Friday, March 31, 2006

Jim Wallis lecture continued

Jim Wallis describes being at a service at Duke Chapel...

The homily was by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He gave a mission to all of us. His mission was this: "Are you ready to join with God?"

People of faith have changed the big things before. Pulpits have changed nations before.

Wilberforce was converted by Wesley, and they ended the slave trade in Britain. It took thirty years, they failed twenty times. And finally they succeeded, and Wilberforce died three days after they won, because his work was done. For a shining decade, heirs of slaves taught democracy to America in the name of Jesus, Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah. My friends, we have done this before--we can do it again.

It's time to no longer just lament the political facts. It's time for us to change the facts. It's time for us not to worry so much about the religious right--it's time for us to offer a better way. A newer way that can draw a whole generation to faith *and* action. That's what I believe in...I believe in the possibility of changing history again, now as people of faith, we are a generation that God is watching. The new to-be prime minister of Great Britain--he'll be in office in about a year--he said to me "You know, for the first time in history we have the resources, the information, the technology to end poverty as we know it, but we don't have the moral and political will. He said, 'That's your job, in the churches." He was right, it's our job.

I ask my students, "What's the big thing that you're going to do? Don't give your life to something small, give your life to something big enough to be worthy of your agenda, time, energy..." It's time for a new generation to teach this nation that pulpits and faith and hope are all we need to change the political facts.

My friends, it's time for a new revival. A revival of faith. Because what changes politics are social movements--always have, always will. And the best social movements, are the ones that have a spiritual foundation. Don't lament the facts...don't just complain about other people. Let's call for revival, join a movement...and turn history around because it's time for us to join with God. Thank you very much.
Still to come--the part of the Q and A that took place before the batteries on my voice recorder died.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jim Wallis on Faith and Hope

More from Jim Wallis' presentation on March 28 at St. John's Arena at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio...

Faith is for the really big things. The hard stuff. The things that seem impossible, where the odds are against us--that's why we call it faith. The Bible says that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move what? Response: Mountains! Well, tonight, let's admit we've got some mountains to move.

People in urban settings, starting in only certain zip codes, on their way to inevitable destinations--that's a mountain to move! Three billion people living on two dollars a day, that's a mountain to move. Thirty thousand children died today, and yesterday, and will tomorrow--why? Lack of clean drinking water, diseases none of our kids die of, and no food in their bellies.

To those people in Washington, I would ask, is it credible, in the face of that, that Jesus would stand in front of a committee in Washington and say that his only concerns are prayer in schools and gay marriage?

Faith is for these things, and a whole generation is ready--ready for us to lead. I was seeing college students everywhere I go, but then they started to look younger and I would ask, "What school?" "High school." "What year?" "Freshman!"
In Minneapolis I met this little girl at a book signing. I looked up at hear, and asked, "How old are you?" She said, "Well, I'm 11." "What did you get from tonights talk?" She said, "Well, I just think we're going to have to change the world." "Well, who's going to do it?" "I think people like me."

I told her story the next night in Tacoma, Washington, and looked up and saw this tiny little girl, and she grinned at me and said "Nine!" And later I told her story and there was the youngest, littlest one of all. I said sweetie, how old are you? She said, "Well, I'm the youngest. I'm 8 years old." I said, "What makes sense to you?" She said, "Well, you talked about that silent tsunami that's killing off the children, like me, every day. I was sitting there thinking to myself, "If I'm a Christian, I'd better do something about that." She's in the third grade, and she gets it.

I told my Harvard students the next week, if you want to lead this movement, you'd better be fast, because there's a whole generation coming up behind you that's going to push you right out of the way.

It's time for us to lead. I have a text. The text if from Isaiah Chapter 58...

