Monday, March 27, 2017

The Work of Friends World Committee for Consultation


When we come back from FWCC gatherings, we are often asked, “What did you do there?” During a worship session, Friends had a chance to respond briefly to this question. Here’s a sampling of responses from the FWCC gathering that took place at Stony Point, NY, in March 2017:

  • Esta reunion me ayudo en analizar cómo se encuentra mi salud espiritual, cómo esta mi relación con Dios. [This meeting helped me to analyze how my spiritual health is, and how my relationship with God is.]
  • El comité me mostró que la guía del Espíritu Santo puede eschucharse en silencio y entirse en el Corazón. [This committee showed me that the guidance of the Holy Spirit can be heard in silence and enter into the heart.]
  • Tuve la oportunidad de participar por segunda vez en una actividad del mundo entero y en ambas recibió la alegria. De conocer nuevos hermonaos quienes forman parte de otras Juntas Anuales en todo el mundo, eso fortecio mi ministerio eso impulso mi compromiso y me hizo saber que peudo ser tan útil n mi Junta Anual y en otros lugares . [I had the opportunity to participate for a second time in an activity of the entire world and both times I felt happiness. To know new brothers and sisters who form part of other yearly meeting, fortifies my ministry, moves forward my commitment, and makes me realize how I can be useful in my Yearly Meeting and other places.]
  • FWCC made me do the work of engaging with my Yearly Meeting, which has transformed my life, giving me important work of peacemaking among Friends.
  • My journey with FWCC was the finding of my Quaker “home”…. Experiencing the diversity of Friends and [hearing] personal stories/testimonies, sharing the excitement of World Quaker Day, the smiles of friendship, giving and receiving…..
  • For me it’s not about the work, it’s about love—that’s where the transformation happens.
  • Working with Blythe on the budget subcommittee, I made a new friend and I learned more about how to modulate my intensity so as to be more welcoming and less putting others on the defensive.
  • The messages during worship on both days [offered] the vision of peace….as well as how to break away from systems of oppression….
  • Meeting and communicating with people from diverse cultures and languages….[to to] see about a two-way exchange with Cuba, ask about future pilgrimage plans, connect with others about international peace/justice/FWCC activities….
  • Home groups are always powerful….
  • Spending time with Friends across the branches has helped me feel more complete. Quakerism is a spectrum and no one branches has all the answers or connections with God….We need to come together to find and experience them.
  • FWCC has given me a place to be myself within the wider family of Friends, a perspective on Quakerism beyond the limits of my own meeting and tradition.
  • What I am called to do: raise awareness of the riches to which I am exposed so that others may come to know them, make connections, use my translation and interpretation abilities in the service of communicating things that can deepen our communities.
  • I led a workshop in which Friends taught each other and I had the joy of seeing their transformation. I also formed relationships that have transformed my life for the better.
  • I did work on eco-justice/climate change, caring for the earth and its inhabitants. The Kabarak call is a powerful statement of this work, which I have used on several occasions as an example of a Quaker statement on climate change.
  • The FWCC section meetings have become my new “home church,” and I want to spread the word among Friends I see regularly and those I have yet to meet. It’s been very spiritually nourishing and has inspired me to try to inspire my home meeting and neighboring meetings to come join the work and fellowship of FWCC.
  • Sharing ideas and music, encouragement in developing areas of particular ministry, meeting Friends across Quaker boundaries.
  • Godly play, morning circle in meditation room, Thursday worship in Spanish, eating and worshipping together.
  • Holding the presence of Spirit in a group—eldering.
  • In Pisac I became an elder for a group of young adults. After a long afternoon of spiritual accompaniment, I looked around for an elder so I could debrief. Then I realized the elder was me. 
To learn more about FWCC, check out: Friends World Committee for Consultation




















Report on Sustainability Group Meeting at FWCC, Section of the Americas, in March 2017

