Read, listen, or view this sermon using the links below:
Voting by members of EPF will take place at our virtual all member meeting on Saturday, January 30, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. Full bios available soon via our newsletter and here on the website.
Class of 2019-2021
The Rt. Rev. Dan Edwards, Denver, Colorado
The Rev. Cody Maynus, Rapid City, South Dakota
The Rev. Richard Wineland, Nashville, Tennessee
The Very Rev. Paul J. Lebens-Englund, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Class of 2020-2022
Bruce Freeman, Akron, Ohio
Kathy McGregor, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Bob Lotz, Lexington, Michigan
Rob Burgess, Stevensville, Michigan
Class of 2021-2023
The Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown, Diocese of Vermont
The Rev. Mike Wallens, Alpine, Texas
The Rev. Dn. Chris Sabas, Diocese of Easton
The Rev. Christy Close-Erskine, Sisters, Oregon
Read, listen, or view this sermon using the links below:
Beginning on Advent 1, running through the last Sunday after the Epiphany (November 29, 2020 through February 14, 2021), Episcopal Peace Fellowship will offer sermons for each Sunday, focusing on the social justice issues facing our world.
These two words, justice and peace, are foundational to the work of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. These biblical concepts spoke in their day and to their audience about the transformative power of God to create justice and peace. We believe they continue to speak into our present lives and communities to bring about God’s purposes of liberation and freedom through works of justice and actions of peace.
To that end, we have invited prominent preachers from around the Church to create a sermon/homily for a particular Sunday during these Holy Seasons and then to record it with video so that it can be placed on the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s website and made available to our peace partner parishes, and all of the parishes of the Episcopal Church. In these days of Covid-19 many congregations have turned to the use of gathering in worship using virtual means. Individuals, clergy and congregations can access these sermons/homilies to highlight the Scripture’s call for a justice in our human relationships. They can be used during Mass or for Christian education classes. We pray that God’s Spirit may brood within us following these offerings that move our hearts and minds to bring about righteous action in the ministry of justice and peace. In short, we hope that these sermons will build up Christians dedicated to their baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
Preachers in the series will include Rev. Dr. Boyd Evans (Abingdon, VA) (Advent 1); Rev. Bob Davidson (Loveland, CO) (Advent 2); Rev. Cody Maynus (Rapid City, SD) (Advent 3); Rev. Will Mebane (Falmouth, MA) (Advent 4); Rt. Rev. Dan Edwards (Denver, Colorado) (Feast of the Nativity); Melanie Merkle Atha (EPF Executive Director) (Feast of the Epiphany); Rev. Lauren Stanley (Sudan) (Epiphany 1) ; Rt. Rev. Jonathan Folts (Diocese of South Dakota) (Epiphany 2); Chaska Moore (North Dakota) (Epiphany 3); Rev. Stan Runnels (Kansas City, MO)(Epiphany 4); and Rev. Dr. John Floberg (Standing Rock) (Epiphany 6) .
Questions? Email Melanie Atha at email@example.com.
Offered by Dr. Linda Gaither
An important and disturbing event may have escaped our attention in the midst of the chaos facing us all in 2020. In January, the 2020 Doomsday Clock was re-set at 100 seconds to midnight, as announced in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society's ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.”
This is a terrifying reality to face. We have learned in the battle with COVID-19 that when public health infrastructure and preparedness, whether national or international, are underfunded or defunded, a terrible price is paid in human life. The price for nuclear war and nuclear winter is beyond calculation.
The vestries of St. John's Church in Ithaca and St. Thomas' in Slaterville Springs have responded to the unthinkable danger of nuclear war by endorsing Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War. Both the Ithaca Common Council and the Town Council of Lansing voted to endorse as well.
These endorsements are the fruit of a sustained effort over a number of years to educate and raise consciousness in the Ithaca area, in order to call for citizen action for nuclear disarmament. The Ithaca Area Chapter of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, working closely with the Nuclear Disarmament Group at Cornell, has sponsored several educational visits by Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility
(PSR). In 2017 PSR collaborated with the Union of Concerned Scientists to launch Back from the Brink. https://www.preventnuclearwar.org/
This is a national grassroots initiative seeking to change U.S. nuclear weapons policy. As Dr. Helfand puts it, “Nuclear weapons are not a force of nature, they are not an act of God. We have made them with our own hands and we know how to take them apart. We’ve already dismantled more than 50,000 of them. The only thing that’s missing is the political will and commitment to do this. And that’s where all of us come in.”
