This is my personal blog. My views are my own and do not represent those of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, April 04, 2016

Why Barbara Wheeler is WRONG (Again)

Former President of Auburn Theological Seminary, Barbara Wheeler, has written an essay, entitled, "BREACH OF FAITH: Why the Apology Overture is So Wrong."   The LayMAN linked to it as well.

I will comment on her essay.  First, a word about the overture.

Overture 11-05 sent by the Presbytery of New York City with concurrence from the Chicago and Genesee Valley presbyteries recommends that the PC(U.S.A.)
"Admit that the PC(USA) has been wrong in the way it has treated the LGBTQ/Q community" 
and
"Apologize for the teachings and actions that have created marginalization of our sisters and brothers, adding to the erroneous belief that people who identify as LGBTQ/Q should be considered unworthy to serve fully or be honored as family within and without the church."
I think it is long past time for such an overture.   Let us recall what has happened in our denomination.   Until just a few years ago, LGBTQ/Q people were prevented from being ordained as officers in the church due to provisions in our constitution.  Their relationships and marriages were not recognized.  They and their allies were taken to church court for challenging these unjust provisions.  I participated in more than one presbytery meeting in which awful things were said about fellow Presbyterians who are LGBTQ/Q.

Actions, attitudes, and theological opinions against LGBTQ/Q people have damaged not only individuals but the entire PC(U.S.A.)  Those attitudes and actions and theological opinions were wrong.  After a long struggle, the denomination removed those beliefs from our official documents. That was a good thing.  Those beliefs did damage to human beings and continue to do damage.    I am amazed that LGBTQ/Q people show up for church at all.   They owe the church nothing.  The church owes them far more than a belated apology.

I could write pages on this.  But I think you get my point.

So what is up with Barbara Wheeler?   She writes in her essay that an apology to LGBTQ/Q people is a "breach of faith."
"After the ordination and same-gender marriage amendments and associated authoritative interpretations passed in quick succession, some Presbyterian evangelicals voiced their fear of being “Kenyonized”—denied ordination or punished by church courts for convictions at odds with those held by the majority. This measure, which would force many conservative evangelicals to participate in the condemnation of their own deeply-held beliefs, will be seen by many as a step in that direction."
This is the same argument we hear from evangelical Christians about how they are being persecuted and oppressed.  They will be forced to "marry the gays" and on and on.  I can see why they are afraid since they have been so skilled at actually persecuting gays for years.    But this overture is not about them.  It is about the marginalization that has been visited upon LGBTQ/Q people by the church.   It was wrong.   It is still wrong.  It still happens.

The phrase "deeply held beliefs" sounds so pious and sacred.  "These are my deeply held beliefs and no one must offend me for having them."  What are these "deeply held beliefs"?  Here is an example.  This is from the Authoritative Interpretation that darkened our denomination for 30 years:
"...homosexuality is not God’s wish for humanity. This we affirm, despite the fact that some of its forms may be deeply rooted in an individual’s personality structure....”   
“Even where the homosexual orientation has not been consciously sought or chosen, it is neither a gift from God nor a state nor a condition like race; it is a result of our living in a fallen world....”  
“As we examine the whole framework of teaching bearing upon our sexuality from Genesis onward, we find that homosexuality is a contradiction of God’s wise and beautiful pattern for human sexual relationships revealed in Scripture and affirmed in God’s ongoing will for our life in the Spirit of Christ....” 
“…the New Testament declares that all homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian faith and life....”
These are a few of the "deeply held beliefs" that were part of the official interpretation of our constitution.  These "deeply held beliefs" encouraged second-class status in church and in society for LGBTQ/Q people.  These "deeply held beliefs" provided theological justification for spiritual abuse and often violence against LGBTQ/Q people.

Those beliefs, "deeply held" as they might be, are wrong beliefs.   Believe it or not, some beliefs need to be challenged.   Even so, there are church officers who believe all kinds of wrong things.   No one is policing them.  An apology for wrong beliefs and subsequent actions based on those beliefs is not policing either.   People can still hold wrong beliefs, we are all about freedom of conscience, but that doesn't mean we as an institution will not move ahead and redress past wrongs.

