So you heard about Standing Rock…
What did you hear? Where did you hear it? Social Media, private Security Forces, Local News Outlets, National News including Networks, and first person reporting have all been used to spread the #NoDAPL, Standing With Standing Rock, and Pro-0il industry stories. This weekend long conference will tell the story from the viewpoint of the Church and Clergy Standing With Standing Rock.
For me it began while I was away on a short sabbatical. Standing Rock people started to gather at the bottom of what became known as Sacred Stone Camp. They were preparing to take a stand.
I watched from afar – sneaking some time on Facebook to see pictures and hear songs on live stream video. I was in Norway for the month of June of 2016.
I listened for what I could not anticipate. For me it was like a clap of thunder without the flash of lightning. Something was taking place along the valley floor or the Cannon Ball River. There was a stirring that spun the open field into an encampment of hundreds, then of thousands and then to tens of thousands. The tribal nations of Turtle Island – those territories that stretch between great oceans and from the frigid north to heat of the south – they came.
Indigenous people from the four winds came. There were so many languages spoken, sung and used in prayer on the floor of that valley and around this one sacred fire.
I witnessed them coming. I sat with them along highway 1806 and in its ditches. They hung their flags on the fences that lined the road until the fences had no room. I looked and I saw flags from tribal nation after tribal nation. They were standing together. They were standing with Standing Rock.
Our flags – flags representing the Christian faith – were missing. Our support of Standing Rock was unknown. The absence of the church was as visible. As the local priest standing ground with Standing Rock I didn’t need the church to come in order to offer prayer. I didn’t need the church to come in order to provide leadership. I didn’t need the church to come to provide its resources. The church needed to get there to stand with, to be present among these nations and it needed to witness for justice. I needed its witness that is communicated in presence and risk.
Justice is beginning to pour from a well that has been plugged with the refuse of church and civil doctrines: Discovery, Manifest Destiny, and America as the Great Melting Pot. We are a diverse nation with many cultures existing within and alongside of one another. The first – the Indigenous – have unique claim to this territory as its keepers and protectors. Join EPF members on this cross-cultural pilgrimage in September 2018 by registering HERE.
For more information about Standing Rock or participating in the EPF Pilgrimage, please contact The Rev’d John Floberg
Author George Clifford served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years, taught ethics, and now serves as priest associate at the Parish of St Clement in Honolulu. He blogs at Ethical Musings.
According to a widely reported statistic, there are 89 privately owned guns in the United States for every 100 citizens. Other estimates place the number of guns as high as 101 for every 100 citizens. These are necessarily estimates since the US does not mandate gun registration. Citing the lower estimate helps to avoid unresolvable arguments that are tangential to the problem of gun violence.
Of course, 89 guns per 100 citizens does not mean that 89 of every 100 citizens owns a firearm. Many citizens own multiple guns. Others own no gun. However, the approximately 290 million privately owned firearms result in the US ranking number 1 globally for gun ownership, with almost twice as many guns per capita as Serbia, which ranks second with 58 firearms per citizen.
Enacting tighter restrictions on gun ownership, mandating background checks, and repealing the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) – all measures which I support – in many respects resembles closing the proverbial barn door after the cow has escaped. Legislation may reduce but will not end gun violence.
Restricting access to guns is one vital step. A Florida law preventing 18-year-olds from purchasing firearms might have prevented the recent school shooting incident in Parkland. Gun registration, mandatory background checks, laws requiring locked storage of firearms, and other measures would almost certainly reduce the shockingly high levels of gun related domestic violence, suicides, and accidental deaths in homes. Allowing the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund research on guns and gun related violence, now prohibited by federal law, would enable evidence-based government policies and programs intended to reduce gun violence.
However, those actions, regardless of their completeness or reach, cannot solve the problem of gun violence in its entirety. Reducing gun violence requires better laws but also changes in attitudes and culture.
In Switzerland, all healthy males between 18 and 34 serve in the national militia and keep their military firearm(s) at home. Many Swiss also own guns for target shooting and hunting. Overall, an estimated 20-25% of Switzerland’s population own guns (Switzerland does not maintain official statistics on gun ownership; hence the use of estimates). Switzerland’s level of gun violence is far lower than in the US. Gun related homicides, for example, occur in Switzerland at approximately one third the rate in the US. In short, the attitude of the Swiss and their culture significantly contribute to avoiding gun related violence.
