Christians in Portland celebrate Christmas Eve in a nation that honors religious liberty and freedom for all:
Christmas Eve In Portland - Silent Night. pic.twitter.com/CjtsoYsaAR— Rev. Chuck Currie (@RevChuckCurrie) December 25, 2013
Christians in Portland celebrate Christmas Eve in a nation that honors religious liberty and freedom for all:
Christmas Eve In Portland - Silent Night. pic.twitter.com/CjtsoYsaAR— Rev. Chuck Currie (@RevChuckCurrie) December 25, 2013
We'd like to invite the cast of Duck Dynasty to Christmas Eve In Portland 2013. Dress however you like. Sunnyside Church and University Park Church welcome all, in the tradition of Jesus. Christmas is the perfect time for us all to reflect on our prejudices and fears and walk in the light of God. Our two congregations believe strongly that gays and lesbians are part of God's very good creation. Spend time in worship with us, with all our ways of being different, and perhaps together we might find that we are all one in Christ Jesus. Our faith, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, should draw us together. No one should be using the name of the Prince of Peace to intentionally tear us apart. - Rev. Chuck Currie, Minister, Sunnyside Church and University Park Church
This Christmas Eve in Portland join the people of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church for a special joint 7 pm candlelight service in Sunnyside Church’s historic Southeast Portland sanctuary located at 3520 SE Yamhill Street. The public is welcome at this family friendly service (children are encouraged to stay during the service but nursery care will be available).
Visit the Facebook page for Christmas Eve in Portland (and invite your family and friends!)
Sunnyside Church and University Park Church are progressive and Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church. Preaching Christmas Eve 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.
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, 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 middle school program called the YMCA's The Roost, and Camp Fire summer programs
“My contention has been and still is that even in the midst of war, deep global poverty and environmental chaos caused by humanity, the message of the Prince of Peace is as relevant today as it was over 2,000 years ago,” writes Rev. Currie. “What happened on the day Jesus was born? God broke through into the world again -- but this time not with the force of the Big Bang or some other cosmic event -- no, this time it was with something even more powerful: the miracle of the birth of a child filled with promise and hope. Both that miracle and the message that this child preached as an adult, born first homeless and poor, is what Christmas is about.”
"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
"With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country....
"I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."
--Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to his daughter
Each Thanksgiving - well, most Thanksgivings - I re-print this letter from Mr. Franklin because someone should defend the honor of the turkey as we sit down to, you know, eat him.
I wish you all a wondeful Thanksgiving. This is a good nation with a rich history. We have overcome much not just to keep our democracy alive but to improve it. That spirit is needed now as much as ever as the United States and the entire globe face great challenges that demand the best of the human spirit.
If you are looking for a prayer for this day let me offer Walter Raushenbush's Thanksgiving Prayer:
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Do Americans put more faith in guns than in God? It is idolatry to worship false idols but the NRA and their allies tell us to trust in weapons as the last refuge of safety. Scripture tells us to trust to God "though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult." (Psalm 46 NRSV)
Arm the teachers, cried the NRA after Sandy Hook. That will stop the massacres. Then came the shooting this year at the Navy Yard where 13 died. Even soldiers at a military compound are not safe from gun violence.
President Kennedy had the best security available of his time and still a gunman took him down and changed history. Later, President Ronald Reagan would be a victim of gun violence. Power and privilege cannot always protect.
The NRA, once a respected hunting organization, has become over years the last defense of terrorists, child killers, and political extremists. Their money and influence controls the debate over how to combat gun violence in America. They are powerful. Yet they wield their power not in defense of the most vulnerable but in support of the most violent. In the end, they have become the greatest obstacle of the Prince of Peace and the Prophets of God who called for weapons to be turned into plowshares.
President Kennedy once said: "Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future."
The NRA must shoulder some blame for the shooting at Sandy Hook that took so many children from us. That day so much hope and promise perished. Every day since gun violence has taken more Americans in senseless acts that could have been prevented if common sense gun control measured proposed by President Barack Obama had been enacted. Even a majority of NRA members supported President Obama's proposals. Tragically, the NRA's allies in Congress put their faith in guns instead of God. That is simply sin. So each day more children die.
Lord have mercy.
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?
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Dear Friends, We've all watched the horror unfold in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Yesterday I made a donation to Church World Service - a coalition of faith groups working with communities where the need is greatest. You can trust your money will be well spent. Please give as you are able. - Rev. Chuck Currie
ALERT FROM CHURCH WORLD SERVICE
The estimated number of fatalities from Typhoon Haiyan continues to fluctuate between 2,000 and 10,000. Whatever the final numbers, Typhoon Haiyan's effects have been devastating, with aid channels slowed due to severe damage to infrastructure and officials urging residents of decimated cities such as Tacloban to leave and relocate.
