Episcopal Peace Fellowship calls upon its members to demand state and federal legislators stand up to the gun lobby and vote to make this country a safer place to live. Thoughts and prayers are not enough; our leaders must find the courage to take action. A statement released by Bishops’ United Against Gun Violence on Monday, November 6, 2017, stated, “each of us has a role to play in our repentance. Elected representatives bear the responsibility of passing legislation that protects our citizenry. If our representatives are not up to this responsibility, we must replace them.”
Three of the five worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history occurred during the last year with two in the last month. America’s gun violence crisis is neither normal nor inevitable. According to The American Journal of Medicine, Americans, are 25 times more likely to be killed by a gun than people in other developed nations. In fact, no other country like ours comes close.
We cannot keep living this way.
After Sunday morning’s shootings, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton suggested to Fox News that more churchgoers should arm themselves. During an appearance on Fox News Monday morning, Dallas pastor and Trump faith adviser Rev. Robert Jeffress also appeared to advocate for arming church members. EPF Executive Director the Rev. Allison Liles responded, “Guns have no place in our houses of worship. We believe these spaces should be true sanctuaries. And, it is not possible for these spaces to be sanctuaries if people in the pews are armed and ready to kill another person created in the image of God.”
While no one gun law will prevent every shooting, there are solutions that can reduce gun violence and save lives. Policies like universal background checks and prohibiting dangerous people from accessing guns will make our communities safer. “We cannot continue to blame mental illness for these massacres,” said Rev. Liles. “The Sutherland Springs’ shooter was court marshalled in 2012 for two counts of assault on his spouse and assault on their child and two years later received a “bad conduct” discharge from the military. Despite this documented history of domestic abuse, he purchased an assault rifle. It is far too easy for dangerous people in our country to obtain weapons that have no place in civilian life.”
Now is the time for action. Now is the time for our elected leaders to muster the courage needed to vote against the gun lobby by defeating bad legislation that puts the profits of the gun industry before the safety of our communities. Now is the time for our elected officials to vote for common sense gun laws that will to build a safer, stronger America.
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.
Contact – Bob Kinney – EPF board member & publicist – 512.419.1738 – firstname.lastname@example.org
News Release October 3, 2017
Claysburg, Pennsylvania – Yesterday Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) members spent the day in prayer, but today that prayer must be followed by action. Episcopal Peace Fellowship urges all members, chapters and Peace Partner Parishes to toll their bells, organize vigils and call legislators demanding they halt easy the access to firearms that make such shootings possible.
“I continue hearing that this horrific mass shooting is ‘unimaginable,’ but in our country, mass shootings of this scale are absolutely imaginable,” said the Rev. Allison Liles, EPF executive director. “I continue hearing people claim that there are no words to describe the pain and anger. But as Episcopal Peace Fellowship members, we must find the words to speak and then speak those very words repeatedly until our elected officials hear them.”
Episcopal Peace Fellowship endorses the statement from Bishops United Against Gun Violence on the shooting in Las Vegas, recognizing not only laws that must be changed, but also lives.
As our Bishops say, “Our country is feasting on anger that fuels rage, alienation and loneliness. From the White House to the halls of Congress to our own towns and perhaps at our own tables, we nurse grudges and resentments rather than cultivating the respect, concern and affection that each of us owes to the other.”
We call upon our church and all people of God to join together in sorrow, repentance, prayer and an unbending insistence that this epidemic of slaughter end now. If not now, when?
The full Bishops United statement is at http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/statement-from-bishops-united-against-gun-violence-following-the-las-vegas-shooting/
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.
Contact – Bob Kinney – EPF board member & publicist – 512.419.1738 – email@example.com
August 25, 2017
|It’s been two weeks since white supremacists and fascists came to Charlottesville, Virginia. I apologize for national Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s relative silence on the horrific events of that weekend. Three weeks ago my family moved away from the Charlottesville area to begin our relocation journey to Dallas, Texas. It seemed that the protests, vigils and public witnesses were simultaneously too close too home and too far away for me. For the past five years I’ve known Charlottesville to be a diverse, open and loving city. While the state of Virginia is considered to be politically purple, Charlottesville is decidedly blue. For 20 years it’s been a major city for refugee resettlement. Just three years ago the National Bureau of Economic Research named Charlottesville the happiest place to live in the United States. However, Cville’s privileged and idyllic nature is perhaps what led me to embrace a false sense of security that’s not unlike what I felt leading up to the November election.Charlottesville has a troubled history when it comes to black and brown lives. The events two weeks ago were not “about a statue” as many news outlets reported; Charlottesville’s racial unrest is far deeper than that. In 1958 as a response to Brown v Board of Education, all the city’s white schools opted to close rather than integrate. In 1965 the Vinegar Hill neighborhood in Charlottesville, which included 140 black family homes, 30 black-owned businesses and a church, were bulldozed by the city “in the name of progress.” Progress for whom? Certainly not those living in Charlottesville’s largest black neighborhood. And of course Cville is also home to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and its complex, increasingly conflicted history.
