Invocation for Pacific University Commencement Service(s)
Saturday, May 17, 2014
as prepared for delivery by The Rev. Chuck Currie, incoming Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University
Good morning. One hundred sixty five years ago members from what is now called the United Church of Christ founded what would become known as Pacific University. The United Church of Christ, the church of the Pilgrims, has over the centuries evolved into an open and affirming denomination that values diversity, religious pluralism, education, and a just society.
These same principles are embodied by the mission of Pacific University: “A diverse and sustainable community dedicated to discovery and excellence in teaching, scholarship and practice, Pacific University inspires students to think, care, create, and pursue justice in our world.”
As we gather in celebration, let us first begin with a moment of silence for those we have lost in our Pacific family this past year…
Now please join me in a time of prayer and meditation:
Creator of us all, we join together on this Commencement Day in joyful anticipation of the future. We come from different places, different backgrounds, different faith traditions (or no faith tradition), but whatever differences we have we are bound together by the love, friendship and sense of family we feel for those gathered among us, and a hope that with our help the world can become a better place for all.
For our faculty and staff, we offer every thanksgiving for the service given to our graduates.
To the friends and family who have come from near and far, we recognize the sacrifices made for this day to have come.
For our graduates, we offer congratulations for your hard work and ask every blessing as one chapter of life ends and another begins. You inherit a world of challenges. Put the needs of the “least of these” around the world ahead of personal gain. Work to free the oppressed and continue the work of building the Beloved Community – a place where the Earth itself is protected so that generations yet to come can enjoy this gift we are simply stewards of. Love your community but always respectfully challenge it – and yourself – to better serve the common good. Do so with a spirit of reconciliation and compassion. Be bold, not timid, as you seek justice, love kindness and yet still walk humbly with the Spirit of all (Micah 6:8) through your life.
Peace be with you this day and every day.
Congratulations to our graduating seniors, we will miss you, but are also excited to see all the places you will go! pic.twitter.com/IeAyMW5WL4— Pacific University (@pacificu) May 16, 2014
My latest oped in The Forest Grove Leader, a publication of The Oregonian:
Remarks delivered by Rev. Chuck Currie, incoming Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University, before the 2014 annual symposium of the Peace and Conflict Studies Consortium, on April 26, 2014
This coming fall I’ll assume the duties of Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain here at Pacific University. As an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a community activist, I have long standing interests in peacemaking and how we build just communities that sustain peace.
In the mid-1980s, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ voted for our denomination to become a “Just Peace” church. This was seen as an alternative to the Christian model of “Just War” which sanctioned war under some conditions. Just Peace, on the other hand, tried to envision a world without war – a world where just systems of commerce and diplomacy would negate the need for war.
Theologically, Just Peace is predicated on the belief that…
A Just Peace is grounded in God's activity in creation. Creation shows the desire of God to sustain the world and not destroy. The creation anticipates what is to come: the history-long relationship between God and humanity and the coming vision of shalom.
Just Peace is grounded in covenant relationship. God creates and calls us into covenant, God's gift of friendship: "I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore" (Ezekiel 37:26). When God's abiding presence is embraced, human well-being results, or Shalom, which can be translated Just Peace.
The concept of a Just Peace was originally developed within the context of the Cold War and largely within the confines of Christian bodies, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. With the end of the Cold War the Just Peace movement largely went dormant. In the last decade, however, new life within the movement has emerged and this time the movement has been reborn as an interfaith enterprise.
Ten organizing principles were developed to advance Just Peace, and have now been expanded to include Christian, Islamic and Jewish perspectives in Interfaith Just Peacemaking, with The Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite as editor:
1. Support nonviolent direct action.
2. Take independent initiatives to reduce threat.
3. Use cooperative conflict resolution.
4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance and forgiveness.
5. Advance democracy, human rights, and religious liberty.
6. Foster just and sustainable economic development.
7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system.
8. Strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights.
9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade.
10. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations.
These principles, which Glen Stassen also first helped to develop, have the potential to help create a more just and peaceful world.
While many Christians are pacifists, with great justification, other Christians have found room within these principles to advocate a responsibility to protect in the event of genocide or other crimes against humanity. I myself advocated limited military intervention in Libya to stop Col. Muammar Gaddafi and his forces from carrying out their clear intent to inflict massive civilian casualties in a vain and hopeless attempt to maintain their grip on power.
My default position is always non-violence. My own belief is that even with the best of intentions that use of violence always falls somewhere in the category of sin.
As much as I am concerned about the larger world, I am also concerned about what happens here at home. From gun violence to domestic violence we live in a society that cries out for peacemakers.
The biggest obstacles to peace in our time include not just power hungry leaders intent on conquest but world citizens paralyzed into inaction when faced with the magnitude that is climate change and a sizeable part of the population that has abandoned reason and logic for absolutes that end dialogue and crumble the common good.
Is there hope in the midst of such difficulties?
As usual, I turn to William Sloane Coffin, the one-time chaplain of Yale University and later the long-time minister of New York City’s Riverside Church. Rev. Coffin told NPR:
"Hope is a state of mind independent of the state of the world. If your heart's full of hope, you can be persistent when you can't be optimistic. You can keep the faith despite the evidence, knowing that only in so doing has the evidence any chance of changing. So while I'm not optimistic, I'm always very hopeful."
Thank you for your time today.
Footnote: Moments following this presentation I learned of the death today of Glen Stassen. I give thanks to God for his life and offer my prayers for his family.
The people of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church gathered this morning for Easter in Portland. This was my final joint service with the two congregations before I step down in June and begin my duties full time at Pacific University as the new Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain. This morning was a joyful occasion with diverse people celebrating the life and ministry of Jesus.
Each Easter we are given the opportunity to decide whether or not we will walk in a world of darkness or embrace the light of God which offers a path toward salvation for all people, regardless of faith tradition. We must embrace our calling as people of faith with the same fierce sense of urgency (a phrase often used by Martin Luther King, Jr.) that Jesus embraced his. As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the “the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14),” as told in the Gospel of John. Unlike our early Christian brothers and sisters, however, we recognize that God speaks to all of creation and that there are different paths to truth and the divine. But all truth paths point the same direction Jesus did.
We have inherited, and sometimes help create, a world in peril. In sin, we have participated in cycles of living and commerce that have created a global climate crisis. Too many people each die in war and far too many die and suffer from hunger and poverty. God has called us to work towards the building up of the Kingdom – a place without war, poverty, or bigotry. This message was such a threat to the Roman Empire, which thrived on war and economic systems that benefited the few, that they put Jesus to death. It is a mistake to say that Jesus died for our sins. Jesus died to show us a new world was possible.
My prayer this Easter is that we embrace the way that Jesus showed us – and that we find new opportunities in concert with one another to see in Jesus’ death and resurrection those million fragments of light that Walter Wink talked about (and which I mention in the sermon video) and bring them to dark places, even sometimes our own hearts, so that Creation will know God’s light, love and peace forever more.
It was a wonderful honor to attend the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast yesterday morning. Before the breakfast I had the chance to share a brief word with President Obama in the Blue Room about the success of the Affordable Care Act. Health care is a human right and faith communities have worked decades for this moment. Watch President Obama's remarks here.