Christians individually and through their institutional Churches can and should lobby for improved gun control laws. The Prince of Peace did not advocate the violent resolution of conflicts. Indeed, he advocated just the opposite: giving a second garment to the person who stole one, turning one’s cheek to someone who attempts to start a fight, and so forth. The New Testament and Christian tradition are conflicted about whether these teachings apply to relations between nation states or only to individuals. While Christians may debate Jesus’ attitude toward hunting, the New Testament clearly shows that Jesus had no objection to fishing. Finding New Testament teachings to support or oppose target shooting requires creative eisegesis. Rather than being distracted by disagreements on national defense, hunting, and target shooting, Christians beneficially focus on Jesus as the Prince of Peace.
Most importantly, Christians and others can actively unite in efforts like these to change individual attitudes and aspects of our culture that support gun violence:
The time has come for Christians to lift high the Prince of Peace’s banner in public discourse. School shootings and mass murders are not indelible aspects of human attitudes or culture. With God’s help and working together, humans can change attitudes and our culture to promote peace instead of violence.
Reducing gun violence is a profoundly spiritual issue. As followers of Jesus Christ, who died at the hands of violence, we are called as Christians to alleviate suffering in our broken world and be agents of love and healing. From preaching to teaching to hosting community events, there are many ways our churches can reduce gun violence. Episcopal Peace Fellowship Director Rev. Allison Sandlin Liles assembled this list of 10 Ways Your Church Can Reduce Gun Violence in the hours after the Parkland, Florida school shootings. We can no longer wait for our elected leaders to make decisions on our behalf. Now is the time for us as people of faith to get involved ourselves.
An Ash Wednesday reflection by EPF Chair Bob Davidson
“The Spirit of GOD is upon me because God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, the opening of the prison to those who are bound; and to proclaim that the Kingdom is breaking into the world now.”
– Isaiah 61: 1-5
Ash Wednesday begins our observance of Lent with the opportunity for a fresh start. “Create and make in us new and contrite hearts” is the invocation from our opening Collect. Each year we are invited to acknowledge that our hearts may be tarnished and heavy with the daily call to live a faithful life.
I yield my own inadequacy to renew myself by a reminder of ashes that are smudged on my forehead. My quiet prayer is create and make in me a new heart. The ashes are not so much about my own immortality that I will return to dust, but rather for me it is about powerlessness. Within my own power and inner strength I cannot renew myself. I can, however, open myself and my powerlessness to be recreated and remade by God’s spirit.
What that recreated and remade spirit will look like resounds with Isaiah’s prophesy that sustained Christ in his earthly mission: preaching to the poor; healing the wounded, liberating the captive and relentlessly announcing the breaking in of the peaceable Kingdom.
I remember as a young person facing the threat of jail because of my refusal to fight in Vietnam. A spirit beyond myself empowered me to boldly face down the powers that demanded compliance with a policy of racism and oppression. It was then that I was recreated and remade when the Spirit of God was upon me and anointing me.
Where are the dark recesses of injustice and degradation of human life that this same Spirit is inviting you to proclaim that the Kingdom is breaking forth? Will you allow this Ash Wednesday to recreate and remake you into an instrument for peace in a world bent on destruction and dominance? May you find a fresh start deep within your own new and contrite heart to say, “Here I am Lord, send me!”
Bob Davidson is an Episcopal priest in Colorado who serves as a hospice chaplain and is the national chair of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
In the summer of 2009 Joseph Peters-Mathews had just graduated from Troy University in the small town of Troy, Alabama and was preparing for his first year at General Theological Seminary. His experience at General Convention in Anaheim, CA that summer as part of EPF’s second Young Adult Delegation (then called Young Adult Presence) could not have happened at a more opportune time. Listen to Joseph explain why his participation was a life changing experience.
Episcopal Peace Fellowship Executive Director invites you to support the fifth EPF Young Adult Delegation to General Convention. This is the first in a series of videos from alumnae of EPF’s Young Adult Delegation to General Convention. Allison attended herself a dozen years ago in 2006 and now encourages you to share the application with the young peacemakers in your life. The application is available online HERE and is due March 1st.
If you would like to support this summer’s delegation with a financial contribution, you may do so HERE.
Episcopal Peace Fellowship is now accepting applications for the 2018 Young Adult Delegation for General Convention.
General Convention is the official decision making body of the Episcopal Church. When it is in session it is the largest democratically elected governing body in the world. What happens there matters. Most dioceses ensure that they have balanced representation among clergy and lay people. However, less than 5% of elected deputies are under the age of 30.
Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Young Adult Delegation is about creating a space so that the voice of those under 30 can be heard. It is an intense experience. We will spend the entire 11 days (July 3 – July 13, 2018) of General Convention advocating for the issues we are passionate about.