She writes that the "Apology Overture
targets, scapegoats and demonizes one group, those who did not prevail in the ordination debate. It breaks our promises to respect their beliefs and actions. It violates the freedom of conscience of the minority. It is a breach of faith."
This is where she fundamentally misses the point.   People can still believe wrong things.  They still will.   It isn't about them.  This overture is about apologizing for the pain caused to LGBTQ/Q people because of wrong beliefs that had been written into our authoritative documents and wrong behavior that came from those beliefs.   The faith was "breached" long ago when this targeting, scapegoating, and demonizing of LGBTQ/Q people was the order of the day.  Now that many in the PC(U.S.A.) are changing their beliefs, those who still hold them want to cry foul and pretend they are being oppressed when they are not.    

I titled this post "Why Barbara Wheeler is WRONG (Again)", because several years ago she wrote a similar post advising the PC(U.S.A.) not to change the constitution and remove barriers to ordination.  Even though she was for changing it in theory she was against it in practice.    I responded with Why Barbara Wheeler Is WRONG.    She was wrong.  She was wrong for the same reason then as she is now.  She doesn't understand privilege.   I wrote then:
It is hard to get a grasp on privilege. Here is a seminary president, a straight person, a well-meaning liberal, bright and articulate, who has been blessed with the privilege to earn the title, elder. I don't know if it is a matter of caving under pressure or fear of success, but it seems at the moment when significant change can happen, liberals get scared. They are scared of losing the institution. Scared that conservatives will leave. Scared that demands for justice do not sound nice. 
Here's the thing.  Just because the PC(U.S.A.) voted for marriage equality and ordination, that doesn't mean that justice is fully realized.   That was only the beginning.   We still have a long way to go.  Apologizing for the pain caused by our theological views is a start.


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Progressive Spirit

I have been producing a weekly half-hour radio program and podcast for over four years.  Nearly 190 episodes.   I am now putting it in a higher gear.   First a name change.   The show is now called Progressive Spirit.  Here is what it is about:
Progressive Spirit is a half hour program that explores the intersection of spirituality and social justice. Listen to interviews with top scholars, authors, social justice activists, and spiritual leaders from Portland and around the world.  Politics, sex, science, spirituality, justice and peace.


The old name, Religion For Life, had some marketing challenges.   Many people wouldn't listen to my show because of the name or if they listened it was often in spite of the name.   When they did listen, they would say things like, "Your show is good.  It isn't anything like the name!"

As much as I tried to make folks see it was not a program to promote religion or a specific religion but was an educational program about religion, well, meh.

The new name, Progressive Spirit, reflects the progressiveness and the spirit of the show.  It is about spirituality and social justice.   I am thrilled and grateful to KBOO 90.7 in Portland for allowing me to produce the show and to give it some air time.

On a TBA basis, you will be able to hear Progressive Spirit on KBOO during the morning affairs programming between 10 and noon, Monday through Friday.

Progressive Spirit is heard weekly on WETS 89.5 Johnson City, Tennessee, WEHC 90.7, Emory, Virginia, and WPVM 103.7 Asheville, North Carolina.    It is a fully produced 27 minute program free to stations.

You can also catch it on podcast via your favorite podcast app.  Please let me know how you listen to podcasts and I will make sure you can get Progressive Spirit on it! Podcasts are uploaded every Sunday morning at 11 Pacific Time and remain on the website indefinitely.   You can catch up on all the previous episodes!

And join me as we look ahead.  I have some great guests coming up including Ned Rosch, founder of the Portland chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, Jim Wallis, author of America's Original Sin, John Caputo, author of The Folly of God, Jay Weller, author of When God Isn't Green, and Dan Barker, author of God:  The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.

If you have ideas for guests contact me at my new e-mail.

You can expect Progressive Spirit to be even more edgy, more socially-justice focused, and to have a wider variety of guests as now I am in Portland at one of the most progressive radio stations on the planet.

Check out KBOO's website!



Thanks for listening!

Monday, February 29, 2016

I Will Zumba My Way to General Assembly

Behold, a belly that Zumbas...


Oh, yeah, this belly will be moving to the beat of the Witherspoon Dance at General Assembly in Portland.    Registration is now open.   When you register sign up for the dance!   Come to the Voices of Sophia breakfast, too!

