Dear Friends –
It’s a week after Election Day and I confess I do not feel much better than I did last Wednesday morning. In fact, in some ways, I feel worse. My initial concerns were for all the groups of people that our president-elect had denigrated during the campaign: Muslims, Mexicans, women, LGBTQ, immigrants, etc. I am still fearful for their safety especially after learning of the vandalism and attacks that have occurred since the election. Listening to the news and reading various articles and opinion pieces, I am now also concerned for those that elected this man believing that he would be able to make big changes quickly in employment opportunities, bringing back both the steel and coal industries, start building “the wall” on our border, and repealing Obamacare completely as soon as he takes office. Experts in industry, economics, and government are now describing how some of these campaign promises are not likely or even possible.
The take away for me: it’s time we act. We cannot sit silently and try to wait our four years watching from the sidelines. As member of the Jesus Movement, we must protect all those who are facing ever-increasing oppression and prejudice. The work we do together as a Household is one place we can to begin to stand in opposition to the forces we see around us. Now, you might chuckle a bit when I say this but I see a connection here with some of the resolutions we passed at our convention (Yes, I guess, I’ve been doing this long enough that I see connections with resolutions everywhere!). At our recent Diocesan Convention, we approved a resolution presented by Covenant 5 urging each congregation to select a social justice resolution from those passed at General Convention in 2015. By working out the details of these resolutions in our congregations, we are acting to protect the vulnerable and marginalized locally.
In the upcoming weeks, I will be presenting each of the resolutions from General Convention that were suggested in the recent resolution from our convention with some information and background to help in your decision-making process. Think of the amazing work we can accomplish as a diocese if we all do our share!
Resolution: Enactment of General Convention 2015 Resolutions
Originator: The Rev. Ellis Clifton on behalf of Covenant 5
Resolved, That the 182nd Convention of the Diocese of Michigan encourages every congregation to advance one or more of the following resolutions adopted by General Convention 2015:
A011 Recommit to Criminal Justice Reform Study and Advocacy
A029 Protect Human Trafficking Victims on Indian Reservations in Montana and North Dakota
A049 Make Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women a Focus of Foreign and Church Aid
A051 Support LGBT African Advocacy
A091 Affirm Work for Food Ministries and Food Security
A092 Affirm Support for Government Entitlements
A093 Evaluate Defense Spending
A094 Support Income Tax Parity
A096 Affirm Relationship-Based Social Justice
A170 Develop and Continue Food System Advocacy
A182 Using Education, Community Dialogue and Internal Audit to Respond to All Forms of Racial Injustice
A183 Recommended Book Study of the Triennium: “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander (2010/2012)
B005 Quality Public Education for All
B008 Support Handgun Purchaser Licensing
B013 Peacemaking Through Political Action
B018 Support for Sudan and South Sudan
C005 Decreasing Gun Violence
C013 Facilitate Dialogue on Climate Change and Divestment Strategy
C014 Commend Charter for Compassion
C018 Pursue Justice, Peace and Security in the Holy Land
C020 Ministry to People with Mental Illness and Their Families
C045 Environmentally Responsible Investing
C048 Increase the Minimum Wage
D015 Encouraging Advocacy for Hunger Relief
D028 Oppose Conversion Therapy
D030 Establish Parental Leave Policy
D032 Disability Advocacy in Criminal Justice Work of The Episcopal Church
D034 Affirmation and Support of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990
D041 Advocacy and Prayer for Syria
D057 Re-Commitment to the Spirit of Sanctuary
D068 Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline
D069 Birthright Citizenship
D073 Supporting Home and Community Based Services
D074 Temporary Protective Status for Immigrants at Risk
D077 Uniting Families
D079 Education for Undocumented Families
the texts of which may be found at https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/15664; and be it further
Resolved, That each congregation communicate to Covenant 5 through the Covenant 5 website (www.covenant5.org) or email address (Cov5@comcast.net) on or before May 1, 2017, of its choice(s) of (a) General Convention resolution(s) that it will pursue or, if a congregation determines not to choose a resolution, it communicate to Covenant 5 that decision on or before said date; and be it further
Resolved, That congregations which engage in this endeavor are invited to report their work by June 30, 2017, to Covenant 5 (Cov5@comcast.net); and be it further
Resolved, That Covenant 5 will compile for diocesan distribution the parish action reports that it receives and that congregations which advance one or more General Convention 2015 resolutions will receive diocesan-wide recognition.