As a member of this delegation you will have many opportunities:
If you want to participate as a member of the Young Adult Delegation come prepared to work both at General Convention and in the weeks before it takes place. These 11 days in Austin will change the way you experience the Church and how you see your own ability to impact the future. We are not coming to Convention for a vacation or to simply be the token young faces. We are coming to advocate for peace and justice issues that affect the entire Church. We are coming to convention to make a difference in the future of The Episcopal Church.
All members of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship Young Adult Delegation are responsible for their travel costs to and from General Convention in Austin as well as fundraising $1,000 to cover part of the cost of participating in the convention. EPF will assist you in the fundraising process and all funds raised will go directly to EPF. Once in Austin, EPF will cover all costs (housing, food, travel etc) at General Convention.
Applications are due March 1, 2018 and are available online HERE.
George Clifford served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years, taught ethics, and now serves as priest associate at the Parish of St Clement in Honolulu. He blogs atEthical Musings.
Fear, hate, and conflict too often operate as a closed, self-reinforcing, repeating cycle. Fear feeds hate; hate feeds conflict; and conflict feeds fear.
Optimally, peacemakers disrupt that destructive cycle before conflict escalates into war. Fear (perfect love casts out fear), hate (love your neighbor), and violent conflict (turn the other cheek and the prioritization of life over property) are all antithetical to Jesus’ teachings.
North Korea and the United States are currently locked in an escalating cycle of fear, hate, and conflict. Briefly recapitulating North Korean and U.S. moves underscores the growing danger this cycle poses if it continues uninterrupted:
The foregoing analysis may appear to attribute disproportionate responsibility for this escalating cycle to the U.S. However, that imbalance simply results from fundamental differences between the two societies. U.S. moves, reported by a free press, are easier to ascertain than are North Korean moves that occur in the world’s most secretive state. The most reasonable supposition, supported by all available evidence, is that North Korea bears equal or greater responsibility for the current state of affairs.
What can Episcopalians, a small group of relatively powerless U.S. Christians, do to help break this potentially nightmarish cycle of fear, hate, and conflict?
Firstly, we need to gain courage by remembering that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:17) and that Jesus exhorted his disciples to “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). Thereby empowered, stand boldly and openly against the contagion of fear.
Whether anyone likes it or not, North Korea is today a nuclear power. Its nuclear weapons assuredly provide this isolated state and its dictatorial ruler increased confidence and self-esteem. Diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions have never caused any nation, once it has acquired nuclear weapons, to disarm. Expecting that North Korea to disarm voluntarily is naïve and unrealistic.
Aware of the potential nuclear threat that North Korea poses, courageous Christians nonetheless will refuse to panic or allow fear to shape their lives. They draw additional strength from their recognition that Kim, who is neither insane nor mentally ill, and the North Korean people do not want to fight a nuclear war they cannot win.
Secondly, we should speak and act in ways that incarnate God’s love for all, including both Donald Trump and Kim Jong Il. God, as Peter learned, accepts everyone as a beloved child. Mark’s (7:24-30) account of Jesus’ dialogue with a Syrophoenician woman memorably underscores this point. Indeed, God calls Christians to speak not with hate but with a love that welcomes and heals.
Choosing whom we identify as an enemy illustrates language’s power to shape relationships. Although I abhor most of Kim’s policies and those of his predecessors, I refuse to consider him, North Korea, or its people my enemies. North Koreans live in an unenviable police state and most endure abject poverty. They need our compassion, not our hate. Kim’s murderous bellicosity reveals his unremitting wariness against internal and external threats, real or imagined, upon which the continuance of his rule and life depend.
Similarly, I object to slogans such as America first (or North Korea first). These slogans are inimical with Christian love because they elevate one group of people while implicitly demeaning other peoples. More helpfully and hopefully, remember that North Korea is one of the last five remaining communist nations and that it, like all tyrannies, will eventually collapse from its own internal dysfunctionality. Engagement rather than isolation will expedite that collapse.
Groups such as the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and The Episcopal Church (particularly through its Washington Office) can constructively urge the U.S. and other states to welcome North Korea as part of the global community, giving North Korea the respect that they crave and boosting their confidence that they are secure from external threats. Steps to build bridges connecting North Korea and its people with the rest of the world include cultural exchanges, replacing sanctions with trade that incentivizes economic growth and improves the well-being of North Koreans, expanding their internet access, etc. These steps not only counter hate but also erode the ability of hate proponents to regain traction.