Anthony with Chuck and Geeta
One of the highlights of the 2017 FWCC, Section of the Americas, gathering at Stony Point, NY, was working with Chuck Kleymeyer, Geeta Jyothi McGathey and other Friends to craft an "addendum" to the Living Sustainably minute approved in Pisac, Peru. FWCC is an organization that brings together Quakers from diverse theological and geographical backgrounds, from "Alaska to the Andes," according to our executive secretary Robin Mohr. While FWCC cannot make decisions on behalf of its constituent yearly meetings, it can and does reflect how Spirit is at work among Friends world-wide. In March, 2007, 127 Friends, including 18 from Latin America, at Stony Point, NY, to worship, listen to speakers, and consult together. There were numerous interest groups, including two dealing with Sustainability.
From its statements in Kenya and Piac, it has become  clear that climate disruption and living sustainably have become priority concerns for Friends around the globe--in many ways, a testimony as important as our traditional Peace Testimony. 
I posted the following report about what led up to the Pisac minute:

During the 2012 Friends World Conference in Kabarak, Kenya, FWCC produced a powerful statement calling for "peace and eco-justice." This statement emerged from a deeply felt sense that Spirit is calling us to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. "We must change, we must become careful stewards of all life," insists this statement. It evokes biblical language as well as Quaker tradition to remind us "we are called to be patterns and examples of peace and eco-justice, as difficult and decisive as the 18th and 19th century drive to abolish slavery." Powerful as this call is, it lacks specific advice on how Friends can become the change we so urgently need.

Since the 2012 consultation, there has been a growing sense that FWCC needs to offer concrete recommendations on what Friends can do to make a difference. During our 2016 gathering in the Sacred Valley of Peru, the spiritual heart of the Inca civilization, we became aware that local rivers are polluted, insecticides and pesticides are poisoning the farmland, and indigenous people are protesting the mining that is desecrating their sacred mountains. I was told that some of the spiritual leaders of the local indigenous community have placed their hands to the ground and feel the sadness of mother Earth.

Feeling this deep pain in the midst of a breathtakingly beautiful Andean landscape, we wrote: "Our hearts are crying out for our beloved mother Earth, who is sick and in need of our care." As a starting point, we came up with 27 specific actions that individuals, monthly meetings and yearly meetings can take to foster sustainability. They range from "grow your own food and plant trees" to "support Quakers in politics and international work."

Chuck helped us to see that the Pisac statement didn't include important elements like restoring the earth, supporting the resiliency and resistance of communities adversely affected by climate disruption, and deepening the spiritual basis of our work.

Here's a report about our meeting at Stony Point:

On Friday, March 24, 2017 seventeen Friends met at the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) gathering in Stony Point, NY, to discuss the sustainabilty minute approved at Pisac.  We had three working groups and here is a report on what transpired. We’d like to begin with a quote from Isaac Penington:

“Sink down to the Seed… and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows.… and will lead….to the inheritance of Life.”

Powerful though it was in many ways, we felt the Sustainability minute at Pisac dealt mainly with mitigating anticipated climate disruption. We strongly feel Friends need to go further. Since climate disruption is already adversely affecting the earth as well as the lives of people and other living beings, we need to consider how we can act in solidarity with communities affected by climate disruption as they strive to respond, resist or adapt. We also need to consider ways in which we can help to restore the damage caused to the Earth.
We see a need for a collective as well as personal spiritual awakening leading to transformative spirit-led action. To be effective, we need to express joy in the changes we have made in our lives and share our joy with others. To be spiritually grounded, we need to deepen our relationship with nature and connect with God’s creation. We suggest that Friends traveling in the ministry through FWCC share FWCC’s material on sustainability and collect stories about the effects of climate disruption on local communities and how they are responding. We urge each one of us to carry out our Quaker testimony on earth care and lift it up to all the bodies we are part of.

Queries:

 How are we as Quakers living our lives as if climate disruption is real and really matters?
How are we showing solidarity with indigenous and marginalized peoples affected by climate disruption?

Here's the Spanish version:



Milena Villca
El viernes por la noche, Marto 26, 2017, se reunieron diecisiete Amigos para discutir la minuta aprobada en Pisac acerca de la sostenibilidad. Nos dividimos en tres grupos de trabajo y a continuación les doy un informe de lo que ocurrió. Quisiéramos empezar con un extracto de Isaac Penington:

“Húndete hasta la Semilla… y encontrarás por dulce experiencia que el Señor [la] conoce …y [la] ha de guiar hasta la heredad de la vida.”