Typhoon Haiyan, with the local name of Typhoon Yolanda, may have been the strongest typhoon on record, with sustained winds of 234 kph and gusts of 275 kph. It made landfall in the Philippines on November 8. The islands of Leyte and Samar were the most devastated by this super typhoon, in terms of number of casualties and damage to property.
At least 982,252 families, or 4,459,468 individuals, were affected in some way, with an estimated 101,762 families or 477,736 individuals displaced, the ACT Alliance reports.
Among what CWS and others know today based on assessments by partners in the Philippines:
CWS is supporting early response and recovery efforts of fellow members of the ACT Alliance that have significant operations in the Philippines. These partners include the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Lutheran World Relief, Christian Aid and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
CWS-supported efforts include providing immediate assistance to more than 200,000 persons. Initial response efforts include providing emergency food to 259,000 persons; non-food items (plastic sheeting, etc) to 192,000; water/sanitation repair to 205,000. As well, programs of cash for work for 63,400; shelter assistance for 90,000 people; and disaster risk reduction programs for 2,500.
Among the food items to be distributed include rice, canned goods, dried beans. Non-food items include plastic sheeting, blankets, and water containers.
ACT members intend to target subsistence farmers, small fishermen, poor urban dwellers and female-headed households among the most-affected by the typhoon, as they have very limited capacity, finances and resources of their own to recover from the recent disaster.
In addition, CWS is providing technical support to members of the Philippines Disaster Response and Recovery Network, known as PDRRN.
The total amount being sought for the entire CWS-supported ACT effort, plus CWS technical support to PDRRN, is $15,418,584. Each of the ACT members has a separate budget; among the largest direct cost items in most of the budgets are for food, shelter and water, hygiene and sanitation items
PLEASE NOTE: This is the first of what is expected to be several appeal revisions related to this response.
Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts may be made online or mailed to Church World Service, Attn.Typhoon Haiyan (#700-M), P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.
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
I've joined colleagues Sr. Simone Campbell, Jim Wallis and 60 other faith leaders from across the nation in telling Congress: "There is nothing 'pro-life' or Christian about taking food away from pregnant women and babies. It is hypocritical and shameful for those who tout their commitment to family values to show such callous indifference."
My latest in The Huffington Post:
"Tea Party Republicans, who so often argue that America is a Christian nation, have turned their back on the most basic of Christian values: concern for those in poverty, compassion, justice, and setting the captives free."Shutdown Turns Americans Into Captives In Need of Delivery
regarding the on-going crisis in Syria tonight. He spoke in deeply moral terms about the world’s responsibility to protect civilians from the use of chemical weapons and other WMD. Barack Obama is no George W. Bush.
The current president has argued that a military response is needed to deter Syria from further attacks against civilians using chemical weapons but at the same time we now know the president and Secretary of State John Kerry have been negotiating with the Russians on a proposal to place all of Syria’s WMD under international control so they can be destroyed – a long sought goal.
President Obama is seeking with intention to avoid military conflict as a first resort whereas President Bush used the pretext of 9/11 to invade Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with those terrible terrorist attacks. At the same time, President Obama is honoring the democratic institutions of our nation by calling on Congress to debate the path forward in Syria. Balance is being restored between the three co-equal branches of government – balance under assault since the start of the imperial presidency.
The worldwide Christian community has been nearly unanimous in arguing against military action in Syria. There are many good arguments not to engage in this conflict but I believe very seriously that the world does have a responsibility protect those who cannot protect themselves. We ought to mean “Never Again” when we talk about holocaust or genocide or the use of WMD.
The Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is right, however, when she notes that often such military interventions meant to protect civilians end up causing more harm.
Like other people of faith across the globe, I pray for a peaceful resolution that not only ends Syria of their chemical weapons but also ends the bloody civil war there that has cost over 100,000 lives. The diplomacy undertaken by the Obama Administration with Russia, soon to be debated as a resolution by the United Nations, is a much better option than more war.
A Prayer For Students, Teachers, Staff and Parents At The Start Of The School Year
We ask your blessings at the start of a new school year.
Watch over our children.
Be a source of inspiration to teachers and administrators.
Show favor on support staff often over burdened.
Our schools should be cathedrals.
We lament so often public schools do not receive the resources they need.
Help us learn to become better advocates for our children.
Help us to learn to become better stewards of resources.
We pray for safe schools, O God.
No gun violence.
No violence of any kind.
Let this be a year of learning.
Open young hearts to new wonders.
Encourage parents to let children dream big dreams.
Let this generation of students make and achieve great goals.
We pray that students play and find joy in each day.
Let them make life-long friends.
Give parents extra energy to support their children.
Help the community find ways to support families.
We give you thanks, O God, for the richness of diversity.
Our public schools are a gift that brings us all together.
Help us make that goal an even brighter reality this year.
Let this be a year of great learning.
