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2016 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference

Area faith leaders offer prayers and theological reflections for advocacy


So you’re in a Lutheran Church (St. Mark’s) this morning and in this place the language of “vocation” has a particular meaning, a meaning I hope we make more of as we come up on 2017 and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Luther revitalized the language of vocation during the years of the Reformation, insisting that all the baptized had a vocation, a calling, not just those whose calling took them into the priesthood or a religious order.

The word vocation derives from the Latin vocatio and the Greek kaleo, a verb, “to call.”  The word ecclesiology, the study of the church and its structures, comes from kaleo and klesis.  The church is, in its linguistic base, “the called out ones.”

That’s you and that’s me.

So an invocation, that is, in-vocatio is an appeal for you, yes you, in particular, to be present here, now, in your calling.  That is, first as a child of God, and second, as a child of God gifted and skilled in particular ways that will be unique in the Body of Christ, where all of the gifts, from the least to those which might be said to be more valuable, have deep and abiding worth.  You matter here and in an invocation you are “called out” to bring your gift in concert with others.

In an invocation the Holy Spirit calls you, calls upon you in your particularity, to be here now, and to offer your gifts, so that the Body is whole.

First, let me acknowledge that we gather on the aboriginal land of our brothers and sisters of the Spokane Tribe and we give thanks for their stewardship of this great land.

So we say, and so we pray:

God, we give thanks to you for your presence now, in us, in each of us.

We ask that your Holy Spirit would arouse and gift with urgency the various charisms among us.

We ask for the ability to speak, to know when we are leader because of our gifts, and when we are followers because of another’s gifts.  We ask for the gift of listening, and not just listening, but listening with gratitude and expectation.

We are full of gratitude this day, that there is a place for each of us, and that your Body is made whole because of each of us, tuned and working together, not necessarily in agreement, but strangely and wonderfully made, to create your Body for the common good, for the good of all.

Now call us to the day.

Stiffen our spines.

Engorge our hearts with courage.

Give us graceful humility.

Call us to the work of peace-making, justice-making, and hope for the world in the realm of public-policy discernment.

Make us graceful companions for one another and please bless our work together, Amen.

Bishop Martin Wells
Eastern Washington Idaho Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Theological Reflections on Year of Mercy

In theological reflections on Pope Francis’ pronouncement on “Hope, Grace and Mercy, and mentioning “Laudato Si” on the environment, Bishop William Skylstad said, “Jesus is the face of God’s mercy, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” He then cited scriptures about forgiveness and love, healing the broken and binding wounds.

“We live in a wounded world with much brokenness.  The church is like a field hospital for broken people where mercy endures forever,” he said.  “Mercy reveals God’s mystery. 

“God looks into the eyes of our brothers and sisters, not with self-righteousness and judgment, but with mercy,” said Bishop Skylstad, saying that the polarity in the political scene now is reflected sometimes even in the parishes. 

“We need to break the cycle of polarity,” he said.

Pope Francis has said he, like everyone else, is a sinner and is being redeemed. 

“We are all working through our own brokenness and limitations,” the bishop continued.

“Mercy is foundational.  It makes love tangible and visible.  The longest road is the 18 inches from the head to the heart.  Mercy can be embedded in our attitudes and in our congregations,” he said.

“Without mercy, life is sterile.  Mercy gives us energy and hopefulness,” Bishop Skylstad said.  “It awakens us to new life.”

He described mercy as a demanding, rich and challenging way of life.

“Laudato Si connects us, giving us a lens into how to look at the world, and connect to God, ourselves, our neighbors, the world and God’s created reality,” he said.

On the practical level, Christians are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit prisoners and bury the dead.

“We need to instruct the ignorant and continue to form ourselves,” he said.

“While we need to admonish people for the sin of racism, we are to accompany people and walk with them, not demonize them,” he added.

“It’s a challenge to live mercy, but it can transform our lives in the world,” he said.

Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad
Catholic Diocese of Spokane

Advocacy for legislative agenda

Advocates presented priorities on the legislative agendas of the Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) and the Faith Action Network (FAN) of Washington.

WSCC priorities are the budget, Catholic schools, children and families, criminal justice, economic justice, environment, health care, housing, life issues, aging and people with disabilities.

FAN’s agenda includes reducing wealth inequality; fully funding Health and Human Services, mental health programs and public education; dismantling the culture of violence; protecting housing and preventing homelessness, and a sustainable environment.

The budget was affected by the cost of wildfires, more children in school, higher caseloads in Medicaid and home care, the court requiring full funding of schools, detention of people suffering mental illness, and Initiative 1366 requiring a one percent decrease in the state’s sales tax unless the legislature sends voters a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote to approve new taxes.

“The WSCC supports funding safety net programs decimated by legislation and the recession,” Donna Christensen said, adding that Washington has the most regressive tax system of any state. 

Both the WSCC and FAN seek to block cuts in housing, essential needs and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).  They seek to maintain the Housing Trust Fund.  In health care, there is need for more Medicare providers.

There is a Toxic Free Kids bill and a bill to abolish the death penalty.

Paul Benz said FAN is working to reform the state’s deadly force statute.

Both urged participants to educate those in congregations on legislation and to contact legislators by phone, email or letter; to submit letters to the editor and to take part in legislative forums and civic events, speaking as people of faith.

After their presentation, Linda Haydock, SNJM, of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, said it takes 10 minutes twice a month to click on advocacy alert actions and write letters, even to meet with legislators.

She suggested congregations hold election forums.

Donna Christensen, WSCC
The Rev. Paul Benz, FAN

Reflection by Bishop Waggoner

Episcopal Bishop Jim Waggoner Jr., then called participants to hear the invocation, the call for mercy, the call for action, the ideas from workshops and the need to network.

“Listen, learn, share and act, equipped and encouraged,” he said.  “Be prepared to go into the world as participants, people of action.”

Citing Hopi Elder Parker Palmer, the bishop invited people to create community, be good to each other and not look outside themselves for a leader: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

He also quoted an Episcopal bumper sticker saying:  “Love God, love neighbors and change the world.”

Reflection by Rev Dale Cockrum

Inland District United Methodist Superintendent Dale Cockrum closed with the thought that “God loves us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us that way.”

“We do not need to change the world alone, but as we find support, create community in the city, state and world to reflect mercy and compassion.”

Local organizers of the conference include The Fig Tree and Catholic Charities of Spokane.  For information, call 535-1813 or 358-4273.

Copyright © March 2016 - The Fig Tree