Many Brethren across the country gather, pray, speak about Charlottesville

Taken from Church of the Brethren Newsline August 17, 2017

Many Brethren across the country have been involved in prayer gatherings, prayer walks, vigils, and other gatherings responding to the events in Charlottesville, Va., while others have helped issue a variety of statements. Here is a sampling:

Bethany Theological Seminary president Jeff Carter and his family were among the seminary community who attended a candlelight vigil held in a park in Richmond, Ind., on Sunday evening. Find the newspaper story and photos of the vigil at www.pal-item.com/story/news/local/2017/08/13/vigil-held-richmond-those-killed-injured-charlottesville/563731001.

The Office of Public Witness has shared a Facebook post calling Brethren to seek insight for responses to Charlottesville from Annual Conference statements including the 1991 statement on “Brethren and Black Americans.” The Facebook post said, in part, “In addition to the thoughtful reflections shared by Samuel Sarpiya and others this week, we would like to highlight a segment of the 1991 Report of the Committee on Brethren and Black Americans that calls for specific action by individuals and congregations. We recognize the strides our leadership must make to confront racism in our own work, and we additionally challenge congregations to take these steps to break down racism in local communities. The list from the committee, although 26 years old, is still extremely relevant and provides a starting point for action on confronting racism and systemic injustice.” Find the Annual Conference statement online at www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1991blackamericans.html .

A statement from the Pennsylvania Council of Churches bears the signature of Elizabeth Bidgood Enders, chair, who pastors Ridgeway Community Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa. “As Christians, we profess the belief that all human beings are created in the image of God,” the statement says, in part. “Many of the groups that participated in the rally in Charlottesville–including the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and others–see their fellow human beings of different races and creeds as inferior or less than human, and seek to make the United States a white-only nation. These beliefs, espoused by persons who also claim the mantle of Christianity, are antithetical to scripture and our understanding of a loving God that pronounced all of creation good. They fly in the face of our understanding of Jesus, who welcomed all persons regardless of their place in society. We believe that God calls us to love our neighbor–all neighbors–love our enemies, and treat others as we wish to be treated, with dignity and respect.” Find the full statement at www.pachurches.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Statement-on-Charlottesville-8-17.pdf .

“Thanks to the 15 members of Oak Grove Church of the Brethren who came out to the Unity vigil sponsored by Roanoke [Va.] Mayor Sherman Lea,” said a Facebook post by pastor Tim Harvey, who also is a former moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. “Hundreds of Roanoke citizens were in attendance,” he added. Find a news report of the Roanoke Unity vigil at www.roanoke.com/news/local/roanoke/roanoke-mayor-and-others-urge-unity-at-vigil/article_6064adac-6dbf-5386-8c39-c34156982def.html .

On Earth Peace has responded with a statement posted on its staff blog, “The Faithful Steward.” The statement reads, in part, “On Earth Peace stands with the Church of the Brethren, its pastors, leaders, agencies, and members, in rejection of the racist violence and white supremacist intimidation on display once again in Charlottesville, Virginia (August 12, 2017). The ‘Unite the Right’ marchers chanted words of hatred against Jews, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, and people of color. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to all those who were targeted in these chants, to the injured, and to the families of those who have died. We are outraged and horrified that anyone should have to experience such physical and spoken cruelty against their very being with threat of violence….” The statement went on to address “false equivalency” and other aspects of the national conversation that has ensued following the events in Charlottesville. Find the statement at http://faithful-steward.tumblr.com/post/164257202604/on-earth-peace-stands-with-the-church-of-the .

Steve Crain, pastor of Lafayette (Ind.) Church of the Brethren, was one of the local faith leaders to sign an open letter to the greater Lafayette community to stand against “Unite the Right,” as published in the “Journal & Courier.” The interfaith group wrote, in part: “We affirm the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. However, this violent demonstration was an act of racism, religious extremism, bigotry and blind hatred. It is a result of systematic racism, and for too long, as a nation, we have remained silent when we should have spoken up. We have retreated into our own comfortable lives, when we should have reached out to others. We are not with you, torch-bearers. What you share is not a light in our world….” Find the full letter at www.jconline.com/story/news/opinion/letters/2017/08/15/letter-greater-lafayette-faith-leaders-stand-against-unite-right/568340001 .

York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., hosted an interfaith prayer service planned for this evening. The community was invited.

Among ecumenical partners of the Church of the Brethren, the World Council of Churches (WCC) issued a release in which its general secretary, Olav Fykse Tveit, expressed his condolences to people who are grieving and called for an end to violence. “Terror and violence against peaceful people seeking justice in Charlottesville must be condemned by all,” he said. “We are proud of moral leadership by clergy and lay people standing against this promotion of racism and white supremacy,” Tveit added. “We stand in solidarity with those who continue to use nonviolent means to work against racism and extremism.”

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