Last week I told you all that the word “reconciliation” has been popping up in my field of view recently. Well, I guess I should get used to this because the more I think about it, the more I must acknowledge that the call to reconciliation is what we’re all about as followers of Jesus. This was certainly evident to me as I read all the comments surrounding Starbucks Christmas coffee cups. The Christians who seem to find demons and division everyone they look are still our brothers and sisters. Wow, just saying that is tough. I don’t feel that I have much in common with that perspective and yet I know that they, too, are beloved children of God. How easy it is for me to criticize that viewpoint for its narrow-mindedness and what I see as a misinterpretation of the Scriptures but when I travel that road, I am no different than the very people I am judging. I am facilitating division and not reconciliation.
I’ve been thinking about all the work we do at our Convention with our resolutions. I know that sometimes they might seem rather insignificant to some of us. We all know that the best we can do is “urge,” or “encourage,” or “support” various legislation or actions and yet behind every resolution are the people whose lives we touch with the work we do. Our resolutions are all about reconciliation.
This year the resolutions brought to Convention speak to justice issues of mass incarceration, religious freedom for all people and paid sick time for all employees. Here’s the text –
Resolution 4 – End Mass Incarceration
RESOLVED: That the 181st Convention of the Diocese of Michigan endorse, support, and advocate for the goals and objectives of the Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration, to be effective by the year 2020, as follows:
- A 50% reduction in admissions to prisons and jail through the increased use of diversionary programs that meet the goals of sentencing;
- 75% of the population in each prison facility shall be engaged in productive activities at least 30 hours per week;
- A 50% reduction in the average length of stay of persons admitted to prison through the implementation of sentencing and parole reforms;
- A 50% reduction in the return-to-prison rate for persons released from State prison, through a re-dedication to the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative Model, which includes full community engagement and community funding control, codified in law;
- Public education that promotes a safe, fair, and cost-effective justice system;
- Fiscal policies that reinvest savings resulting from improvements in the justice system into those communities and neighborhoods most affected by crime and imprisonment, particularly low-income and communities of color;
- The expanded use of restorative justice and other alternative and diversionary programs, increased mental-health and substance-abuse services, reform of the indigent defense system, a greater focus on addressing social problems that are at the root of many crimes, reform of sentencing guidelines, elimination of racial profiling, racially-targeted enforcement and other police practices that cause racial and economic disproportionality in prison populations.
And be it further
RESOLVED: That members of the Diocese of Michigan encourage State of Michigan officials and members of the legislature to advance the foregoing goals and objectives; And be it further
RESOLVED: That Covenant 5 will work with Whitaker Institute to provide educational events addressing these issues for the Diocese and interested congregations.
Resolution 5 – Religious Freedom Restoration Act
RESOLVED: That the 181st Convention of the Diocese of Michigan, in opposition to any Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the State of Michigan or its municipalities, encourage our members, friends and allies to express their opposition of this Act to their appropriate legislators. And be it further
RESOLVED: That Covenant 5 provide model communication (i.e. letters, email, etc.) that members of the Diocese of Michigan may use to contact the appropriate legislators in their districts. And be it further
RESOLVED: That Covenant 5 with The Whitaker Institute provide for the Diocese and interested congregations educational events addressing these concerns.
Resolution 6 – “Time to Care”
RESOLVED: That the 181st Convention of the Diocese of Michigan, its members, friends and allies, in support of House Bill 4167 (“Time to Care”) communicate this support through appropriate communication to officials of the State of Michigan and the appropriate legislators. And, be it further
RESOLVED: that Covenant 5 work in collaboration with the Whitaker Institute to provide educational events addressing this concern which will include sample means of communication (i.e. letters, emails, etc.) for contacting the appropriate legislators. And be it further
RESOLVED: That Covenant 5 with the Whitaker Institute provide for the Diocese of Michigan and its interested congregations educational events about this concern.
Over the next few weeks I will be supplying more information on what you and your friends, and your congregations can do to work out these resolutions in your lives. Since our friends at Covenant 5 were instrumental in bringing these to us, let me also suggest that you check out their web page for more information – http://covenant5.org/
Let us pray –
O gracious and loving God, you work everywhere reconciling, loving, and healing your people and your creation. In your Son and through the power of your Holy Spirit, you invite each of us to join you in your work. We, young and old, lay and ordained, ask you to form us more and more in your image and likeness, through our prayer and worship of you and through the study of your scripture, that our eyes will be fully opened to your mission in the world. Then, God, into our communities, our nation, and the world, send us to serve with Christ, taking risks to give life and hope to all people and all of your creation. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
(Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts)
~ Judith Schellhammer, Chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council