"Is this not the fast that I choose? To break the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free. To share your bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless into your house. When you see them naked, cover them. Not to hide yourselves from your own flesh. Then will your light rise like--oh, I must have read that wrong. It must be, *their* light. And your healing--no, I must be reading it wrong. Isn't this for those who "have not", and we're those who "have"? We're all right, and we can fix them? No, it says, Then *your* light will rise like the dawn, and *your* healing will come quickly. You who have bread to share, you who have houses to welcome people into. *Your* healing.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer, "Here I am." If you remove the yoke from your midst, and listen Ohio, the pointing of the finger, ...the divisive talk. If you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in the darkness and your gloom will become like midday, and the Lord will guide you and satisfy your desire in parched places.

Got any parched places tonight? All my students, they're volunteering all over the place. When I ask them why, they say, "We're looking for meaning. We're looking for connection. Here's a newsflash: shopping doesn't satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. And our best and our brightest are stumbling over the wisdom of Isaiah 58. "I will give strength to your bones, you'll be like a watered garden, whose waters never fail." This is a powerful image of healing, wholeness. Isaiah is not about *some* people helping other people, it's about a vision where we ALL GET HEALED.

We've got to make a choice though. It's a choice I call a big choice. It's a spiritual choice. It's the choice between hope and cynicism. That's the choice.

I like the cynics, in many ways, because they're realists. They don't see the world through rose-colored glasses. They see it the way it is, and they're against all the bad stuff. And maybe they tried to change things, but they got disappointed and disillusioned. And maybe they were out by themselves and they began to feel vulnerable, so they withdrew to a place called cynicism. Where you're still against all the bad stuff, but you don't think it could ever change. So you surround yourself with a bit more security, and cynicism becomes a buffer against commitment.

Hope, on the other hand, is not a feeling, a personality trait, or a state of mind. Hope is a choice, a decision we make, because of this thing called faith. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, says the book of Hebrews. But my favorite explanation still is "Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, and then watching the evidence change."

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Jim Wallis on "Faith-based initiatives"

I did make it to the Jim Wallis lecture/discussion last night--just barely, and I ended up sitting in the "nosebleed seats" at St. John's Arena at The Ohio State University in Columbus. It was a good event, and well attended. I was hoping to see some media coverage, but haven't so far--and one thing I'm really bad at is estimating crowd size. So, until I find the details somewhere, we'll just have to go with "big". I've realized at this point that I'm not going to have a full write-up ready to post tonight, so for now, I'll just share, closely paraphrased, one of the stories Jim told us last night...
I was asked to speak at Sing Sing prison in upstate New York. I asked, when do you want me to come, and the prisoners' representative said, "Well, we're free most nights! We're kind of a captive audience here!"

I was given a room in the bowels of Sing Sing, this infamous prison, and I was left in a room alone for 5 hours with 80 guys. One of the prisoners said, "You know, Jim, all of us at Sing Sing are from just about 4 or 5 neighborhoods in New York City. It's like a train you get on in my neighborhood when you're 9 or 10 years old, and the train ends up here, at Sing Sing.

But he had a spirtual conversion inside those walls. The New York Theological Seminary offers a Masters of Divinity program inside the walls of that prison. You become a preacher inside the joint--you graduate when your sentence is up. And he looked at me and said, "When I get out, I want to go back and stop that train!"

I was in New York a few years later, and guess who I saw, back home, leading a town meeting on poverty...trying to stop that train. That's what *I* mean by faith-based initiatives.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Thoughts on the religious-political "spectrum"

This post can also be found as a podcast here. If you want to go directly to mp3 download, click this link.

I opened the paper this week, looking to see if there was any coverage of the new We Believe group, or of the upcoming lecture/discussion with Jim Wallis. I was terribly disappointed to find, instead, that The Other Paper had a cover story entitled "The Dwindling Religious Middle".

Isn't that a bit premature? In my experience, there isn't even widespread awareness yet of faith voices speaking out from a point of view *other* than the far right. I am sure, for example, that many more people were aware of the Justice Sunday events than the diverse, interdenominational events that were held in response to them. I have often heard secular progressives complain that people of faith are not being vocal enough in countering the message of the religious right. I find that very frustrating, because the truth is, there are, and always have been such voices, but they simply don't get as much press. The Other Paper, which *has* given front page, in-depth attention to pastors like Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson, seems intent on being part of the problem. When they finally do get around to acknowledging the people of faith who are advocating a more compassionate, neighborly way of putting faith into action, it is only in the context of describing the plight of the "religious middle". In my mind, the fact that a letter Rev. Tim Ahrens sent out to dozens of area pastors in November has blossomed into a new organization built around the common ground shared by diverse people of faith should be, by itself, front page news. But the Other Paper article glossed over that news on its way to covering the plight of ministers who do not want to be political.