President Obama has never played politics with his faith. In the East Room for the breakfast were Christians representing orthodox communities, evangelicals, mainline churches, and Roman Catholics. We might not agree on every issue - there are in fact big debates between us - but President Obama is correct that we can find common ground in America despite those differences. Here are some photos from the occasion:
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The Hillary Clinton speech last night was a home run. Meeting her and getting an autographed copy of her book for Frances and Katherine was an honor, of course. Her speech focused on Putin and Russia for the first half and then she turned to women's issues. I'll write a blog post sometime in the next couple of weeks with more about 2016 - after I get back from the White House next week. There is still a lot of work to be done before the presidential election. President Obama is on the right track on domestic issues and working hard, it seems, to let diplomacy win out over war with Iran or conflict with Russia. Health care, one of the great moral issues of our time, is finally moving in the right direction with more people getting insured. I'm never satisfied and worry about economic inequality, an issue President Obama is addressing more forcefully in his second term, and the on-going problem of homelessness - particularly student homelessness. But we are better off in so many ways from when Barack Obama first took office. Elections matter. Just look at the Supreme Court if you don't believe that.
In the meantime, you can hear more about Secretary Clinton's visit to Portland from OPB:
My latest op-ed in The Forest Grove Leader, a publication of The Oregonian:
A national conversation about violence against women has been jump-started by the release of Jimmy Carter's new book "A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power."
We need this discussion and it is needed now. It is timely that Pacific University's Center for Gender Equity is sponsoring an 8 p.m. "Take Back the Night March" on Wednesday, April 16, to protest sexual violence. As President Carter notes in his book, it is estimated that one in five female students are sexually assaulted.
Lent is a special season of reflection for people of the Christian faith. These days provide us with space to consider the teachings of Jesus in the spirit of renewal and rebirth. Please note these special services for Holy Week on your calendar:
Good Friday, April 18th | 10am at Rev. Chuck Currie's house (this will be a simple service with Scripture reading)
Easter, April 20th | 10:30 am joint worship service with the people of University Park Church and Sunnyside Church in Sunnyside Church's historic sanctuary All are welcome.
It's simple: World Vision caved to Christian bigotry today. Yesterday the relief aid agency announced they would no long discriminate against gays and lesbians in employment. After a firestorm of criticism - fostered by men such as Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention - they reversed their decision. It's a tragedy.
The General Synod of the United Church of Christ has said:
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.
More and more Christian denominations and affiliated faith-based organizations are coming to understand that discrimination can no longer be embraced in the name of Jesus - whose ministry broke down walls.
One day we can hope that World Vision gets on the right side of the Gospel. Sadly, it will not be today.
Update: Some are advocating a boycott of World Vision. I'm not. But I do hope people of faith consider making a donation to Global Ministries' Child Sponsorship Program. Global Ministries is a joint program of the United Church of Christ & Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and supports LGBT rights.
Three cheers for World Vision! The Christian organization, which works to fight poverty, announced this week they would no longer prohibit open gays and lesbians from being employed. It is what we’d expect from followers of Jesus.
The lectionary reading this past Sunday was John 4:5-42. We find Jesus in this story doing the unexpected: talking with a Samaritan – and a woman at that. This broke all the social rules of the time but Jesus’ ministry broke down walls of exclusion in favor of inclusion. His was a ministry of reconciliation and justice.
World Vision president Richard Sterns told Christianity Today that the decision not to exclude gays and lesbians from the organization was "symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity."
The motto of the United Church of Christ is: “That they may all be one.”
We need one another in this troubled world. In fact, we cannot survive without one another.
In the fight against poverty it should not matter if we are straight or gay. Because – and I say this from a place of deep faith – God’s creation is good. We are made in God’s image. We are beloved. That goes for us all regardless of our national heritage or sexual orientation or even religion.
Let’s end the culture wars and live out the Gospel teachings.
Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church protested my seminary and one of my congregations. Today I pray for him as he passes from this life to the arms of a loving and forgiving God. People ask: does Phelps belong in Hell? He has already lived there for many years. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and Phelps was an enemy of our faith. God is not vengeful but grace filled. Ironically, Phelps’ protests showed the world how discrimination and hate towards gays and lesbians was anything but Christian. Today we do not rejoice in Phelps’ passing – or the pain of his family - but instead offer prayers that in death he will know the love of God that surpasses all human understanding. May this be a time of healing for all those hurt by Fred Phelps’ and Westboro Baptist Church.
