Oregon Minister Responds to President’s State of the Union Address
Rev. Chuck Currie, chaplain at Pacific University (Ore.) and director of the institution's Center for Peace & Spirituality, is available to discuss President Obama's State of the Union speech (503-208-6521, firstname.lastname@example.org).
His initial thoughts: "Having read President Obama’s State of the Union Address and spoken today with White House officials about the proposals the president is making, I can report without hesitation that the president has put forward an agenda people of faith concerned about families, poverty and education can support.
We need a tax system that benefits all Americans and not just the wealthiest. Tax cuts now for middle class families will help those struggling during the recovery. Paid family leave will help create new opportunities for healthily communities. Free community college will help a generation move into higher education and we all know education is the best way to escape poverty.
Diverse faith leaders across the United States have been calling on President Obama and Congress to pass many of the initiatives announced by the president. There has already been strong support from the faith community for the president’s executive action on immigration and climate change. As a minister in the United Church of Christ deeply concerned about the future of America, I support President Obama’s vision and call on members of Congress to work with President Obama."
Rev. Chuck Currie
Director, Center for Peace and Spirituality
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5 NRSV)
We note during this difficult time for our nation and the world that there is hope. Let this Christmas be remembered as the time that good people of faith gathered with together with others - regardless of their faith tradition - to set the captives free, as Jesus taught. Too many people are held captive today by poverty and hunger, racism and oppression, war and human caused changes to our environment. In this season of darkness we must summon new hope, and shine a light that brings justice to places where sin thrives on darkness and indifference.
Rev. Chuck Currie
It is generally a good assumption that any attack on a public servant is an attack on all of us. That was certainly the case yesterday when NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot dead by an assailant who earlier shot his ex-girlfriend. Liu and Ramos represented the diversity and promise of America. Ismaaiyl Brinsley claimed to be killing in revenge for police misconduct. Proponents of reform of America's dysfunctional criminal justice system have argued during mostly non-violent demonstrations for legislative changes and court remedies. Violence has no place in this movement.
Sadly, NYPD Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch laid blame for the deaths of Liu and Ramos on not just their killer but directly on NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has supported reform, and other conservative voices on Sundays televisions programs have indicted President Obama and AG Holder - along with clergy and non-protesters...anyone who questions the system as it stands. This is reckless rhetoric.
The system as it stands is broken. We treat African-Americans differently in the criminal justice system then we do whites. Women are targets of domestic violence in a society that allows such violence to occur often with impunity. Cops can be shot down by people that never should have had access to guns because they are so easy to obtain in the NRA's America.
Right now we need to be about the building of a stronger America where the structural injustices of race are addressed and the hard work of reconciliation is engaged. There is too much violence. There is too much hatred. Our obligation is to build a better America. The deaths of Liu and Ramos will just be two more meaningless murders otherwise.
News that there is a person possibly with Ebola undergoing treatment in Oregon should not be reason for panic or great concern. Using best public health practices, the Obama Administration and Center for Disease Control and prevention has put into place policies to protect the health of Americans. No one is at risk of Ebola unless you come into contact with body fluids of an infection person. We are all at greater risk of the flu (get a flu shot). Oregonians should offer compassion to the person now under care, we should offer our thoughts and prayers, and we should do the same for those providing treatment. Health care workers deserve every ounce of respect. During this last week of the election campaign it would be a tragic mistake for any politician to use this issue as an attempt to divide Oregonians. Our attention should be focused most on efforts to stop Ebola in Africa where there has been untold human suffering. Faith leaders have been in direct contact with federal officials as this international crisis has unfolded. Fear should not define our reaction.
- Rev. Chuck Currie
Remarks delivered by Rev. Chuck Currie at the Oregon League of Minority Voters dinner on October 30, 2014.
It is with great appreciation that I join with you all this evening.
We are, as you all know, near to an election. There is always cause to celebrate the democratic process. We live in a nation where the people decide on those who will occupy elective office.