There are a number of things I find troubling about this article. The first is that, even though it is an "alternative" publication, the article falls into the same tired black and white way of seeing the world as most mainstream news sources. Right versus left, with us or against us...can't we please just *try* to have some dialog that doesn't force a dichotomy where one doesn't exist?

From the article: Wallis would like to position himself as a moderate, but the fact that he is embraced by the left probably gives away his proper place in the political-religious spectrum.

Well, thank you for speaking for him. Without translating the words *he* chooses into stark, black and white terms, people might be forced to grapple with the notion that the political-religious spectrum is just that--a spectrum, with a whole range of hues and gradations.

But you notice what the writer just did--he conveyed the message that Wallis is *really* aligned with the left, but didn't *quite* say it is so many words. He left himself some wiggle room--some plausible deniability.

Getting back to the idea of a spectrum, there really is a full continuum of viewpoints, from liberal to conservative on any number of issues. Someone may be more conservative on issues of personal liberties, but more liberal on economic issues, for example. Or vice-versa. Of course, when you step into the voting booth, you typically are faced with a series of either-or decisions. Do I vote for this candidate or that one? Yes or no on this particular issue?

In a time when this country has a president known for such stark statements as "You're either with us or against us", and when the religious leaders who get the most media attention frame political issues in similarly stark terms, it is easy to fall into that type of black and white thinking. But that doesn't mean that they *should*. Certainly, anyone who wishes to call him or herself a *journalist* should be able to see that issues are more complex than that, and, if they are worth their salt, they should be able to find a way to communicate these complex issues to the public in a way that can be understood.

We *must* learn to find common ground and work to create win-win outcomes. The We Believe group, in my opinion, is on the right track. Look at the home page--the tag line is "Uniting diverse religious voices to achieve social justice". By implication, David Niven casts We Believe as liberal, even though they represent a broad range of positions on the spectrums of faith and public policy. I'm sure there are members who, on the "hot button issues" of homosexuality and abortion, have views that are similar to those espoused by Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson. But they disagree with them on other issues, and have covenanted with the rest of the membership of We Believe to work together on issues where they share common ground. The group, as a whole, shares the "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".

And that is precisely who suffers if we continue to perpetuate the myth that issues of faith and politics are black and white and center around a couple highly divisive issues. It pained me and, yes, even angered me, to see the needs of those Jesus called "the least of these" go unaddressed while people of faith were persuaded of the dire need to vote for a constitutional amendment to make same sex marriage even more illegal in Ohio than it already was. Sometimes it's okay to be angry, and injustice makes me angry. It also angers me, with so much at stake, to see people who purport to be journalists taking their cues from people who, for their own political purposes, want to paint issues of faith and politics in stark, black and white, "with us or against us" terms. They need to do better than that, and, as much as I don't need something else on my to-do list, it's our job to call them on it when they start dumbing things down to the point that they are misrepresenting the truth.

Oh, and did I mention that I *really* have enough to do already, thank you very much. But then I hear about people like Maggie Kuhn, and I feel inspired, humbled, and a little sheepish that I'm not doing more...
Maggie Kuhn, the Gray Panthers charismatic leader changed the face of society with regard to the elderly. She was a committed, hard-working woman who at age 65 began an organization that continues her tradition of fighting for a better life for all. Her advice for those who want to make a change in the world is, "Go to the people at the top - that is my advice to anyone who wants to change the system, any system. Don't moan and groan with like-minded souls. Don't write letters or place a few phone calls and then sit back and wait. Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind--even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants."

Okay, *fine* Maggie. You do make a compelling point. Guess I just need to "keep on keeping on". Now, I just *know* that slingshot is around here somewhere...