While EPF national remained quiet the past two weeks, EPF members and chapters were anything but inactive. Below you will find a collection of remarks, testimonies and reflections from Episcopal Peace Fellowship members as well as images from the weekend provided by Jill Harms Photography. Jill herself is a member of the EPF chapter in Charlottesville. And the work of resistance continues. This afternoon beginning at 2:00 pm, EPF member Janet Chisholm is offering a nonviolence training at Church Divinity School of the Pacific’s Denniston Commons in preparation for the white supremacist rally in Berkeley, CA on Sunday.
If you’d like to learn more about bigotry, white supremacy, racism, anti-Semitism, social justice and freedom of speech in our country, I urge you to check out the New York Public Library’s reading list of books that puts the events of August 11-13 in context. If you’d like to join a book club with fellow EPF members, simply respond to this email with your interest. Thank you for your ongoing support, your ongoing witness for peace, your ongoing resistance to the oppressive powers of injustice.
From EPF Member Rev. Elaine Ellis Thomas, priest at St Paul’s Memorial Episcopal Church in Charlottesville
As tiki torch-bearing terrorists marched on the grounds of the University of Virginia on Friday, Aug. 11, hundreds of people were gathered in my church not 100 yards away, girding ourselves for what lay ahead the next day. We prayed and sang and listened to the soaring words of Cornel West and Traci Blackmon. Christians and Jews and Muslims offered Scripture and song and prayer. The singing continued as the violence outside increased, threatening to spill over to our side of the street. We kept on singing and reassuring people until we were able to shepherd folks out a back door in the safety of groups.
The next day I rose before dawn and headed to the oldest African-American church in Charlottesville. Inside, people swayed to the sound of the praise band playing anthems from the civil rights movement. Cornel West urged us on to confront the neo-Nazis who had invaded our town. We blessed those who planned to confront the demonstrators. Then we went into the street ourselves, leading a parade of clergy and community members in a several-blocks-long procession.
I spent most of my day at the First United Methodist Church, adjacent to Emancipation Park. I settled in for a long day of prayer, singing, offering respite and refuge, and most of all, declaring that evil will be confronted with the might of the people of God. Like everyone else, I worried about the people holding space on the other side of the park, standing arm in arm, facing those who would just as soon mow them down as look at them. I wandered back and forth from the front steps overlooking the Robert E. Lee statue — catching whiffs of pepper spray, witnessing the gut-churning sight of police snipers posted on the roof of the local funeral home — to the back parking lot, where people entering the church passed through an ad hoc security station to prevent anyone from bringing weapons into this place of sanctuary. I wandered from person to person among Black Lives Matter activists, gender minorities, anti-fascists and others, some holding tightly to each other and weeping in the pews. There were no words to speak other than quiet blessing as I moved among them with an aching heart.
I did a lot of talking on Saturday and in the days following, and my message has been concise and consistent: the power behind us is far greater than the evil that confronts us. If we unite across our differences with a common goal before us, we can uproot and disarm ideologies of hate. Yet we must not stop at reactive gatherings to confront protests brought to our streets and our neighborhoods. We cannot let exhaustion or fear or the magnitude of the work keep us from the deeper work of justice — exposing the racist structures that allow white supremacy to flourish, and standing up for moral legislation, voting rights, economic opportunity, affordable housing and basic rights that are foundational to human flourishing.
This is the hope that I witnessed in action on the streets of Charlottesville that weekend, and it is the hope that I will carry in my heart in the days and weeks ahead as we continue the work of creating a better world for all of God’s people.
From Bishops Susan Goff, Ted Gulick and Shannon Johnston, Virginia Bishops on Charlottesville: What We Saw, What You Can Do
On Saturday (August 12th) our hearts were broken. An angry group of neo-Nazi and fascist protesters came into Charlottesville, Virginia, armed and armored, looking for trouble. The violence and loss of life suffered in their wake signaled yet another escalation of the hate-filled divisions of our time. The echoes of the heartbreaking tragedy that was Charlottesville will remain with us for a long time to come. We have every indication that we will be seeing more of this. Angry white supremacists seem already to be organizing to bring their ugly and racist rhetoric to other towns and cities across our Commonwealth and across the United States. Angry resisters are more than ready to meet their violence with violence. It’s hard to imagine a time when the Church is more needed in the public square. It’s hard to imagine a time when our need would be greater for God to take our broken hearts and break them open for wise, loving and faithful witness in Christ’s name.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are admonished to heed God’s call to love our neighbors through prayer, through speaking out and through other concrete action for the sake of all, particularly the poor, the oppressed, the judged, the demonized. That witness was on display Saturday in Charlottesville in the peaceful march by hundreds of clergy leaders from Charlottesville, from our Diocese, and from other religious traditions in Virginia and beyond. Such witness must continue.