For all the gifts of our democracy, however, we are a nation not fully free. A broken system allowed the loser of the popular vote to take the presidency in 2001. Our political system has never fully recovered.
Since then we have given corporations the rights of people and taken away from certain people the right to freely vote. We are not fully free.
The United States keeps company with nations like Russia in incarcerating large numbers of our fellow citizens, and in America those jailings are disproportionally based on skin color and not on crime.
We are not fully free in Missouri or New York or California or Oregon when unarmed African-Americans are killed by uniformed police officers and we know the process of investigation will be neither fair nor balanced.
We are a little less free in Portland, Oregon this month after the Portland City Council decided to fight a judge’s oversight of reforms of the Portland Police Bureau that have been mandated by the federal government which would make us a little more free.
Ours is a disconnected reality. We live in an age where an African-American can be elected president of the United States. We live in an age where a Latino can serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. We live in an age where a lesbian woman can serve as the Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. All of these people serve based on the content of their character.
These victories are a reality because of the work undertaken by many of you in this room here today.
But we are less free when our people are hungry. We are less free when our children are homeless. How can we make the claim that we are the “greatest nation on Earth" when 20,000 or more students will experience homelessness just in Oregon this year? Neither political party pays enough attention to poverty and economic inequity but the harshest judgment must rest with those who have fought investments in jobs, expansion in health care…and with those who have simply turned a blind eye to the people Jesus called the least of these.
The crisis of Ferguson is not an isolated incident but indicative of larger social ills that infect the whole body of our nation.
Only when we recognize the common humanity that we all share will we all be free. We cannot treat one another as if we can do without the other. We are too interconnected.
In his letter 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote about the church being the body of Christ. These are the words his used, as translated by Eugene Peterson:
For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
This is a good message for us as the election nears. We are not fully free because we do not treat the “other” as necessary, as integral, when there is no one, not a soul, that can be left behind. If we do not love neighbor as ourselves, we have no hope.
So I leave you with this prayer, one based on a prayer organically penned by Phillips Brooks, that we often share in the United Church of Christ:
Jesus said, "You ought always to pray and not to faint." Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger women and men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, but for power equal to your tasks. Then, the doing of your work will be no miracle - YOU will be the miracle, and every day you will wonder at yourself and the richness of life that has come to you by the grace of God. Amen.
SC GOP figure Todd Kincannon wants to execute Ebola victims. He claims a Christian faith but betrays God and seemingly has lost his humanity. His comments, fueled by racism, are a deep embarrassment to South Carolina, a state I love. SC church leaders should take the opportunity to condemn his beliefs and ask that he repent from his sins. We should all seek to show love and compassion for those across the world with Ebola, and not stigmatize those who are ill and suffering. Jesus stood with outcasts, including the sick. He offered healing, justice and reconciliation. There is nothing Christian about Mr. Kincannon's hatred.
This morning I had the pleasure of preaching at Portland's First Congregational United Church of Christ. Our Scriptures readings were Isaiah 2: 1-5 and Luke 6:20-26. My sermon - Is Peace Possible? - dealt with the complex realities of peace, justice and conflict.
Thinking about the pursuit of peace is enough to cause one to get a headache. This is true, in part, because defining peace is so complicated. Is it the absence of war? That is one understanding but the absence of war does not mean the conditions for war don't exist and that a new conflict is not just around the corner. We talk a lot in the United Church of Christ about creating “just peace.” This is the idea that for real peace to exist we must create conditions that make war impossible.
Still, peace is not just about war. Is there peace in Ferguson? Clearly, the answer is no. What about Portland? In this very church my colleague Patricia Ross and I conducted the memorial for James Chasse, a Portlander suffering from mental illness, who was beaten by the police so severely that officers left him with fractures in 16 of his ribs, a total of 26 broken bones, as well as a punctured lung. Still today, Mayor Charlie Hales is fighting federal oversight of police reform mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice after a series of people, mostly African-American, died at the hands of our police force. Is there peace in Portland?