UPDATE: Please check out the whole article and share your thoughts with the writer if you feel so inclined. You can select David Niven from the drop-down menu here

Something I mentioned in the podcast that didn't make it into this post is the fact that the other big issue I had with this article is the portrayal of ministers "staying out of politics" as a positive or desirable thing.

There IS NO getting away from politics. It touches everything. It is, in fact, "made of people". And if we just keep trying to respond with charity to the new ways the far right finds of trashing every safety net we have, there's no way we'll ever be able to keep up. The "least of these" will be much better off if they get *justice* than charity, but we can't work for justice without getting some politics on us.

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The religious middle is dwindling?

Something I'd appreciate some commentary on, and *not* just from people in Ohio, is the cover story in this week's edition of The Other Paper. It's about The Dwindling Religious Middle.

Particularly this part...
But to Pastor Rogers, issues like poverty and homelessness are why churches should stay out of politics.

"Politics has distracted us from the job," he said. "It's distracted us from what we're called to do. Politics is polarizing. You can't do effective work when you're polarized."

"These religious groups spend time and energy proving their political points while ignoring the horrible wrongs all around them. If you took the money spent on campaigns, that would be a lot of food to feed the hungry."

"That just bothers me," he said with a sigh. "It's a basic human flaw. We really insist on being right, don't we?"

Rogers is actively involved in the Free Store, which provides basic household items to those in need, regardless of religious backgrounds or political perspectives.

"No one bothers talking or arguing about politics there," he said. "The political-religious battle in the newspaper is less important when you're clothing a single mother and her children, keeping the family in a warm apartment."

I have started my own response to the article, but haven't had a chance to finish it yet. One thing people should be aware of is the fact that the We Believe group, which is mentioned in the article, is about uniting *diverse religious voices*. The point is to get away from issues that are polarizing and find issues that appeal to our common values that we can work together on. And when the minister says that people have tried to get him to be more political, while I don't know this for sure, I think he might be saying that people have pursuaded him to join B.R.E.A.D., a 10 year old organization made up of some of the same people as We Believe, and focussing on social justice issues on which a broad range of faith perspectives can agree.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Some new links

I discovered a couple of new web sites today--well, they are new to me, at least.

Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage
(Found this when I was searching for sites mentioning Jim Wallis and his upcoming events in Columbus)

Single-Payer Action Network Ohio Looked this one up after I was approached by someone outside the library asking me to sign a petition for universal health care for Ohioans. (Yes, I signed the petition.)

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Jim Wallis Lecture/Discussion Tuesday, March 28

The link for this event has been in the sidebar pretty much since I started this blog, but since the lecture/discussion is now less than a week away, I felt I should do a post about it. Here are the basics...

A Public Lecture and Discussion on Faith, Values, and Politics

To bring together a diverse group of individuals and groups interested in the role of faith and values in contemporary politics.

Date and Time
March 28, 2006 at 7:30 p.m.

St. John Arena
Ohio State University
410 Woody Hayes Drive
Columbus, Ohio

No entrance fee. Open to all.

More links:

Downloadable flyer
Agenda for the evening
Map and directions

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Event: Faith and Politics in the U.S.: Two Evangelical Perspectives

Two Evangelical Perspectives: Jim Wallis Debates Russell Johnson This Sunday (March 26) in Columbus
When: 3:30-5:00 pm
Where: Capital Theater 77 South High St. Columbus, OH 43215
Who: Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and best-selling author of God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It and Rev. Russell Johnson, chairman of the Ohio Restoration Project.

Thanks to Upper Arlington Progressive Alliance for the heads-up about this event. I won't be able to attend, but would really like to be able to post first hand accounts from people who do. If you do attend the event in Columbus this coming Sunday and would like to submit your own summary and thoughts about it, you can e-mail me at ohiorenee at

More about the event, and some relevant links:
What: A one-hour dialogue between Jim Wallis and the Ohio Restoration Project chairman Russell Johnson on the role of faith in politics followed by a Q&A session.

