Righteous relationships

Tori Bateman, Monica McFadden, and Nathan Hosler of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy.

By Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

“I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).

In 2007, the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference delegate body adopted the “Separate No More” statement, which calls us to become the multicultural, multiracial, multinational, and multilingual church envisioned in Revelation 7:9. The vision in scripture and the one to which we committed is greater than a photogenic diverse hymn sing. It is a vision that recognizes how, as we draw closer to God, we also draw closer to one another. We become more compassionate in relationships as we see one another the way God sees us. In an effort to better express this, we changed the names of two core ministry areas.

Discipleship Ministries (formerly Congregational Life Ministries) reminds us that our faith journey is not defined by our congregational affiliation, but by our spiritual journey—both individually and collectively. This also means that having a right relationship with God is shaped and shared through building right relationships with one another. The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy (formerly Public Witness) as a ministry in Washington, D.C., connects our faith with our national identity. To stand together, bridging the divides of the world, we are peacebuilders in the spirit of Christ.

The “Separate No More” statement gave us the following challenge:  “Congregations become informed about the conditions of life for ethnic and racial minorities within their neighborhoods and their congregations, so that when inequities are uncovered, they can make strong commitments of time and financial resources to local organizations working on these issues.”

In the New Testament, one Greek word used to describe the body of Christ is “dikaios,” which is translated righteousness but also justice. Since both can be used in English, we can call this work either racial justice or racial righteousness; however, scripture does not separate the two. By faith, we are called to be discipled within our church and, as a result, to work for change in systems, structures, and habits of racism in society. Not assuming that we already possess righteousness, we seek to have right relationships and to address problems in the world. The work to heal the wounds of racism is both internal and external and has the goals of justice and righteousness. To do this work means being shaped and formed by the process of discipleship.

Many congregations have been doing this work in their communities. Several members of the Mission and Ministry Board and staff have taken the Sankofa Journey. Young people attend Christian Citizenship Seminar in Washington, D.C., and New York to connect their faith with contemporary social justice work. Discipleship Ministries hosts a pre-Annual Conference training with the goal of exploring how our faith can shape our understanding of racialized hierarchies. Intercultural Ministries provide support to individuals and congregations engaged in ministry.

To increase our awareness of how government policy creates racialized experiences and discrepancies, we are testing a new Brethren Volunteer Service position in the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy through a partnership with Intercultural Ministries and the Global Food Initiative. Monica McFadden, who served in our office last summer as a Ministry Summer Service intern, recently accepted the call to serve in this role.

Thank you for partnering in this work through your support of the Church of the Brethren. By working in your community and supporting these denominational ministries prayerfully and financially, this work can be expanded in the years ahead so that the church can better live into God’s vision of diversity. Through being faithful disciples—growing in righteousness and justice—all of us are engaging in the vital work of healing in our churches and communities.

Learn more about the work of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy at www.brethren.org/peacebuilding or support it today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Pray for Nigeria and the EYN Church

States affected include Borno, Adamawa, Kaduna, Plateau, Yobe

(A report from the EYN Disaster Ministry)

In the last two weeks Boko Haram has intensified their activities in  BORNO State. On Saturday, 28 farmers were killed at KALLE village near Molai along Damboa Road, Maiduguri. That night, two villages in Konduga were burnt down and many were killed. On Thursday, October 18th, Hauwa, the midwife working with RED cross that was kidnapped in RANN, was murdered. In addition a lot of killings are taking place around Dagu and Midlu. At the moment, KADUNA State is under 24 hour curfew because of Religious crisis between Christian and Muslim youth. At Kasuwan Magani, more than 58 people were killed and many houses were burnt down. The country really needs prayer as confusion and political interest are hitting hard. We can say that boko haram and the religious crisis is far from coming to an end. The Government and the Military are not giving the world the true picture of our country.

Conference center at EYN Headquarters

Finally, many people in the EYN area are living in a fear of the  unknown. We will continue to trust in the Lord and his saving grace.
Thank you for your prayers for Nigeria and its people.