Finally, make peace, not war. Military action aimed at destroying North Korea’s nuclear weapons will fail and probably lead to a nuclear holocaust. A successful strike against North Korea’s nuclear capacity requires knowing the location of all of its nuclear weapons and of its weapon making facilities, then destroying those targets before North Korea is able to launch any of its weapons. If such a strike succeeded, North Korea would still possess a formidable non-nuclear military might with which it might strike at South Korea and U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula in retaliation for the preemptive strike. Media reports agree that U.S. military leaders oppose such a preemptive strike because of the improbability of success and the danger, after a partially successful preemptive strike, of North Korea launching a nuclear attack against South Korea, Japan, or the U.S. Christians, in cooperation with others opposed to military action against North Korea, today make peace and not war by protesting against the escalating conflict. A preemptive U.S. strike against North Korea serves no one’s interest.
Concurrently, make peace not war by advocating smaller defense budgets. Tulsi Gabbard, one of Hawai’i’s two Congressional representatives, is a combat veteran and Major in the National Guard. Her vote was one of just 72 against the proposed $700 billion 2018 U.S. defense budget. She opposed the bill because she believes some U.S. Middle Eastern arms sales harm the U.S. Encourage other members of Congress to emulate her example and vote against defense spending that harms the U.S. by destabilizing the Korean peninsula.
Make peace and not war by supporting with time and money candidates whose actions, and not just their words, demonstrate their commitment to peacemaking. Alternatively, run for office or convince a committed peacemaker to run for office. One New Testament thematic thread maintains that God gives us government for our benefit. In a democracy such as the United States, government is at least partially of the people, by the people, and for the people. This means political campaigning can be an essential facet of doing God’s work.
Admittedly, some of my recommendations resemble familiar nostrums. That is not a reason to ignore them. Living courageously in the face of fear, choosing to love instead of hate, and making peace instead of war are basic components of Christian discipleship. Now is the time for Christian peacemakers to join the struggle to end the cycle of fear, hate, and escalating conflict between North Korea and the United States.
Episcopal Peace Fellowship and its Palestine Israel Network seek nominations for their John Nevin Sayre Award and newly established PIN Cotton Fite Award. EPF established the Sayre award in 1979 to honor founding EPF member Rev. John Nevin Sayre for his lifetime of service waging the Gospel of Peace. Sayre was an Episcopal priest, pacifist, missionary, teacher and author who gained notoriety when he challenged President Woodrow Wilson to address the devastating events of World War I. Because of Sayre’s efforts, Wilson agreed recognizing conscientious objection as a legal alternative to military service.
In 1979, two years after Sayre’s death, Episcopal Peace Fellowship honored his lifelong commitment to peace by establishing the John Nevin Sayre Award. The award is conferred every three years at General Convention for courageous witness in the cause of peace and justice to a recipient selected by the EPF National Executive Council. Through this award Episcopal Peace Fellowship publically recognizes Episcopalians who are actively living their baptismal promises of striving for peace and justice, and respecting the dignity of every human being. Like the person for which the award is named, recipients have dedicated their life’s work to courageously promoting a culture of peace and nonviolence in the face of cultural opposition. Past recipients include Rev. Naim Ateek, Madeline Trichel, Mary Miller, Louis Crew, Newland Smith, Patty and the late Rt. Rev. Ed Browning.
Next summer will be the first presentation of the PIN Cotton Fite Award. The Rev. Dr. Cotton Fite, who died August 15, 2017, was a founding member of EPF’s Palestine Israel Network, served as its initial convener and was deeply invested in the Palestinian cause. An Episcopal priest and clinical psychologist, Cotton was an outspoken advocate for justice and peace for Palestinians. The PIN Cotton Fite Award will be conferred every three years at General Convention to an Episcopalian passionately working for a just resolution in Palestine/Israel.
The 2018 John Nevin Sayre Award and PIN Cotton Fite Award will be presented at the EPF/PIN General Convention reception at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas on the evening of Friday, July 6th. The Rev. Bob Davidson, chair of EPF’s National Executive Council, looks forward to EPF’s reception each Convention. “It isn’t often that we are witnesses to peacemakers of such magnitude living in our midst. These awards remind us that working among us are living, breathing models of God’s call to follow the Prince of Peace,” said Rev. Davidson.
Nominations for both awards should be emailed to EPF Executive Director Rev. Allison Liles at email@example.com by December 15, 2017 and include ways in which the nominee has worked for peace and justice.
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship has championed peace, nonviolence and social justice issues since its founding on Armistice Day in 1939.
Read more about EPF – https://epfnational.org