celebrate we also have every responsibility as the church to bring light to dark places and there is still too much darkness in this world.
Dr. King was more than just a civil rights leader. That would by itself be an honorable legacy. But he was a Christian minister, a prophet even, who challenged the church to build up the Kingdom of God. That's radical. That's transformational. And for those of power and privilege it was terrifying because in the Kingdom the last come first. The Holy Spirit worked through King to break-up the evil of white supremacy and to lift up the needs of those oppressed by economic systems that failed to address the condition of poverty. The task of the church, in this day, is to continue that ministry in new ways and to continue -- as Jesus did himself -- to confront oppression wherever we find it: to set the captives free.
The Civil Rights Movement was grounded in the teachings of the Hebrew Prophets who remembered when the people were slaves in Pharaoh’s land, and both their escape from captivity and deliverance to the Promised Land.
When Africans were ripped from their homeland and brought into the colonies, and later the United States, their masters often forced them to convert to Christianity. We have in our history books a copy of a baptismal rite used for slaves in South Carolina that shows slaves were forced to vow obedience to God but told not to take the stories of God’s liberation from captivity seriously. But it is impossible not to hear the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures and the promises of Jesus and not be transformed. The Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of slaves and within the Christian faith they found hope and promise – a hope that sustained and guided them through the Civil War - and their decedents into the great Civil Rights Movement. This was not what the slave owners of South Carolina, my ancestors, assumed would happen but God is more powerful than any human system of oppression.
In what is commonly called Jesus’ inaugural sermon he quoted from the Prophet Isaiah:
18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ (Luke 4 NRSV)
That is still the task of the church today.
Too many people live in captivity: caught up in on-going systems of racial oppression that still exist despite our progress, kept down by gender discrimination that allows us to place limits on what women earn or what jobs they might hold, trapped in broken immigration systems that don’t “welcome the stranger” but imprison and deport.
Children are captives of underfunded schools that ought to be cathedrals. Sick people are captives of a system that puts profits before people. All of us are captives of human caused climate change, gun violence and violence of every kind, along with oppressive poverty that stains our land. And if we truly believe that war is contrary to the will of God we need to be peacemakers in our time.
We are still not the Beloved Community that Dr. King dreamed of.
The church universal is not doing enough to build up the Kingdom.
This isn’t new.
Dr. King preached just a year before he died that:
"... when the church is true to its guidelines, it sets out to preach deliverance to them that are captive. This is the role of the church: to free people. This merely means to free those who are slaves. Now if you notice some churches, they never read this part. Some churches aren't concerned about freeing anybody. Some white churches face the fact Sunday after Sunday that their members are slaves to prejudice, slaves to fear. You got a third of them, or a half of them or more, slaves to their prejudices. And the preacher does nothing to free them from their prejudice so often. Then you have another group sitting up there who would really like to do something about racial injustice, but they are afraid of social, political, and economic reprisals, so they end up silent. And the preacher never says anything to lift their souls and free them from that fear. And so they end up captive.”
He went on to preach:
You know this often happens in the Negro church. You know, there are some Negro preachers that have never opened their mouths about the freedom movement. And not only have they not opened their mouths, they haven’t done anything about it. And every now and then you get a few members: 'They talk too much about civil rights in that church.' I was talking with a preacher the other day and he said a few of his members were saying that. I said, 'Don't pay any attention to them. Because number one, the members didn't anoint you to preach. And any preacher who allows members to tell him what to preach isn't much of a preacher.'
If we want to be true to our calling as Christians we need to address the challenges of our time with courage and conviction, unafraid of whether or not we are winning any popularity contest.
So we have to say to those in power that it is morally unacceptable that 20,000 children were homeless in our school system last year. No one should live a third world life in a first world nation.
We need to stand up to the NRA and rouge sheriffs doing their best Bull Connor imitations by saying that federal laws don’t apply to them when we need laws that protect us from gun violence.
Our political leaders need to know that growth cannot come at the expense of our health – and so as people of faith we must challenge policies that will negatively impact our environment, including those that disproportionally impact communities of color.
And I want Sunnyside Church and University Park Church to be leaders in the fight for marriage equality in Oregon because until everyone has their civil rights protected none of us is truly free.
Dr. King said:
"More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right."