Young Widows Recovery Seminar

Suzan Mark

Earlier this year, EYN women’s ministry, under the leadership of Suzan Mark, held a seminar for young widows. There are over 4000 young widows in Northeast Nigeria as a direct result of the men killed by the Boko Haram Insurgency. This special seminar was held for 100 young widows that have little children and have no source of income. They were selected from 19 most affected DCCs as follows. Wagga, Madagali, Midlu, Gulak Ribawa, Bikama, Hong, Gombi, Gulantabal, Garkida, Kwajaffa, Lassa, Mussa, Askira, Mbalala, Balgi,Kautikari, Chibok and Dille.

Here are some of the things accomplished by the seminar along with concerns and recommendations for the future. Please pray for these widows and their children.

Achievement

  1. 99 came and received training in income generation skills.
  2. All were give N40,000 ($115) in seed grant money to start businesses.
  3. They were also taught simple health tips and child protection messages.
  4. They all received lessons on HIV (some were tested). This was done in collaboration with EYN HIV Program.

Widow’s Seminar

Challenges Experienced

  1. All the young widows at all the workshops lost their husbands as a result of the insurgency.
  2. Most women that were captured by Boko Haram have been refused by their husbands along with the children they had during captivity.
  3. Some women treat such children with hatred, for they see the children as the cause of the disgrace.
  4. Both the women and the children have not gained full acceptance in their communities.
  5. Many girls had babies as the result of rape and sexual exploitation during the insurgency.
  6. Number of widows, orphans and other vulnerable children is increasing daily.
  7. All the widows are in need of “Self-care.”

 Recommendations

  1. There is need to create awareness on the treatments of the escaped women and their children in order to gain acceptance in their communities.
  2. The case of rape should be taken serious because it is a crime.
  3. There is need for counseling for the above mentioned women including girls and children victims.
  4. They need to be empowered economically and socially.
  5. There is a need for advocacy for gender justice. Women celebrate release of their husbands while men refused the coming back of their wives.

Exporting Violence: How preoccupation with U.S. economic interests is undermining peace around the world

As members of the Church of the Brethren, it is easy to forget that there are worldviews other than “peacefully, simply, together.” In our communities of faith, we are much more likely to have discussions about how we can make peace or build relationships with global competitors than we are to have discussions about how to gain coercive economic power over our international peers. As it says in the statement Justice and Nonviolence, “persons who aim to maximize their wealth and power rather than serve human needs deny the sacredness of life.” This lens is not universal, however- something that is made abundantly clear when looking at the United States’ approach to national security in recent years.

The National Security Strategy released earlier this year by the Trump administration lists “Promote American Prosperity” among it’s three main pillars, arguing that “a strong economy protects the American people, supports our way of life, and sustains American power… A growing and innovative economy allows the United States to maintain the world’s most powerful military and protect our homeland.” This view is driven home by presidential advisor Peter Navarro in a New York Times op-ed, where he highlights the administration’s belief that “economic security is national security.”

This focus on American prosperity in relation to national security has begun to impact the global community, as U.S. arms sale policies are adjusted for the express purpose of benefiting the U.S. economically. This economic focus comes at a cost- a decrease in focus on the impacts of U.S. weapons sales on peace efforts, humanitarian situations and human rights.

  • The gun manufacturing industry has pushed for rule changes that would loosen oversight of foreign military sales. The proposed change would move the foreign sale of certain semi-automatic weapons under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce rather than the State Department. This move would make it easier to sell these weapons abroad, and more difficult for human rights actors to track where guns are going and how they are used.

It is ethically problematic to suggest that the economic interests of the American people outweigh the human rights of people impacted by U.S. arms sales. In its statement entitled Call to Peacemaking, the Church called for policies that “convert our national priorities to peaceful and life affirming production.” In its Justice and Nonviolence statement, the church called for the United States to “cease immediately its sales of arms to other countries.”

So what can we do to push back on this economic focus?