Aun cuando fuese poderosa en muchas maneras la minuta sobre la Sostenibilidad de Pisac, ésta tuvo que ver más que nada con reducir el impacto esperado de la disrupción climática. Tenemos la fuerte opinión que los Amigos tienen que ir más allá. Ya que la disrupción del clima está afectando de forma nociva tanto a la tierra como a las vidas de las personas y otros seres vivos, debemos considerar cómo podemos actuar de forma solidaria con las comunidades afectadas por la disrupción climática mientras que éstas luchan por responder, resistir o adaptarse. También nos toca considerar formas en las cuales podemos prestar apoyo en el proceso de restauración de los daños de la Tierra.

Vemos la necesidad de un despertar espiritual al nivel colectivo así como al nivel personal, el cual nos pueda guiar hasta la acción transformadora dirigida por el Espíritu. Para ser mayormente eficaces, tenemos que expresar el gozo en los cambios que hemos hecho en nuestras vidas y compartirlo con los demás. Para estar arraigados espiritualmente, tenemos que profundizar nuestra relación con la naturaleza y conectarnos con la creación de Dios. Sugerimos que los Amigos líderes que están viajando en el ministerio a través del CMCA compartan los materiales del CMCA sobre la sostenibilidad, y que reúnan historias acerca de los efectos de la disrupción climática sobre las comunidades locales y las maneras en que las mismas están respondiendo. Animamos a cada uno de nosotros que lleve consigo nuestro testimonio cuáquero sobre el cuidado de la Tierra y que llame la atención de todos los entes de los cuales forma parte, a este tema.

Preguntas:

¿Cómo estamos viviendo nuestras vidas nosotros como cuáqueros a la luz de la realidad y la verdadera importancia de la disrupción climática?

¿Cómo estamos expresando solidaridad para con los pueblos indígenas y marginados que se encuentran afectados por la disrupción climática?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Quakerism's debt to heretics


Rufus Jones wrote a wonderful book called "The Church's Debt to Heretics," describing how "heretical" sects from the Gnostics to the Quakers made important contributions to the spiritual life of the Church; and that's where I got the title for this blog entry about how Quaker "elders" have tried to silence "heretical" Quakers who have stood up for justice and our core Quaker values. It is important to remember that Quaker elders have not always been friendly towards prophets and those who hold who challenge Quaker orthodoxy. Just as the Pharisees and Scribes tried to silence Jesus, some Quaker elders have done their best to silence those who speak out for justice or independent thought. This was true of Elias Hicks, a 19th century Quaker ostracized by Philadelphia Friends. His followers, called Hicksites, founded Orange Grove Meeting, of which I am currently a member. 

The first American Quaker "heretic" to be disowned by Friends was Hannah Barnard, according to Margaret Hope Bacon. "The disownment [Quaker equivalent of excommunication] of Hannah Barnard in 1802 for her liberal interpretation of the Bible was a foretaste of things to come" ("Mothers of Feminism," p. 91). In addition to questioning the Bible, she was fearless in defending our Quaker peace testimony. For find out more about this remarkable woman, see Chuck Fager's essay: http://www.quaker.org/liberal-history/barnard.html


Her disownment was indeed a foretaste of things to come. Throughout the 19th (and 20th) century, Friends who stood up for justice or challenged Quaker orthodoxy often faced opposition from Quaker elders who tried to silence them.

Perhaps best known was Elias Hicks, a charismatic Long Island Quaker who was passionately anti-slavery and deeply admired by Walt Whitman. Hicks felt that the Inward Light was more important and authoritative than the Bible. This did not sit well with some conservative Philadelphia Friends, even though this was also the view of Quaker founder George Fox.  "The elders of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting feared  Hick's heresy and tried to prevent him from speaking." (p. 92). This led to the first great schism among American Quakers. 