There will be more rallies and more divisions. We must be prepared to meet those challenges, not with violent confrontation, but by exemplifying the power of love made known in concrete action. Whatever we do we may not, we must not, be quiet in the face of evil during this violent era of our lives together.
From EPF member The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, Bishop of Maryland, Speak Out: A Response to the Tragedy in Charlottesville
Racism, anti-Semitism and violence rear their ugly head once again, this time in Charlottesville, Virginia. Another display of bigotry and hatred. Another act of domestic terrorism. And another example of the collective failure of our nation to expend the moral and political capital needed to stop our spiral into racial and violent madness.
Now more than ever, we need people of good will to speak out clearly and courageously against the disturbing tide of white supremacist rhetoric that wants to divide and prevent us from coming together. Too often in our nation’s history, people of goodwill have chosen to remain silent in the face of bigotry, refusing to risk having unpleasant conversations that might disturb colleagues, friends and the ones we love. All too often, we prefer maintaining a tenuous “peace” with bigots rather than doing the harder work of telling the truth and committing to a justice that leads to reconciliation.We cannot make peace with hatred. We cannot let injustice go unchallenged… anywhere, anytime. At last year’s annual convention I asked for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland to live into the vision of being known as “a community of love.” I now call for us to devote this program year to consider ways of making that vision statement a deeper reality. We will initiate conversations this fall about building up loving communities, beginning with the clergy at their annual conference in October.
Let’s not let this tragedy go unnoticed and forgotten. Let’s not let this opportunity to challenge hate and bigotry pass us by. If we in the Jesus movement do not speak out, who will?
From EPF Member Ethan Vesely-Flad of Asheville, NC whose family made a detour to Charlottesville on August 13th on their way home from Philadelphia
We arrived at 6:30. Our family had driven several hours straight from Philly. I had tried to find a way to get to Charlottesville earlier this week, but it wasn’t possible. We had planned months ago to travel to Pennsylvania as a family, where Rima would attend the intensive 7-day “Inside Out” training at Gratenford Prison and Pendle Hill Center, while I’d care for our kids. There was no way I could take our young ones to C’ville, as there had been ominous warnings of potential violence (now evidenced to the world) and there was not a child care option for external travelers.
Shortly after getting on I-95 South, we agreed to shift our route home, and go via Charlottesville as we both felt urgently called to show up, even at this belated point after the Friday/Saturday call to action. Still, arriving on Sunday early evening, according to live messages we were receiving from different sources here (in Charlottesville), meant there was still the possibility of violence. It wasn’t until about 5:45, as we approached the city, that we heard it would likely be safe to come to a community vigil at the site where Heather Heyer was murdered yesterday.
Why did we come?
We came to honor Heather. #SayHerName
We also came because we believe it’s essential to speak clearly to our children about the systemic racism that continues to pervade our country. Our mandate to address the reality of white supremacy meant, in historical terms, that yesterday I took our kids to the African American Museum of Philadelphia, not the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall. And that today we intentionally brought them to this site of modern-day terrorism. This is not easy with young children, but we believe it is necessary.
We came to respond to the call issued by Congregate Charlottesville, amplified by those we respect and trust: Rev. Traci Blackmon, Dr. Cornel West, and the dedicated team at Deep Abiding Love Project. I am grateful to my FOR colleagues Sahar Alsahlani (FOR-USA National Council co-chair), Max Hess (FOR-USA interim executive director), and Stacey Mitchell (IFOR international treasurer) for having faithfully represented our Fellowship during this weekend’s mobilization.
We came here because we knew that in returning home to Asheville, most vigils and rallies would continue to be forced by the city to be held in the shadow of a huge monument to a slave-holding Confederate military office
And last but not least, I came to pay tribute to Bill Anderson, who I visited here one year ago this week, a fortnight before his death. His soul is yet alive in the midst of this time of racist hate-mongering and violence. An African-American spiritual seeker dedicated to overcoming the triple evils named by Dr. King — racism, militarism, and extreme materialism — Bill served for years as chair of the Charlottesville Center for Peace & Justice. Our connections over many years through the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and the Fellowship of Reconciliation finally led us to meet in person (thanks Allison Liles) just two weeks before he died from cancer, far too young.
White supremacy and racial superiority has no place in today’s America. Last week we saw images of a noxious rally with a message of hate in Charlottesville, Virginia. Groups of individuals with White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi ties attacked those who came to show their solidarity against such bigotry. One person was killed and many others severely injured.