Here is the Winter issue of the Network News published by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  We will have a helpful General Assembly issue out in plenty of time that will tell you exactly how to vote on each overture.

If you are looking for a place to worship on the Sunday before the
down and dirty business begins, there are plenty of fine congregations, including, ahem, Southminster!   Preaching that day will be  Dr. Patricia Tull, Presbyterian minister and A. B. Rhodes Professor Emerita of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.  She is the author of Inhabiting Eden:  Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis.




I am still hoping that another presbytery will concur with Cascades Presbytery to send Overture 29, Endorsing the Clergy Letter Project, to the General Assembly.  I simply am inept at politicking for these kinds of things.  There is no web page for it.  There is no organization sending out emails and hustling up contacts.  I am afraid this fine overture will go extinct because it could not adapt to the lobbying environment.   That said, I am pleased that Cascades Presbytery approved it.   Salute!

Hope I yet hold for a concurrence.

Here is the list of overtures submitted so far. 







Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Don't Leave the PCUSA to the Narrowest of Minds


PCUSA Headquarters wants to hear from you.  What direction do you think the Presbyterian Church (USA) should take in the future?    Take a few moments to fill out the on-line survey.




Personally, I think we should ditch the ordination questions (p. 4) and get rid of mandatory beliefs altogether.  

I vote for a theological upgrade.


The Original Sin of Christianity is to Think It Is About Jesus

We have a doozy of a Jesus Seminar on the Road this weekend.   Jeff Robbins and Tom Sheehan are the presenters.   The topic will be God, Christianity, and the Human Future.


Here is an interview with Tom Sheehan at OregonLive.

He says:
"My thesis is that the original sin of religion is to think that it's about God," said Sheehan, who teaches religion and philosophy at Stanford. "The original sin of Christianity is to think it's about Jesus."
And...
I'm arguing that to think that religion is a path to God misses the whole point. The God of western Christianity is all about human beings. God's doing fine. He is not a neurotic mother who needs to be called up once a week. Jesus was all about people: 'Don't love me. Love one another.'
I interviewed Jeff Robbins about the seminar.    What is religion?
It gives people a narrative frame of reference with which to live their life with meaning and purpose.
Yep, religion is about human beings.  At least that is what I think.

What do you think?

We have about 70 registered so far and we have space for you!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Time for a Theological Upgrade?

I wrote a post for the Presbyterian Voices for Justice, Fall 2015 Network News.  It is "A Call to the Entire Church." You will find it on pages 4-7.

I respond to the moderator's "call to the church."  I think this would be a great time to explore theology and to make official what many of us do anyway, and that is be open to a wide variety of beliefs, including non-theism.    The Jesus Seminar is talking about this with their new God and the Human Future Seminar.  Coming to Beaverton, November 6-7!

They are asking whether or not "God" has a future.  Many people are asking including many in our pews and many who have left the pews because our dogma is dated.    I think we need to make space to talk about it.   Here is what I wrote...

---

In a recent issue of the Presbyterian Outlook, Moderator Heath Rada, has issued “A Call to the Church.” 

He is calling for
“A churchwide discussion to assess the will of the PC(USA) that would be led by the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly. The Office of the General Assembly is expected to make an announcement soon of how that will work.”
Why? He said:
“There is a profound and rapid change in the world around us that has put the Church’s relevance (not just PCUSA but the entire Church) in question in ways we have not seen in our lifetime."
I am full agreement on both points. The world has changed and we need to talk about it. I can’t be sure exactly what “rapid and profound change” Moderator Rada has in mind, but I think it has to do with theology. I think our theology is still in the 17th century while we live in the 21st century. The dogmas of our religious heritage do not meet the challenges of the world presented to us by science and by social science. All of the beliefs we are supposed to affirm such as Creation, Virgin Birth, Resurrection of the body of Jesus, miracles, original sin, atonement, heaven and hell, and a supernatural interventionist god called God are metaphors.  At least that’s what I think. I also think many church members and teaching elders think like I do even as for various reasons they are not able to say it clearly.  (Read More)

---

A concrete change to make is to change radically the ordination questions.  They turn people off and drive people away.   My session is already sending three resolutions to the presbytery about fossil fuel divestment, recommitting to social justice, and evolution.  Another to remove the first four ordination questions is too much for one day.  But maybe someone else will send such an overture.  

