That the recent presidential election turned the existing political and social divide in the United States into a gaping chasm is news to no one. And it should also come as no surprise that this chasm of division has extended to conservative and liberal Christian denominations. Yet what is not as widely known is how badly the election has divided individual congregations. But a growing number of church leaders are realizing that these divisions are deep and dangerous, and are seeking ways to break down the walls of pain, anger, and distrust before it results in schism.
In that regard, several dozens of churches across the country have taken me up on my post-election offer to provide a free 10-pack of my book, Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them, to use as the basis of conflict transformation dialogue. One of those congregations is St. Philip the Apostle Church in Scotts Valley, California, a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, where a team composed of two priests, Mary Blessing and Lucretia Mann, and a lay leader, Tina Grubbe (pronounced “Groob”), are facilitating a Paradoxy Conflict Transformation group. Members of the team have agreed to keep journals on the sessions, the content of which I will summarize (anonymously) in this and future blog entries.
As you may have heard, a number of congregations around the country are employing Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them as the basis for conflict transformation dialogue groups in the wake of the last election.
One of those congregations, an Episcopal Church in the Diocese of El Camino Real, has agreed to report meeting-by-meeting about their experience with the reading and the dialogue.
Watch this space!
Conflict resolution experts ask President-elect Trump and other government officials to take a stand to reduce post-election violence
Hundreds of post-election reports of vandalism, beatings and threats since the US election have prompted dozens of leading experts in conflict resolution to urge Donald Trump and government officials at all levels to take an urgent, public stand against post-election acts of discrimination, harassment and violence across the US with significant spillover into Canada.
In an open letter to Trump, members of Congress,State Governors and other officials sent today, dozens of conflict resolution academics and practitioners from across the US, Canada and other countries are asking Trump and other officials to “to use their leadership positions to ensure public understanding that no elected or appointed leaders will condone violence or discriminatory acts or speech.”
The letter advocates that government leaders make “urgent and firm public statements that emphasize the rule of law and the US Constitution, including the First Amendment that guarantees peoples’ rights to freedoms of religion, speech, the press and peaceful assembly.” The experts also seek concrete steps to prevent acts hatred and to foster mutual understanding, respect and civility within the USA.
For the full text of the letter, click here.
Barbara Coloroso, internationally recognized speaker and best-selling author of The Bully, The Bullied, and The Not-So-innocent Bystander and Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide…and Why It Matters warned, “It is a short walk from hateful rhetoric to hate crimes to crimes against humanity. ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,’ Mark Twain once said. We are on the precipice of a new stanza.” Contact Barbara Coloroso at info.kidsareworthit[
Dr. Michael Loadenthal, Executive Director, Peace and Justice Studies Association, stated: “As academics, activists, and educators committed to advancing peace and justice in our world, we are concerned that without an explicit, loud and recurring condemnation of recent hate crimes by the incoming administration, their silence will only encourage more acts of violent hatred.” Contact Michael Loadenthal at info[at]peacejusticestudies.org;
Dr. Julie Macfarlane, Distinguished University Professor and professor of law at the University of Windsor in Canada, and author of The New Lawyer: How Settlement is Transforming the Practice of Law commented: “It is not the unique insight of the conflict resolution community that there are profound fault lines of difference and privilege in American, and Canadian, society – differences of race, gender, ethnicity and even opinion. The election rhetoric and result, rightly or wrongly, has empowered those who exploit these differences in a hateful and aggressive way. These acts must be called out, and we expect the state – in both Canada and the US – to act to protect us all from harassment, threats and abuse.” Contact Julie Macfarlane at Julie.Macfarlane[
The Rev. Ken Howard, Executive Director of The FaithX Project and author of Paradoxy: Beyond Us and Them said: “This election has presented us with a crisis containing both danger and opportunity:
Professor Kevin Clements, Foundation Director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand “urges the incoming administration to do all in its power to put an end to the divisive environment in which we are seeing racism, intolerance and challenges to taken-for-granted constitutional rights. The consequences are global. Here in New Zealand, which prides itself on harmonious race relations, new groups have emerged since the election that are stirring up hatred against indigenous peoples and Asian migrants to New Zealand. For the sake of American and global harmony, all leaders in the US must now work to put a stop to rhetoric that fuels prejudice and discrimination.”
For more information, contact:
Catherine Morris, Director, Peacemakers Trust, Canada, office[at]peacemakers.ca;
By River Damien Sims
The first twenty five years of our life were filled with certainty. We knew who God was and that “He” made us in a certain way, no matter what. But in that certainty we were filled with fear, depression, and a horrible sense of being the “bad boy” because we were queer. The church in which we were raised, educated, and ordained told us we had to be straight or we were a “bad” boy, in fact we were “intrinsically evil.” The time came when we expressed those fears to our district superintendent and he reinforced our “badness” when he kicked us out of the ministry. Thus we lost all friends, all means of making a living, but most importantly that which gave meaning and purpose to our life—God.
It was on the streets of Hollywood as a whore, and terribly alone that we began to understand God in Christ as an always changing and moving, disturbing, and a totally grossing Mystery. All the gods–straightness, wealth, Jesus is the only One, white is best—all failed us. The following of the rules, being dressed in a certain way, being nice to the right people—all failed. They blocked the image of God in life. It was only in unmasking the image of the God who lives in our heart that we could see the panoply of the god images surrounding us, and come to an understanding of the process of life. It was coming to that understanding that we understood that God has always been in our life–from the moment our mother’s egg was fertilized and God knew who we were, and loved us for who we are. Being queer was a gift from that Mystery. God is in us now. And in that evolution growth became the purpose of life. Sister Joan Chittister says that “creation is the process of human growth, and that life is not a program of expectations, and the past is no longer a template forever, but the God of the future, beckoning us beyond ourselves, beyond the present into the eternal growth of God.” What is true of the individual is true of us corporately as well. God was no longer a certainty, but a mystery and our journey became one of faith. Holiness lies in the journey of faith, of questioning, and listening to that inner voice.
We have never returned to the “organized” church because it holds certainty as one of its “gods”, but we have moved out into the Mystery. In that Mystery we have learned obedience to that which is within us, to the One who created us, guides us; we have learned humility, that we are simply creatures of the Mystery, one among many, we have learned to come to view silence as our friend, to spend time simply in waiting, listening and praying, and from that silence we have learned our call to hospitality, to serving others, and that we are one with others, no divisions, simply children of the same Mystery. Community is found in loving our neighbor as ourselves without regard to race, creed, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or any other label we choose to place on others.
For us that Mystery is found to be best expressed in a creed prepared for children by the World Council of Churches:
“We believe in God, who loves us and wants us to love each other. This is our God.
We believe in Jesus, who cared for children and held them in his arms. He wanted a world where every one could live together in peace. This is Jesus Christ.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, who keeps working with us until everything is good and true. This is the Holy Spirit.
We can be the church, which reminds people of God because we love each other. This we believe.”
And in a summary of our own mission in life we prepared during our time on the streets in which we said:
“The best summary for my mission in life can be found in the statement that: ‘Obedience to Christ does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.'” To be a living mystery means to practice the works of mercy, and in the words of Dorothy Day “to live to the point of folly.” Or in the words of Toyohiko Kawaga “I am a free lance, a tramp, a vagabond. I must go until Christ’s work is done. I go like the wind.”
Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.S.T., D.Min. candidate