All the great world religions call on their followers to live in good will and peace. It is only when these religious beliefs are perverted that misguided followers choose the path of hatred and violence. Christians believe Jesus called his disciples to form a church that would be multiethnic, multinational, from every family, language, people and nation. This message is opposite to hatred. It says love your enemies, live in peace and settle disputes without violence. The White Supremacist agenda is exclusionist, while Jesus’ agenda of “God so loved the world” includes white, black and yellow. God equally loves them all.
The history of our country is based on striving to treat all persons with equal rights and equal opportunities. Over the 241 years since the Declaration of Independence, we have not always met this ideal. Yet, our Constitution, our courts and our legislative bodies have made great strides toward achieving equality. It is ironic and tragic that the events in Charlottesville took place but a few miles from the home of and shrine to Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.
I served near Charlottesville as an Episcopal Rector a of Parish in 1990s. I was the first non-white Rector to serve an Episcopal Anglo parish in Virginia. I did experience the ugly head of racism at times during my time of serving there. I also witnessed reconciliation and people of all races learning to work together in harmony. Change is possible.
Threads of the disease of racism are still found widely in our country. It lingers in implicit and covert ways in our cities, schools, culture, and society – even in some unconscious attitudes. Often it is based upon the belief that white people are superior than people of other races. Therefore, they should dominate other people of color. Historically, this gave some their supposed divine right to chattel slavery. Four million blacks were denied personal freedom at the outbreak of the Civil War. Christian churches in North America and later in South Africa mistakenly used the Bible to justify holding slaves, supposedly to civilize and liberate them from savagery.
This caused much suffering, death and scars which linger to today among us in America. Close to the end of the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln in his second Inaugural Address spoke to the wounded soul of the nation. He said “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
We carry the scars of the sins from our dark past. The Charlottesville White Nationalist march reminds us that these demons are still haunting us. We must counteract bigotry, hate and racism. It means owning up to American history and seeking ways for redemption and healing. The America we live in today is an example of democracy, a light on the hill of equality, prosperity, and liberty. But under this veneer, there remains much pain from an ugly history of oppression, hatred and segregation.
Our nation is now not one dominant race. We are now a nation of many ethnicities and colors, which give us our beautiful heritage. We dare not retrace our footsteps to the past to resurrect the ugliness of racism and racial superiority. We are created equal in the image of God, and need to live in good will, peacefully with each other.
We all need to stand up against all forms of bigotry. One of Jesus’ prime teachings concerned our relationship with our fellow humans. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” The Bible offers an inclusive and healing message for a divided nation: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).
There is no place for white nationalist or racial supremacy in the church of Christ, or in America. I appeal to people of faith not to stay silent spectators but to stand in solidarity with those who seek unity, and reconciliation to heal the wounds of our past sins. Unite us in peace to solve our differences and advance a common prosperity to make America beautiful, a land where we all can cherish liberty and freedom.
The Very Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine, D.Min. DD., Rector
Christ Episcopal Church, 111 North 9th St. La Crosse, WI 54601
Date: June 9, 2017
Contact: Claire Markham or LaShawn Warren
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Washington, D.C. — As affected communities and gun violence prevention advocates prepare to gather to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL (June 12) and the two-year anniversary of the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC (June 17), Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence announces its restructure and strategic partnership with the Center for American Progress to offer state and federal policy expertise and amplify the critical voices of people of faith in gun violence prevention work. A faith-based gun violence prevention coalition formed in 2011, Faiths United includes more than 50 endorsing organizations representing diverse faith traditions who have banded together to stand against gun violence.
Two years ago, nine people were killed and three were injured when Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was violently interrupted by a white supremacist in a racially motivated attack. One year later, 49 people were killed and 53 were injured in the largest mass shooting in U.S. history when a gunman opened fire at Latin Night at Pulse nightclub, an LGBTQ safe-haven.
These shootings indelibly wounded their local communities and affected the soul of a nation. Faiths United mourns the lives lost and changed – and demands action to prevent further loss.
That these anniversaries fall within the span of a week calls attention to the proliferation of gun violence and the horrifying regularity of gun deaths in our nation. This moment reiterates the importance of elevating the moral call to action on gun violence and guns in America. We must see with clear eyes the culture we have allowed to flourish—a culture of violence, fear, and death.
In the current political moment, Faiths United and the moral voice are needed more than ever to speak the truth about gun violence. The shooters at Pulse Nightclub and at Mother Emanuel AME sought out spaces of safety—indeed, of sanctuary—for the LGBTQ and African-American communities. Gun deaths in this country reflect the disproportionate rates of violence against women, sexual and gender minorities, religious minorities, and racial and ethnic minorities. Gun violence cannot be separated from vitriolic rhetoric and policies targeting vulnerable communities. Gun violence prevention efforts must similarly be mounted in solidarity with these communities.
As people of faith, our role is not merely to lament killing, but to stop it, and to change the culture around it. As Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, we commit to witnessing, educating, and advocating for our shared values and common sense solutions to gun violence.