Endorsing Back from the Brink supports the adoption of five common-sense steps:
** Renounce the option of using nuclear weapons first
** End the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. President to launch a nuclear attack
** Take U.S. nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert
** Cancel the plan to replace the entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons
** Pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed nations to eliminate arsenals
To build momentum for this grass-roots citizens' movement, it is our EPF Chapter's goal to invite the parishes of our diocese to engage with Back from the Brink, in response to the call for endorsement. By sharing the news in The Messenger and through the resolution process at our diocesan convention, we hope many parishes and our diocese as a body will say YES to endorsement. We also invite individuals to endorse; it is simple to do on-line at the website https://www.preventnuclearwar.org/
The ultimate goal is a resolution for General Convention, issuing a call for endorsement by The Episcopal Church. This is in line with nearly 40 years of our church's policy, urging the U.S. and the other nuclear nations to block the spread of nuclear weapons and eliminate all nuclear weapons from the world (see Addendum below).
The Doomsday Clock is ticking. To us it appears that both the Episcopal Church's long-held policy on the nuclear threat and our Baptismal vows require us to respond.
Dr. Frank Baldwin [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Dr. Linda Gaither [email@example.com]
1982 General Convention voted to endorse a bilateral nuclear freeze and nuclear disarmament for U.S. and Soviet Russia.
1988 G.C. voted to urge the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to continue disarmament and use saved funds for human needs.
1994 G.C voted to urge the U.S. to sign a Test Ban Treaty and to pursue elimination of nuclear weapons.
1997 G.C.voted to support the goal of total nuclear disarmament by all the nuclear nations.
2009 G.C. voted to call on all nuclear armed nations to determine a timely process for dismantling nuclear weapons.political infrastructure
By Rev. Christy Close Erskine
I was born on November 28, 1956, baptized on April 20, 1957 and ordained an Episcopal Priest on July 9, 1994. I have always been active in the Episcopal Church and for over 25 years I led congregations in Vancouver, Wa, Bend, OR and Coos Bay, OR before retiring a year ago in Sisters, OR. I believe that our baptism is our call to ministry and our baptismal covenant has always had a claim on my heart.
As the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to threaten our country and our world there has been an increasing awareness of a pandemic of inequality and inequity among our black, brown and indigenous sisters and brothers that is difficult to ignore. It's not new by any means but we have an opportunity to see it with new eyes, leaving many of us wanting to learn and understand our history in new ways. As we soften our hearts, many of us are learning how pervasive our white privilege is. Debby Irving in Waking Up White asks us to consider another question: "How might we use our white privilege to dismantle racism?"
As I sit with that question, I hear in my mind , "Will you strive for peace and justice and respect the dignity of every human being?
I answer in my heart, "I will with God's help!" ...and I wonder, when did peace become so difficult in our own country?
Our country claims to be an inclusive democracy for all people. I'm becoming aware of a painful reality that from the time those words were first written down there were people working hard to ensure that the democracy was really only for white men. Later on words were added to include black men, women and people of color, but there are still people working hard to ensure that the democracy is only for the powerful white men.
As the Black Lives Matter protests have continued across our country we are increasingly hearing about crowd munitions-- tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and others-- being used by law enforcement to control peaceful crowds. Our own Portland, OR has been highlighted nationally as being out of control with violence and looting and yet nothing is mentioned about the peaceful protests. Messages of violence and lawlessness have again and again co-opted the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests from the majority of people across our country.
I am very concerned about the increased use of crowd munitions to control protests, even when they are peaceful in nature. This represents an erosion of our constitutional right to protest and gather peacefully. Over the last several months there have been many examples across our country and state of peaceful protests that have been disbursed by the use of crowd control munitions by police and federal agents and I believe that this is an abuse of power that needs to end. The argument is that this use of force is the only way to control the "unruly crowd", but in my experience this is simply not true.
Several weeks ago I was part of a peaceful protest of about 500+ people in a parking lot in Bend, OR. Our intent was to support and come alongside two undocumented community members (living in Bend for 15 years) who had been detained by ICE early that morning and were being held in an unmarked ICE bus without having been told their rights or why they had been detained. As it started to get dark we were told that it had been confirmed that 50 federal agents were on their way and we needed to be prepared for possible tear gas or rubber bullets. We were asked to sit down so that it would be very clear that we were a peaceful protest. Someone pointed out a drone overhead and federal agents observing through the windows in the building behind us as we waited peacefully.
During the whole protest, I was sitting about 50 feet in front of the ICE bus which gave me a great vantage point to observe. When the federal agents arrived, I was shocked to see fully armed and aggressive agents in front of us forcefully removing anyone in their way in order to take the two men from the bus. The only violence I witnessed that night was initiated by the federal agents.
As I sat there with armed federal agents in front of me, and a drone overhead I realized that the last time I had experienced something like this was when I was in Gaza last October. Drones overhead and armed Israeli guards everywhere you looked to supposedly keep order and control over the Palestinians. In Jerusalem an attorney who runs "Court Watch", a non-profit that helps educate Palestinian children and youth about their rights, had spoken to us. He helped us understand that it was common practice for Israeli's to unlawfully go into homes and detain children and youth in the middle of the night.