As the Obama Administration considers how to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, religious leaders are weighing in. Normally Dr. Susan Thistlewaite and I draw similar conclusions in policy debates but these two op-eds show a difference of opinion on means - though not goals or ideals. Former U.S. Rep. Les AuCoin and other military experts have told me that the arguments I've presented will not, as Dr. Thistlethwaite would also argue, achieve the aim I want of protecting civilians in this conflict. We do have a responsibility to protect, I and Dr. Thistlewaite and Rep. AuCoin, would all argue, but how and under what circumstances? Read and consider the theological and moral issues for yourself:
Lines Must Be Drawn In Syria
by Rev. Chuck Currie
Syria and the ‘moral obscenity’ of war
by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
What course would you advocate?
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The Personalize Your Care Act is legislation the faith community should strongly support. As a minister, I've been in too many ICUs where family members are unclear how their loved one would want to be treated as a life comes to an end.This Isn't Sarah Palin's Death Panel
This morning during my homily on Luke 11:1-13 we discussed the power and use-fullness of prayer - and specifically about the Lord's Prayer, and different interpretations and translations from the Gospels and other sources. As part of that discussion, I shared this version from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer:
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and for ever. Amen.
We'll be using this version in worship the next several months. Why not continue with a more traditional version? I'm sure we'll return to that. But there is something powerful in expressing prayer in new terms - it forces us to think more deeply about what we're reciting and the meaning behind it all.
It is vital that all of us, whether or not we hold positions of leadership, are held accountable for personal transgressions. Accountability becomes even more important when those who wield authority – politicians, clergy, business leaders and others – abuse that authority for personal gain. In the language of the church, we are talking about matters of sin. All of us, at various levels, fall short.
A century ago, Walter Rauschenbusch, talking about the Social Gospel movement that remains an important source of inspiration in the theological life of the church today (using the language of the time that was non-inclusive) noted that sin is not just about mistakes made by individuals but also about mistakes made by societies and governments that harm the common good:
Still today, we pay far too much attention to personal sin – often times matters that should remain private and within the confines of family conversations with clergy and perhaps therapists. This is not an effort on my part to excuse bad behavior. Sometimes such behavior crosses such a threshold that it remains impossible for people in positions of authority to maintain their positions because for their personal gain they have used their positions to further relationships or financial dealings, or engage in abuse, that is unethical and raise questions about overall judgment. We have seen this from certain Wall Street bankers, clergy pedophiles, and politicians like Bob Packwood and others.
As a society, however, we fall short in recognizing societal sin and the role we all play in that. Which is the worse sin: the politician who engages in an affair with another consenting adult or the politician who votes to cut food assistance to children or prenatal care for pregnant women (or the public that re-elects that politician)? If a politician misuses their office for personal gain perhaps they deserve the 24/7 news cycle that inevitably follows. In a more moral society, however, that same news attention – that same sense of scandal – should follow those political, business and religious leaders who participate in or advocate for sinful economic systems that create poverty, climate change, war and other forms of human suffering.
Recognizing that, in theological terms, we all sin, perhaps in addition to holding our leaders accountable when they fail we should throw fewer stones and find ways to offer compassion (hard as that might be) even as we take steps to restore the public trust when it becomes broken. There is too much glee in throwing people in with the lions when all of us, and I include myself, fail to measure up to the covenantal responsibilities put before us to make the world a better and more just place.
My latest in The Huffington Post:
"As a minister, I want both reconciliation and justice. If you think there is no racism in this nation, you are willfully blind. If you believe there has been no progress towards racial justice, your eyes are not open. But we are still far from being the Beloved Community and the fact that a boy with iced tea and candy could die while doing nothing illegal, and his killer walk free, is evidence of that."
The Courts Failed Trayvon Martin: Can the Church Step Up?
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Look back on all their birthday photos:
We've watched poverty grow ever since 2001. Without President Obama's effort that growth would even be more stark. But we need a plan to reduce poverty, not just slow the growth, and that is why the National Council of Churches and other people of faith, are supporting the Half in Ten Campaign. Now is your turn. Your member of Congress needs to hear that you want them to co-sponsor the Half in Ten Act of 2013.
Action Alert from the Half in Ten Campaign
On May 23, 2013, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) introduced the Half in Ten Act of 2013, calling for poverty reduction to be a national priority. This bill will help mobilize public and political will toward our shared goal of dramatically cutting poverty over the next decade and promoting shared economic growth that renews the American Dream.
By creating a Federal Interagency Working Group, a coordinated effort across federal departments and offices charged with developing within six months a national strategy to cut poverty in half in 10 years and eliminate child poverty and extreme poverty in our nation, the bill promotes accountability for progress by helping identify problems and successful initiatives and ensures that those with the greatest barriers to joining the middle class are included in efforts to create greater opportunity for all.
Importantly, the bill recognizes that cutting poverty in half in 10 years will require steps to create good, family-supporting jobs as well as to strengthen our network of work and income supports to provide greater economic security to millions of families.
We must build support for this critical legislation and for the policies that will enable us to reach the Half in Ten target. Poverty must be a national priority, and the Half in Ten Act of 2013 is the first step. But this will only happen if we tell our elected representatives to support the bill.