Lucretia Mott is celebrated as one of the leading feminists and abolitionists of 19th century Quakerism, but she also faced strong opposition from elders. "The prohibition against women speaking in public was universally enforced and accepted in the early 19th century. Thus when the Scottish radical Frances Wright toured the eastern United States in 1829 and addressed mixed audiences, the shock was great. Some Wilmington Friends were disciplined and threatened with disownment for allowing their children to hear "that woman." The case was appealed to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting where Lucretia Mott, then a young mother and recently recognized minister, campaigned for the rights of families of the families being thus criticized. She herself was spoken to by the elders of her meeting for this intervention--the first, but by no means the last time she felt the weight of Quaker displeasure for her liberal views." (p. 102)

    The Grimke sisters, Southern belles who became advocates of women's rights as well as abolitionists (and the protagonists in that wonderful novel "Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd), were rebuked by Quaker elders for speaking out publicly. They were also criticized for taking up the cause of women's rights by no less a Friend than John Greenleaf Whittier. He felt it was wrong to mix up women's rights and abolitionism. (p. 106). The Grimke sisters eventually had to leave the Society of Friends when one of them married a non-Quaker, which was then considered grounds for disownment. 


Joel and Hannah Bean, weighty Quakers who moved to Iowa and became clerks of Iowa Yearly Meeting,  were stripped of their recorded minister status by Iowa YM when it became Evangelical. The Beans were later disowned for heresy. They became founders of the Independent Quaker movement that birthed Pacific Yearly Meeting.

It is helpful to remember that elders have tried to silence prophets and independent thinkers since time immemorial, and that prophets are generally not much appreciated in their home meetings. Those who don't know this history are more likely to repeat it. And those who experience the critical response of elders to their prophetic ministry can take comfort in the fact that they are in good company.

It is also worth recalling the words of Jesus, who said, "Blessed are those who are reviled and persecuted for the sake of justice [or My sake, in other versions] for your reward in God's divine order will be great."

In her wonderful pamphlet on eldering, Marge Larrabee tells the story of a Friend who gave vocal ministry during meeting for worship and was later approached by another Friend who said, "Thy message made me uncomfortable."

The Friend who gave vocal ministry paused to reflect on this and then replied, "Perhaps you need to feel uncomfortable."

When we feel tempted to criticize those whose vocal ministry makes us uncomfortable, I suggest we consider asking ourselves these queries:

  1. Are we listening compassionately to where the words are coming from when a Friends give vocal ministry that challenges us? 
  2. Are we willing to find loving ways to help Friends who feel led to give vocal ministry to become better channels of the Spirit?
  3. If we hear a message that makes us uncomfortable, are we willing to examine ourselves to see where is this discomfort coming from? How can we best respond to these feelings in a compassionate way?


Monday, March 6, 2017

Latest report from my wife on making disciples wherever she goes...

I am always pleased to read, and also share, my wife's reports on her amazing ministry. As I write this, she is traveling to Colorado to speak to a gathering of over 100 people interested in housing justice and policies to help end homelessness and promote affordable housing. Underlying all of Jill's work is a deep love for Jesus, for people,  and for God's incredibly Good News: God loves the poor and wants everyone to be decently housed, as well as fed and cared for. That's God's intention, and it's beautiful to serve such a God. Jill reminds me of an old saying attributed to St Francis: "Always preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words." Or as the Quakers say, "Let your life preach." That's what this report is all about.

Discipling and Authority.

At a recent Bible study I attended, it hit me how consistently Mathew and Luke portray Jesus as giving away authority. He sends out his disciples and gives them authority to heal (Matthew 10) He send out 72 other disciples and gives them authority to over the enemy (Luke 10:19) and Matthew ends his book with Jesus parting words: “All authority has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples.”

Making disciples….wherever we go. On the ministry report that Missions Door asked us to submit, they ask how many disciples we are pouring our lives into. I struggle with this question.

Do I list my students in my Housing Justice course this semester at APU? Do I count those who
Jill with her APU class 
attend the housing justice workshops I led in Denver last year, and again this March? Do I include my neighbors and those I work with in the community, with all those I have conversvations with about Jesus, justice and faith? Or those on the Palm Sunday Peace Parade planning team or the Bible study that Anthony and I help lead? Or those in local affordable housing group I’ve been part of for 20 years? Or the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment team committed to transforming that street? If we are truly following Christ, is there a time when we as Christians are not making disciples?

Discipling a young woman in transition. Jesus poured his life out not only for the whole world but also for a few key people in his inner circle, namely Peter, James and John. Similarly, God also gives us certain people with whom we have a special, more intimate relationship.  For me that has been Maria. This young Latina woman has struggled with many personal challenges, including finding housing that she can afford. Thanks to an African American pastor named Juanita Edwards, I was able to get Maria into a women’s discipleship home.  We have become very close. Please pray for Maria and me, as we grow together to become more Christ-like. Pray for all those “disciples” being touched with my unique ministry as an Urban Catalyst.