My latest on The Huffington Post:
"It is particularly important that young people get covered so that no accident or illness leaves them with medical bills and debt that rob them of the opportunity to further their education or one day own a home."
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.
Some are staying away because they don't want to participate in institutions that offer hate in place of God's love. Others are literally being ejected from their churches because of their sexuality.
Bobbie Pierce is an example. His congregation, Ambassador's Bible Chapel in Newberry Township, has removed him from membership and refused him communion because he's gay. Their leadership says this is an act of love meant to force Mr. Pierce to change his sinful ways but homosexuality is not a sin: bigotry is.
It is vital that progressive communities of faith continue to preach God's message of radical love for all to counter act those that preach hate. This debate has implications not just for who attends church but how gays and lesbians are treated in the public square. Anti-gay hate laws continue to be justified, in a form of theological malpractice, with Christian teachings. We know better. God calls us to be a just society filled with grace and not judgement. Bobbie Pierce and others like him need to know he is welcome in God's house.
Arizona's SB1062, a law which would allow religious people to discriminate against LGBT people, is a legal decedent of Jim Crow. This is not about religious freedom but about bigotry. A generation ago people used the Christian faith to justify discrimination against African-Americans and interracial couples. That was a misuse of the faith and only possible because white supremacists superimposed their beliefs over those taught by Jesus. Using faith today to justify discrimination against gays and lesbians is just as twisted. This law is sin and the GOP legislators who voted for the law - no Democrat supported SB1062 - have made themselves the political heirs of George Wallace. Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) can still veto the bill but has voiced her personal belief that businesses and individuals should have the freedom to discriminate against anyone they wish. I applaud faith leaders in Arizona, like The Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, conference minister of the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, who have spoken out against this moral travesty. Love your neighbor, taught Jesus. Discrimination is not love nor is it a hallmark religious freedom. Reach out to friends and family in Arizona and tell them that as a person of faith you oppose discriminate and embrace God's love - a love that extends to God's gay and lesbian children.
- Rev. Chuck Currie
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As a parent of two children in the Portland Public Schools and a minister in this great and good city, I want to congratulate the Portland Association of Teachers and the PPS Board and Superintendent for coming to a contract resolution that avoids a strike. Faith leaders issued a statement this weekend calling on the parties to work for the common good of our children, and backing the teacher’s justifiable principles for a fair and just contract. I encourage the people of Portland to pray for our teachers, administrators and school children as we all seek reconciliation moving forward. We are deeply blessed to have so many in Portland committed to our public schools.
- Rev. Chuck Currie
Updated with additional clergy endorsers 2/16/14 | 6:43am
February 15, 2014
Open Letter From Portland Religious Leaders Concerning The Possibility Of A Portland Teacher Strike
We stand in support of the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) which has voted to strike after on-going negotiations with the Portland Public Schools (PPS) have failed to achieve a fair and balanced contract that both lowers class sizes and lifts up underpaid professional teachers.
In 2003, the National Council of Churches reaffirmed their historic commitment to public education by calling on “communities of faith to bring their resources, public concern, and moral authority to support not only the public schools, but also the teachers, the administrators, and, most particularly, the children in those schools.”
Our hope is that the Portland School District and the Portland Association of Teachers are able to come to an agreement before the strike begins as scheduled for Thursday, February 20th. We call on all sides to work together for a resolution that promotes the common good of our city. This can best be achieved by lowering class sizes during a time the PPS maintains a budget surplus.
During this difficult time we urge all sides to conduct their private and public actions with civility so that the goal of reconciliation is made easier once this process comes to a conclusion. It is our belief that those involved on both sides care deeply about public education and children.