The Portland Tribune asked yesterday: What’s the Rev Running for? Well, nothing. Jim Redden put forth the question in this context:
The Rev. Chuck Currie must be glued to his computer. The liberal minister of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church is frequently the first to email a comment to the press about breaking social news. He did it again on Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Currie’s remarks supporting the court’s ruling were the first to reach Portland Tribune, arriving just 10 minutes after the breaking news alert from the Washington Post and more than 45 minutes before those from Gov. John Kitzhaber, who also supported the ruling.
It took more than another hour for Mayor Charlie Hales to email his support for the ruling, followed by praise from Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian 20 minutes later — slightly more than two hours after Currie’s email.
Like millions of Americans, I was glued to my computer yesterday morning – watching SCOTUS Blog, actually – to hear what decisions the court might make.
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.
My two current churches, reconciling congregations in the United Methodist Church, are strong supporters of the LGBTQ community.
It is important for clergy to speak out on moral issues. Otherwise, we leave a void filled by the religious right. The Portland Tribune’s own coverage of the reaction to the SCOTUS decision on DOMA quotes no religious leaders supporting the decision. Instead, they quoted the Oregon Family Council, a conservative body that claims to articulate Christian values while operating a political action committee that gives 100% of their money to GOP candidates. My churches don’t get involved in partisan politics (though as an individual I have sometimes made personal endorsements in races).
What we do is take an active role in advocating on social issues – from marriage equality, to immigration reform, to voting rights, to ending gun violence. We do this from our deepest understandings of what it means to be faithful people in a democratic society.
As a minister ordained to preach and teach the Gospel, I support the Supreme Court ruling today invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act. Homosexuality is not a sin. It is a sin to discriminate -- against gays, people of color, women, children, immigrants... It is a sin to exclude whereas Jesus welcomed. The Greatest Commandment is to love. Christians and other people of faith should welcome this decision even as we should work to undue the damage inflicted on the civil rights of Americans by the court’s decision yesterday to dismantle the heart of the Voting Rights Act. Truly, this Supreme Court has a very mixed record where civil rights are involved.
Portland's Parkrose Community United Church of Christ celebrated 100 years of ministry yesterday. I was sorry to miss the celebration service for this faithful, progressive Christian community that I had the honor of serving for three years but I did send the following message to be shared during the worship service:
"Back in 2006 – when I first arrived for what was originally planned as a short stint as your interim minister – the future of Parkrose Community United Church of Christ was uncertain. The people of this church, not unlike the brave crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, wouldn’t accept defeat, however. Instead you made difficult and bold decisions that have brought you into a new home, in partnership with another congregation, and in ministry with our city’s homeless community. Building up the Kingdom of God became more important to you than maintaining just one building. You answered God’s call to be open and affirming to all. For some of you, this work will be your legacy. And because of that this church will remain foundational for youth in this community for years to come. As a former pastor of Parkrose Community United Church of Christ, I continue to hold you in prayer (and to miss you) as I watch from a distance as this special community of faith continues to grow and respond to the still speaking God."
It would not surprise me if one day Parkrose Community United Church of Christ celebrated two hundred years of faithful ministry. The church is filled with wonderful lay leaders and the gifts of ministry brought forward by The Rev. Don Frueh.
This morning the people of University Park Church and Sunnyside Church had a special joint worship service before members and friends took part in the Portland Pride Parade.
You can watch the video of my sermon homily on Matthew 25:31-46 here. The text is below the fold.
The people of University Park Church and Sunnyside Church invite you to “A Pre-Pride Parade Worship Service” - a special joint worship service of the two congregations, which will be held at University Park Church (4775 N. Lombard) on Sunday, June 16th at 9:30.
View this service on Facebook. Invite family, neighbors and friends.
Directly after the service the members from the two churches will head downtown to join the Community of Welcoming Congregations in marching in the annual Portland Pride Parade. All are welcome.
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 (except June 16th- when there will be no service at Sunnyside) 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, an affordable day care program, and Camp Fire’s summer program. Sunnyside is located at 3520 SE Yamhill.
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:
It has been nearly a year since my appointment to serve Sunnyside Church and University Park Church was made. This week I updated the congregations on our progress. You can support the work of progressive Christianity in Portland with a gift to support our ministries.
Dear Members and Friends of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church,
We’re just a month shy of the one-year anniversary of the appointment that brought a United Church of Christ minister to serve Sunnyside Church and University Park Church, two Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church.
At the Annual Conference of the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church – held this June in Boise – our two congregations will be presented for a special award for the ways we have lived out this new partnership.
