A letter to the UCC Family of Faith: We can’t let evil prevail
This call to action comes from the Conference Minister of the Penn Northeast Conference UCC, with the affirmation of the denomination’s National Officers and the Rev. David Ackerman, Conference Minister of the Penn West Conference UCC.
The news over the past weeks has revealed an undercurrent of hate within our culture and our country. Between the assumption that immigrants walking nearly 2,000 miles seeking asylum are seen as a threat to our security; the pipe bombs mailed to those who oppose our current political administration; the massacre of 11 Jewish citizens during services at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; and the shooting of an African American man and woman in a grocery store after a failed attempt to enter a church of Black worshippers, it is hard to find cause for hope in our nation.
The rhetoric of hate and divisiveness calls for a response from the faith community. While we should not advocate for candidates or political parties, we must advocate for justice, humanitarian treatment of our neighbors, and for safety in our places of worship. We are a diverse nation and until recently that diversity has been seen as a strength. We, in the Church, must stand as moral authorities proclaiming peace and hope, compassion and justice.
Wherever and whenever you have the opportunity to provide wisdom and comfort, inspiration and compassion, I urge you to do so. To be silent is to let evil prevail and we, as people of faith, cannot do that, any more than Jesus could do it in his time and culture. Find a way to bring peace and hope to your faith communities, your communities, our state and our nations.
Today we are asking our members to write prayer notes or notes of compassion to our siblings at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Mail them from your local church to them at 5898 Wilkins Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.
Participate in a vigil or a peaceful worship process in any one of your communities and if there isn’t one, please plan one.
If you are able, this would be a wonderful way to demonstrate solidarity with our Jewish siblings.
By all means pray but above all do not fail to speak out or to act. As Martin Niemöller wrote:
“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
We are called to be people of prayer, but we are also called to remember that “The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18). May we each and all do our part to make our communities, state and nation places of hope and peace.
The Rev. Bonnie Bates
Penn. Northeast Conference United Church of Christ
U.S. interfaith leaders urge government to #KeepFamiliesTogether
The General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ is one of twenty ecumenical and inter-religious leaders who have joined together to call on the United States government to rethink the current immigration policy and stop separating families.
Here is the text of their statement:
Recently, the Administration announced that it will begin separating families and criminally prosecuting all people who enter the U.S. without previous authorization. As religious leaders representing diverse faith perspectives, united in our concern for the wellbeing of vulnerable migrants who cross our borders fleeing from danger and threats to their lives, we are deeply disappointed and pained to hear this news.
We affirm the family as a foundational societal structure to support human community and understand the household as an estate blessed by God. The security of the family provides critical mental, physical and emotional support to the development and wellbeing of children. Our congregations and agencies serve many migrant families that have recently arrived in the United States. Leaving their communities is often the only option they have to provide safety for their children and protect them from harm. Tearing children away from parents who have made a dangerous journey to provide a safe and sufficient life for them is unnecessarily cruel and detrimental to the well-being of parents and children.
As we continue to serve and love our neighbor, we pray for the children and families that will suffer due to this policy and urge the Administration to stop their policy of separating families.
Say No to Perpetual War
The U.S. currently has combat troops deployed in 15 countries, and in Iraq and Afghanistan we remain stuck in the longest war in U.S. history. It is past time for Congress to end this state of endless war.
The first week of June, it is expected that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will markup a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) focused on counter-terrorism operations against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Although a new or amended AUMF is needed from Congress, a proposal recently introduced by Senator Corker and Senator Kaine is not the way forward.
This dangerous piece of legislation would further cede power to the Executive Branch to declare and continue war, and ultimately undermine Congress’ power under Article I of the Constitution to determine under what circumstances we go to war.
Currently, the legal authority under which U.S. counter-terror operations take place is under the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). These bills, passed after 9/11, gave then President Bush and subsequent Presidents the authority to conduct war against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and later the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Under each administration, however, Presidential interpretation of this authority has expanded to justify what is now seemingly endless war against any threat to U.S. security.
Although the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs need to be amended or repealed to assert Congressional oversight and constrain Presidential power, the proposed legislation offered by Senators Corker and Kaine does not go far enough.
Support Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Detention
From March 30 through May 14, 2018, more than 100 Palestinians were killed and 11,000 have been injured by Israeli forces, including more than 60 this week, during the Great March of Return in Gaza. The march was a planned nonviolent protest by Palestinians to call for the right of return for refugees, and to demonstrate in opposition to the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on Israeli Independence Day. Many of those killed and injured were children and youth.