What was true then is true now. We are the inheritors of the dream. But the dream is not yet fulfilled. So God calls us to action. Dr. King died the year before I was born. But his words are for every generation. As we leave this place let it be in a spirit of social action that keeps the building of the Kingdom front and center in our lives. Faith without action is empty. Faith combined with action can transform the world.
Let us pray.
we come to you this day as Oregonians of different faiths, traditions, and political beliefs.
Our communities are both large and small
but our love for this place is great.
In a house divided we know failure is possible
but we ask for wisdom this day and for unity in the midst of division.
We ask for help in letting our love for Oregon overcome our differences
and for guidance in forging a future that lifts up the common good.
On this day we lift up to you all those who will take oaths to serve Oregon
in the midst of difficult times, both Republicans and Democrats.
We especially lift up new Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, and her wife Aimee Wilson.
Give Speaker Kotek, her family, and the families of all those elected to serve the strength to endure the challenges of public life.
In deliberations both big and small, we ask, O God, that the Oregon House and Speaker Kotek place the needs of the “least of these” first.
Let us lift up those who are homeless, particularly our children, families and veterans.
Let us protect our environment, the creation we are stewards over, and make our communities safe from violence of all kinds.
And let this work be undertaken in the spirit of compromise and reconciliation.
In this House Chamber are women and men of great diversity who will serve with honor.
Give them the patience to hear the people’s voices.
Let them envision a future for our Oregon that includes everyone, not just the powerful.
Help all Oregonians to appreciate their service and sacrifice as they make common cause to build a future that benefits all our people.
Lord, hear our prayer.
- The Rev. Chuck Currie is the minister of University Park Church and Sunnyside Church in Portland.
(c) The Rev. Charles S. Currie, Jr., M.Div.
No one should be surprised but Oregon Democrat Kurt Schrader is backing the NRA and saying there is no need for additional laws to reduce gun violence. The congressman needs to hear from people of faith (and all Oregonians) who believe otherwise. You can call Rep. Schrader at (202) 225-5711 or visit http://schraderforms.house.gov/contact/ to send a polite e-mail.
Rep. Schrader is an NRA-backed Democrat. Blinded by their support and influence he fails to see the crisis we face in America today – a crisis where over 100,000 are injured by gun violence each year and over 30,000 die.
People of faith are calling on the president and Congress to act. Rep. Schrader needs to put the people of Oregon and the United States before the special interests of the NRA.
Rep. Schrader's bio lists him as an Episcopalian. It is worth noting that the Episcopal Church USA is asking members to take a "Pledge to Break the Cycle of Violence" which reads:
As an Episcopalian committed in baptism to seeking justice and peace and promoting the dignity of every human being, I commit to being part of the solution to the violence in our culture that claimed the lives of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School and that claims the lives of 2000 innocent children through gun crimes each year. I commit to the pursuit of laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals, prioritize the needs of at-risk children, provide care for mental illness, and address the many ways in which our culture both celebrates and trivializes violence. I commit to holding my lawmakers, my community, and my own household accountable. I commit to accomplishing these things in 2013. I commit to being the change we need.
Right now Rep. Schrader's views fall far short of this pledge. Let's encourage him to take the pledge and to support meaningful action to prevent gun violence in our nation.
Photo credit: House.gov
The people of University Park Church and Sunnyside Church invite you to celebrate The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday on January 20th at University Park United Methodist Church (worship begins at 9:30 am). Our special guest that morning will be new Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek. A reception in Speaker Kotek’s honor will be held following the service where she will make brief remarks about her agenda in the Legislature and will answer questions.
View this event on Facebook.
Sunnyside Church and University Park Church are progressive and Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church. Preaching that morning will be The Rev. Chuck Currie, a minister in the United Church of Christ, who serves as the minister of both congregations in an ecumenical partnership. Rev. Currie is a contributor to The Huffington Post whose ministry has focused on opportunity and hope for those living in poverty, and for the civil rights of all.
University Park Church, located at 4775 N. Lombard, worships Sunday morning at 9:30 am. The congregation is known as a place of radical hospitality and has been a beacon of justice for the LGBTQ community.
Sunnyside Church, where worship is held each Sunday at 11 am (3520 SE Yamhill Street), is the home of the Common Cup Family Shelter, and has long been involved in the fight to end homelessness. The congregation also hosts a community meal program, a neighborhood “swap shop,” and Camp Fire programs.