Together we’ve held joint services for Christmas Eve, Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, Ash Wednesday, and Easter. These services have drawn together far more people into our churches than either church could have ever done alone. Media attention has followed. At the same time, along with the people of Ainsworth United Church of Christ, we’ve held successful and well-attended adult education programs this past fall and spring using the books Remedial Christianity and #OccupyTheBible. We’ve used social media this past year aggressively to get out our message. We'll worship together again soon at University Park Church on June 16th at 9:30am, and then those who are able and interested will gather downtown with the Community of Welcoming Congregations to march in the annual Pride Parade. There will be no service that morning at Sunnyside. More information will follow.
Now we are launching a new “partnership planning process” to more intentionally discover ways our two congregations can be in mission together for the benefit of the community as we preach a progressive Christian message of hope. We're also kicking off a Thursday morning Bible study for all interested members and friends for the summer months.
During this past year we’ve also gathered for special social occasions – a summer BBQ and Christmas drop-in – not to mention potlucks at both churches. Pastoral care has been offered. Memorials have been held. We’ve had a baptism and welcomed new members at Sunnyside. University Park Church has done food drives for those suffering hunger and Sunnyside Church has teamed up with Bread for the World to ask Congress and the President to do more to fight hunger.Members of both congregations became active this year in the effort to reduce gun violence and to promote marriage equality.
In the midst of all this, we’ve wrestled with a challenge about how best to assist people experiencing homelessness around University Park Church (and fought off fines imposed by the city for allowing people to sleep on our campus). At Sunnyside Church, we dealt with staffing and building issues. The leadership of the congregation made the difficult decision not to renew to building user agreement for the Sunnyside Swap Shop, a much loved program, and the future of The Roost, the after-school program housed at Sunnyside, is in question after Camp Fire decided they could no longer be the sponsor (they’ll still be operating the hugely successful summer program at Sunnyside). All of this impacts us in many ways, including financially. We still have a lot of work to do.
This note just touches on the many ways our two congregations have been in partnership and mission. As we prepare to move into a second year of ministry together there will be hard choices to confront about what it means to be church in our time. Hard doesn’t need to equate with bad, however. We need to be thinking in terms of what legacy we what these two churches to leave – what legacy we want to leave – for the next generation…and about resurrection, about how we bring new life to our work of proclaiming the Gospel.
Sunnyside Church and University Park Church are blessed with tremendous lay leaders who care deeply for the church and for the common good of our community. Few churches are as fortunate. All of you are in my prayers. I invite your prayers as well as we move into a second year of ministry together.
Rev. Chuck Currie
University Park Church worships each Sunday at 9:30 am and Sunnyside Church worships at 11am. All are welcome.
There’s no question about it: I love Portland. It’s been true since moving here as a boy. My life, in fact, has been dedicated to making our community a better place. Portland’s rejection this week of fluoridation is far from cause for divorce but it does feed into the lover’s quarrel that is part of my relationship with this special place.
The fact is that fluoridation would have helped protect kids by increasing dental health. The Clean Water Campaign, fueled by Tea Party money and some odd doctors (like the one who asserts HIV doesn’t cause AIDS), scared the city into believing that fluoride causes cancer and was bad for the environment. In my 26 years of advocacy and ministry in Portland, I’ve rarely – if ever – seen a campaign distort and lie as often.
The fear based campaign waged by Clean Water Portland was upsetting enough but the often heard statement by those who identify as progressives that putting fluoride in the water violated their personal choice to take fluoride was perhaps more upsetting. Portland has never been about “me!” but about “us!” Not so this week. The common good lost out to a growing libertarianism that in this case put the needs of children last when they should have gone first. That children should come first is a beadrock principle of my faith.
Still, this is hardly the first time I’ve been disappointed in the city I love. We don’t do enough to fight poverty – and North Portland and East Portland are too often ignored, like these parts of our city just don’t count. Inequity flourishes here and if you are a person of color your chances to succeed diminish greatly. We launch plans to end homelessness every few years only to watch homelessness grow.
We say “Keep Portland Weird” because this is a unique community that has produced a special culture a little bit different than much of America and we can laugh at ourselves when watching Portlandia because there are times we’re absurd in funny, yet harmless, ways.
But at the pot-fueled Clean Water Portland victory party, where reporters say the air was thick with marijuana from smoking activists protesting adding fluoride to the water supply because fluoride was harmful (the irony is worth noting), the city crossed a line from absurd to sad.
Say what you will about Clean Water Portland: Them folks got some pungent medical herb. #fluoride— Aaron Mesh (@AaronMesh) May 22, 2013
In the end, we still have a dental crisis. Portland children will still suffer. Nothing changed this week – our dental crisis didn’t get worse but it could have gotten better but fears and lies and, yes, personal self-interest won over the common good.
Still, Portland is better than this. When confronted with difficult questions over taxes, schools, health care, LGBTQ equality and the environment we normally make the moral choice, even if it costs us more in taxes and upsets family, friends and neighbors. We normally put the common good first when given the opportunity.