Making rents stable and affordable: teaching a Gospel perspective. I was shocked to learn recently that the rent was raised by $575 per month in an apartment building down the street from our home. Such arbitrary and outrageous rent increases are happening more frequently in our city, and there is no ordinance to prevent it. That’s why I’m so grateful that God has brought Nicole Hodgson to Pasadena to spear-head a rent stabilization initiative. I do all I can to nurture Nicole,  meeting one-on-one, and sharing my contacts and faith in Christ.

"Marv's Place": Affordable housing for formerly
homeless families that just opened up in Pasadena
Discipling Churches on How to End Homelessness. Thanks in part to the Pasadena Affordable Housing Group that I have been part of for the last twenty years, Pasadena has made significantly strides in ending homelessness. Our group advocated for a Housing Department for our city that has been very effective. Under the leadership of its stellar director, Bill Huang, Pasadena has won a number of state and national awards and recently recognized across the country for reducing our homeless count by 54%. We’ve housed 220 of the chronically homeless people and virtually ended homelessness for families. But to end homelessness, churches need to play a more active and effective role. That’s why I am helping to organize a Homeless to Housed Bus Tour. This tour will help church leaders learn what the city is doing to end homelessness and how the city and churches can work more closely together. God has given me a fabulous planning team, representing the major churches, to plan this Homeless to Housed bus tour for faith leaders of our city, as well as adjacent cities. We plan to initiate an ongoing learning lab to explore what it will take to house our most vulnerable. Please pray for us as we plan.

Jill with pastors and community leaders in North Fair Oaks.
Janet Randolf is the woman with the bright pink blouse.
Discipling through service to the community. One way that we learn how to become more Christ-like is through service. The Damascus Road College Church from Tucson, AZ will be coming March 13-15 to bless the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative. They will be tutoring children at the Harambee Christian Center, painting an unsightly building, cleaning gum off the streets and in the gym floor of the Boys and Girls Club, sharing meals with homeless folk at the Pasadena Church, visiting the infirm at convalescent homes, picking up trash, and gathering signatures for the city to allocate to slow traffic and beautify this forgotten corner of Pasadena. Pray for Janet Randolf as she plans for their coming—her first time to plan for a team. In additional to prayer, please consider giving to support her efforts. See: https://www.missionsdoor.org/project/north-fair-oaks-community-empowerment/

Janet is a gifted leader and learner, truly a teachable disciple of Christ, always quoting the Bible and keenly aware of her need and dependence on the God.


I can’t thank you enough for your part in this work of vision casting, developing leaders equipped to house and transform our community. Recently one new donor began contributing $100 per month. It is encouraging to see how God is raising up partners like you to keep this important work going. Please consider giving if you are not already.  See: https://www.missionsdoor.org/missionary/shook-jill/

Saturday, February 11, 2017

FNCL Advocacy Team goes to Rep Chu's office to discuss immigration and refugees


Our first San Gabriel Valley FCNL Advocacy Team visit was to the office of Representative Judy Chu, a Progressive Democrat. Around 11 people showed up, twice  as many as expected. We gathered at  Peet's to prepare  for our visit  and to get  to know each  other better. We  each shared about  why we had  decided  to become  active in this cause.

We then  went to Judy  Chu's  office in Pasadena, a place I've visited many times before in the past four years. After introducing  ourselves to  Judy Chu's  aides, Elizabeth  Andalon and Anna Iskikian, I  told them that people in her district care deeply about immigrants,  as evidenced by  how many showed up at her  office.   We want her  to continue  to  stay strong in supporting  the Bridge Act  and  opposing  funding Trump's wall and other  anti-immigrant legislation. 

We thanked  her  for her efforts on behalf  of  immigrants,  as  well  as women and workers. We also asked  about the prospects for immigration legislation  in  DC.

Her  aides  said  that things are very  uncertain now  in DC. The Dems  have  very  little power.   Trump is very unpredictable but seems to  be worse  than  expected. They appreciated our coming to be  supportive.

