I am so glad for the Pentecost reminder that the Holy Spirit came with power that lives might be changed as the Gospel of Jesus is spread by his followers (that’s us!) throughout the world! With the news last week, I really need to hang onto the truth of the Spirit’s presence with us. We heard of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and then, when we were still trying to digest that news, we learned that the Justice Department requested the Supreme Court review the President’s travel ban limiting travelers from six primarily Muslim countries despite the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals conclusion that “the President acted in bad faith with religious animus.” Late Friday evening, the Supreme Court set June 12th as the deadline for challenges to the President’s ban, much sooner than anyone expected.
I’m often surprised by my reaction to some of these events. When I was raising my children, to my shame, I wouldn’t have paid much attention. I was busy with day-to-day family responsibilities. And I didn’t grow up in a particularly political home. In fact, I still don’t see myself as a particularly partisan political person. However, I feel very strongly about what I read in God’s Word. I read a comment by one Congressman who declared that he believes God can and will take care of this planet. Yes, indeed, I believe that God can – God is still very much in control and can intervene at any time – but I also read in Genesis that God has given us the responsibility to be caretakers which is a far different thing than doing what we want out of greed and expecting God to clean up our mess. To me, that’s presumptuous.
Since the announcement by the White House, I have been delighted and relieved to hear that mayors and governors, businesses and universities, and The Episcopal Church will continue in the mission to intentionally care for “this fragile earth, our island home.” Here’s the text of Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry’s statement following the announcement:
“With the announcement by President Donald Trump of his decision to withdraw the commitment made by the United States to the Paris Climate Accord, I am reminded of the words of the old spiritual which speaks of God and God’s creation in these words, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” The whole world belongs to God, as Psalm 24 teaches us. God’s eye is ever on even the tiny sparrow, as Jesus taught and the song says (Luke 12:6). And we human beings have been charged with being trustees, caretakers, stewards of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26-31).
The United States has been a global leader in caring for God’s creation through efforts over the years on climate change. President Trump’s announcement changes the U.S.’s leadership role in the international sphere. Despite this announcement, many U.S. businesses, states, cities, regions, nongovernmental organizations and faith bodies like the Episcopal Church can continue to take bold action to address the climate crisis. The phrase, “We’re still in,” became a statement of commitment for many of us who regardless of this decision by our President are still committed to the principles of the Paris Agreement.
Faith bodies like the Episcopal Church occupy a unique space in the worldwide climate movement. In the context of the United Nations, the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, we are an international body representing 17 countries in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia and the Pacific. We also are an admitted observer organization to the UNFCCC process, empowered to bring accredited observers to the UN climate change meetings. Furthermore, the Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the third-largest Christian tradition, and we remain committed to ensuring that Anglicans everywhere are empowered to undertake bold action on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
We know that caring for God’s creation by engaging climate change is not only good for the environment, but also good for the health and welfare of our people. The U.S. is currently creating more clean jobs faster than job creation in nearly every other sector of the economy, and unprecedented acceleration in the clean energy sector is also evident in many other major economies.
My prayer is that we in the Episcopal Church will, in this and all things, follow the way, the teachings and the Spirit of Jesus by cultivating a loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, all others in the human family, and with all of God’s good creation.
In spite of hardships and setbacks, the work goes on. This is God’s world. And we are all his children. And, ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands.'”
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
If you’ve read this far, I imagine that we share similar opinions. If you are still not convinced about the need for our Church to respond to the decision by President Trump, let me share some of the message that the former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, said in response. First a little background: The Maldives are a collection of some 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean which happen to be the lowest lying land on Earth. Mr Nasheed said that this action on behalf of the United States is a “death sentence” for his country: “The Maldives is just 1.5 metres above sea level. It’s a very fragile country and small changes to climate has a big impact on the Maldives….Coastal erosion is a big issue, coral bleaching is a big issue, water contamination is a big issue, dwindling fish catch is a big issue. It has a number of impacts on our livelihoods” (SkyNEWS, 6-3-17).