I think it is time.  What do you think?   Or perhaps more to the point, what is the purpose of the ordination questions and what do they mean to you?




Fossil Fuel Divestment Overture


The session of Southminster Presbyterian Church, Beaverton, Oregon at its October 15th meeting concurred with the session of First Presbyterian Church, Central Point, Oregon to request that Cascades Presbytery send the following overture to the 222nd General Assembly (2016).
2016 PCUSA Fossil Fuel Divestment Overture Recommendation
The session of First Presbyterian Church, Central Point, Oregon requests the Presbytery of the Cascades send an overture the 222nd General Assembly (2016) to:
1. Express its profound concern about the destructive effects of climate change on all God’s 
creation, including a disproportionate impact on those living in poverty and in the least developed countries; the elderly and children; and those least responsible for the emissions of greenhouse gases. The 222nd General Assembly (2016) thus recognizes the moral mandate for humanity to shift to a sustainable energy regime in a way that is both just and compassionate. This mandate compels us to action as a denomination to divest from the fossil fuel industry even as we reduce our use of fossil fuels and shrink our carbon footprint. 

2. Call upon the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Church (USA) Foundation to:
a.                    Immediately stop any new direct investment in fossil fuel companies 

b.                   Work to ensure that within three years, none of the Board’s or the Foundation’s directly held or commingled assets includes holdings of either equities or corporate bonds in the fossil fuel companies identified in the Carbon Underground 200 list1 by:
i.                                       Working with current and prospective asset managers to develop and implement institutional fossil free investment options 

ii.                                     Establishing within one year fossil free investment options for fund participants 

iii.                                    Actively seeking out and investing in renewable and energy efficiency related securities 

iv.                                    Notwithstanding the above provisions, retaining or acquiring minimal sufficient investment in fossil fuel companies to participate in shareholder engagement activities 

v.                                     Notwithstanding the above provisions, taking no action inconsistent with fiduciary duty or principles of sound investment, including the real and substantial risk of stranded carbon assets 

c.  Incorporate into public financial reports regular updates detailing progress made towards these ends.
3. Call upon the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) to inform affected fossil fuel companies and the larger public of the passage and implementation of this resolution
4. Call upon, and provide instructional materials to assist all levels of the denomination (presbyteries, congregations, and individual members) in taking action to slow climate change, including: divestment of fossil fuel holdings; shareholder activism; investments in renewable energy; advocacy at local, state, and federal levels for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and local efforts to reduce carbon footprint consistent with the 2006 call2 for denominational carbon neutrality, and the 2008 “Power to Change” recommendations.3

2016 PCUSA Fossil Fuel Divestment Overture Rationale
In 1981, our church made clear through the document “The Power to Speak Truth to Power” the importance of transitioning away from a fossil fuel based economy.
In 2008, our church made clear through the document “The Power to Change” that the catastrophic effects of Climate Change make this transition essential to the preservation of human life and God’s good creation.
For over two decades, our church’s committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment has engaged in shareholder action with fossil fuel companies. They have done an exemplary job, but have made no impact in addressing Climate Change. When the best people we have make so little progress, the fault lies with an intractable industry, obsessed with profit at the expense of creation.
Our church has voiced support for legislation addressing the need to transition to a fossil free economy, but has no power to enact it. Our church has voiced support for taxes on carbon emissions, but has no power to levy them. Our church has voiced the need for all members of our denomination to do what they can at an individual level, but individuals acting alone can do little to shift the course of an entire economy.
Our church invests hundreds of millions of dollars in fossil fuel companies.
We, as Christians, have the privilege, responsibility, and obligation to speak with moral authority on issues of great importance. However, the power and clarity of prophetic voice is easily stained by hypocrisy and inconsistency.
Many claim that it is inconsistent to divest from fossil fuels while we are members of a society that is addicted to them. This is true. But it is equally inconsistent to attempt to rehabilitate that society while invested in its addiction.
Even as we continue working to mitigate the climate crisis, we must shed the burden of our investments in climate destruction. This act will speak more loudly and more clearly than any prophetic declaration we have voiced to date.
It’s time to put our money where our mouth is. It’s time to divest from fossil fuels.
===============================================================
“Can we hear the grave warnings in reports like this one [Power to Change] from Christians who have carefully studied these matters? And then can we act as stewards of God’s earth, witnessing to Christ in the re-direction of our lives toward a more sustainable future? I pray that we can, and that our church’s good work can help in this great change.”
- Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, April 2009