Why: Our nation is hungry for an open dialogue on moral values and their role in the public square. The goal of this gathering is to discuss how various social issues—including abortion, poverty, the environment, advancing peace, and promoting strong families—are all critical moral and community values that can be approached from differing evangelical perspectives.

Here is a link to a flyer you can print out, and this link is where you can order free tickets for the event:

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Peace Rallies Today

Today there are a number of peace rallies planned to mark the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. If you attend one of these rallies and take pictures, I'd really love to have some to post. You can e-mail them to me at ohiorenee at Of course I'd also appreciate any write-ups of the event as well.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

We are all "paralyzed" in some way

I've written here that, in the tradition of doing something extra during Lent rather than giving something up, I have decided to do some reflections not just in writing, but in an audio format. I just posted my second podcast/audioblog yesterday, and what follows is more or less the content of it (I discovered I pretty much end up having to write the whole thing out to avoid having to stop and restart too many times when recording.)

There is a Gospel reading and a sermon, that I've been thinking about for a few weeks, that I'd like to talk about today. A few weeks ago, the Gospel reading was the story of Jesus healing the paralytic. That Gospel, combined with the sermon preached by our seminarian in training that day, and something I heard later in the service really caught my attention that day. And in the days and weeks that followed, my mind kept returning to them. Let me start by sharing that Gospel reading, which many of you are probably familiar with, but just to have it fresh in your minds before I talk about it...
Jesus Heals a Paralytic
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Get up, take your mat and walk"? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 1He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

And Tara, our seminarian in training, went on to describe, first of all, what that scene would have looked like, the way houses were constructed in that time and place such that it was typical to have the roof easily accessible by some sort of stairs. (In fact, I had just seen a program about this on the National Geographic Channel.) And she drew a word picture of what the man's friends--the man who, though he is a major character in the story, never speaks a word, and who we have not heard ask for anything--what they had to go through to dig through the roof and lower him down. And then she drew a parallel to what we are called to do.

She said that we are *all* paralyzed in some way...physically, emotionally, spiritually etc.

We need to dig on behalf of our neighbors, get dirt under our fingernails and sweat on our brows, break through barriers on behalf of others.

It was a good sermon, like many good sermons I've heard at my progressive Episcopal church. But it probably wouldn't have stood out in my mind were it not for what happened next. During the Prayers of the People, a parishioner said, "For the health of Bishop Gene." It took a minute to place the name--Bishop who? Then I realized it must be Gene Robinson he was talking about. I hadn't heard anything about him having health issues, and wondered how serious it was.

So, I took out my Sidekick (phone with internet access) and did a quick web search Father forgive me, I have Googled in church and found out pretty quickly that Bishop Gene Robinson had recently entered a rehab facility for treatment of alcoholism. And one of the very first headlines I saw was on Worldnet Daily (for anyone who is not familiar, this is a very right wing internet "news" source" smugly proclaiming, "The homosexual, alcoholic bishop"

And I looked at that headline and thought, "You heartless, self-satisfied son of a--" Okay, I'm already feel a tad guilty about Googling during Mass--probably shouldn't make things worse with that kind of language. But it *really* made me angry. It was just so hateful--positively crowing with condescension.

And it came back to me, "we're *all* paralyzed in some way, and we need to dig through barriers on behalf of our neighbors. Even the those neighbors that are jerks.

And thinking about the different ways people can be paralyzed, it's a lot easier to want to help--to feel *moved* to help someone whose disability is physical and clearly visible. Even the paralytic in the Gospel story is not seen *asking* for help, but neither do we see him denying the need for help. Or worse, scorning those who might wish to help him. But then, that's why these things are called "barriers" isn't it?

One of the first things I read about Gene Robinson when I first heard of him was an interview in which he was asked who his favorite saints were. One of the people he named was Fred Rogers--known by several generations of children as Mister Rogers. That really caught my attention, since I think it was around that time that I really started reading more about Fred Rogers, the man and the Presbyterian minister. And the more I learned about him, the more impressed I became. After he died, his wife Joanne Rogers released a book entitled The World According to Mister Rogers, and part of the forward she wrote to the book was posted online:
A quote he loved especially-and carried around with him-was from Mary Lou Kownacki: "There isn't anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story." There were many times I wanted to be angry at someone, and Fred would say, "But I wonder what was going on in that person’s day." His capacity for understanding always amazed me.

