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Churches are conscience keepers of society

Now that those of us who attended the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches this fall in Busan, South Korea, are home, we seek to bring the call to life, unity, love, peace and justice to our settings. 

At home, we again meet religious divisions, secular hatreds and political differences, but we now have stories of how people are working to dismantle culture of hate, fear, distrust, injustice and violence. So we are empowered to care, advocate, listen, forgive and reconcile.

Returning to help plan the annual Eastern Washington Legislative Conference was a way to do that.  We gathered people to address wages inequities, poverty, immigration, environment, gun control, smart justice, police accountability and death penalty abolition under the theme, “Dismantling the Culture of Violence.”

As we met, news of the day continued.  Various peace negotiations are underway in the Middle East.  State legislators build their agenda.  Media cover pollsters.  Enmities rage.  Distrust continues.  Fear abounds. 

Even if negotiations about violence and weapons in the Middle East progress, and even if Congress or the President establishes new policies, we still must change hearts, minds, souls, spirits and relationships if we are to dismantle the culture of violence.

Without talking with our enemy and listening, we cling to animosities.

Without sharing stories of the human impact of losses and efforts to build solutions, we feed suspicions that block relationships.

Without forgiving and apologizing, there is no truth or reconciliation.

Pain, trauma and hate continue for decades and centuries, as they have since the Civil War and the civil rights movement.

In the midst of economic, ecological, socio-political and spiritual challenges, we are to engage our God-given gifts to transform relationships.  Congregations need to be communities of healing and compassion, seeding faithful living, so justice grows and God’s peace blooms.

Worship, singing, prayers and scriptures reminded us we are not only to care, but also to free the oppressed, give sight to the blind, forgive debts, and overcome violence, oppression and injustice. 

One assembly statement spoke of the politicization of religion and the religionization of politics.  Globally, as well as in the U.S., that trend fosters hatred, intolerance, discrimination and exclusion.  Divide and conquer confuses and silences, keeping those with economic power in control of the “story” and policies, so they retain and gain wealth.

The assembly encouraged us to listen to voices from the margins to learn “lessons of hope and perseverance that keep us committed to liberation and solidarity.”

The unity pursued in the ecumenical movement gives us tools to engage with each other despite our diversity, agreeing to disagree, but respecting each other.  This is also true in interfaith relations.

As conscience keepers in our societies, churches have a moral imperative to confront injustice as an integral part of “costly discipleship” in our public engagement.

Fig Tree media and events invite us to recognize and respect our differences, to listen and learn so we continue to work together for justice and peace, life and love.

Mary Stamp - Editor

Copyright © February 2014 - The Fig Tree