1 http://fossilfreeindexes.com/the-carbon-underground-2014/ or current equivalent (accessed 06-17-2015)
2 http://www.pcusa.org/resource/guide-going-carbon-neutral/ (accessed 06-17-2015)

3http://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/acswp/pdf/energyreport.pdf (accessed 06- 17-2015) 

Clergy Letter Project Overture


Did you know that 46% of Americans think that the theory of evolution is contrary to the teachings of their faith?  That does not bode well for the future of Christianity nor for education about science.  It is time for the Presbyterian Church to be a leader and to unequivocally support science.   You don't have to lose your brain to gain your heart.

This overture requests the General Assembly to join other faith bodies, like the Methodists, and endorse the Clergy Letter Project and the Christian Clergy Letter.

I sent it as a commissioner's resolution last time.   This is the speech I gave before the committee so you can understand why so many of us think this is important.   Michael Zimmerman, founder of the Clergy Letter Project, wrote about the decision in his Huffington Post Column, Evolution and the Presbyterian Church (Not Quite the Relationship It Could Be).

This time, I hope it will go as a presbytery overture and carry more weight than I can as an individual.  On October 15th, the session of Southminster Presbyterian Church sent the following overture to Cascades Presbytery.   The change from last time is the removal of Evolution Sunday.

If Cascades approves we will still need another presbytery to concur.  Can you give it a try?



Overture Regarding Endorsing the Clergy Letter Project

The Presbytery of Cascades overtures the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the PC (USA) to

join with the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Southeast Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church, the Southwestern Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and with 13,013 members of Christian Clergy, 514 Rabbis of Judaism, 286 Clergy of Unitarian Universalists, and 25 Buddhist Clergy in endorsing the Clergy Letter Project and the Christian Clergy Letter printed below:

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

Rationale:

This overture is brought in the spirit of faith that joyfully acknowledges
  • that God brings all things into being by the Word. (W-1.2001),
  • that God transcends creation and cannot be reduced to anything within it (W-1.2002),
  • that God created the material universe and pronounced it good, and
  • that the material world reflects the glory of God. (W-1.3031), and,
  • with the understanding that in prayer we earnestly thank God for creation and providence. (W-3.3613)
Evolution has been wrongly viewed in some Christian communities as contrary to Christian beliefs. According to a Gallup Poll in May 2014, 46% of Americans think that evolution is “inconsistent with [their] religious beliefs.” 

As a scientific theory based solidly on extensive scientific evidence, it has shaped our thinking in the natural sciences and has become the underlying theory for numerous medical advances. As a scientific theory it does not contradict the existence of God, but can be seen as a natural, creative process in God's creation.  It is important for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to be clear that people do not need to reject Evolution to affirm their faith.

In a recent study of why young people are leaving the church, 29% of the youth reported being discouraged by the church's antagonistic view of science, and that many young people are “turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” The research also “shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.”

(Ref. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church...and Rethinking Faith. David Kinnaman, 2011, The Barna Group.)

The 214th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has stated that it:
  1. Reaffirms that God is Creator, in accordance with the witness of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions.
  2. Reaffirms that there is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.
  3. Encourages State Boards of Education across the nation to establish standards for science education in public schools based on the most reliable content of scientific knowledge as determined by the scientific community.
  4. Calls upon Presbyterian scientists and scientific educators to assist congregations, presbyteries, and the public to understand what constitutes reliable knowledge.
Other denominations have also recognized the compatibility of modern science and theology. For example, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2008 states, in part, "We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world and in determining what is scientific. We preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues and theology from making authoritative claims about scientific issues. We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology."


