Welcome All

Two Sundays ago I was invited to preach a sermon on the theme “Welcome All” at a congregation in Independence. It was just a few days after the passage of the marriage equality bill in New York State and so I felt compelled to preach on the importance of the Community of Christ becoming a welcoming church for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. I also wanted to use the opportunity to publicly apologize for my own homophobia, which as a young adult I had accepted uncritically from those who had given me religious instruction. I show that the church has often struggled to be prophetic on human equality, using examples of race and the American Civil Rights movement. I call on Community of Christ congregations to become inclusive churches.

I wrote up a summary of my sermon for my column in The Examiner (Independence, MO). Click here to read it.

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Terry Tempest Williams to Receive Community of Christ Peace Award

Terry Tempest Williams, a Utah-based environmental activist with a Mormon heritage, will receive the Community of Christ Peace Award on 21 October 2011 at the church’s Peace Colloquy on “Creating Hope, Healing Earth” in Independence, Missouri. See the official announcement here. A list of previous awardees is here.

Her website says Williams believes “environmental issues are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice” and asks the question, “what might a different kind of power look like, feel like, and can power be redistributed equitably even beyond our own species?”

Williams is currently Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah.

Veazey Blogs about Pilgrimage to Hiroshima

Community of Christ President Steve Veazey has a new blog and has been posting reflections on his experiences visiting the city of Hiroshima:

The scenes at the Peace Memorial Museum will haunt me for the rest of my life, as they certainly should. May I never forget them. If enough people could see what we saw and feel what we felt our mindset would change. We would do whatever is necessary to ensure that nuclear weapons (which a many, many times more powerful today) would never be used again for the sakes of all of our children and grandchildren.

The first article in the series is here. Click here for the second.

Veazey’s thoughts remind me of the following comments made by the late Charles D. Neff in a 1982 World Conference sermon, in which he called on the church to take a courageous stand against nuclear weapons:

My friends, I was in Hiroshima just a few weeks after an atomic bomb was dropped from an American military airplane onto that city. What I saw and felt there is indelibly etched into my mind, my heart, my soul. The stark reality of death and despair everywhere in Hiroshima in 1945 is indescribable.

Readers may also be interested to know that a retired Community of Christ minister and former editor of the church’s magazine, The Herald, Jim Hannah, was arrested at an anti-nuclear weapons demonstration in September this year. The charges against him were recently dropped and spoke at an anti-nuclear weapons rally earlier this month. To read Hannah’s justification for his participation in non-violent direct action against nuclear armament, click here.

For a previous discussion on this blog of the Community of Christ and nuclear weapons, click here.

Violence Aimed at the GLBT Community

The following statement was posted on the Community of Christ Web site today (October 22, 2010):

First Presidency and Council of Twelve Statement

The First Presidency and the Council of Twelve Apostles want to be clear that while there may be disagreements over some issues related to sexual orientation, Community of Christ members and leaders should act firmly against any forms of violence, harassment, bullying, blaming, slurs, or jokes that dehumanize or degrade any human beings. The 1992 World Conference passed a resolution on Human Diversity (WCR 1226) that states: “…we accept responsibility to resist fear and hate in all forms and to strive continuously to eliminate expressions of prejudice and discrimination.”

The growing fear, intolerance, and violence throughout the world alarm the Presidency and the Council of Twelve. Recently, young people of homosexual orientation have been harassed to the point of suicide. In some areas of the world homosexuals are beaten, jailed, or killed. Also, some churches recently have increased the volume and frequency of their condemnations of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people.

The church has not always provided clear assurance that our faith community and congregations should be safe places and sanctuaries of peace, where people need not fear embarrassment, harassment, or blame because of their sexual orientation. Our mission is to Proclaim Jesus Christ and Promote Communities of Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace. Therefore, it is vital that we engage in words and actions that “uphold the worth and giftedness of all people and that protect the most vulnerable” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:6a). We must work to ensure safe and peaceful congregations and communities for all of God’s children, including our GLBT members and friends and their families.

We may not agree on all questions related to human sexuality and sexual orientation. However, we are earnestly seeking more insight and understanding. We invite all members and friends of Community of Christ to join us on this journey.

Help Needed in Haiti

Outreach International is looking for a long-term volunteer with good research and writing skills to work in Haiti for 6-12 months. If you are interested in helping Outreach International’s school system in Haiti, which serves over 9000 students, recover from the January earthquake, click here to read the vacancy announcement.

Cheap Peace and Costly Peace

Last night I gave a talk at the Stone Church in Independence, Missouri on the “Pursuit of Peace.” I used the opportunity to explore an idea I have been thinking about lately — using Dietrich Bonheoffer’s observations on “cheap” vs “costly” grace to consider the different types of peace that people pursue.

I believe that too often, our society and our church, settle for pursuing “cheap peace” — that requires little commitment, little sacrifice and little chance of making sustained fundamental change. By contrast, I tell the story of grassroots peacebuilding efforts in Western Kenya, which have been conducted at great difficulty and personal risk (for those interested in learning more about these efforts, click here).

To read the sermon, click here.

Appalling…

The Quran

On September 11, 2010, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida is hosting International Burn a Quran Day.

From 6-9pm “Christians” can burn the Quran at the local church.  The city of Gainesville has refused a burn permit for safety reasons, however the church has vowed, “BUT WE WILL STILL BURN KORANS.”

Dove World Outreach Center’s pastor Terry Jones is quoted by CNN as saying, “We believe that Islam is of the devil, that it’s causing billions of people to go to hell, it is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion and that is proven many, many times.”

Dove World Outreach Center's Pastor Terry Jones

Some other local religious leaders have organized a Gathering for Peace, Understanding and Hope to occur near the same time to counter this book burning.  At least there is some attempt being made to counter the Quran burning.  This story is attracting some media attention, and likely moreso as the planned date approaches–assuming the Outreach Center sticks with the plan.

To me, this is appalling.  The very concept of this idea is contrary to everything I see the Community of Christ standing for, or atleast what it should stand for.  I see this as an attack to an entire religion of people, and just one day after the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan at that.  And worse yet, this is being done in the name of Jesus.  Shameful.

I’ve been blessed in my life to get to know many people intimately of very diverse religious backgrounds.  I have worshipped in Islamic mosques openly before, with no hesitation or concern.  I have celebrated Ramadan with Islamic friends three seperate years and endured the month-long fast, multiple times.  I know personally of three other Community of Christ members who engaged in Ramadan at least once as well.  It is a complete test of mind, body, and will.

I cannot believe that if Jesus Christ was with us at this moment that he would join in or approve of the burning.  Same as I do not believe, as others argue, he would join them holding up GOD HATES FAGS signs.  This is not the Christ that I’ve come to know.  And this is not the Jesus that the Community of Christ knows.  I pray this is not the Jesus known by most of Christianity.

We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.

We have a special calling, and the world needs to hear the “liberating truths of the gospel.”  Jesus is hope, not hate.