Today I had the opportunity to meet with Rev. Tim Ahrens, pastor of First Congregational Church in downtown Columbus. He is the one who, as described in this article in the Columbus Dispatch, sent a letter to dozens of pastors in central Ohio, with the intent of starting a dialog about how people of faith who care about a broad range of "values" issues can begin to make themselves heard. Something I already knew when I sat down with Tim, but that he emphasized in our meeting, is that this is not a "liberal" or "progressive" group, but rather a broad coalition of religious leaders and people of faith who agree that the message of prominent religious leaders like Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson does not speak for them:
"It centers in a few issues and on a few people, and it takes the nuances out of the debate around those issues and turns them into black-and-white issues," Ahrens said last week. "Some of those issues are questions about homosexuality, abortion and a definition of Muslims that is condescending and judgmental. Those are the issues that have been posited as the issues for Christians, but there are many of us who know that Jesus had a lot more to say about stewardship for the poor, about orphans and widows and others in need.
"We are, in a sense, saying that the Jesus being portrayed is not the Jesus we know and love and follow."
One of the most important things to do now, Rev. Ahrens said, is, like those tiny people on the dust speck in Horton Hears a Who, say "We are here!"
If you agree that it is important to help make sure that the dialog about values is more diverse and inclusive, please help spread the word about the new group, We Believe! and the upcoming press conference.
February 25, 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Faith,
Since November 2005, a group of over 100 pastors, priests, rabbis, cantors and actively committed lay leaders from Roman Catholism, two traditions of Judaism, and 15+ Protestant denominations have met to discuss what we as people of faith can say as one voice speaking on behalf of the poor and on behalf of those who have a wide-ranging viewpoint on the intersection of faith and public policy.
We are black and white. We are men and women. We come from a wide range of theological diversity as well. We are conservative, moderate and liberal on the spectrum of faith and public policy! We serve urban, suburban and rural people in our houses of worship. We hold in common a deep and abiding love of the God whom we serve.
We also share in common our strong belief that we must act and speak in public ways to support the poor, the children and those who are voiceless and unrepresented in our times. We will speak with love to power as we serve God in these times.
Our name is WE BELIEVE!.
We are ready to launch our group (as ready as we ever will be). We want you to be a part of this launch.
On Tuesday, March 14, at 11:00am we will hold our first press conference. We are gathering at 10:30am at Pastor Vincent T. Frosh's church, The First AME Zion Church, 893 Bryden Road. We will gather there to pray together and prepare for our common unveiling of purpose.
We are planning for the presence of 150 people of faith at this public launch. We hope you are one of those people! We also hope that you bring 4-5 others with you. If you are a clergy person, bring other colleagues. If you are a lay person - come as a local leader - and bring your priest, pastor, deacon, elder, rabbi, cantor or imam.
Contact Rev. Tim Ahrens if you are coming - call Tim at 228-1741, ext. 13. or email at email@example.com.
In closing, we ask you to do three more things:
1) Read our statement and our action steps below. If you can abide in these things, join us.
2) Pass this email on to others.
3) As you do this, please know that over the past 100 days, WE BELIEVE has evolved. With our greatest attendance at 65 leaders, we have sung together and prayed together. We have listened to great preachers and theologians reflect on faith and public life. We have hammered out a statement in a democratic format. Through it all, we have determined to stay together and work out the future of our group. We admire and thank all who have been a part of this network thus far. Help us to grow and go further.
by American, Ohioan People who love our religious and civic traditions:
WE BELIEVE! We are called as people of faith and loyal Americans to be
united in dialogue and action to say:
YES to justice for all
NO to prosperity for only a few;
YES to diverse religious expression
NO to self-righteous certainty;
YES to the common good
NO to discrimination against any of God's people;
YES to the voice of religious traditions informing public policy
NO to crossing the lines that separate the institutions of Religion and Government
OUR SIX ACTION STEPS:
1. We will work on Voter Turn-out and an Absentee Voter Initiative with the goal of clergy turning out 80% of their members.
2. We will work on an initiative to Give Children, Poor and Homeless People a Voice and Vote
3.We will work on an initiative to Preach on Issues of Religion and Social Justice in Our Society.
4. We will establish a Website and maintain it.
5. We will work on an initiative to Create Public Events for "WE BELIEVE!"
6. We will publish a Book of Sermons around these topics.
Again, bring fellow clergy on March 14th. Pass the word. See you there.
On behalf of "We Believe!,"
If questions, call me, 228-1741, ext. 13
We are going to upload a PDF of this letter so that anyone who wishes to print and share a hard copy of this message will be able to do so.
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