Peace is absent as long as there is domestic violence and sexual assaults on college campuses. Peace is absent as long as there are federal and local policies that promote economic violence that leave our people homeless and hunger in a nation of abundance. Peace is absent so long as we pollute the air and seas and threaten God’s very creation. Peace is absent as long as there is gun violence and a lack of police accountability.
Is there a baseline understanding of Jesus’ teachings that, at the very least, mainline Christians might share, particularly in a world so broken by war and suffering from the lack of a just peace that threatens to destabilize all of creation? Walter Rauschenbusch offered a foundational argument regarding whether or not Jesus took sides in an analysis of Luke 6:20-26, one of our reading for this morning, in 1916’s The Social Principles of Jesus.
Listen to the audio of the full sermon here:
Houses of worship have every right to preach on social issues and to take part in advocacy campaigns. Politicians cannot - no matter where you stand on the central issue involved in this case, LGBT-rights - subpoena sermons from clergy. This is a clear effort by a progressive politician to intimidate conservative clergy. It cannot be allowed, as the Interfaith Alliance has rightfully said. What if an anti-gay mayor demanded by court order to see copies of sermons given by United Church of Christ clergy on behalf of marriage equality? This reprehensible effort by Houston Mayor Annise Parker must be halted to protect the religious freedom of all. I fully support the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) as an important civil rights victory. In defense of HERO, however, Mayor Parker has crossed a line no politician in America should cross.
Washington, DC – Nearly 200 Protestant, Catholic and Evangelical faith leaders and professors issued a statement calling on the Obama administration to take stronger steps to protect civilians when carrying out airstrikes in Syria. Prominent signers include Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, professor and former President of the Chicago Theological Seminary, Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and Baptist ethicist Dr. John Shelley.
The administration recently announced that it had scaled back criteria for ensuring that civilians are not harmed in strikes aimed at ISIL.
“News that your administration has abandoned the stated policy of making every effort to protect civilian lives in the course of drone strikes undermines America’s moral authority,” they wrote. “As people of faith, we see this as a grave moral issue. We urge you to put back in place your policy that no strikes will take place unless there is a ‘near certainty’ that civilians will not be harmed.”
“When you mirror your enemy, you risk becoming your enemy,” said Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, a United Church of Christ pastor and former President of the Chicago Theological Seminary. “The U.S. is now on that path and it is a profound moral mistake.”
“Our faith traditions argue that civilians must be protected in war,” said Rev. Chuck Currie, a United Church of Christ pastor and Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University. “We are at our best as a nation when we live up to our highest ideals. It is our sacred responsibility to protect the most vulnerable. The president must order U.S. forces to resubmit to his original policy regarding the use of drones.”
The statement and full list of signers is available here. Titles are for identification purposes only.
During the Great Recession the poorest Americans increased their charitable giving 17%. Much of that money went to relgious group providing faith based social services. The wealthiest Americans? They cut their giving by 4.6%. Unlike their wealthy fellow citizens, middle income Americans joined those with lower incomes in giving away more.
Still, the wealthiest Americans enjoy the Bush era tax breaks while the wealth gap continues to grow. Many wealthy Americans clearly understand that great economic disparity is not good morally or economically. Yet the majority of the wealthiest Americans are forgetting that it is better to give then to receive. Billionaires like the Koch brothers give hundreds of millions to candidates who promise to further cut taxes on the rich.
For people of faith, called to create just systems, it is imperative that we continue the work of building up the common good of this nation and the world. That work must include raising taxes on the weathiest 1% so that we can create living wage jobs, improve public education, further improve health care, and do everything possible to make sure that every child born today has opportunities to thrive well into the future.
The Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ is meeting this weekend in Pendleton, Oregon. One of the resolutions under debate will offer the question as to whether or not the United Church of Christ should divest from certain companies in Israel. I will vote no.
We should all approach the Israel / Palestine conflict with a measure of humility. Without question, I recognize that this resolution is brought forward to push forward a human rights agenda. As J Street and other Jewish groups have noted, the current Israeli government has offered an agenda that will bring peace to no one. Israel must stop their settlement expansions, re-commit to a two-state solution, protect the human rights of the Palestinian people, and conform to international norms of human rights.