In 2017, both the United Church of Christ General Synod and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly approved resolutions affirming the rights of children living under Israeli occupation and calling for the U.S. government to hold Israel accountable for human rights violations by withholding military aid. Act now to support Palestinian children in Israeli military detention!
In the 1967 War, Israel occupied the Palestinian lands of the West Bank and Gaza and has since implemented a two-tiered legal system in these territories: civil law for Israeli settlers (whose settlements are illegal according to international law); and military law for Palestinians, denying them their basic and fundamental rights. Palestinian children and youth are, therefore, subject to military arrest and prosecution by Israel, the only country that systematically does so in military courts. It has been documented by numerous human rights organizations that Palestinian children are subject to physical and verbal abuse, strip searches, solitary confinement, coerced confessions, and separation from their parents and legal counsel, all of which are violations of international humanitarian law.
Now is the time to act! The Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act (H.R. 4391) would prevent the use of United States tax dollars for the Israeli military’s ongoing mistreatment of detained Palestinian children in violation of international law.
Hands Off SNAP!
Right now Congress is debating the Farm Bill. This massive piece of legislation authorizes most federal policies, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – our nation’s most critical anti-hunger program. The version of the Farm Bill being considered in the House of Representatives right now proposes damaging changes to SNAP.
If the proposed House version gets signed into law more children and families will go hungry. We know that when someone faces unemployment or barriers to employment, hunger only serves to make the problem worse. SNAP benefits as they are now play an important role in helping people find and keep jobs. SNAP is an anti-hunger program, and making changes to it that result in more, not less hungry people is the exact opposite to what it should be doing.
More than 40 million Americans struggle to put food on the table on a regular basis. While charitable organizations play a vital role in addressing hunger, the overwhelming majority of food assistance in this country has historically come from—and must continue to come from—federal programs. Our sacred texts compel us to honor the dignity of every person, especially those who are struggling. No matter a person’s circumstance, no one deserves to go hungry.
Act for Justice in an Uprooted World
Today hundreds of faith advocates from across the country are raising their voices on Capitol Hill as part of the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference. This year’s conference focuses on the “uprootedness” so many people experience in our nation and around the world. Millions are on the move each day in search of more secure and sustainable lives or displaced as a result of conflict, climate change, and corruption. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reports that 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home, 22.5 million of whom are refugees who have fled to other countries--the highest number in recorded history.
While some countries are stepping up to welcome and provide refuge for those in need, the U.S. has greatly reduced its refugee admittance numbers and, because of bad policy decisions, is currently not even on track to resettle those we have committed to assisting. We are not living up to our deepest values as a nation of immigrants that for so long has been a symbol of welcome and hope.
As people of faith, and members of the United Church of Christ - an immigrant welcoming denomination - we are called to offer hospitality to the immigrant and the sojourner, and believe that God is with the Dreamers, the refugees, the immigrants, the outcasts and all those struggling to overcome violence and poverty. As such, we are called to build a world and a nation that reflects these values.
Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota staff and UCC Disaster Ministries coordinators continue to show love of neighbor by responding to the flooding that is dramatically impacting many towns, agricultural land and Native American Reservations throughout Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. UCC Disaster Ministries has already awarded $15,000 in Solidarity Grants to churches in Iowa and Nebraska who are working to serve affected communities. Disaster Ministries expects to award significantly more grants in the weeks ahead. If you are affected by flooding, the UCC Disaster Ministries will help, especially in the long-term to rebuild.
UCC Supports Communities Affected by Flooding
With officials declaring emergencies in numerous counties and on Native American Reservations throughout Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries stands poised to assist churches serving communities most affected by this incredible Spring flooding.
If your congregation is providing an emergency evacuation or feeding shelter, is responding with enhanced food pantry assistance or with financial assistance to affected community members, UCC Disaster Ministries has a Solidarity Grant of up to $3,000 to assist in those extra expenses. Email Jo Ordway and she will ensure the requests get to the appropriate Disaster Ministry Coordinator. Grants can be processed in as little as 7-10 days.
If your church and community is affected, please reach out to our Associate Conference Ministers for general support:
Rev. Ellis Arnold (Iowa - Northwestern, Northeast and Eastern Iowa associations)
Rev. Jonna Jensen (Iowa - Southeastern, Central and Southwestern associations)
Rev. Darrell Goodwin (Nebraska)
Rev. Samantha Houser (South Dakota)
If your church uses the UCC-partner Insurance Board for liability insurance, your agent’s contact information can be found on our Partners webpage.