The regular worship service at Sunnyside Church will not be held on January 20th so that members can worship at University Park Church.
Speaker Kotek “will be the first openly lesbian lawmaker to lead a state legislative chamber in the U.S.,” notes The Huffington Post. “We consider this a great victory for the civil rights of all Oregonians,” says Rev. Currie. “As we celebrate the work of Dr. King and reflect on his unfinished agenda for equality of all, regardless of race or creed, along with his work to fight poverty and end war, it is right and proper to honor Speaker Kotek’s accomplishment.”
Rev. Currie is scheduled to deliver the invocation at Speaker Kotek’s swearing-in ceremony at the Oregon State Capitol on Monday, January 14th. University Park Church is located is Speaker Kotek’s N. Portland district. “All of us, regardless of party or politics, can join in giving thanks that the walls of discrimination continue to tumble down even as we recognize work remains before us,” Rev. Currie said. “In a sign of the times, our members are most proud that the Speaker comes from N. Portland before anything else. That is the way it should be. Speaker Kotek is being judged by the content of her character.”
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
That’s the message from Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, our state-wide association of churches, and a coalition of those who care about the common good of Oregon.
Measure 84 ends Oregon’s Estate tax. Defend Oregon notes: “This is a massive tax break that only benefits the heirs of millionaires. Oregon’s Estate Tax only applies to estates worth more than $1 million. This tax break would only apply to less than 750 of the richest estates each year, while forcing cuts to schools and services that middle-class families depend on.”
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon recommends a “NO” Vote on Measure 84: — “Vote “NO” on Measure 84 based on social principles regarding human rights, economic justice and support for adequate government revenue. At a time of growing economic inequality, and underfunding of public education and other critical state programs, it makes no sense to eliminate estate taxes that affect only a small percentage of wealthy Oregonians and that impose a modest and reasonable rate of taxation on the transfer of estates only after exempting the first one million dollars of value from taxation.”
Measure 85 reforms Oregon’s corporate kicker. Again, Defend Oregon explains: “Measure 85 will reform the corporate kicker by putting money into Oregon K‐12 classrooms, rather than back into the pockets of large, out‐of-state corporations. That would mean lowering class sizes and restoring important school programs.
These funds would also help get Oregon schools off of the financial roller coaster and provide more stability, even in economically tough years.”
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon urges a “YES” vote on Measure 85 — “Vote “YES” on Measure 85, based on human right to public education and need for adequate levels of government revenue. Due primarily to state budget cuts, Oregon schools have been forced to lay off nearly 16 percent of teachers (plus thousands of support and administrative staff ), while average class sizes have climbed by nearly 20 percent over the last three years, according to data collected by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators.
Other critical state programs have also suffered dramatic cuts. Eliminating the corporate kicker, which EMO opposed when it was first proposed, is a small but important step toward restoring adequate levels of school funding.”
My hope had been to schedule a meeting with faith leaders to discuss these two important issues but busy schedules have made that impossible. I invite you to contact Naivasha Dean with Defend Oregon at 503-239-8029 with questions about these measures and for information on how your faith community might become involved in the campaign.
Rev. Chuck Currie
Todd Akin's recent comments about rape were reprehensible - and so is the GOP platform, modeled after legislation put forth by Akin and Paul Ryan that would ban all abortions...even in the case of rape - but it is clear that Akin isn't alone.
Oregon GOP convention delegate Emily Jarms told a reporter this week that she agreed with Akin and that:
I'm not a doctor. But I do know that it can be difficult for a woman to conceive in a stressful situation. And so I actually think that a woman conceiving during rape is so completely rare that, I mean, it almost doesn't happen.
Yep, she's not a doctor. That much is clear.
Dr. Dean G. Kilpatrick is. He's a professor and doctor at the Medical University of South Carolina (where my mother attended) and author of a "a 1996 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which estimated that more than 32,000 women experience a rape-related pregnancy each year."
And that figure might be low, notes the The Salt Lake Tribune:
Figures provided by the FBI only count rapes that were reported to police - Kilpatrick says his research shows that at least 80 percent of all rapes go unreported - and they don’t take into account rapes in which the victim was intoxicated or otherwise unable to give consent. Until earlier this year, the FBI defined forcible rape as "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will."