Human Rights Watch has noted that in the most recent conflict, as in others, Israel may have committed war crimes. The same charge has been brought by HRW against Hamas. The international community should investigate all such possible crimes.
Divestment of UCC resources will have no practical impact. It will not force Israel to the peace table. In fact, the opposite is true. Interfaith relations will be damaged. Dialogue, which is so needed right now in the interfaith world, will stop.
This issue has been debated within the national setting of the UCC for years. A resolution to consider divestment was set aside in favor of a resolution calling for further study on the issue. That step never really occurred and very few churches in the Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ can claim any direct knowledge of the complex issues involved with this issue – though some of our members have been to the region and have legitimate concerns about the suffering of the Palestinian people. I applaud bringing these concerns forward.
Regardless, I would urge the United Church of Christ to find just peace steps that continue to press for human rights while keeping the UCC involved and active in interfaith debates. Investing in businesses in Gaza, which our investment board has already done, is one good example. We should more actively send delegations from the UCC to Israel / Palestine to learn from those there and to press all sides to address human rights. At the same time, we must continue advocacy efforts that press the United States to put further pressure on Israel.
Symbolic actions can sometimes offer a powerful prophetic witness. In this case, voting “yes” may make us feel like good human rights advocates but the impact of this largely symbolic vote will only make interfaith peace making a more difficult task.
My latest on The Huffington Post:
The question we face today is how to employ "Just Peace" as a working model for peace building in a world so torn apart and complex. Without question, the complexities we face now are even more difficult to navigate from what those seeking peace during the Cold War encountered. Can "Just Peace" be a model for addressing the messy conflict in Syria and Iraq, which involves the terrorist group ISIS?
We had a powerful discussion Thursday night at the Pacific University Center for Peace and Spirituality forum Ferguson to Forest. Our panelists spoke from a variety of perspectives on how racism impacts us here in Oregon. Students and community members spoke up. Not everyone was in agreement on every subject but it was the kind of discussion we need to continue to have to make the changes needed in our society to further address racism.
Parents across Portland are expressing concern regarding the arrival of “The Good News Club” – a fundamentalist Christian organization that works to recruit young children in city parks and public schools. The Constitution may afford this group the right to operate outside of regular school hours but parents have every right to be wary. The message being spread by ‘The Good News Club” is a far right understanding of the Christian faith outside the mainstream of even many traditional conservative evangelical churches. Faith as understood by their organizers is fear based and centered on sin. Children as young as five are told they are doomed to a life of eternal hell without accepting the theology of “The Good News Club.” They present this as a universal understanding of the Christian faith but that is not the case. Most Christians would reject this type of thinking and tactics out of hand. As a seminary educated clergy member in the United Church of Christ, I see the tactics used by “The Good News Club” as a form of coercion similar to a cult. Parents who send their children to clubs that operate on fear should be prepared to see their children suffer from mental health issues. God affirmed the goodness of Creation. Yes, sin is an important concept that Christians wrestle with. What we don’t do is wield fear of sin as a weapon to convert children who do not have the cognitive abilities to determine on their own what is right and wrong. Responsibile churches teach children about God's love, the need for all of us to be good community members, and the responibility we have to respect everyone regardless of their religion. Before the Portland Public Schools allow “The Good News Club” to use school facilities or to promote their activities on campus it would seem appropriate to allow mental health professionals to further investigate the activities of this group. Learn more at Protect Portland Children.