“The compelling anniversaries of the massacres at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and Emanuel AME Church in Charleston should motivate the American faith community to seek an end to gun carnage in our country. Faiths United works to mobilize that critical constituency to action to save lives from gun violence. Prayer is not enough.” Rev Woody Dalton, Chair of Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence
“In the historic shadows of the assassination of Bro Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Minister Malcolm X, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and the upcoming anniversaries of the massacre of the Charleston Emanuel 9 and the 49 who were slaughtered at the Pulse Club, we are reminded of the destruction and demonic havoc that gun violence in America is reeking on our entire nation. The poor, young, and minorities are at the forefront as victims of this destructive violence. Gun control is mandatory if we are going to decrease the violence and increase safety for all. The A.M.E. Church, in light of this destructive history, joins with other faith traditions in calling for a strong gun control bill that will make our streets safe again.” Bishop Frank M. Reid, III, Chair Social Action Commission
“Our faith demands that we refuse ever to adjust ourselves to the reality of violence in our streets, in our homes, or in our communities. God’s Image, inherent in every human being, is being ravaged by the effects of our numbed acceptance and the inaction of elected leaders. In the name of our fallen sisters and brothers, we will pray and we will march and we will mobilize to combat the scourge of American Gun Violence.” Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Founder, Rabbis Against Gun Violence
“As United Church of Christ members and congregations, we are called to resist the acceptance of violence as a norm and our idolatrous relationship to guns as a violation of our fundamental Christian beliefs. In a culture where death and violence have become commonplace, and despair is the order of the day, we are called to work with God’s life-giving Spirit to restore hope to communities impacted by the gun violence epidemic. With that vision, we are committed to advocating for responsible policies and practices to prevent gun violence.” United Church of Christ
“Franciscan Action Network (FAN) stands in prayerful and active solidarity with those who lost loved ones to gun violence in the Pulse Orlando and Charleston AME Church shootings, and all the thousands of shootings in the US since June 2016. As followers of Francis of Assisi, who forbade his followers to bear arms, we see gun violence prevention as integral to FAN’s mission of peacemaking.” Franciscan Action Network
“The Dominican Sisters of Peace, charged with our Congregational commitment to preach truth with hope in God’s promise for our future, are committed to creating environments of peace by promoting non-violence and sensible gun safety to protect the life and dignity of all peoples.” Dominican Sisters of Peace
“The Jewish tradition calls on us to love life, to choose life and to preserve it at all costs. We do not place stumbling blocks before the blind nor do we stand idly by the sufferings of our neighbors. How can we not work to end the scourge of gun violence that kills 33,000 Americans each year? This time of year, when we recall the memories of those lost due to gun violence, we must rededicate ourselves to ending this plague and ensuring that all people can live free from the fear that gun violence poses.” Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, Executive Director, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
“The anniversaries of shootings at the Pulse Nightclub and the Mother Emanuel, AME Church demand that we stand before God answering who are we and what we have become in the world. How can we be immobilized by such unthinking gun use? It is incomprehensible, violent, and now, sadly, descriptively American. We seem to tolerate those who would try to reconfigure the world by vigilante violence. Dark and hateful thoughts can be turned into loathsome acts when, again, we postpone intervening with substantive laws which restrict the acquisition of firearms. So, ours is not an observance only; it must be a declaration. Restrict gun sales, certainly, but more importantly, bravely address how our society colludes with the distressed among us to fatally bully the vulnerable in our midst.” Episcopal Peace Fellowship
“During this week of remembrance, we mourn the lives lost, and countless others changed, in the shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Pulse Nightclub. The United Methodist Church stands against gun violence and the rampant cultures of fear and hate that led to these attacks. As we continue on our journey to transform the world – girded by the call to ‘turn swords into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks’ – may all people of faith and good will join us in the vital work to end gun violence.” Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church
See also: http://faithsunited.org/
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Claire Markham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-741-6305 or LaShawn Warren at email@example.com or 202-741- 6396
Rev. Jessie Smith
This weekend with the rest of EPF’s National Executive Counsel has me thinking about the heart of our work. Many of us are experiencing transition in our personal or professional lives, just as EPF is at a pivotal place in its organizational life. This kind of transition reminds me to go within, to remember our foundation, remember why we are gathered here in Chicago.
I can remember when I learned what it means to be a peacemaker. It was a defining moment in my life. I realized not only what peacemaking is about, but what it means to follow Christ. It was the night before a public witness at Bangor Nuclear Submarine base. We were at Ground Zero Nonviolent Action Center, a community for nonviolent action on land adjacent to Bangor. Year after year activists gathered together to show up and speak out so it made sense to develop this home base. On this evening I was surrounded by people who had been at this work for peace longer than I had been alive. We planned, prayed and discerned about the next day.