The General Synod of the United Church of Christ has long maintained that:
Whereas, women and men must make decisions about unplanned or unwanted pregnancies that involve their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being; and …Whereas, abortion is a social justice issue, both for parents dealing with pregnancy and parenting under highly stressed circumstances, as well as for our society as a whole; …
Therefore, be it resolved, that the Sixteenth General Synod:
- affirms the sacredness of all life, and the need to protect and defend human life in particular;
- encourages persons facing unplanned pregnancies to consider giving birth and parenting the child, or releasing the child for adoption, before abortion;
- upholds the right of men and women to have access to adequately funded family planning services, and to safe, legal abortions as one option among others;
- urges the United Church of Christ, at all levels, to provide educational resources and programs to persons, especially young persons, to help reduce the incidence of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, and to encourage responsible approaches to sexual behavior.
People of faith must stand up and defend a woman's right to make her own health care decisions. It shouldn't be left up to Todd Akin, Paul Ryan or other politicans.
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.
Salem-area radio talk show host Bill Post (who not long ago said he wanted to urinate on the corpses of dead Taliban soldiers) says that he's a Evangelical Christian who shares the "world-view" of the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson might argue with that but those views lead Post to question President Obama's Christian faith and American values. In fact, those views leave Post very afraid of the future if the president is re-elected. Post writes that electing Mitt Romney, a Mormon, might not be great for evangelical Christians, but consider the alternatives:
1 - Is Obama a Muslim? I don't know for sure, but we all know he has made some pretty big concessions to Muslims as well as some pretty interesting statements concerning Muslims. So, if he IS a Muslim or leans towards them, would you rather have a Muslim or a Mormon President? I haven't seen very many Mormons strap bombs to the jackets blowing up marketplaces, have you?
2 - Is Obama a Marxist/Socialist/Communist? I don't know for sure, but again, his statement and policies sure make it look that way. Have you seen any Mormon gulags, death camps or mass murders committed lately?
Evangelicals, Mainline Christians and Roman Catholics have repeatedly condemned those who question the president's Christian faith for partisan political reasons but that won't stop people like Post who are so far outside the mainstream that they actually believe the president of the United States is planning death camps if re-elected.
We can expect opponents of the president this election - big and small - to attempt to exploit racial divisions and to paint President Obama as something "other" than fully as American. Consider the new racially charged film financed by right-wing billionaire Joe Ricketts that suggests that the president has a Kenyan, not American, world-view.
These campaigns against President Obama are driven by fear, hatred and racism - let's be honest. The good news is that the American people are better than Bill Post or Joe Ricketts. We are an optimistic people at our core. But whether or not we agree with the president's policies - whether we support his re-election or not - all good Americans must reject the division and hatred promoted on talk radio and the web and use the election to engage in a serious debate over the issues this nation faces.
I'm looking forward to particpating this year in the Portland CROP Hunger Walk benefiting the important programs of Church World Service and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon - and I hope you'll join me.
The 2012 Portland CROP Hunger Walk will start and finish on SW Park Ave. and SW Market St., in front of Portland State University. The course is 2.7 miles and will take walkers along the picturesque waterfront and park blocks. Please use public transportation or car pool to site as there is very limited parking. This is an interfaith event and all are welcome.
Seventy-five percent of the funds raised will go to Church World Service's international relief and development programs. Fifteen percent will go to Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon's Northeast Emergency Food Program at Luther Memorial and ten percent to Oregon Food Bank-West.
Church World Service works with partners to eradicate hunger and poverty and to promote peace and justice around the world. For example, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Islamic Society of North America (social policy partner), and Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. Together we reach out to neighbors in need near and far--not with a hand out, but a hand up. So, if you’re looking to help build a better world—a world where there’s enough for all—you’ve come to the right place!
Around the world, Church World Service supports sustainable grassroots development, disaster relief, and refugee assistance, and we educate and advocate on hunger-related issues. In the U.S., we help communities respond to disasters, resettle refugees, promote fair national and international policies, and provide educational resources.
Contact Ron MacKenzie, Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Please "like" the Portland CROP Hunger Walk Facebook Fan Page to keep posted regarding important dates leading up to the event and to network with participants.
For additional information visit the Portland CROP Hunger Walk homepage where you can sign-up to participate or donate directly.