I don’t fault the 60% of Portlanders who voted against fluoride. Most people don’t pay close attention to these elections and if I heard the city wanted to add chemicals to the water that caused cancer the natural reaction, it seems, would be to vote no. Those behind Clean Water Portland, however, - the activists and their financial supporterss, including the Tea Party and their allies – knew better and did great damage to Portland by waging a divisive campaign that hurt Portland’s children. Don’t be surprised to see this coalition reform to try and to reshape Portland in their conservative / libertarian image that is fueled by a distrust for government, other institutions (including institutions of higher learning) and, of course, science.
That coalition in no ways represents 60% of Portland. One lost election doesn’t mean progressive Portland is lost. What it does show is that our work to improve Portland just got more difficult. Outside Tea Party groups are willing to foot the bill to take on what our city has generally held most dear.
Fluoride supporters were wrong not to engage the public in an open and transparent process from the start on this issue, instead of trying to move this through the Portland City Council quickly (a move I endorsed). The backlash is similar to when the Multnomah County passed an ordinance to allow gay marriage without a public process (a move I also endorsed), only to see voters outlaw gay marriage statewide in response. Government works best when it is transparent. We ought to learn this lesson. Back room politics don’t work in Portland.
Progressives also need to find a way to fight lies in ways that don’t just win campaigns but also strengthen the community. As a minister, you might think this would be a skill I would have. But plenty of times I reacted to the lies told in this campaign with more anger than light and that is just as damaging. Lies shouldn’t be tolerated. They should be called out. But we can all find better ways to engage in the public square.
For me, I love this city too much to give up on it. I want my kids and the children in my churches to have access to the best public schools and to public health programs that help them thrive. After all these years, after all these battles, my deep belief is that 90%+ of Portlanders want the same even if we cannot always agree on the ways to get there. Good people can come to different conclusions on difficult issues. Until Portland becomes the city it ought to be, I’ll continue my lover’s quarrel and will happily work with people of integrity – people who value truth – even when they disagree with my views. After all, I’ve been proven wrong before and changed my views when confronted with good arguments based on reason and fact. Democracy works that way when it is truthful and fair.
Rev. Chuck Currie
"Star Trek Into Darkness" does what Star Trek has always done best: holds up a mirror to the United States and asks, "Are we the moral people we want to be?"
Photo credit: http://www.startrekmovie.com
My latest on The Huffington Post:
"Judy Bright -- a certified nurse midwife, advanced nurse practitioner, public health administrator and my mother -- died before she could take advantage of Obamacare, but as an advocate for public health and someone with a pre-existing condition, she knew the difference it would make for millions of Americans."Why Judy Bright Supported Obamacare
News that the IRS targeted conservative organizations for special review as part of the non-profit certification process is deeply concerning. It reminds me of the Bush-era IRS investigation of the United Church of Christ. The Obama Administration needs to quickly fix the problem but much of this is the messy result of the Citizens United court decision and thus the fix will require an overhaul of corrupt campaign finance laws. The Washington Post notes:
Campaign reform groups have been pressing the IRS for several years to conduct greater oversight of nonprofits formed in the wake of the Citizens United case, given that many have become heavily involved in elections.
“But this isn’t the type of enforcement we want,” said Paul Ryan, a senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. “We want nonpartisan, non-biased enforcement.”
Our government should work better than this. No one should be targed simply for their political views. At the same time, our election system should not be the rigged, corrupt system put in place by Citizens United.
Portland faith leaders are standing up for 26-151 and Healthy Kids Healthy Portland because "one of our core principles is that the blessings of our community should be felt by all, not just a few." Fluoridation of our water will help our kids and entire city. The numbers have gotten slightly better but we still face a true crisis. Read the arguments in support of 26-151 at
This morning in The Huffington Post I address the Senate's failure to address gun violence in America:
"The ability of a minority of in the U.S. Senate to block common sense gun violence prevention measures is a victory for the NRA, whose leadership has sided with criminals over the common good of our nation. The Senators who sided with the NRA's leadership have sinned."Sinful Senate Vote Compounds Newtown Tragedy
All Americans unite together in offering prayers and good thoughts for those impacted by the events that have occurred today at the Boston Marathon. We especially left up the injured, any who might have been killed, first responders, and our elected officials who must respond to whatever caused this. If this was an act of terrorism and not some sort of terrible accident those responsible must be held accountable. Right now we have many questions but the people of Boston must know that they have the love of all Americans.
Today I've joined Sister Simone Campbell, leader of "Nuns on the Bus," in co-authoring an op-ed published in The Hill critical of the budget choices under consideration in Washington:
"As faith leaders, we have spoken out consistently about the moral bankruptcy of Republican federal budget proposals over the last 2 years, and we have supported President Obama’s commitment to protecting the poorest Americans from cuts to crucial programs like food stamps and Medicaid. The president's just released budget, however, falls short of the moral vision many faith leaders have for this country and the president's own ideals as embodied in his second Inaugural Address. While the Obama administration’s 2014 budget has some admirable measures and is far superior to the House GOP plan, it does not go far enough in promoting the common good and protecting the vulnerable."President's budget doesn't reflect our values.