That was my experience in October 2019 in Gaza, an area where there is known "apartheid like" oppression that has been going on for decades: Israelis subjugating Palestinians. Now in August, 2020, I am in a hotel parking lot in Bend, OR, a resort-like place to live, destination spot for many to visit, a sanctuary city in a sanctuary state and I'm witnessing two men who had been detained at 5:30 am in an unmarked vehicle without being told why, not told their rights, not given access to an attorney or adequate water and food...with a drone overhead and armed federal agents using tear gas and rubber bullets to control a crowd that was sitting down on the pavement. It was later reported by news media that we were a violent crowd and it was the only way to control us, but in no way was that my experience!
I was stunned that this was happening in my town and in our country and I'm not sure I would have believed it if I hadn't witnessed it myself. I love our country and believe in the democracy that it stands for, an inclusive democracy for all people. As citizens of this country our rights are being threatened. We all need to work hard to defend our democracy and to ensure that it really is for all people and that it does truly protect everyone. As Christians we need to commit over and over again to working hard for peace and justice and to truly respect the dignity of every human being...and yes, gratefully all of that hard work will be with God's help! What action are you being called to? How might you respond?
Bishop Paul Jones, Founder of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship
On September 4th, the Episcopal Church celebrates and remembers the life of the Rt. Rev. Paul Jones, 4th Bishop of the Missionary District of Utah. He became bishop in 1916 and was a prominent pacifist.
As the fever for the United States to enter World War I strengthened, Bishop Jones’ pacifist views were considered controversial. He believed and stated that “war is unchristian.” He spoke out openly and frequently about his opposition to war. His views faced opposition in much of the Church, especially his home diocese.
In April 1918, a commission of the House of Bishops forced Paul Jones to resign his post as Bishop of Utah because of his outspoken opposition to World War I. Jones then served as a chaplain at Antioch College and founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. In the 1930s, Jones was deeply committed to assisting Jewish and other refugees fleeing the Nazi regime in Germany. He pushed the Episcopal Church to take up the cause of refugees, a topic that like today was not without controversy.
As a result of his efforts, the Episcopal Church formally established the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief which later became the Episcopal Relief & Development.
Jones’ title as bishop was restored in 1939 with seat but no voice in the House of Bishops. Until his death on September 4, 1941, he dedicated his life and ministry to peace rooted in the Gospel.
"What I feel, I can't say
But my love is there for you any time of day
But if it's not love that you need
Then I'll try my best to make everything succeed.”
I am not sure whether George Harrison’s song What is Life was written about a woman or was George’s discernment as to the purpose of this life. Experts far more steeped in Beatlemania argue that to this day.
Let’s assume for a moment that Harrison was writing about spiritual discernment. After all, What is Life was written at time of spiritual searching for Harrison. The same album that featured My Sweet Lord, Isn’t It a Pity, Hear Me Lord, and All Things Must Pass.
This past half year or so has presented challenges for all. The pandemic and its related economic crisis adds to all our stress.
A little more than a year ago, I joined a non-profit board which supports the homeless and seeks to prevent homelessness in my Southwest Michigan county. Michigan was originally hit hard by the pandemic and the related economic fallout. For months, Michigan was under a governor’s executive order to halt landlord evictions. That order was lifted in July and evictions have begun apace. Earlier this week, I learned in our small county, judges have been hearing four eviction cases an hour for weeks now. My non-profit was awarded a federal grant to help stave off some evictions. We just received an advance on these funds a week ago. The judges, landlords, and our partner non-profits are anxious because we had not helped a month and a half ago when the governor’s ban was first lifted. We are a cash starved non-profit that does not have the resources to do that. Our staff is stressed to assist with burgeoning case loads at the same time comply with federal grant requirements.
My Sweet Lord, it is a mess. But for those already evicted or at risk of eviction, the stress must be nearly Job like.
In my personal life, my wife and I, who are guardians for our grandson, recently had to make a decision as to whether he would return to in-person school after being out since March or continue his education virtually. Michigan seems to have done a better job than some states at tamping down the pandemic, so our decision for now has been for him to return to in-person instruction. He needs the socialization and classroom teacher’s attention. Many of you have probably had to make similar stressed filled decisions. My Sweet Lord, I pray that we have made the correct one.
While we can wear masks, social distance, and wash our hands frequently, the pandemic has magnified the things in life that are out of our control. Growing up, my father had a simple prayer posted on his bedroom wall. I think it grounded Dad. Maybe it will help us too:
God grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can
And the Wisdom to know the difference.
My Sweet Lord, grant each of you those things this day.