We can support legislation that will counteract the proposed rule changes- especially bills like H.R. 4765, which would counteract the shift of semiautomatic weapons to the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce. Let your Representative know that the bill has been introduced, and ask them to add themselves as a co-sponsor.

We can learn from and support coalitions and organizations working to make the arms trade more transparent, and those working to put pressure on defense contractors. Check out  organizations like the Forum on the Arms Trade, the Stimson Center, the Divest from the War Machine campaign, and the Security Assistance Monitor to learn more about this issue.

We can recognize the legitimate concerns that those employed in defense-related industries have for their livelihoods. We must restructure the economy in a way that allows for a just transition for these people into jobs that contribute to the well-being of humanity rather than to war.

Most importantly, we must continue view the world through the lens of the Brethren values that have been reiterated time and time again through our discussions and statements at Annual Conferences. This includes self-sacrificing perspectives on the relationship between economic gain, national security and global power, a commitment to non-violent solutions to conflict, and the desire for all of humanity to live with peace and justice.

Decoding your community

Christina Singh (center) talks with Laura Leighton-Harris (left) and Kevin Kessler (right) at the New and Renew Church Planting Conference.
Photo by Doug Veal

By Christina Singh, pastor of Freeport (Ill.) Church of the Brethren and member of the Mission and Ministry Board

When I first heard about the Church Planting Conference of our denomination, it did not sound like something that would interest me. But two words in its tagline caught my attention: Revitalize and Grow! Fixated on these words, I decided to attend.

For two years, I have gone into the community around our church to spread God’s word but have found little success. There is so much potential and so many unchurched people around us, so I have felt the burden to approach them and introduce them to Christ. Going to the New and Renew Church Planting Conference, I was determined to get the most out of the experience and to learn information relevant to my community, to the church in a small town where God has placed me.

The workshop that helped me most was “Decoding your Community” by Ryan Braught, who planted the Veritas Community Church in 2009 in Lancaster, Pa. This two-part workshop moved me into action and gave me insight and tools as to how we, as a church, can successfully do God’s work in our community.

The first session of this workshop taught us how to understand the culture of where God has placed or called us. We learned that a culture is defined by language, artifacts, narratives, rituals, institutions, and ethics. Ryan then shared practices that help decode a community. One of them was “walk, observe, and pray with your eyes.” To demonstrate this practice, he read from Acts 17:16-34, which can be summarized by verses 22 and 23:

“Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: ‘People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you’” (NIV, emphasis added).

Inspired by scripture and putting our learning from the first session to good use, in the second session we actually went out and practiced how to decode the community and bring people to Christ. When we walk around our communities, we need to ask, “what objects of worship are found in this community? Or what does the community ‘worship’?” It could be anything! We just have to be willing to talk with people and invite them to worship Jesus Christ rather than worship an “unknown god.”

After the New and Renew Conference, I shared what I learned with members of our church board and commission team. Now we have a great vision and plan for our church to serve the community, revitalize, and grow. Together we will work to carry out the great commission.

Find video recordings and find photos from the 2018 New and Renew Church Planting Conference at www.brethren.org/churchplanting.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Happy #IndigenousPeoplesDay!

“Creation Story,” 2000. Harry Fonesca, 1946-2006. Nisenan Maidu/Native Hawaiian/Portuguese.
National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian

Happy #IndigenousPeoplesDay! Today and every day we recognize the many vibrant and resilient Native American tribes and communities around the United States.

Join the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy and Intercultural Ministries during the month of November, Native American Heritage Month, for the Native American Challenge—30 days of daily resources and weekly conference calls to foster learning, conversation, and awareness. Go to http://www.brethren.org/intercultural/continuing-together.html for more information.

“The scriptures also call us to work alongside indigenous people to seek justice and peace on their behalf, as they are among those on our planet whose lives and cultures are most in jeopardy. The church has an obligation to join with them to protect their human and political rights, their cultural expressions, their claims to land, and their religious freedom, at any point that such efforts are in keeping with the purposes of God for human life.” —Community: A Tribe of Many Feathers, 1994 Annual Conference Statement