Two homeless Portlanders were shot on Ash Wednesday. What can we do? In case I get hit by a truck you can help me by asking Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden, and Kurt Schrader to co-sponsor H.R. 3528 - The Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act of 2011 - and to ask Jeff Merkley to once again introduce similar legislation in the Senate (Ron Wyden should join him).
The legislation would direct the U.S. Department of Justice to track hate crimes against those who are homeless. With such information we can better learn about why such crimes occur and how to prevent them. This is a public safety matter that involves some of our most vulnerable members of society.
How could Oregon's Congressional delegation not act?
All members of the House and Senate can be contacted via their websites or at (202) 224-3121.
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 rains have returned to the Pacific Northwest (and it is going to get worse). This makes for awful hiking weather and you can't go have any fun on the mountains because all you'll find is slush BUT my drive along the Columbia River yesterday was spectacular - with fog, low clouds, rain, and wind. This is ideal still in-doors and drink coffee weather for those of us so fortunate.
Lore is the social justice minister at Portland's First Unitarian Church and Currie is a minister in the United Church of Christ.
Basic Rights Oregon has been moving forward with a decision to place a ballot initiative before voters to legalize marriage equality but decided yeaterday to wait until after 2012 before doing so. That was a hard but wise decision that I fully support.
Like many religious leaders, I support marriage equality because "our religious traditions and scriptures teach us that wherever love is present, God is also present. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is our human capacity to love one another. The ability of two people to enter into relationships and form families of love and care is one expression of this gift. It is holy and good." As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I believe strongly that equality must being extended to all - just as God's love is for all.
The campaign for marriage equality will come - sooner rather than later, I hope. It is frustrating that justice is being delayed once again but have no doubt that justice will come.
Oregon is an interesting place to be a person of faith - no matter the faith. Only around 25% of Oregonians identify with a religious tradition (more would self-identify as "spiritual").
I've never seen any polling on this but I'd venture to say that the vast majority of Oregonians are respectful of religious people and institutions even if they don't hold a faith of their own. But a small minority of Oregonians (mostly centered in urban Portland) are openly hostile toward religion - sometimes with good reason, I'll concede.
“To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation . . . for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands . . . for humans to injure other humans with disease . . . for humans to contaminate the Earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances . . . these are sins.”
- Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 2005
We spent the early part of the Labor Day weekend at Suttle Lake where we had spectacular views of the Shadow Lake fire raging in the Mt. Washington area. 500 people were evaucated from Big Lake last night as the fire grew. It began over a week ago after a lightening strike.
We witnessed helicopters taking water from smaller water bodies in the area they then used to dump on the fire. As of today, however, the fire is reported as 0% contained. At Suttle Lake - besides the view - the only impact we felt was the occassion smell of smoke. Suttle Lake Lodge, part of the complex we stayed at, has burned down three times in the past. The most recent fire at Suttle Lake was six years ago.
Fires are hiting Oregon very hard right now. Part of this is the natural cycle of life in the Pacific Northwest, of course. Yet the impact of fires have been made worse in recent years - and this point has to be stressed - because of on-going climate change.
Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell recently told Congress:
"Throughout the country, we're seeing longer fire seasons, and we're seeing snowpacks that, on average, are disappearing a little earlier every spring," he said, as well as devastating droughts. As a result, fire seasons have lengthened by more than 30 days, on average.
"Our scientists believe this is due to a change in climate," said Tidwell.
We can pretend this isn't true but we do so at our peril. I cannot say that the Shadow Lake fire is a direct result of climate change or not but it is clear that climate change is increasing the severity of forest fires across the globe. It is a sin to ignore our responsibility to act as stewards of creation.
The Oregon Center for Public Policy sends along the following information:
This week Oregonians will be rallying in cities throughout the state, delivering a message to their congressional representatives: jobs, not cuts.
Below is the list of cities where rallies will take place. The accompanying links are to flyers (PDF) providing details regarding the times and locations:
Salem -- Wednesday, August 31
Bend -- Thursday, September 1
Portland -- Thursday, September 1st
These events, in coordination with the Rebuild The Dream movement, are sponsored by: Oregon Action, Jobs With Justice, Alliance for Democracy, US Uncut, Rural Organizing Project, We Are Oregon, SEIU 503, SEIU 49, Moveon.org, AFSCME, PCUN, Economic Fairness Oregon, Unite-Here Local 9, Our Oregon, Pride At Work and Basic Rights Oregon.