The Clergy Letter Project, www.theclergyletterproject.org founded by Dr. Michael Zimmerman, and signed by over 13,000 Christian clergy has helped clergy and congregations present the scientific theory of Evolution in a manner that respects and engages a thinking faith.

A Gospel Vision for the Church

The Session of Southminster Presbyterian Church of Beaverton, Oregon at its October 15th meeting approved the following overture to be sent to Cascades Presbytery.   Thanks to the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and my friend and justice-seeker, Aric Clark, for drafting this!

This is pretty much the opposite of an overture that was sent by Foothills Presbytery.   Check Gene TeSelle's column in the Fall Network News for an analysis of that overture (p. 8).

We need more action for social justice and more voices heard, not less.





A Gospel Vision for the Church

Overture on choosing to be a church committed to the gospel of Matthew 25

The Presbytery of  Cascades overtures the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the PC (USA) to:

Recommit ourselves at the congregational, the mid-council governing bodies, and the national levels of our church to locate ourselves with the poor, to advocate with all of our voice for the poor, and to seek opportunities to take risks for and with the poor (in the soup kitchens and catholic worker houses, among the immigrants, with those working to end mass incarceration, and with those who seek to protect all of us, especially the poorest of the poor around the world, from the vagaries of climate change).

Call on our churches to commit to a year of bible study focused on issues of social justice. 

Call on our Presbyteries and Synods to examine their own practice, placing these commitments at the center of their concerns, and to streamline the way that issues of immediate significance can be forwarded to the General Assembly by adopting procedures so that overtures and proposals on peacemaking and social justice concerns from sessions and committees may be considered quickly. 

Facilitate the processes by which these concerns can be brought before us as a national body by resisting new barriers to overture submissions such as additional concurrences, tighter deadlines, or new overture topic restrictions at any General Assembly.

Commit to focusing a significant block of the time alloted for future General Assemblies on creating opportunities in consultation with the Committees on Local Arrangements to engage all of the commissioners, delegates, and observers in acts of service to and with communities at risk.

Assure that there are voices of those who are most at risk from within our church and outside of it (including interfaith voices), who are invited to share with and challenge the assembly, both in the plenary and committee sessions. 

Create a “cycle of social engagement” that will assure that concerns around confronting racism, environmental concerns, standing against violence and militarism, and advocating for the dispossessed come before the Assembly on a regular and consistent basis, soliciting overtures from presbyteries before each General Assembly on topics of the most immediate concern. 
                                                            

Rationale

This is a moment of great opportunity for our church. Momentum is building within our denomination and throughout our society to courageously confront the challenges of our time. A new Civil Rights movement, a new Peace movement, a new Economic Justice movement is on the rise and we are in a position to stand in solidarity with the poor in a uniquely powerful way. It is a time for us to define who we will be for decades to come. May we choose to be a church committed to the gospel of Matthew 25:

In the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids Jesus tells a story about the church waiting for the moment of the Lord’s arrival. Some of those who are waiting are prepared when the time comes, and some are not. The zeitgeist of our age is one of rapidly changing and endlessly creative activism exemplified by the Black Lives Matter movement. Let us be like the bridesmaids whose lamps are trimmed - ready to seize the moment.

In the Parable of the Talents Jesus tells a story about a bold slave who was punished for refusing to participate in the empire value of domination. Increasingly we see brave individuals and groups calling out the powerful and standing against the rampant exploitation in our marketplaces, in our prisons, and on our streets. Let us resist evil like that slave, and go stand on the margins of society - in the outer darkness.

In the Parable of the Judgment of the Nations Jesus tells a story about how he is encountered among “the least” - the poorest, the most isolated, the imprisoned, the sick, and the hungry. We hear with sober conviction Jesus declaring that a church which fails to serve with and for the poor does not know Him. We agree with Pope Francis who stated that a church that is not actively supporting and serving the needs of the poor has no right to call itself church at all and should be prepared to give up its tax-exempt status to operate as a church. Let us be counted among the sheep who met their King as a stranger.

We see the Spirit blowing through our society, bringing to fruition seeds of peace and justice long dormant. The harvest will be plentiful. Let us heed the call to service, and recommit ourselves to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in deeds as well as in words.