And as background, “the Trident submarine base at Bangor employs the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S. and is the home port for 8 of the Navy’s 14 Trident nuclear powered submarines. One submarine deployed at Bangor is equal to more than 1,400 Hiroshima sized nuclear bombs. The nuclear warheads at SWFPAC and on submarines based at Bangor have the combined explosive power equivalent to more than 14,000 Hiroshima bombs.”
Over dinner we made the plan to celebrate and then deliver Eucharist to the Commander of the base. Delivering Eucharist would mean we would walk across the line that is painted on the street to mark an intentional boundary. Crossing the line, means being arrested.
I, several Buddhist monks, a Jesuit priest and a female pastor were considering arrest. But considering arrest could mean a variety of things. It could be the usual book and release, it could be the time they decided to make an example of us, pressing charges and holding us. I turned the options over and over in my head: would I be more effective if I was sure I could return that day to my bed at the Catholic Worker, to my job as a case manager? Or would I have greater impact on the world, on my community, my church, my friends and family if I spent this energy educating others about the atrocities housed at the base instead of participating in this action. Where was the best use of my time? My energy?
It was during this process of figuring out my role, that I heard the eleven words that changed my life, words that unsettled me and lead me to a decision.
A man whose years of activism were visible in the worried wrinkles he wore on his face, said to me that “we, followers of Christ are called to be faithful not effective”.
Those words have changed my life. They changed how I understood my role as a Christian. They changed how I understood my role as a peacemaker. This work cannot be about results. Was Jesus (hanging on a cross) effective? Was Gandhi (stubborn and frail) effective? Their point was not to be effective; they lived lives that were faithful.
That night I realized what faith looks like: it looks like persistence in the face of evil despite the cost. I realized that peacemaking is not always about results, but it is about being faithful to our call as Christians. Being a peacemaker is embracing the role of ‘fool for Christ’ carrying Eucharist onto a nuclear submarine base, or clinging to an altar at General Convention demanding the church give the sanctuary and support for the peace it preaches.
As I have let these words shape my life I have come to realize that to be effective means you must work within the confines of this world, to be effective often means you must accept a lot of givens. To be effective in this world you must learn how to tolerate in the intolerable, how to navigate systems you don’t believe in, how to speak half-truths so that others won’t leave the table.
William Sloane Coffin wrote on this truth. He states this truth should continue to rattle us during these difficult times in our country; “The quickest way to lose your humanity is to begin to tolerate the intolerable.” If we, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship set out to be effective above faithful we are on the path of losing our humanity, losing our purpose and foundation.
Daniel Berrigan- a man who knew well this vocation of faithful peacemaker, wrote in his intro to Dorothy Day’s autobiography, “ I am grateful beyond words for the grace of this woman’s life, for her sensible unflinching rightness of mind, her long and lonely truth, her journey to the heart of things. I think of her as one who simply helped us in a time of self-inflicted blindness, to see… She urged our consciences off the beaten track. … She did this, first of all, by living as though the truth were true.”
I hear EPF’s call to faithfulness in these words; the call to be unflinching, to break through the church’s self-inflicted blindness so that we all may see. The Episcopal Peace fellowship has a unique vocation to be the peacemakers who live as though the truth were true.
EPF’s deepest and most authentic truth is that there is room for peace to emerge and grow from the Episcopal Church, there is room for justice to prevail in our relationships and we are willing to put our lives, our voices and bodies, our time and energy on the line working for that peace and justice.
We can’t give too much weight to reality or else we will be paralyzed. We cannot accept even hints of the unacceptable (even if that keeps a seat at the table) because that is the path of losing ourselves and betraying our truth.
We are all sitting here because 80 years ago someone believed that there was enough potential for the peace of Christ to grow in the Episcopal Church. We are here because some people were stubborn and persistent about their vision for how we, God’s church, could be a light to the world. We are here today because 80 years ago some people sat down at tables like these and decided to keep dreaming when others laughed and said, “that is neither wise nor effective.” And then, they were faithful anyway.
We are here because we share a vocation to urge our collective episcopal consciences off the beaten track. We are all here because we believe that Jesus Christ came to bring us life and peace. That is our truth. A 12-step slogan comes to mind: Keep the main thing, the main thing. That is what we must, in these troubled times, do- keep the main thing the main thing. We must live as though the truth were true.
We may not always be effective, but my prayer for us as an organization is that we are always faithful to our truth. We may not have the money, the programs, the time and the social bandwidth in the Church to do an effective job of working for peace, but we must remain at least faithful. We must remember our unique calling in this church: to speak truth to power. To Live through study, action and pray as though our truth were true: that Christ came to bring peace. That TEC is as good as any a place to cultivate that peace. That we have what it takes, God has given us what we need not to be effective but to be faithful.