How we address the unemployment crisis was the topic of a letter I sent President Obama today - asking him to support the Urban Jobs Act and to support recommendations made by the Center for American Progress regarding job growth.
As the Center for American Progress notes, the GOP's jobs plan is a "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" that would hurt families across our nation.
We can and we must do better.
My latest op-ed on The Huffington Post deals with the Christian faith of former U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield. . As you'll read, Senator Hatfield's tenure in the Senate was an example of how evangelicals and mainline Christians like myself could find common ground to promote to common good.
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Former U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR), who died this evening, was a faithful Christian who stood up for the "least of these" and fought against war and for peace during his remarkable life. Like many Oregonians, I proudly had the opportunity to work with Senator Hatfield on these issues during the later part of his time in office. He joined me at Baloney Joe's, the old homeless shelter on Burnside, at Christmas time where he spoke out in favor of federal assistance for affordable housing and mental health care in the late 1980s. In the early 1990s he visited me and other advocates at Outside In for a forum on health care needs for those experiencing homelessness. In Washington, D.C., he fought President Reagan in 1987 until the president yielded to enact the McKinney Act (now know as the McKinney-Vento Act), the nation's first major federal response to homelessness. The McKinney-Vento Act remains today the linchpin in America's effort to address homelessness. He stood with the National Council of Churches and other religious leaders to oppose the Gulf War in 1991, as he had opposed the Vietnam War and other misadventures in foreign policy. Senator Hatfield's deep and abiding faith made him a champion for social justice and a remarkable, unusual, leader. I give praise to God for his life and know that this servant of Christ is at peace. My prayers are with his wife, Ms. Antoinette Hatfield, and children.
This Saturday at 1 pm I'll be joining other Oregonians for a rally and march to celebrate Medicare's 30th birthday. We'll gather at the North Park Blocks at 1 pm and march to Portland's Skidmore Foundtain. I hope you'll join me.
This critical health care program provides quality coverage to some of the most vulnerable Americans but is under attack in Congress today by members of the House and Senate who would rather continue tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans - including tax deductions for corporate jets - than help those who are fighting cancer and other diseases, many preventable with treatment.
Jobs with Justice is hosting Saturday's event and I'm honored to be among the speakers. At the Skidmore Fountain there will be cake to celebrate the 30th years of Medicare's important work.
For those on Facebook there is a page where you can RSVP. Otherwise, just show up!
Religious leaders across the country - myself included - have been telling Congress and the President that any deal on the deficit and debt ceiling most protect Medicare and other important programs that help people lift themselves out of poverty and care for those who are unable to care for themselves.
U.S. Congressman David Wu - who as a college student was accused of rape - has been accused again of an unwanted sexual encounter, this time with a young woman (it is unclear if she was over 18 at the time of the encounter). Wu apparently does not deny the encounter, as reported by The Oregonian, but denies it was unwanted or rape. The Oregon democrat has already be dogged by allegations of prescription drug abuse and bizarre activities that have led to many of his long-time staff quiting. His reputation is in tatters - it has been for a long time - but this latest allegation puts the nail on the coffin. Even if he is not guilty of rape or sexual assault he apparently does not deny having a sexual encounter with a young woman who was in high school at the time. Even if she were 18 this shows a lack of judgement and moral character that should require Congressman Wu to immediately resign his position. Congressman Wu has had a solid record of public service. His final act in public life should be to resign his office and to attend to his family, personal and legal affairs so that the people of Oregon's First Congressional district can elect a new representative unburdened by scandal.
I have a new op-ed up on The Oregonian today concerning local efforts to fight homelessness - and why those efforts aren't working.. Take a look and leave a comment there with your thoughts.
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We keep hearing the GOP bill itself as the "pro-life" party - the defender of the unborn. Why is it that their concern for children seems to end at birth? Here in Oregon, as Our Oregon notes, we have another example as House Republicans try to keep a bill from moving forward that would ban a toxic chemical found in baby bottles and sippy cups:
Senate Bill 695, which would ban the toxic chemical BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, has been blocked in the House by Republicans who refuse to hold a committee work session on it.
Why is this bill so important? Take it away, OLCV: "Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a dangerous, toxic chemical that is routinely found in plastic children’s food products like baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula cans. Toxic BPA has been linked to several increasing children's developmental problems."
