Archive for January, 2007

Church Leaders Dream Martin’s Dream

January 15, 2007

Churches Uniting in Christ

“That They May Be One”

 

January 15, 2007 marks the 21st anniversary celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the fifth anniversary of Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC).

 

On January 21, 2002 leaders representing 10 denominations assembled in Memphis, Tenn. at the historic Lorraine Motel, stood and viewed the site where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain on April 4, 1968. They gathered to sign an agreement committing the members and partners in mission of CUIC to express their unity in Christ by living more closely together and working together to combat racism in the church and in society. In their statement the Heads of Communion affirmed that we must hold a common vision for God’s Beloved Community that is a community “committed to eradicating racism and making no peace with oppression.”

 

Growing out of the 40-year history of the Consultation on Church Union, the members of CUIC chose this sacred site of the National Civil Rights Museum to honor the prophetic vision for which Martin Luther King, Jr. lived, worked, and died. They pledged themselves “to be the church of Jesus Christ proclaiming and doing justice, and seeking peace.” The members of CUIC are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation in a world sold on the idolatries of privilege and racial exclusivity that continue to divide and alienate the family of God, denying the truth that we are all created in the image of the one God.

 

Common witness and service are two marks of our unity in Christ. Our partnership in CUIC recognizes that one barrier to the expression of unity in the Christian family is the continuing reality of racism in the church and in the human community. The vision of CUIC is that authentic unity may be born in the struggle for racial justice, and that our collective prophetic witness against injustice and oppression in all forms is a measure of our faithfulness to the Gospel.

 

Religious and secular reports remind us that there is still much to be done to dismantle and eradicate racism. We are hopeful that our efforts will not be in vain. We believe in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet.”


We CUIC leaders urge our congregations to join with other CUIC congregations in your community to discern ways to exercise common witness and common service as together we seek to dismantle racism and, in so doing, to be the voice and presence of God’s love in the world.

Bishop Preston W. Williams The Rev. Michael Livingston

President, Council of Bishops President

African Methodist Episcopal Church International Council of Community Churches

Bishop George W. Walker, Sr.

Senior Bishop The Rev. David Wickmann

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church President, Provincial Elders

Moravian Church Northern Province

The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins

General Minister and President The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

Presbyterian Church USA

Bishop William Graves, Sr.

Senior Bishop The Rev. John Thomas

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church General Minister and President

United Church of Christ

The Rev. Mark Hanson

Presiding Bishop Bishop William B. Oden

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Council of Bishops Ecumenical Officer United Methodist Church

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church, USA

Come and See

January 14, 2007

Early in Jesus’ public ministry a man named Philip — we are told — began to follow him. Philip shared this fact with a friend, Nathanael, who famously said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” A reference to the semi-rural, out of the way place where Jesus lived.

Philip simply repled, “Come and see.” There is no finer evangelistic invitation than that — Come and see. Not “are you saved, brother?” Not “if you died tonight, do you know where you’d spend eternity?” But simply, Come and see.

There is no way people will ever understand the Christian faith, and perhaps especially our take on it as Episcopalians, from the outside. Are we catholics or protestants? Are we liberals or conservatives? Are we the Republican or Democratic party at prayer?

Well, of course, we are all of these and much more. But no one will ever find that out until and unless we invite them to

Come and see.

There is no better time to do that than today.

Water

January 13, 2007

My wife and I live in New York City – in a tiny, one bedroom apartment in midtown. Happily, it is on the 19th floor of an older building which happens to overlook the East River. It’s nice to be able to watch the sun rise over the horizon — as I did this morning — and to go to sleep at night seeing the twinkling lights, across the river in Queens — as I did last evening.

We don’t see as many pleasure boats as we used to, when we lived nearer the Hudson River in Chelsea. Mostly working boats now, wonderful tugs pushing tankers and freighters from God-knows-where around the world. Having grown up near, around, and in the water in Florida, it is a great grace — here in the Big Apple — to be able to see and experience the water every day.

I think of how water unites us: we must have it to survive; it comes “from the heavens and return(s) not again, but water(s) the earth, bringing forth life and giving growth, seed for sowing and bread for eating” (Isaiah 55); it connects us across the planet, river to sea, ocean to ocean; continent to continent.

It is actually “the sacrament of unity” in more ways than one!

The Morality of “the Surge”

January 12, 2007

In 2007 World Day of Peace Message last week, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “War always represents a failure for the international community and a grave loss for humanity.  When, despite every effort, war does break out, at least the essential principles of humanity and the basic values of all civil coexistence must be safeguarded; norms of conduct must be established that limit the damage as far as possible and help to alleviate the sufferings of civilians and of all the victims of conflicts.”

In the face of this, President Bush has ordered the “surge” of more than 20,000 additional US military personnel into Iraq. How can escalating a war which (in the judgment of the Holy Father, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the World and National Council of Churches, and others) failed to meet the criteria for a “just war” in the first place possibly lead to any kind of lasting peace, justice for all, and the unity of the human family?

Let us associate ourselves with the words of Benedict XVI, “…I wish to make an urgent appeal to the people of God: Let every Christian be committed to tireless peacemaking and strenuous defense of the dignity of the human person and his (or her) inalienable rights.”   

That We All May Be One

January 11, 2007

Well, not everyday brings this ecumenical officer such multiple chances to seek unity — but many do.

Lunch today with the new interfaith officer for the American Jewish Committee. Part of my task — to find ways to reassure our Jewish brothers and sisters of our church’s unfailing affection, respect, and solidarity with the Jewish people and our continuing commitment to the safety and security of Israel, while yet remaining free to criticize the government of Israel in defense of our Palestinian (Christian and Muslim) brothers’ and sisters’ human and civil rights. No small task!

 Mid afternoon will find me joing the staff of our national church center in bidding a fond farewell to a retired African American bishop who has performed admirably in overseeing a transition process at our “ethnic desks.” Shepherding the seach processes with real skill, he has helped us call four wonderful staff persons for African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American ministries. This too is about unity — since racism continues to be a church (and nation) dividing issue!   

And tonight I shall attend a reception at our New York seminary for the Anglican bishop of the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. He has been selected to serve on the “Covenant Drafting Committee” for the Anglican Communion. We seek to assure him of the Episcopal Church’s desire and commitment to continue as a full and participating member of the Anglican Communion, even in the face of the potentially divisive issues of human sexuality.

Sometimes the issues of ecumenism and interfaith cooperation seem easier than issues dividing our own church! 

That We All May Be One

January 10, 2007

Sisters and brothers:

Well, I’m going to give this a try! Mainly, to “unload” some thoughts and wonderments about “unity.”

I am a bishop of the Episcopal Church, serving as ecumenical officer of our denomination and based in New York City. So, I am concerned about the unity of the Christian Church (no small task!) but also about unity between people of faith everywhere. And the unity of the human family.

If you share these concerns, stayed tuned. And, I’d love to hear from you!

Christopher

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January 10, 2007

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