 Ground Zero Center for Nonviolence
This series of maps shows graphically what Palestinians have lost over the decades since Zionism came to Palestine. The map on the left, of Palestine in 1946, just before the UN partitioned Palestine into a Jewish and a Palestinian Arab state, shows virtually the entire territory in green, as the area where Palestinians lived and owned land. At this time, Jews made up about thirty percent of the population and owned seven percent of the land, shown in white. Moving right, the next map shows the territorial division called for in the Partition Resolution approved by the UN in November 1947, which allotted the Jewish state 55 percent of the land. A small area around Jerusalem was to be internationalized, not under either Jewish or Arab control. By 1949, at the end of the war that erupted following Partition, Israel controlled 78 percent of Palestine (shown in the third map), including the western section of the Jerusalem enclave. Jordan and Egypt took control of the remaining 22 percent—the West Bank and Gaza respectively—and approximately 750,000 Palestinians, fully two-thirds of the total Palestinian Arab population, fled the fighting or were forcibly expelled by Israeli forces. These refugees and generations of their descendants have lived in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza ever since. Israel has refused to permit the return of any refugees, and the US and the rest of the international community have failed to exert any serious pressure on Israel to allow a refugee return; the Arab states that might have supported Palestinians politically have not.
Map 4 depicts the territorial situation today. Not only did Israel capture the West Bank and Gaza (shown in green in Map 3) in 1967, but Palestinians have lost still more land and still more of their territorial identity in the fifty years of that occupation—fifty years in which Israel has consolidated its control over these territories by confiscating Palestinian land, building a wall inside the West Bank to push Palestinians farther east, building settlements reserved for Jews and roads on which only Israeli licensed cars may drive, and severely restricting Palestinian freedom of movement. The approximately five million Palestinians currently living in the West Bank and Gaza (about three million and two million respectively) enjoy no political rights: they cannot vote; they have no access to civilian courts; their movement in and out and within the occupied territories is restricted; their Palestinian Authority leadership has no political power and functions largely as a quisling government, acting at Israel’s behest, with control only over some administrative functions and whatever security matters Israel allows it to perform.
Nonetheless, Palestinians have remained steadfast. Sumud, steadfastness, is the watchword for Palestinians determined not again to flee or be forced out. Non-violent resistance as it has evolved in the Palestinian community over the last fifty-plus years has kept the Palestinians together as a people, in spirit if not geographically. Resistance has sustained and nurtured the Palestinians in hope even at the most pessimistic of times, and indeed has ensured their very survival.
Update: The Episcopal Peace Fellowship applauds an Arkansas circuit judge’s April 14 blocking of a string of assembly line executions of seven prisoners that was slated to begin April 17 – day after Easter.
EPF also backs the McKesson medical supply company that sells the Pfizer drug vecuronium bromide which is widely used by hospitals to relax patients’ muscles before surgery. Vecuronium is one of three drugs that many states use to create a cocktail that is lethal. McKesson has sued the State of Arkansas for pretending to order the drug for prison hospitals – not the execution chamber.
Episcopal Peace Fellowship News Release March 24, 2017
contact – Bob Kinney – firstname.lastname@example.org
Claysburg, Pennsylvania – The Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) condemns the upcoming state execution of eight convicts by the State of Arkansas in a span of just ten days.
“The state of Arkansas hasn’t executed an inmate since 2005, but Governor Asa Hutchinson has plans for eight executions within the span of ten days in April beginning one day after Easter because the state’s supply of midazolam expires at the end of that month and drug companies are increasingly deciding not to sell their drugs for executions,” said the Rev. Allison Liles, EPF executive director.
“It is said to be the most concentrated execution schedule in the United States since the re-introduction of the death penalty in 1976,” said Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield, Bishop of Arkansas. The diocese is planning death vigils in its cathedral in Little Rock before every execution beginning on Good Friday. Read Bishop Benfield’s statement here.
The state executions will forever scar the families of those convicts scheduled to die. They have been living a hell for two to three decades while their son has been on death row. The families of those slain by the convicts may feel like justice has been done – or perhaps not. Fellow death row prisoners will be saying goodbye to the eight as their own execution moves closer.
“The death penalty is driven by revenge – not justice,” said the Rev. Allison Liles. “And a high price of this vengeful punishment is being paid by the prison workers forced to endure the reality of what it means to execute a human being.”
“It is unfair for Governor Hutchinson to set execution dates for these eight men, then ask a select group of people to carry them out in such a short amount of time. Chosen members of the Cummins Unit prison staff will be forced to perform legal, state-sanctioned killings of eight fellow human beings within the span of ten days. After each execution they must return to their usual daily work for just one day before they must kill another person. This poses an inherent moral conflict to human values that must be addressed,” said Rev. Liles.
