What does the resolution say?By admin - July 30, 2015, 3:23 pm
We all know the slogan – All politics are personal. And we know the rallying cry – The personal is political. Every political decision has a personal dimension, and every personal act ripples through to the political realm.
For me, and for many, the General Synod resolution “A Call for the United Church of Christ to Take Actions toward a Just Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” – which passed with a 76% affirmation – is an example. In my world, this mixes family loyalty, a passion for justice and peace even when that seems to be impossible, and a belief that Israel has not only the right to exist but the right to protect itself. My niece is studying to be a rabbi. As I write this, she is finalizing the rental agreement for her apartment in Jerusalem where she will live for the coming academic year. Actions against Israel feel personal to Jews and their families, just as actions against Palestine feel personal to Palestinians and their families.
So, what does this resolution actually say? The full resolution can be found at http://uccfiles.com/pdf/GS30-A-CALL-FOR-THE-UNITED-CHURCH-OF-CHRIST-TO-TAKE-ACTIONS-TOWARD-A-JUST-PEACE-IN-THE-ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT.pdf . The resolution calls for divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and people, and the boycott of products that are made by companies that operate in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. It invites advocacy work with Congress to ensure Israel’s compliance with US laws related to the $3.1 billion in US aid that is sent annually. And it calls for continued interfaith dialogue, including our Jewish colleagues.
This resolution is intended to be supportive of Palestinian Christians, who continue to find themselves between a rock and a hard place in a land that is filled with both of those. It seeks to employ a non-violent tactic to bring an end to the occupation, in response to the request of Christian partners in the region. The focus is on the government of Israel and its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.
This is not the final word of justice for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like all resolutions, it poses a one-dimensional response to a multi-dimensional problem. It is not something that everyone in our beloved denomination will agree with. It will be a challenge for those of us with personal ties in the Jewish community, partly because we all too quickly assume that criticism of Israeli politics is anti-Semitic.
General Synod has never presumed to speak for the churches of the United Church of Christ, but it is charged with the responsibility of considering a wide variety of justice and witness issues in ways that speak to the churches. We don’t all agree – and we didn’t when General Synod voted for marriage equality or boycotting Taco Bell. But perhaps we are challenged by General Synod to shine some light into the dark corners of these real issues of peace and justice, and consider anew what we think and believe. Certainly we are invited to be about the work of praying for peace and reconciliation in Israel and Palestine and around the world.
The politics of General Synod are personal, and our personal actions on behalf of healing and wholeness in the world are political as well. It will always be so!
—Katherine Mulhern, Program Support/Adjunct
By admin - July 30, 2015, 3:23 pm
2030 Iowa (Young Clergy Support) for Iowa Conference UCC
Stop...Look...WonderBy Jonna Jensen - July 23, 2015, 1:04 pm
I’m writing to you in the early morning silence at the American Martyrs Retreat Center near Cedar Falls before Rich, Brigit, Laura, Katherine, and I begin the last morning of our annual Conference staff retreat.
We’ve had time to worship together and eat together, to laugh a lot and cry a little and to share heart-opening stories. We’ve also been working at an important piece of the ministries offered with you and for you in the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ: to stop, to look, and to wonder.
I invite you into this holy work. I invite you to stop, to look, and to wonder.
As a child with a new camera, I wanted to take pictures from the car window while my dad was driving us down the highway. When the film was developed, my envelope of photos contained quite a few blurry images of what I’d been drawn toward along the road. In those days, with that camera, you had to get out of the car to take a good picture. If I still had a few shots of highway blurs, those photos would be among my prayer things, prompting the spiritual discipline of pulling over at times to get a clearer picture. I invite you, as a bold follower of Jesus and as congregations of bold Jesus followers, to be purposeful about times to pull over for time to look and wonder.
How many times have each of us been in conversations with our dear ones that stretched from the question, “Did you see …?” I imagine we have all been amazed a lot in our lives at what others see that we miss. And what we see that others miss. When two pairs of eyes (hearts, minds) are looking, or four, or twenty, or even the eyes of a whole congregation or a whole Conference, more is seen and less is missed. In our collaborations and conversations these beautiful summer days, we’ve had opportunities to see more and miss less, blessed by others’ visions. I invite you, as congregations of bold Jesus followers, to the holy work of looking together at the life and work of your congregations and even of the covenant connection of congregations that is the Iowa Conference.
We get awfully busy. A pretty wall calendar won’t serve for most of us. We spend an awful lot of time juggling tasks and commitments and obligations, our own needs and wants and the needs and wants of others. We can spend such an awful amount of time tasking that we miss necessary wondering. We can spend such an awful amount of time doing that we miss crucial wondering about what we do and why we do it.
These hours together have been rich for us in wondering about what we do and why we do it and how the body of Christ will move in days we will not see. I invite you, as congregations of bold Jesus followers, to make time on full church calendars for the holy, crucial work of wondering – about your congregations’ holy work, about what you do and why you do it and about how the body of Christ will move in and through your community in days beyond our own.
—Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister
By Jonna Jensen - July 23, 2015, 1:04 pm
Shrill voicesBy Rich Pleva - July 16, 2015, 4:01 pm
We live in a day of shrill voices.
Shrillness isn’t new. What’s new are the vehicles by which a shrill voice can be instantaneously repeated across a nation and the entire world. Cable news and particularly the internet are ideally suited to the amplification of anger and outrage. The limits on uncivil speech provided by personal relationship with an antagonist go out the window when the “person” with whom I disagree is merely known to me as a face on TV or a screenname on my device.
People of faith are not immune to this intemperate behavior, and unfortunately we are about as likely to dish it out as to receive it.
So….here’s a question….a “prior” question: Is temperance even important?