Michelle White, a lawyer and advocate for affordable housing, asked: What does  the  Representative need from constituents? Personal  stories? More  phone  calls, social media  posts,  emails?

Response: They  encouraged us  to get in  touch with friends  and family in  red  states  and districts and  encourage  them  to support the Bridge  Act and other  legislation protecting immigrant  rights.

Michelle  also  asked  about the  ramifications  of defunding California, but the aides didn't  have  an answer.  

Juliana Serrano, coordinator of the peace and justice program for All Saints Episcopal Church, asked  about  the "Reforming  American  Immigration   for  Strong Empowerment  Act" (RAISE) that would limit the number of family-based visas so that only spouses and unmarried minor children of citizens and permanent residents can get green cards? (this will also rank immigrants by class and accept more highly educated immigrants over the "lower skilled" workers.) Are there plans to introduce a House bill like this Senate bill? Will she oppose it? For more information, read this: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/07/politics/cotton-perdue-immigration-bill/index.html

Response:  they weren't  aware  of it,  but  promised to  look  into it.  

Elke  , a psychologist, shared  articles  showing  that  the crime rate  among refugees  and immigrants is  lower  than among  the general  population,  both in the USA and in Germany, which accepted  a million Middle Eastern  refugees.

The aides told us that once the situation becomes  more  clear  in DC, Judy Chu plans to do an "immigration clinic."  We encouraged  her  to  do one at  the  Reformation Lutheran Church on Orange  Grove Blvd  because  this is in the middle of  a largely Latino neighborhood, and  this church has  an  Hispanic congregation. The Quaker  Meeting  nex door also hosts  an Hispanic  congregation. The  aides were  open to making  that suggestion to Rep Chu.

They told us that  they  sometimes help  immigrants  who  have problems with their  status. They refer  them  to  lawyers who provide  pro  bono  or  low  cost counseling.

I  shared  that Quakers  are  looking  into having  events  for our Latino  neighbors  focusing on  "Know  Your Rights as an Immigrant,"  "Dealing  with  the  Stresses of  Having Undocumented Family Members"  and "What  Legislation Do We  Need  to Support  or  Oppose  at  the Federal and State Level?" We hope  that Rep Chu  would be  part of this community  forum.

The  Reformation Lutheran  Church will be the location of our  next lobby  training on Sat.  Feb 25,  12:30--2:30  pm. It  is  located  at 570 E Orange  Grove Blvd  (next  to  the Quaker  Meeting).

!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"For such a time as this...." Quakers in the Trump era

Esther 4:14Living Bible (TLB)

14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, God will deliver the Jews from some other source, but you and your relatives will die; what’s more, who can say but that God has brought you into the palace for just such a time as this?”
Image result for esther before the king
I thought of Queen Esther as I reflected and prayed about the role of Quakers during the Trump era.  Queen Esther was a remarkable woman, like those who took part in the recent Women's Marches. When her people were imperiled, she had the courage to stand up and speak truth to power. I hope that we Quakers will follow her example.

There is clearly a new energy, a new sense of purpose, in our Quaker Meeting since the election. Our Peace and Social Concerns Meeting is taking on new projects with increased enthusiasm. More than half the members of our Meeting took part in the Women's March, and several went to DC. Over 60 people showed up for the faith-based lobby training that I helped to organize at our Meeting--most of them non-Quakers, but drawn to us because of our reputation and because they wanted to make a difference. This was twice the number that I expected, but upon reflection I am not surprised. People are yearning to do something positive in response to the dark age of anger and fear that Trump is inaugurating. People are looking for guidance, for inspiration, from those who to have the experience and know-how to help them move forward into a life-giving, life-affirming future. 

This biblical passage reminds us that our country is in a "kairos" moment, a "time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action."  In the story of Esther, the kairos moment for her and her people was when Jews were threatened with genocide by an evil adviser to the King named Haman. Mordecai, one of the Jewish leaders, went to Esther, the Jewish wife of the King, and told her she must not be silent, she must intervene with the King to save her people. Mordecai tells her that if she keeps quiet, she as well as her people will die. He concludes with a memorable question: "Who can say but that God has brought you into the palace for just such a time as this?”