As a minister and father of eight year old twin daughters, health and dental care is a top concern. Making sure that low-income children have every advantage should be a top priority of our city and right now that just isn't the case. Portland, one of only two major cities in the nation without fluoride in the water, is a community where "21% of children suffer from untreated dental decay – that’s forty percent more than fluoridated Seattle Metro." We can change all that by voting yes on 26-151 this May.
The CDC calls fluoridation one of the top public health achievements of the last century, and for Portland this is an issue of equity - which is why not only the medical community backs fluoridation but so does the Coalition of Communities of Color.
I've heard the arguments against fluoridation: It's a conspiracy backed by big money, it will kill dogs and plants, fluoride is bad for kids, kids can get free dental care instead at public health centers and schools, etc. You listen to these arguments and cannot help be reminded of those who deny the science that clearly shows a link between human activity and climate change. The organizers of the campaign to stop fluoride are denying the reality of the scientific consensus that exists on this issue - that fluoride is safe - and arguing that their personal right not to use fluoride trumps the needs of children in our community suffering from a public health crisis. And where is this free, universal dental care I keep hearing about?
Good people can come to different conclusions on difficult issues but Portland has been ill served by the official campaign against fluoride which has used outright lies and fear to fuel their campaign.
Kermit Gosnell, currently on trial for murder, appears to be a monster. There are no adjectives strong enough to describe the horrors that a grand jury says took place at the Women's Medical Society...Every bit of evidence points to this man's guilt.
The Women's Medical Society's "real business," the grand jury report explicitly states, "was not health; it was profit. There were two primary parts to the operation. By day it was a prescription mill; by night an abortion mill."
To achieve his ends, "Gosnell's approach was simple: keep volume high, expenses low - and break the law. That was his competitive edge."
Conservatives are making the argument that "the reason the media and pro-abortion politicians are ignoring Gosnell's trial is because Gosnell was an abortionist. Seven of his victims were killed after they had been aborted, and one died after she had aborted. Why would people who believe in legalized abortion want to shed negative light on bad things that happen during legalized abortions?"
But these were crimes, not "bad things that happened" within legal structures. What the grand jury established is that Gosnell preyed on poor women, performing illegal abortions in unsanitary conditions. Those on the right have spent ample pixels reciting all the abhorrent practice, but have failed to note the critical component - that the actions they cite are illegal.
During the first three months of 2013, legislators in 14 states introduced provisions seeking to ban abortion prior to viability. These bans fall into three categories: measures that would prohibit all abortions, those that would ban abortions after a specified point during the first trimester of pregnancy and those that would block abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization (the equivalent of 22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period, the conventional method physicians use to measure pregnancy). All of these proposals are in direct violation of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.Kermit Gosnell does appear to be a monster, a criminal.
Legislators in 10 states have introduced proposals that would ban all, or nearly all, abortions. In eight states (AL, IA, MS, ND, OK, SC, VA and WA), legislators have proposed defining “personhood” as beginning at conception; if adopted, these measures would ban most, if not all, abortions.
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; …These are the principles that should guide our thinking in this difficult area.
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.
NPR asked this week: is Doomsday near? Read my response today in The Huffington Post:
"We can turn the darkness around us in the brightness of noon, as the Prophet Isaiah said, if we live out the core principles of compassion and peace that are shared by the world's great religions."
This morning the people of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church celebrated Easter in Portland together in Sunnyside's historic sanctuary. It was a beatiful morning with wonderful music performed by members of both congregations and much lay member participation. Below is the text of my sermon.
The Kingdom Ressurrected
We come to this place this morning – gathered as two church communities, as family and friends – to celebrate the Resurrection. Even in times when humanity has walked away from God the reality is that God has never abandoned God’s creation, with which at the beginning God declared to be “well-pleased.” The moment of the Resurrection of Jesus stands in history as the most profound example of God saying to the powers and the principalities of the day that not even death can silence God’s call for us to be a people of reconciliation, compassion and mercy.
Even today we experience the Risen Jesus in worship, in prayer, and sometimes even in personal moments of revelation. Jesus is still calling to us, like he did to those frightened first disciples, to spread the good news that the Kingdom of God is already here and that hope born out of our experiences with God demands that we seek a create a world where justice, kindness and humbleness overcomes evil and turns the darkness around us into the brightness of noon.
This is a time of rebirth and redemption.
Theologians and lay people debate to this day whether or not Jesus was physically raised or whether the disciples (and later Paul) interacted with the spirit of Christ. Like Marcus Borg and others, I think that debate asks the wrong questions. It doesn’t matter. What matters is in ways that may very well surpass human understanding Jesus revealed himself after the cross with the ones he taught and loved, and that his spirit still moves many today in wondrous ways.
Walter Wink once wrote:
Killing Jesus was like trying to destroy a dandelion seed-head by blowing on it. It was like shattering a sun into a million fragments of light.