We affirm the words delivered by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said in 1964: “The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige our work justifies. We squander funds on highways, on the frenetic pursuit of recreation, on the overabundance of overkill armament, but we pauperize education.” Our failure to deliver quality education is a problem that is local, state and national in scope.
If the PPS forces the PAT to move forward with the planned strike by not agreeing to the justifiable requests put forward by the teachers, we call on communities of faith to open their doors, if possible, to take in children who might not otherwise have a safe place to go once the strike begins.
Finally, while we come from different faith traditions, we concur with the sentiment expressed by the NCC when they said: “…public schools are the primary route for most children—especially the children of poverty—into full participation in our economic, political, and community life. As a consequence, all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, have a moral responsibility to support, strengthen and reform the public schools. They have been and continue to be both an avenue of opportunity and a major cohesive force in our society—a society becoming daily more diverse racially, culturally, and religiously.”
We offer our prayers for all those working toward a just solution to this crisis that averts a strike. Please call 503-208-6521 with any questions. Titles and organizational affiliations are listed here for identification purposes only.
Rev. Chuck Currie
Sunnyside Church and University Park Church
Rabbi Joseph Wolf
Rev. Kate Lore
Minister of Social Justice
First Unitarian Church
Rev. Lynne Smouse Lopez
Ainsworth United Church of Christ
Rev. W. J. Mark Knutson
Augustana Lutheran Church
Rev. Jennifer Garrison Brownell
Hillsdale Community Church – UCC
Rev. Dr. Barbara J. Campbell
St. Mark Presbyterian Church
Rev. Tara Wilkins
Bridgeport United Church of Christ
Rabbi Debra Kolodny
P'nai Or of Portland
Rev. Cecil Charles Prescod, OCC
Minister of Faith Formation and Youth Ministries
Ainsworth United Church of Christ
Rev. Sara Rosenau
First Congregational United Church of Christ
Rabbi Daniel Isaak
Congregation Neveh Shalom
Rev. David C. Dornack
Rose City Park Presbyterian Church
Sister Mary Kay Lampert
Sisters of the Holy Names
Rev. Don Frueh
Parkrose Community United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Patricia Ross
First Congregational United Church of Christ
John T. Schwiebert
United Methodist Minister, Retired
18th Ave Peace House
Rev. Eugene Ross
United Church of Christ Minister, Retired
Rev. David Zaworski
Waverly Heights UCC
My latest on The Huffington Post:
Most Americans want civility in our politics. Most. But not all. U.S. Rep. Randy Weber was busy being uncivil before the speech even began. I wanted to respond to this as a minister and American -- and did so.
Earlier this week, news broke that the Multnomah County GOP would hold a gun raffle in honor of President Lincoln and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I wrote in The Huffington Post, with this a truly dishonorable act the GOP aligned themselves with voices of hatred and racism, and against all that Lincoln and King stood for. I am glad to report that Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral has cancelled the event.
When I learned the event would be held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral my assumption was that the leadership there new nothing about the event or the controversy. Churches often rent out space to community organizations. Sometimes those organizations do not fully disclose their intentions. So I reached out and asked that the cathedral consider cancelling the event and that by doing so they could send a powerful message that the planned raffle was inappropriate and immoral. My understanding is many others reached out to the Cathedral’s leadership.
The Greek Orthodox Church, like the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church, is part of the National Council of Churches. Together we have worked to curb gun violence in our nation. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral is an important community leader in Portland. We can all be thankful they see the world with deep moral clarity.
- Rev. Chuck Currie
The Oregonian: Portland church says it will no longer allow Republican fundraising dinner tied to gun raffle
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In churches and synagogues and mosques…in schools and our houses of government…in community centers and union halls…the people of our nation gather this weekend to honor once again the legacy of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King was not just a civil right leader (though that would have been enough). He was a Christian minister who called us to build up the Kingdom of God in the best prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian New Testament.