The changes in ocean levels, in carbon dioxide levels, and increasing pollutants, among other climate issues, are not just hurting our planet; they are hurting our brothers and sisters around the globe. Caring for every human being by showing respect and dignity is one of the promises we made yesterday when we affirmed again our Baptismal Covenant.
Speaking of caring for all people brings me to the other distressing news I mentioned earlier, the President’s ban on travel from 6 predominantly Muslim countries. This week I received an email from Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) asking that we help them celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20th:
Recently, we have become a nation that enables fear and hate to dominate our narrative and to drive policies that foment xenophobia and create walls between neighbors. These walls may seem comforting at first, but they limit our vision and prevent us from seeing the human face of suffering, from knowing the kindness of our neighbors, and from feeling the joy you get from making a true connection with someone new. These walls are preventing us from living the call that all faiths share: the call to welcome the stranger. This call is the essence of growth and development for humanity.
A great commonality across religions and global cultures is the tradition of breaking bread together. The sharing of food between people is an effective and enduring way to foster interpersonal, inter-religious, inter-ethnic, and international connections.
One of the many pleasures of our work is counteracting the effects of these walls by providing communities with the opportunity to make connections across religious, ethnic and national lines. These connections build communities rooted in understanding and compassion.
This year in celebration of World Refugee Day, June 20th, we are hosting an Interfaith Panel Discussion & Prayer for refugees followed by an Iftar (literally translated to breakfast) meal. This year World Refugee Day falls within the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, providing the perfect opportunity to reach out and connect with our interfaith partners, celebrate our common cause and honor the many faith traditions of the refugees we welcome.
We would like to ask that you join us in celebrating! In this toolkit, you will find the information needed to create a sister event in your community.
1. Stand Together to Support Refugees
Interfaith Conversation & Prayer for Refugees
Our World Refugee Day event will begin with a panel discussion that includes faith leaders representing each of the Abrahamic faiths speaking about their call to serve refugees alongside refugees speaking about practicing their faith in the United States. We have planned about an hour for the panel. Each panelist was asked to prepare a statement between five to eight minutes in length. After statements are finished, as time permits, we will have Q & A.
At sunset, approximately 8:30 in NYC, an imam will perform the Islamic call to prayer and our non-Muslim guests will exit the room and move to the dining area for a blessing of the food, while our Muslim guests complete their prayers.
We will all come together to share a family style meal catered by Eat Off Beat, an NYC based catering company that employs refugee chefs.
Our panel discussion will be recorded and available as a resource on our website after the event.
2. A Shared Calling
The call to “welcome the stranger,” through protection and hospitality, and to honor the stranger or those of other faiths with respect and equality, is deeply rooted in all major religions.
There are tens of millions of refugees and internally displaced people in the world. Our faiths ask us to remember we are all migrants on this earth, journeying together in hope.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35)
“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-3)
“Do good unto your parents, and near of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbor who is a stranger, and the friend by your side, the wayfarer, and your servants.” (Qur’an 4:36)
“Those who give asylum and aid are in very truth the believers: for them is the forgiveness of sins and a provision most generous.” (Qur’an 8:43)
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
“You shall not oppress the stranger, for you know the soul of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 33:1)
3. Interfaith Planning
Our greatest and most important piece of advice is to be sure you include Muslim partners in the planning process. We also encourage you to make use of these very helpful guides.
Shoulder to Shoulder Interfaith Iftar Guide
Refugees Welcome to Dinner
Click here to find more information from EMM –
Even though the news has been challenging, I see this as a great opportunity because it’s up to us. We can’t rely on the “powers that be” to do the work of God’s mission; we must pick up the cause as individuals, congregations, and communities. This is our chance to really make a difference and demonstrate what people of faith can do. Let’s do this together!
Let us pray –
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on
the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within
the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit
that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those
who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for
the honor of your Name. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council