Esther's response shows both her courage and her intelligence, as Wiki's synopsis of her story makes cleaer:

Esther denouncing Haman before the King
Esther could not approach the king without being summoned, on pain of death, and the king had not summoned her for thirty days, implying that she may have fallen out of favor. Nevertheless, at the end of the three days, Esther dressed in her royal apparel and went before the king, who was pleased to see her. When the king asked her what her request was, she invited the king and Haman to come to a banquet she had prepared. At the banquet they accepted her invitation to dine with her again on the following day. Haman, carried away by the joy that this honour gave him, issued orders for the erection of a gallows on which he intended to hang the hated Mordecai.
But that night the king, being sleepless, ordered the chronicles of the nation to be read to him. Recalling that Mordecai had never been rewarded for his service in revealing the plot of the eunuchs, he asked Haman, the next day, to suggest a suitable reward for one "whom the king desired to honour". Thinking it was himself that the king had in mind, Haman suggested the use of the king's apparel and insignia. These the king ordered to be bestowed on Mordecai.
Only at the second dinner party, when the king was sufficiently beguiled by her charms, did Esther reveal for the first time her identity as a Jew, and accused Haman of the plot to destroy her and her people. The king ordered that Haman should be hanged on the gallows prepared for Mordecai, and, confiscating his property, bestowed it upon the intended victim.The king then appointed Mordecai as his prime minister, and issued a decree authorizing the Jews to defend themselves.

I believe that God has brought Quakers to "such a time as this" so that we can do our part to help save our country from an egotistical leader who, like Haman, will lead us to destruction.

Quakerism began in a kairos moment, a time when Christians throughout Europe were fighting over religion. During the hundred years following Martin Luther, between 4 and 20 million people were killed in religious wars. Around 180,000 in England died due to a bloody Civil War. Given that the population of England was only 5 million at this time, this death toll is staggering.

Early Quakers realized that war was not the answer. They refused to serve in the army. They refused to engage in armed rebellion, even though thousands of Quakers were imprisoned for their beliefs. They made it clear that they were a peace church and would fight only with spiritual weapons--love and truth. Peace has been the Quaker testimony and witness to the world for the past 350 years.

Flash forward to 1943 when the Friends Committee on Legislation, the oldest faith-based lobby group in DC, was founded. This was another kairos moment for Quakers, and the world. Millions were being killed, and some churches supported the war effort. Not the Quakers.  In response to the horrors of war, Quakers started a faith-based lobby to promote peace in our nation's Capitol.

Throughout the Cold War, FCNL and the Quakers have worked tirelessly to promote alternatives to war. After 9/11 I was more and more involved with FCNL and started going to annual Quaker lobby days.

I am convinced that faith-based lobbying is crucial to turning our country around. We need mass movements and people marching in the streets to get the attention of our leaders, but without lobbying our elected officials, we won't be able to change the laws or the structures that cause injustice and oppression. 

Martin Luther King set an excellent example. He led marches, he engaged in civil disobedience, and he demonstrated that the Civil Rights movement had broad-based support and moral authority. Then he met with elected officials and even the President himself. Following the example of biblical prophets, and Queen Esther, he spoke truth to power and pressured Johnson to pass the Civil Rights Act and other bills that helped end racial discrimination. These efforts enfranchised blacks, increased their economic opportunities and ultimately culminated in the election of our first black president eight years ago.

The election of Trump threatens to undo much of the work that Martin Luther King and other progressives have accomplished during the 20th century. Quakers are positioned and equipped to play a significant role in making sure this doesn't happen. It is up to us to seize the kairos moment and use our God-given gifts to help save our nation and our planet. Who can say but that God brought our Quaker movement to America for a time such as this?




Saturday, January 21, 2017

Faith-based lobbying: A Voice of Conscience in DC and in Pasadena

12108901_1485553941772672_8375796819221026895_n

Since the election, people of faith from Pasadena and around the country have become more interested and active than ever before in efforts to make our voices heard in Washington, DC, through faith-based lobbying. People of all backgrounds and ages are taking part, including a mother with a 7-month-old baby.

Our first post-election faith-based lobby training in Pasadena took place on Saturday, January 28, at the Orange Grove Friends (Quaker) Meetinghouse, 520 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104. Katie Breslin, a staff person for the the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) came from Washington, DC, to lead the training. Over 60 people took part and 45 signed up to be part of our Advocacy Team. We are forming a listserv and plan to meet on a monthly basis to plan our visits and strategies to influence our elected officials. If you'd like to be part of this team, contact me at interfaithquaker@aol.com.