Earlier this week I sat with a group of “progressive” clergy and we talked about these very questions. We wondered about the intersections of certitude and uncertainty. We reflected on the ways each of us have come to our own deeply held values and convictions.
I like to believe that my values and convictions are a consequence of unbiased study of the Bible – “Sacred Writ!” But human formation is a complicated and imperfectly understood thing. Yes….my reading of scripture has surely helped form me, but so have parents and siblings and school teachers and classmates and community mores and the all-pervasive “media.” Then there are the less obvious influences like biology and psychology….my genes and my fears, to name only two.
There does seem to be something deeply seated in most people creating a nearly irresistible longing for certainty….for “Truth.” The strident voices which dominate that which passes for public discourse (on both left and right) presume that getting “it right” will make everything okay. But will it? This conviction itself is based on another a priori….the presumed primacy of ideas and positions.
Thousands of years ago, as humans began to notice themselves and each other as more than just objects, but also as subjects, it became natural to wonder where all this – where “we” – had come from. In the church we are heirs of those who concluded that humankind is created in the image of the uncaused-cause. “YAHWEH” was one name by which it/she/he became known.
Please note carefully this particular aspect of those ancient creation stories – they are fundamentally about relationship. They are about relationship within the Godhead itself (“let US create…”), about relationship between the Godhead and the creation, and relationship (both successful and failed) between and among human communities and individuals. Only later – much later – are we taught that God delivered rules – positions! – to and for the human community.
I’m convinced that people are more important than positions. I’m convinced that relationships trump opinions – even deeply held convictions. I’m convinced that any system or leader that explicitly or implicitly depreciates any human being is unworthy of our allegiance.
You may disagree with me and if you do I will work my hardest to listen carefully and respectfully, because you, my friend, are more important that what I’ve just written.
People trump position. But I need your help to make this real – partly because I’m as tempted to be as shrill as is anyone else! Let’s work to make our church a locus of passionate and substantive relationship – for the sake of Christ!
With Great Hope!
By Rich Pleva - July 16, 2015, 4:01 pm
UCC in Iowa
DIVERSITY - Challenges and OpportunitiesBy Rich Pleva - June 30, 2015, 10:05 am
UCC folk have a nearly infinite range of opinions and convictions about everything. Included on the list would be General Synod itself – our every-other-year denomination-wide gathering which convened on Friday, June 26 (in the past as you read, but in the future as I write). Might GS have something to teach about the foundations of community? To put it bluntly – what constitutes an adequate foundation for community that actually means something?
While it is certainly true that some kinds of communities find their organizing principle around rules (constitutions, statutes, behavioral expectations and so on), the United Church of Christ seeks to find its unity NOT in a set of rules, or social mores or even creeds. Our center is found in Jesus Christ. Our foundation is found in relationship rather than in rules – relationship with God and with each other. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, but certainly it is this to which we aspire.
At Synod we argued and fussed nearly endlessly – about Israel and Palestine, about mass incarceration, about our denominational rules and much more. We didn’t presume to find our unity on the floor of a plenary business session, however – we found our unity when we set aside our differences and gathered at one font and one table to be awed by the love of God for all humankind and commit ourselves to the service of that God (and God’s creation) through his son, Jesus the Christ.
I don’t always much care for General Synod, but I DO value the opportunity to gather with fellow disciples with whom I agree and disagree and experience (again!) that we can disagree and still love God and each other.
This is a lesson the whole of the human family has yet to learn. But this small experience of unity in diversity gives me hope that by God’s grace this small experience of unity and diversity can and WILL be expanded….and expanded….and expanded….until all God’s children are one.
Hmmmm….I’ve heard this before. “That they may all be one.” Yes indeed, it is this to which we aspire.
Thank you for sending me to General Synod and allowing me to get a tiny taste of the someday realm of God.
Come Lord Jesus. Come!
By Rich Pleva - June 30, 2015, 10:05 am
UCC in Iowa
Travel With Us in Prayer to Unexpected PlacesBy Jonna Jensen - June 25, 2015, 9:00 am
As I write these words to you, staff, delegates, and visitors from the Iowa Conference are packing their bags or already on their way to the 30th General Synod of the United Church of Christ, meeting in Cleveland June 26-30. The theme of our 30th General Synod is “Unexpected Places”, rising from the story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel found in the 28th chapter of Genesis and especially the 16th verse: “Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place-and I did not know it!’”
In your daily time with Scripture these days, I invite you to prayerfully read and re-read and linger in Genesis 28:10-22. Imagine the places in your life and the life of your congregation where the LORD has been without your knowing. Remember those wondrous moments in your life and in the life of your congregation when you’ve felt as if you were waking from a dream as you recognized the presence and leading of God. Yearn prayerfully to be led to yet more unexpected places and be surprised there by our God who still speaks.
If you’re neither packing nor on your way to Cleveland, may I ask you to travel with us in prayer? In your daily prayers and in your congregation’s prayers on Sunday morning, please raise the 30th General Synod of the United Church of Christ:
- For the well-being of all participants as they travel and through five intense days and nights of discernment, deliberation, learning, connecting, worship and witness.
- For our General Synod preachers and presenters, that they blessed with clear hearts and strong voices to serve as deep vessels of the Holy Spirit.
- For John Dorhauer, our candidate for General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, that he may be blessed with all needed gifts to lead the United Church of Christ toward the voice of God calling from places we have yet to imagine.
- For the witness of our 30th General Synod, that within the words of many faithful followers of Jesus, some echo of holy Word might be heard.
- For the reach of our 30th General Synod, that the labor of bold followers of Jesus might stretch the world round with gifts of divine healing, justice, and peace.
Grateful to God, who shows up and surprises in places beyond our imagining,
Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister
By Jonna Jensen - June 25, 2015, 9:00 am