It is with great sadness that I note the death of Sister Mary Kay Lampert, my friend and long-time colleague. After several difficult bouts with cancer, Mary Kay passed away on July 1 and a funeral was held July 11. At the time of her death, we were out of town and I only learned the news today. Sister Mary Kay and I first worked together at Baloney Joe’s, a multi-service center for men experiencing homelessness, and later shared the job of coordinating the activities of Burnside Advocates Group (BAG). We last had the chance to visit in March. Mary Kay was a teacher for many years at Central Catholic High School, and also taught both at Marylhurst University and the University of Portland. She volunteered for years at Our House, a facility serving those with AIDS, and often invited people to join her for lunch at a gay bar across the street from the agency. Sister Mary Kay believed that women should be ordained – I was proud to invite her to preach on the mission of the church when I served Parkrose Community United Church of Christ – and was a strong supporter of unions. My sadness is tempered only by the knowledge that she is with God and that she lived a life fully present with God – working to build the Kingdom and advancing the needs of the least of these here on earth. I will miss my friend and partner of over twenty-five years deeply but know that she joins that great cloud of witnesses that loves us through space and time. Gifts in her honor can be made to the Sisters of the Holy Names Retirement Fund, P.O. Box 411, Marylhurst, OR 97036. Please pray for her family and friends, particularly Sister Rosemary Anne Parker.
Yesterday, The Forest Grove Leader / The Oregonian published my latest op-ed:
NRA supporters took to Twitter to support opposition to my argument. They disagreed with my basic point:
But they also dismissed my views for other reasons. For example, because I support marriage equality:
They engaged in Islamaphobia and questioned President Obama's Christian faith - strongly:
They have issues with basic civil rights and civil rights leaders:
And they don't like when clergy pray for civil rights...
And these are the folks who want to keep assault weapons on our streets. There is too much violence in our nation - too many of these mass shootings - and we can do something about that. Intertwined with the issue of how to prevent gun violence are issues of bigotry directed toward people of color, different faiths, and women (as some of the tweets I got about Secretary Clinton showed). This makes the work of faith communities even more important. Creating justice includes creating space for reconciliation. But for progress to be made we have to recognize how these issues are intertwined.
Sunday will be my last day as the minister of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church. It has been an honor to serve these two Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church as part of a covenantal relationship with the United Church of Christ.
Please join us Sunday at University Park (9:30am worship with early 8:30am coffee reception) and Sunnyside Church (11am worship with reception to follow). All are weclome!
Two years has not been enough time but they have been filled. I’ve been blessed to work with parishioners at both congregations that take the social Gospel teachings of Jesus seriously.
In that spirit, we have reached out to support those experiencing homelessness, joined anti-hunger efforts such as Bread for the World, raised funds for relief agencies like Church World Service, and worked for the equality of all God’s children.
We’ve expanded ministries through the use of social media – reaching people that never would have heard a progressive Christian message. Pastoral care has been provided. We’ve mourned the loss of some beloved members of our churches and watched children be born and grow.
Like many older congregations, we have been blessed with older buildings that can be both a community asset and a drain. Sometimes it has been difficult to focus on mission instead of building needs.
My ministry began with a lot of “issues” on the plates of both churches. We’ve thoughtfully and prayerfully worked through many of those issues only to uncover new ones. Faith is a journey, of course, and not a fixed destination. Still, working with new clergy - The Rev. Christopher Gudger-Raines at Sunnyside Church and The Rev. Julia Nielsen at University Park Church – answers to those new questions will help determine the future of both churches.
As for me, I’m off to Pacific University. There I will serve as the Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain. Pacific is historically related to the United Church of Christ. The community is religiously pluralistic – with many diverse faith traditions represented among the students, staff and faculty (and I respect that many at Pacific don't have a faith tradition but share a commitment to civic engagement) – and I look forward to both teaching and learning at one of the Northwest’s most important centers of higher learning.
During the summer, before assumng my duties at Pacific, I'll have time for vacation and to work on the last leg of my Doctor of Ministry degree at Chicago Theological Seminary. The summer will be busy. Pacific has kindly allowed me to open my office before the fall starts so that I have a place to work on my D.Min.
The people of University Park and Sunnyside will always remain in my prayers. I invite your prayers as my new ministry begins.
Rev. Chuck Currie
P.S. Visit Facebook to check out photos from the last two years but click on these photos for a sampling.
|Coming Out As A Person Of Faith|
|Portland Pride Parade|
|Christmas Eve in Portland|
|Sunnyside Church - University Park Church BBQ|
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.
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.
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
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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.