Instead of voting to protect children by banning this harmful chemical in children’s products, Republican leaders have put the brakes on the bill. Why would that be? Kari Chisholm at Blue Oregon has an interesting take that involves Representative Bruce Hanna’s financial ties to Coca-Cola, a major backer of BPA.
The good news is that all is not lost.
Representative Ben Cannon has filed a “discharge petition” to allow the House to take an up-or-down vote on banning BPA.
A discharge petition can be used when politicians try to kill a popular, important bill – in this case, the BPA ban – without even allowing it to come up for a vote. This petition will need to be signed by 31 Representatives, a majority of the Oregon House, to send the BPA-Free Baby Bill to the floor for a vote. But we need them to sign within the next five days.
Click here to tell your Representative to sign the discharge petition before 5 p.m. on next Wednesday, June 1st to allow the BPA-Free Baby Bill to come up for a vote.
Act quickly to protect the health of kids in Oregon. I know that for most people - Republican, Democrat or Independent - we want Legislators to put politics aside and do what is best for our children. This is a moral issue that should transcend party politics and that should bring people who disagree on difficult issues like abortion together for the common good.
A short time ago I returned from the "Rally for A Better Oregon" at the State Capitol Building in Salem (see photos below). As I said in a statement earlier this morning, I became a co-sponsor of today's rally because my faith compels me to speak out of matters of moral importance in my capacity as a minister in the United Church of Christ. Other religious leaders and organizations also co-sponsored the event and The Rev. Ryan Lambert, a colleague of mine in the UCC, was a speaker.
Budgets are moral documents and if Oregon - as Governor Kitzhaber has proposed - makes massive cuts to human services and leaves the most vulnerable without a safety net that action reflects on us all. Oregon will be a less moral place.
We are called to see the face of God in all those we encounter. We are our brother's keeper. We are our sister's keeper. That is my message to the Governor and the members of the Legislature today. We are called to do better.
It was a great pleasure to join thousands of my fellow Oregonians at the Capitol today demanding that our leaders do better by the people of this great state.
I'm proud to be a co-sponsor of this event.
In March, Wisconsin’s state capitol became a flashpoint in the battle over the future of the middle class. As Gov. Walker and his corporate CEO backers attacked working people with one hand and gave away millions to corporations and the rich with the other hand, people like you and me all around the country stood up and said “Not on our watch!”
This Friday, thousands of Oregonians and dozens of advocacy groups will come to the Oregon state capitol to rally against budget cuts and to stand up for the middle class. We’ll be there, and we want you to join us.
What: Rally for A Better Way for Oregon
When: Friday, May 20, 11:30 a.m.
Where: Front steps of the State Capitol, Salem
This will be a landmark event in the current budget debate. Make sure you’re a part of this historic event and add your voice to the growing chorus calling for a Better Way Forward.
It’s time to let our elected leaders know that our state budget needs to reflect the values and priorities shared by most Oregonians: schools, health care, public safety, and other critical services. The message is loud and clear: Do not balance the budget on the backs of those who’ve been hurt most by this recession.
We need to stand up for middle-class families and against new tax breaks for large corporations and the rich.
Will you stand with us to deliver this message? Go here to sign up now, and we’ll see you this Friday as we make history.
To make it easier to get to Salem, some people are meeting up for buses or carpools. To find out more, visit SEIU’s website.
Here’s a list of the organizations who’ve signed on to be a part of this event, with more being added!
Oregon Nurses Association
Children First for Oregon
Human Services Coalition of Oregon
Portland Fire Fighters Association Local 43
Rev. Ryan Lambert, First Congregational United Church of Christ
Advocacy Coalition of Seniors and People with Disabilities
Rural Organizing Project
Basic Rights Oregon
Jobs with Justice Portland
Tax Fairness Oregon
Alliance for Democracy
Full Life - Companions for People with Potential
Oregon Alliance for Retired Americans
American Association of University Women (AAUW) Oregon
ILWU Local 8
Oregon Education Association
Oregon Women's Rights Coalition
CWA Local 7901
Jobs with Justice - Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network
Oregon Fair Trade
Unite HERE Local 9
US Uncut / PDX Uncut
Northwest Workers' Justice Project
NW Oregon Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
LIUNA Local 483
Oregon Student Association
The Rev. Chuck Currie, Minister, United Church of Christ
Association of Engineering Employees
Climate Justice Portland
Economic Justice Action Group, First Unitarian Church of Portland
Jobs with Justice - Southern Oregon
Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP)
MoveOn-Salem Keizer (SKMO)
National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 82
Rev. Lynne Smouse Lopez, Ainsworth United Church of Christ
Center for Intercultural Organizing
Economic Fairness Oregon
Right To Survive
Sisters of the Road
Jobs with Justice Mid-Willamette Valley
Oregon League of Conservation Voters
UFCW - Local 555
Ecunmenical Ministries of Oregon
As Street Roots reports, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted today to adopt a resolution opposing Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber's radical proposal to place an 18 month lifetime cap on benefits for families with children living in poverty (the program otherwise know as TANF). The governor's proposal comes during a state-wide budget process that has already seen tens of millions of dollars given away to corporations and the wealthiest Oregonians.