Leading a non-violent revolution of social change, his words shaped the history of our time. The walls of white supremacy could not withstand the reading of the Gospel message when preached by Dr. King. Jim Crow, so powerful and full of pride, crumbled when confronted with the weapon of love unleashed by Dr. King and all those who participated in the civil rights movement.
Our reading this morning from the Book if Isaiah centers on the concept of the call to ministry within our tradition.
All of us are called to ministry. In our tradition we believe in the priesthood of all believers. This does not mean, however, that we are all called to the same tasks.
Dr. King was called to prophetic ministry – preaching the word of God to a world that didn’t often want to hear it, envisioning the way the world could be instead of the way it was, and organizing others to do the same.
In 1959, Dr. King wrote:
My call to the ministry was neither dramatic nor spectacular. It came neither by some miraculous vision nor by some blinding light expenence on the road of life. Moreover, it did not come as a sudden realization. Rather, it was a response to an inner urge that gradually came upon me. This urge expressed itself in a desire to serve God and humanity, and the feeling that my talent and my commitment could best be expressed through the ministry… Dunng my senior year in college I finally decided to accept the challenge to enter the ministry. I came to see that God had placed a responsibility upon my shoulders and the more I tried to escape it the more frustrated I would become.
Those who are called to prophetic ministry often run from the task. Moses did. He argued with God. I think you have the wrong person, he said. There must be someone better. Jesus himself was burdened deeply by his calling. Like King, he knew his path would end in death. At times he became frustrated and other times required solitude for reflection.
Even if we are not called to be a Moses or a King we are still called to be followers of Jesus. That means we inherit the mission of Jesus, a mission he announced when he began his ministry in the Gospel of Luke:
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,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
These words spoken by Jesus come directly from the Book of Isaiah. In speaking them, Jesus was linking his ministry with the ministry of the Hebrew prophets.
Dr. King drew from those same Scriptures as his lead the Civil Rights Movement. He preached in a sermon called “A Christian Movement in A Revolutionary Age” that:
When Moses walked into the courts of Pharaoh and thundered forth with the cry “Let my people go,” he introduced into history the concept of a God who was concerned about the freedom and dignity of all his children and who was willing to turn heaven and earth that freedom might be a reality. Throughout the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament, we see God active in the affairs of men, struggling relentlessly against the forces of evil that beset them and seeking to mold a people who will serve as his children, as partners in the building of His kingdom here on earth.
The God of our fathers is a God of revolution. He will not be content with anything less than perfection in His children and in their society.
We still need that sense of revolution today. Some use that term and think of violence but we are called to non-violence. We need to be revolutionaries to make sure that everyone is free. We know this is not the case. The very voting rights that Dr. King fought for are under attack. Gun violence and domestic violence and political violence threaten too many the world over. People are enslaved by poverty the world over. Climate change threatens existence. We are not living in the Kingdom of God.
We need a new generation of freedom riders. This time, however, there is no need to travel anywhere. We don’t need to go down South. There are plenty opportunities for work in our local communities. We can and should continue to do this work in our churches. At the same time, all of us should examine how we are living our lives. Do our lives in this moment of history serve God fully? If not, what changes can we make in what we do and how we act to better live out our Christian faith?
Let me end with words from Dr. King:
"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."
© The Rev. Charles S. Currie, Jr., M.Div.
A Prayer for the New Year – 2014
by Rev. Chuck Currie
God of all time,
The transition from one year to another is an arbitrary marker.
Still it gives us pause to reflect on what has been and where we are going.
As we move from 2013 to 2014 we are reminded to search for you.
What world do you intend for us?
We know your world is one free from war and governed by justice.
We know your world is one where children do not go hungry.
We know your world is a world where we love you, O God, and love our neighbors.
Help us to be a people of reconciliation in the midst of division.
Help us to reach out to those in need.
Help us to listen and not just to speak.
Help us to search for ways to bring bright light to dark places.
As we leave 2013 and enter 2014 we pray, Amen.
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.