That really stopped me in my tracks. I know *I* have come across as unkind or uncaring to people at one time or another, simply because I was stressed or preoccupied. I certainly would *like* for people to withhold I keep reminding myself to try to do the same for ask that question Fred Rogers routinely asked himself--what might be going on in that person's day.

And I *do* try. But it's harder when we're not talking about one day, but people for whom meanness seems to be a way of life.

This is from an article that appeared in Christianity Today in March of 2000
In seminary Mister Rogers studied systematic theology with Dr. William S. Orr. "From then on I took everything he offered; it could have been underwater basket weaving.

"He was a great influence on many of our lives. Not just because he was brilliant," he says. "He was the kind of person who would go out on a winter's day for lunch and come back without his overcoat.

"I studied Greek with him and then I studied New Testament with him. Every Sunday, my wife and I used to go to the nursing home to visit him. One Sunday we had just sung "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and I was full of this one verse. I said, 'Dr. Orr, we just sang this hymn and I've got to ask you about part of it.

"You know where it says-The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him. For, lo, his doom is sure. - one little word will fell him? Dr. Orr, what is that one thing that would wipe out evil?"

"He said, 'Evil simply disintegrates in the presence of forgiveness. When you look with accusing eyes at your neighbor, that is what evil would want, because the more the accuser'-which, of course, is the word Satan in Hebrew-'can spread the accusing spirit, the greater evil spreads.' Dr. Orr said, 'On the other hand, if you can look with the eyes of the Advocate on your neighbor, those are the eyes of Jesus.'

"I've never forgotten that."

I know in my heart that this is true, and I want to try to live my life accordingly, but I often seem to come up short. It's not easy. But I know that the other way, the way of punishment, revenge, and feeding our own hate, *really* doesn't work. In fact, it takes bad situations and makes them worse. So, I guess I just have to keep trying...with God's help.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More photos

There are several good pictures of the We Believe launch now posted here.

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The We Believe launch in the news

From the Dayton Daily News:

Interfaith group launches social justice campaign
Plans to raise single voice on social justice issues
More than 300 people gathered Tuesday in Columbus' First AME Zion Church to celebrate the launch of We Believe Ohio, an interfaith group with the goal of making a unified cry for social justice heard in the public square.
"We believe people of faith are meant to build bridges, not construct barriers," said the Rev. Tim Ahrens, senior pastor of the First Congregational Church of Columbus and a leader of the group. "Rather than demonize those with differences, we believe God calls us to unite and heal, because we believe our God is a reconciling God."

The group now includes pastors, priests, rabbis, cantors and lay leaders, according to Ahrens. Goals include advocating for the poor and homeless and getting an 80 percent voter turnout from congregations. The group has set a meeting for April 23 to discuss the May 2 primary election.

Ahrens said We Believe would be open to meeting with Johnson and Parsley.

Parsley said the new group, like his, wants to care for the poor and disadvantaged. "There's common ground when we're holding the word of God that speaks to all these issues," he said.

From the South Mississippi Sun Herald:

New clergy group says it will leave picking candidates to voters
There will be no concern that We Believe Ohio is crossing the line between issue advocacy and endorsements, said the Rev. Allan Debelak of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Columbus, who also signed the IRS complaint.

"One of the great things about this country is we have that line. It maintains the role of government," Debelak said.

We Believe Ohio leaders say they want to unite people on contentious social issues including education, the economy and health care. The group's first goal is to turn out 80 percent of each congregation's registered voters to the polls this year.

The group is concerned that too many people of faith are listening for guidance in this year's election and all they are hearing is the religious right, said Berman, who has been at his temple for 27 years.

"What is going on at the moment involves some people feeling very strongly that voices need to be heard and there are different ways to do that," Berman said.