FNCL, the oldest faith-based lobby in DC (founded by Quakers in 1942), has an impressive record. For the past few decades it has organized annual lobby days in Washington, DC, twice a year--one for young people and one mainly for older people--that attract hundreds of participants from around the country. FNCL deals with a wide range of issues including promoting peace and advocating for prison and immigration reform, and the environment. Lobby training is open to everyone, regardless of religious background (agnostics are also welcome!). You can find out more at fcnl.org.

What happens in DC over the next few months and years could have a tremendous impact on our city and state. Funds for HUD could be slashed, making it harder to provide affordable housing and help for the homeless. Funds for healthcare could be dramatically reduced if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. Draconian immigration policies could have devastating consequences on our Latino neighbors. We need to let our elected officials know where we stand on these issues. 

That's why FCNL has launched "Advocacy Teams" across the country to help citizens to be more effective lobbyists. A San Gabriel Valley Advocacy Team is currently in the process of being expanded after making lobby visits for several years.

One of the things that I most appreciate about faith-based lobbying is that it's not simply about advancing a cause, it's also about building long-term relationships with our elected officials, and each other. A young woman named Elizabeth Malone who made her first lobby visit to the office of Judy Chu wrote that she was very nervous at first, but felt encouraged because she "was listened to." She writes:

 " Two aides met with us and listened and encouraged us. We were there sharing our personal stories of working with the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, wanting to bring further attention to the Sentencing Reforms and Correction Act and the Recidivism Risk and Reductions Act....I look forward to doing more of this in the future. It felt so pro-active and easy at the same time. I shared from my heart and was listened to! I write this to encourage those like me who care a lot but may feel intimidated by the political process."

We are forming a team committed to meeting with elected officials on a regular basis, several times a year, to let them know our concerns. As Quakers, we believe that there is "that of God"--divine goodness--in everyone and we try to reach out to that divine spark in  those we lobby, including those with disagree with. 

We have been particularly successful in reaching out to conservative Republicans. Thanks in part to visits from young people sponsored by FCNL, Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican from New York state, was moved to sponsor a resolution acknowledging that climate change is real, human-caused, and needs to be addressed.

This resolution states that members of the House will work to “create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.”

This climate change resolution — supported by 10 other Republicans — is noteworthy in the House, where a majority of members, including Speaker John Boehner, routinely question whether it is occurring. 

FCNL also played an important role in helping to pass the Iran treaty, which faced fierce opposition but moved forward because of widespread support from people of faith and conscience.

This fall I helped organize two lobby visits in the LA area--one at the office of Representative Judy Chu, and one at the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein.  We focused on Mandatory Sentencing Reform, bills that have bipartisan support. 
The lobbyists from Pasadena who went to Rep Judy Chu's office ranged in age from 67 years (that would be me) to 7 months. Sarah Eggers, a family therapist who works with the families of those in prison, cares deeply about the negative impact that incarceration has on family life. The fact that a mother with a 7-month-old baby came to lobby about sentencing reform made a deep impression on Judy Chu's staff.  They listened and took notes as we shared our stories about our experiences with prison inmates and why we felt that mandatory sentences need to be reduced. 

Another memorable visit involved a team of teenagers from Pasadena's Peace and Justice Academy who spoke out on behalf of the refugee children crossing the border. It is never too early to teach young people about how democracy works!

"We need to hear more from people of faith," a staff person from Senator Feinstein's office told us recently when we made a visit. "We seldom hear from religious people like you." 

That's the message we frequently hear from our elected officials and their staff. Most elected officials want to do the right thing, but they are under tremendous pressure from lobbyists hired to advance the interests of billionaires and corporations. We need to let our elected officials know that their constituents deeply care about moral concerns, such as peace, justice, the environment, health care and helping the poor and vulnerable. 

At the office of Judy Chu: Gavin Kelly, Sarah Eggers (with her baby Theo), Elizabeth Malone,Allie, Anthony and  Judy Chu's aides Elizabeth Andalon and Anna Iskikirian