It is the power of that light that calls us today to be a Resurrection people, a people who in community and enveloped in the spirit of love reach out to build up the Kingdom of God so that all people might have new life.
Let’s remember that Jesus came to shake up the world. The Gospel of Luke chronicles the beginning of his ministry:
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 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, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
Jesus was a teacher, the Son of God sent to help bring the world back into right relationship with our Creator. He wanted us to learn from him, to follow him, to see the world in new ways. But why did his death have to be part of the lesson? One possible answer comes from Barbara Brown Taylor, the Episcopal priest, scholar and author. She writes in this excerpt from her book Home By Another Way:
Jesus probably died right side up, since all four gospel writers agree that there was a sign above his head. That being the case, he probably died of suffocation, as his arms gave out and his lungs collapsed under the weight of his sinking body. Blood loss is another possibility. Heartbreak is a third. Whatever finally killed him, it came as a friend and not as an enemy. Death is not painful. It is the dying the hurts.
Another thing that was finished was the project he had begun, way back when he first saw what kind of explosion it would take to break through the rock around the human heart. Teaching would not do it. Neither would prayer nor the laying on of hands. If he was going to get through, he had to use something stronger than all of those, and he had to stake his own life on its success. Otherwise why should anyone believe him?
That project that Jesus came to start was the building up of the Kingdom of God, what The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would call the Beloved Community. Taylor continues:
Self-annihilating love was the dynamite he chose. “No one has greater love than this,” he said on the last night of his life, “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Having explained it to his friends, he then left the room to go do it. Less than twenty-four hours later it was over.
Jesus did not go to the cross as part of some vengeful God’s need for a sacrifice. He went to the cross because the Roman authorities saw the Kingdom of God as a threat to the Empire of Rome. Crucifixion was a crime reserved for enemies of the state. Jesus went knowing what his fate would be but believing there are ideas and principles worth dying for.
We read in Matthew 22:36-40 as Jesus is asked by a Roman sympathizer:
36‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Jesus kept company with women, with lepers, with the poor, with tax collectors and with children, and said to them that the Kingdom belonged not to the rich and the powerful but to the lowly and the outcasts. His way threatened to turn the Empire upside down and the religious authorities who conspired with Rome to keep their positions and their comforts were quick to try and hand Jesus over to the cross. This is where, tragically, the myth built up that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. But all religions, including our own Christian faith, have had leaders who have abandoned God for the favor of emperors. In reality, we need to remember that not only was Jesus was Jewish but that so were his supporters.
The Greatest Commandment challenges us still - and the reality of the Resurrection, in whatever way we might understand it, forces us to wrestle with the idea that there are no real endings…even in life (Jesus did not die when he died, and neither do we). But there are many possibilities for new beginnings.
What we need is a Resurrection attitude in which we can envision the world in the new ways that Jesus envisioned when he proclaimed the Kingdom. And we need to be willing, as Jesus was, to carry our crosses in the pursuit of this better life. Eternal life may great us when we die but Jesus taught that the Kingdom was in the here and now and that it was an ideal worth dying for.
As a people of the Resurrection, we need to work toward new life that protects our environment that we have been given stewardship over so that God’s children in generations to come inherit the sustainable earth we have been gifted.
As a people of the Resurrection, we need to work towards an end to gun violence – and violence of every kind – and follow instead the path of Jesus, who practiced non-violence. This work of ending violence must extend from our neighborhoods to every corner of the earth.
As a people of the Resurrection, we need to be concerned, like Jesus was, with children and the elderly, with those living in poverty, and all those on the margins. This calls us to join the struggle for equality for all people in ways both big and large, to be concerned about freedom for people everywhere, to be concerned about education for boys and girls, to demand safe streets to walk on along, and for paths that people can walk that lead from hopelessness to hope.
Some will say that such hope for the world is too idealistic or the work to hard. But I have experienced the Resurrection. I know there is hope where darkness exists because I have experienced the Risen Christ in my heart, through our Scriptures, and in moments of worship such as this.
And I’ve seen moments of Resurrection in our world. It happened when Nelson Mandela walked out of prison to become a president. It happened when people – just like us – tore down the Berlin Wall as the armies of the world’s superpowers stood down. Those were moments of Resurrection, life pulled back from death, and in each of those moments – just like each time a volunteer feeds a hungry child – the Kingdom is born anew and the life of Jesus reaffirmed.
No, Jesus did not die on the cross. His life endures. We are the inheritors of his mission. Let us proclaim today:
18‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because (God) has anointed (us) to bring good news to the poor. (God) has sent (us) to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
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.
My latest in The Huffington Post:
"America can and should be better than Paul Ryan envisions it. Our nation should be a place where we are our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper. We are not a morally bankrupt nation, and so we must oppose Paul Ryan's proposals."Ryan Budget Offers Vision of Morally Bankrupt America