For the most part, the articles I've been finding have said a lot of the same things, but this snippet from a piece in the San Luis Obsipo Tribune answers a question I have heard a number of people ask:
While no firm plan is in place, the group is looking at ways to move beyond its core of central Ohio, Ahrens said. He took note when the group went shopping for an Internet address and found that "webelieve" wasn't available but "webelieveohio" was.

"We believe that God is good all the time. Maybe that's a message that others can join us," Ahrens said.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The We Believe! launch today

I attended the launch event today, and as my husband and I circled the church in an attempt to find parking, I was pleased to see that a number of media outlets were in attendance. Will have to watch to see what sort of coverage it receives.

When we took our seats, I was horrified to discover that my voice recorder, which had plenty of juice left when I checked last night, now had dead batteries. I scrawled as many notes as I could, and I really do mean scrawled. If I try to write fast, I have some of the worst handrwriting in the world. That's why I *bought* the voice recorder.

So I need to try to decipher what I wrote before I can post anything here. In the meantime, I invite anyone who was in attendance and who would like to share some of their thoughts about today's event to e-mail me at ohiorenee @, and I can post your comments here as a guest entry. (Or, if you have some better pictures of the event that you'd like to share here, that would be great too!)

Also, if you see any good articles about today's event at The First AME Zion Church, please feel free to either e-mail me the link, or post it in the comments below.

Click this link to read We Believe's press release about today's event.

Cantor Jack Chomsky of Congregation Tifreth Israel (seen here at the microphone) led attendants in the song Horeni Hashem before the announcement/press conference portion of the event began, and later outlined the groups six action steps. (The rector of my church is the one directly to the right of the purple banner.)

We Believe
co-convener Rev. Eric Brown, Sr. Pastor of the Woodland Christian Church in Columbus presented the group's mission statement.

“God is calling us to reconcile people of faith. God calls us to unite and heal not to demonize our neighbors.” Rev. Tim Ahrens, First Congregational Church.

Rev. Richard Wing of First Community Church said the closing blessing.

Alternate link for comments

Sunday, March 12, 2006

We Believe! Ohio (update and reminder)

The launch of the group We Believe! Ohio, which I wrote about here, is now only two days away. They now have a web site, which you can link to by clicking the graphic below. If you've ever wondered aloud where were the moderate, sane religious leaders countering the far right, well, here they are. But they're going to need some help if they are to be heard.

On We Believe's About Us page it says:
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.

Here is the where and when of the launch event/press conference:
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
11:00 AM
The First AME Zion Church
873 Bryden Rd. Columbus, OH

More details here, including printable PDFs you can use to share the details with people offline.

Alternate link for comments

Friday, March 10, 2006

Politics and the Pulpit (audio)

Via Upper Arlington Progressive Alliance:
After a liberal church was targeted by the IRS for preaching political views and threatened with its tax-exempt status, it lashed out and argued that some conservative churches could be in the same situation. This led to several conservative churches in Ohio being investigated by the IRS.

Host Barbara Bogaev talks with Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints, a liberal church in California, and Russell Johnson, pastor of the conservative Fairfield Christian Church, about IRS probes at their respective churches; and explores their political and religious differences and common ground.

Listen here.

Alternate link for comments

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Interfaith Prayer Service for Hope and Healing in Iraq

Interfaith Prayer Service:
Prayers of Hope and Healing for Iraq

On the 3rd year anniversary of the attack on Iraq, we will gather together again as communities of diverse faiths to:
- pray for peace in the world and in our country
- value all life as being precious in the eyes of a loving God
- raise concern for U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, as well as armed forces of other nations and civilians who have been killed or injured in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of military conflict in the world
- repent for the Iraqi prisoner and detainee abuses

Saturday, March 18, 2006, 12:00 Noon

St. John's Evangelical Protestant Church
United Church of Christ
59 East Mound Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215

(March to Statewide Pro-Peace Rally at the Statehouse Begins at 1:15 PM From the Church)

Organized by:
Faith Communities Uniting for Peace
& Interfaith Association of Central Ohio