...County Chair Jeff Cogen said he wouldn’t normally criticize the budget process, but that “this is such an egregious mistake that I think it’s entirely appropriate for us to do so especially because the impact is so deep in Multnomah County,” Cogen said. “Given the depth of these cuts and the pain that it will cause on the most vulnerable members of our community, people who are barely hanging on, it just seems like the wrong call.”
Street Roots also notes that "State Rep. Tina Kotek, who represents Portland’s North and Northeast neighborhoods, has proposed reauthorizing funds to keep TANF functioning, along with the employment component, with less severe cuts, including setting the eligibility limit at 48 months." A recent article in The Oregonian implied that Kotek backed the governor's proposal and I repeated that misrepresentation of her views in a recent op-ed piece. I've since written and asked for a clarification of her proposal.
Update: Rep. Kotek e-mailed me this afternoon to say that she will not vote for a budget with the governor's proposed TANF budget cut.
I applaud Chair Cogen and the Board of Commissioners for their leadership on this issue. Faith leaders from across Oregon have also spoken out against the governor's proposal and we need more local elected leaders to do the same.
Should Faith Leaders Sit Out 2012 Oregon Legislative Races In Response To Radical Policies That Hurt Poor, Children?
The Oregon Legislature and our governor seem headed down a path of destruction that will jeopardize the moral legacy all Oregonians leave as families and children are cast adrift in favor of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest during difficult economic times. Democrats and Republicans alike are embracing the social welfare policies of Newt Gingrich and the economic policies of George W. Bush. The latest nonsense move is a planned capital gains tax cut that - as Tax Fairness Oregon notes " will run to almost $400 million dollars per biennium--more than the cost of running our K-12 schools for a month. And our state already has one of the shortest school years in the country. Or, it's all of state support for community colleges and workforce training, just so the wealthy can be more wealthy." At the same time, the governor is proposing massive cuts in social service programs for families and children. If they get their way the legacy of Gov. John Kitzhaber, Sen. Ginny Burdick, and Sen. Frank Morse - along with a host of other democrats and republicans - will be a economic wasteland of a state where low-income families and children will be abandoned. This isn't the Oregon we want or have to have. Speak up and tell members of the senate - just to start with - that you want tax fairness that brings opportunity to all and not just the wealthy. One way that people of faith concerned with the "least of the these" and economic justice might remain engaged in the political process is to watch closely how these events play out during the remainder of the legislative session. If these outlandish ideas are adopted it might be that leaders in the faith community should consider encouraging those who feel most called to address issues of poverty and inequity to sit out the legislative races in 2012 and focus entirely on policy issues - both with our money and volunteer time. Faith leaders are often asked, for example, to endorse political candidates and people of faith certainly work on campaigns. But is it that the politicians in Salem in both parties have proven by their actions that they cannot be trusted with the most important issues that lift up the common good of our state? As the National Council of Churches has said: "There is no greater concern among the churches of Christ than for those in this nation who live in poverty." So far it looks like both parties are willing to discard the most defenseless in society to achieve their goals. If so, people of faith concerned about families and children will need to seriously address in 2012 where we might as individuals have the strongest impact in protecting those Kitzhaber, Burdick and Morse are seemingly willing to forget if they don't change course. I'm sill hoping they have a super secret plan that brings back common sense and fairness to Salem.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber's radical plan to put an 18 month lifetime limit on those receiving public assistance in the form of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) financial support is deeply immoral. Read my op-ed in The Oregonian to learn why and how children and their families will suffer.
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