In his stunning documentary film “Into The Abyss” – noted film director Werner Herzog explores the effects of the death penalty in the State of Texas – a state that has killed 517 prisoners since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. Runners up are Virginia and Oklahoma with 110. Arkansas has killed just 27 – until now.
Most wrenching in the film is Herzog talking to the former head of the Death Squad at Huntsville – the Texas state prison where all prisoners are killed. The leader of a 12-person team had supervised the killing of about 120 prisoners. He lauded his team for getting the job done within ten minutes but something happened when he supervised the 1998 killing of Karla Faye Tucker – the first woman to be killed in Texas since 1863.
He tells Herzog that he fell to the floor of the execution chamber and began shaking violently when she died. The burly East Texas man quit his job the next day and lost his state pension – he could no longer kill.
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.
Jeremiah 1:18 – And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land.
Tuesday was busy from the get go, beginning with a 6:30am wake up call for a contemporary Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem. The stations trace through Old Town where many believe Jesus walked with his heavy wooden cross. The final stations culminate at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where it is believed Jesus was raised on the cross and laid in the tomb. At each station we read a reflection on current oppression coupled with a prayer for hope and peace.
The rest of Tuesday was spent touring Jerusalem through the lens of an everyday Palestinian living under occupation. Our tour guide took us to Israeli settlements and poor Palestinian neighborhoods in the valleys of Jerusalem. While on the Road to Jericho (an ancient trading road form Jerusalem to Jericho), we paused to see where the wall that surrounds Jerusalem has cut off many Palestinian lives from the outside world. Twenty feet of concrete with a thin top layer of barbed wire, the wall intimidates and fortifies arbitrary city borders. It could not, however, drown out a Muslim call to prayer at midday, as megaphones amplified an Imam from a nearby mosque for all to hear.
I will never be able to truly understand the complex and troubling relationship between Israel and Palestine. Jerusalem is now a walled-off city, fortified not by iron or bronze but concrete and barbed wire. The whole land – neighborhoods, schools, hospitals – walled off from neither kings or princes, but families and neighbors. The prophet Jeremiah understands what it means be an exile, a refugee. Jeremiah, taken from his residence outside of Jerusalem to far-away Babylon, lost his home and wellbeing. Jerusalem was pillaged and destroyed, and its people scattered and forced to live in hostile lands. This exile and oppression exists now, just as in Jeremiah’s time. Destruction and degradation abound; we, like Jeremiah, turn to lament:
“How long will the land mourn,
and the grass of every field wither?
For the wickedness of those who live in it
the animals and the birds are swept away,
and because people said, “He is blind to our ways.” Jeremiah 12:4 (NRSV)
Editor’s Note: This is the second reflection from seminarian Michael Kurth, EPF Young Adult Network Convener, while on a ten day pilgrimage to the Holy Land in March 2017. Michael is a Postulant in the Diocese of New York and currently attends Berkeley Divinity School at Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.
Editor’s Note: This is the first reflection from seminarian Michael Kurth, EPF Young Adult Network Convener, while on a ten day pilgrimage to the Holy Land in March 2017. Michael is a Postulant in the Diocese of New York and currently attends Berkeley Divinity School at Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.
Though treading with tired eyes from long international flights, we arrived Sunday morning in Tel Aviv with enthusiasm, ready for our adventure to begin. The weather – intermittent showers and patches of sun – has been hovering around a chilly 50 degrees fahrenheit. And yet, a chill has not frosted over our pilgrimage group, as we have spent our first two days engaged with each other and the journey upon us. Our group is comprised of six pilgrims and two experienced tour guides. We are seminarians, faculty members, a culinary trained chef, and retirees (priest, pediatrician, and CIA agent. Seriously.). Over ten days (March 12-21), we will explore Jerusalem and other areas of the West Bank (Ramallah and Bethlehem in particular) to gain understanding of the lived situation between Israelis and Palestinians, and the small but important role the Episcopal Church plays in finding peace and justice. Along the way, we will visit many Holy Sites (mostly in Jerusalem, but also in Bethlehem, Nablus, and hopefully the Sea of Galilee).
Our first days in Jerusalem provided moments of both incredible spiritual joy tinged with sadness at the current state of the city. On Monday, we visited the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, where a UN staffer discussed in great detail the complex and troubling current living situations in Gaza and the West Bank. Afterwards, we met with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and Archbishop Suheil Dawani, hearing about the many hospitals, schools, and jobs training the Diocese offers throughout its VERY large territory (Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon). Monday afternoon we had free, so I headed to the Western Wall (a fragment of the outer wall of the Second Temple, the holiest place for all Jews), the Mount of Olives (a site where Jesus taught) and Garden of Gethsemane (where Jesus prayed with his disciples before being betrayed). While at the Garden, I found myself moved in prayer to the point of quiet weeping. “Not my will, but your will be done .” (Lk 22:42)
Deo Gratias — Thanks be to God,