Here’s the first one from General Convention –
A011 Recommit to Criminal Justice Reform Study and Advocacy
Topic: Criminal Justice
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 78th General Convention acknowledges that implicit racial bias and racial profiling result in a criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates people of color damaging individuals, families, and communities; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention challenges The Episcopal Church at every level to commit mindfully and intentionally to dismantling our current mass incarceration system; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention urges the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church and the Office of Governmental Relations of The Episcopal Church to advocate publicly for changes in Federal policies that perpetuate the mass incarceration system; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention encourage each congregation and Diocese to undertake at least one specific initiative aimed at addressing the destructive consequences of the mass incarceration system.
These initiatives include such possibilities as:
- Advocating for alternatives to incarceration for those who are addicted, and increased funding for treatment programs;
- Advocating for alternatives to incarceration for those who are mentally ill, and increased funding for treatment programs;
- Advocating for protection of the civil rights and provision of appropriate support and accommodation for people with disabilities who are arrested and incarcerated;
- Advocating for funding for job training and apprentice programs for those who are at risk of incarceration and those who are formerly released from prison;
- Working with local businesses to create pathways to living wage jobs for formerly incarcerated people;
- Establishing mentoring and accompaniment programs for those leaving prison;
- Advocating for the repeal of mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses;
- Calling for the abolition of the sentencing disparity between crack-cocaine and powder-cocaine offenses and, as an intermediate step, urging the U.S. Congress, in accordance with the recommendation of the U.S.
- Sentencing Commission, to make retroactive the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which reduces the disparity in sentencing from previous levels;
- Advocating to eliminate “three strikes” sentencing protocols;
- Joining local “Ban the Box” campaigns to remove questions about arrest records in on-line and written job application forms;
- Opposing the creation of “for profit” prisons and immigration detention centers, and, where they exist, organizing against guaranteed nightly numbers of prisoners and detainees, and advocate for access to education and rehabilitation programs for those being incarcerated or detained;
- Reforming monetary bail bond systems, which rely upon often-unlicensed and unregulated bail bond agents and on conditioning release from pre-trial incarceration solely on the ability to pay;
- Advocating for immediate return of the right to vote for those who have served their sentences and left prison; and
- Calling for the exploration and creation of restorative justice programs to transform juvenile justice systems; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention request that each Diocese report back to the 79th General Convention on the initiatives engaged at congregational and Diocesan levels.
The fourth resolve of this resolution is where we can be the most helpful. How well does your congregation understand the problem of mass incarceration? The first action I might suggest would be to do some educating to bring everyone up to speed. At last year’s Ministry Fair, Resolution Review presented a workshop that was designed to be like a book club discussion of Michelle Alexander’s best seller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In an Age of Colorblindness. Selecting the book as a congregational book study would be a great beginning (and it would actually fulfill one of the other suggested resolutions, too!). A study guide is also available if you are uncertain about good questions for a discussion.
If you are in a congregation like mine, some of these topics seem pretty far from our personal day-to-day experience but that’s not so for everyone in our diocese. Do some networking to find others who might come and speak during coffee hour. Do you know anyone doing prison ministry? If you ask around, I’m quite sure there are some “experts” in our Household who would love to help. Some of the good people at Church of the Incarnation in Ann Arbor have knowledge and experience with this issue. One of their members, Mary King, is Director of the Michigan Council for Crime and Delinquency (MCCD). To become better informed, you might subscribe to their monthly newsletter which you can do on their website: http://miccd.org. The Rev. Joe Summers suggested also checking out the Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration (MI-CEMI) – http://miccd.org/mi-cemi/ – a new initiative of MCCD. Their website features resources for both juvenile justice and adult criminal justice issues that might help you and your congregation decide exactly how and where to get involved. I also found a very helpful resource from the Christian Community Development Association for hosting a “solidarity event.” While it was designed for 2015, many of the ideas are certainly transferrable and still relevant for today – http://www.ccda.org/storage/documents/2015_Events/Locked_in_Solidarity/locked%20in%20solidarity%20toolkit%202015.pdf
We have our work cut out for us but we can do this together!
Let us pray –
O God, as Christ lives in us, we are welcomed into your reign of mercy and forgiveness. Grant hope and strength to those who are in prison, those who have been released from prison, and the families that miss them and welcome them. We pray also for our elected officials, that they might seek a more just and humane approach to imprisonment and rehabilitation. And grant us courage and compassion as we seek to end the injustice that keep people from living full and productive lives. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
(from Bread for the World – http://www.rocwisconsin.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/The-Bible-and-Mass-Incarceration.pdf)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee