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1. Secular politics fails to satisfy human needs: it drys out the heart, neglecting questions of meaning and significance, of spirituality; it fractures community, leaving tribes, nations--even neighbors--suspicious and afraid of one another.
2. When Christians today overlook Jesus as a basis for vision and action in politics, the oversight reflects captivity to the dominant secular culture: its individualism, its ethos of competition, its cynicism.
3. The vision of Jesus (and the Hebrew Bible he honors and interprets) is that God's creatures should experience overall well-being--prosperity, security, harmony and joy; in company with God and one another, they should, in a word, enjoy shalom, or "peace."
4. For Jesus, the purpose of life under God is the making of shalom; the vision is an ideal--a goal still ahead of us--and we are called to be God's companions and partners on the journey to that goal.
5. Compassion--love as steadfast as a mother's and as transforming as the refiner's fire--is the heart of the politics of Jesus.
6. For the politics of Jesus, the agenda is (Biblical) justice: a bias for underdogs, a passion for equality, a focus on what people need in order to achieve their full potential.
7. The key strategy for the making of shalom is the embodiment of God's will and way in a faithful, joyous community; by exposing delusion and revealing truth, by expressing compassion and struggling for justice, the church is God's healing agency; by the beauty of its fellowship and witness, the church transforms the world.
8. In the politics of Jesus, evil is overcome by goodness: offense by forgiveness, violence by non-violence; compassion extends even to the enemy.
9. The goodness of Christ's followers is not passive but aggressive; it is not self-obsessed "righteousness" but deliberate, outward-looking effort to defeat callousness and effect social transformation.
9.5 The politics of Jesus says nothing about the size of government.
Riverside CA – Questions on the status of Church finances in an abysmal economy and gender-inclusive language provided heated discussion and hearty applause in turn during the Southeastern California Conference Fourth Quadrennial Session on Sunday, October 26.
Delegates from constituent churches descended on the La Sierra University Church to have their say in the course the Church will take over the next five years amid troubled times in America.
Morning Session - At Jesus' Feet
With characteristic Adventist flair, the day's events began as a costumed Jesus character in a half-convincing fake beard and hairpiece shook hands with delegates. As the Jesus character warmed up the crowd, the Azure Hills Children’s Choir took the stage to sing “At Jesus Feet,” also the theme for the session.
C. Wesley Knight, Senior Pastor of the Mt. Rubidoux SDA Church, led worship with a rousing homily that energized the congregation. Following more musical numbers and prayer, SECC President Gerald Penick called the meeting to order and delivered opening remarks followed by a financial report from conference Treasurer Thomas Staples. Staples’ reports revealed (unsurprisingly) that the current economic crisis has impacted the church. Tithe has declined over the past few years, and the conference has watched assets in stocks and bonds decline as prices tumble on Wall Street.
Delegates came to life for the first major vote of the morning on a project proposal to expand and improve Pine Springs Ranch, the SECC camp and retreat center. As soon as President Penick moved to approve the project, delegates streamed to microphones to voice concerns over the cost of the project (as yet undetermined), the date of completion (pending funding), and the method of raising funds.
After delegates voted against several amendments to the proposal, Penick and Executive Secretary Sandra Roberts revealed that without approval of the project, Pine Springs Ranch risks being closed in the long term because of continued failure to meet code. After this revelation, delegates overwhelmingly approved the project.
During the morning session, conference administrators won reelection by huge majorities:
Gerald Penick won reelection as SECC President by 93%; Sandra Roberts was reelected as Executive Secretary by 96% of voters; and Thomas Staples was reelected to the office of Treasurer with a 94% “yes” vote. Vice-presidential nominees also garnered vast margins of support: Rudy Bermudez won reelection as Vice President of Asian / Pacific Ministries by 97%; George King received 94% of the vote to be reelected as VP of Black Ministries; and Alberto Ingleton received 96% to be reelected as VP for Histpanic Ministries.
(Note: at the end of the Quadrennial Session, a delegate stood to speak to the delegates stating that democracy demands that there be options for voters. All those elected to office ran unopposed.)
A lunch break seemed to provide delegates with extra energy for the afternoon session; vigorous debate characterized the afternoon’s agenda items.
Afternoon Session - Heated Discussion
Soon after constituents reconvened, a delegate raised question on quorum forcing a head count of those who stayed after lunch. To maintain quorum required 488 members (2/3 of original attendees). The count came back: 491 in attendance. That prompted President Penick to jokingly request that the back doors be locked to maintain quorum.
Then debate resumed in earnest.
Before asking delegates to vote on changes to language in the SECC Bylaws, Adeny Schmidt (Sub-committee Chair) and Ernest Furness (SECC Ministerial Director) presented the findings of the 65% Committee, so named for the 65% of church members in the Southeastern California Conference who are women. In 2000, SECC became the first conference in Adventism to grant equal ministerial credentials to male and female pastors.
The 65% Committee, a sub-committee of the Bylaws Committee, collected numerous data on women’s involvement in ministry in SECC. The results of the committee’s research raise some interesting points for discussion:
Data from constituent congregations reveals that while 80% of churches have women on their church boards, only 42% of board members are women. Half of all churches elect women elders, however only 1 church in 5 has a woman head elder. Women read Scripture during the worship hour in 88% of congregations, but on any given Sabbath, women read Scripture in only 4 out of 10 churches. While in 78% of churches, women offer prayer, from week to week, only 20% of prayers are offered by women. 81% of churches has had a woman preach in the past year, but on an average Sabbath, less than 10% of sermons are by women.
The findings of the 65% Committee demonstrate that though the SECC has worked toward a goal of gender inclusion for 30 years, much work remains to be done.
Following the report from the 65% Committee, delegates voted on proposed changes in the language of the SECC Bylaws. The first, and most passionately debated proposal dealt with a change in the language of the conference’s mission statement to reflect more inclusive language.
The amended statement read:
As soon as the floor was opened for discussion, numerous delegates raised objections to the proposed changes on the basis that it unduly put women ahead of men contra the creation order, it did not include children and therefore failed in terms of inclusiveness, and that perhaps the Spanish congregations had not been consulted before proposing changes to the language.
Delegates sought to challenge the validity of any vote on the matter by once again questioning quorum. With only 3 more than the required 2/3 of delegates after lunch, it seemed evident that the number of participants had since dropped below the required number to pass any motion.
After much debate, the vote went ahead. When the vote finally came, it seemed to lose as 255 “yes” votes divided into 491 members present at the last quorum count fell far short of the necessary 2/3 majority. After more discussion, Secretary Sandra Roberts announced that according to the Bylaws, a proposal required approval from 2/3 of members present and voting in order to pass.
After the tally, the vote received 255 affirmative votes out of 330 total votes, and passed with 68% to loud applause from voters.
A final amendment to the Bylaws that would require delegates to “reflect the ethnicity, age, and gender of each constituent congregation” lost in a vote over objections to the delineation of delegates along lines of race, gender and age.
When the voting process finally ended, the congregation joined in a powerful a capella rendition of “Blessed Be The Ties that Bind” followed by a benediction.
As weary delegates filed out of the La Sierra Univeristy Church, I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Katie Esquibel, who at 16 years old was likely the youngest delegate in attendance on Sunday. Katie, a Junior at Mesa Grande Academy who is active in drama, Spanish, chorale and previously in bell choir, represented the Calimesa Church and shares some of her thoughts on being a first-time delegate:
“One thing that I liked about serving as a delegate is that I was the only teenager there,” she jokes, adding that she enjoyed being able to represent the youth of our church.
“One thing that I didn't enjoy,” she says, “was how much the voting process became like a political campaign and some of the reports were boring.” She also notes that women are not as involved in Church leadership as she had assumed.
“If I was invited again I would most definitely go because I want to make a difference in the world and if by taking little steps, as in being a delegate of the church or anything, then that is what I want to do,” Katie says.
I believe in, vote for, and want to fund public schools.
In my city, Chattanooga, there is a long history of private school education. Not only are there over 1000 students in SDA schools, but a freakishly large number of other sectarian and nonsectarian private high schools and elementary schools abound. Some of them are nationally known. In Chattanooga society, asking “where did you go to school?” is to find out which elite private high school you attended and to place you in the correct social category.
Unfortunately, much of this private school proliferation was driven by racism. Private school attendance boomed after segregation was outlawed. And our public schools suffer because anyone who can afford to sends their children to private school. I am a product of private Christian (Adventist) schools. But the more involved I become in my neighborhood and community, the more I realize the precious resources that public schools provide. And so many of the teachers in our county are truly outstanding. They work very hard with very few resources. They teach a huge range of children, providing them with a worldview outside their home, with travel opportunities, with introductions to hobbies and skills.
My neighbor is a widow with six kids under the age of ten. School is their sanctuary. They get some of their only nutrition there. They receive male mentoring there—they make relationships with responsible adults who love them and listen to them. They learn about professions/occupations that they would otherwise never even imagine existed. Their home may be small and (let’s be honest) falling apart, but they get to go to a large, newly-remodeled school that they are very proud of. I can see markedly improved behavior and self-image when these kids start kindergarten.
These teachers, these schools, deserve our financial and moral support. They deserve our participation in their PTAs, our tutoring time, and our money. They deserve more than funding based on property taxes---where the rich get better schools and the poor ones can’t afford copier paper. I want to live in a country where we take democratic education seriously. I will vote for local candidates who send their kids to these schools and who will fund rebuilding money and teacher support opportunities. I believe in education and I think it is too important to leave it up to the fortunes of birth and privilege.
A graduate of the University of Chicago, Lisa Clark Diller is a professor of History at Southern Adventist University.
Neither candidate really needs to raise any taxes. America just needs to do the following:
1. Just cut wasteful spending. Reader's Digest always has stories how government wastes money or gets defrauded. Remember the $100 hammers? Now, if they aren't building a superbunker at Area 51 (as in "Independence Day") with those hammers, just stop overpaying. Open contract bidding to more than just Dick Cheney's former corporation.
2. Bring home military around the world (let everyone fend for themselves). This might wreck the local foreign economy for a while, but let them figure it out. In SF, they closed down the Presidio military base. Imagine all the money we're just spending on flying packages for soldiers from home to some remote secret base. Just bring them all home.
3. Recognize George Bush sent more money to Africa to fight AIDS than even Bill Clinton ever did and eliminate that. Let Africans figure it out or allow nature to resolve overpopulation. After all, Bill Maher and the Reason Project ridicule "creationism" and think evolution is the bomb. Well, then, survival of the fittest should be allowed to go to its logical conclusion.
4. Legalize marijuana (and tax it) and stop the war on drugs. Ever watch "Traffic" - we're not winning, we are actually making it worse. Decriminalize certain drugs. Criminalization has not hindered any drug abuse. In fact, assign certain regions (the non "pro-American" areas) as "New Jack Cities," give moving coupons to those who want to move out for safety, and then give financial incentive to those drug abusers to move in, and then lock them in. Allow them as much drugs as they would like, and let them kill themselves. This can be considered passive euthanasia.
5. Stop the war on terror (we went to war on an idea and methodology? might as well go to war on fear or depression or partying). Instead, hold the world hostage with our nuclear arsenal, and tell them, give up these wanted individuals, or we will systematically drop these nuclear (non-conventional) bombs on one city per day until you do or until your entire nation is wiped off this earth. We already paid for these bombs, so might as well use them.
6. Privatize all prisons. We already have this happening anyway. Let the free market help private prisons compete to reduce recidivism rates by rehabilitation . . . the less recidivism, the more money we reward those prisons. Everybody wins.
7. Privatize all schools. Same idea as above. Everybody complains about the failure of public schools and the incompetence of public school teachers (not all of them, but don't you just get tired of hearing about teachers who can barely pass the proficiency exams their students can't pass?). No federal vouchers for private schools. If you can't afford to send your kids to school, they don't go. They get to work in the mines. That would give incentive for parents to work hard, not abuse drugs, etc. If they don't want to do that . . . survival of the fittest.
8. Legalize and enforce euthanasia on all terminally-ill patients. All that money wasted on keeping a coma patient alive could pay for a lot of health insurance for others.
9. Bomb areas that are not "pro-American" so as to reduce the need to improve domestic infrastructure - all that money spend on collapsed bridges in Minnesota or elsewhere - they not even pro-American anyway, so give up on them.
10. Outsource our military projects to the People's Republic of China for much cheaper (we wouldn't need to take care of their traumatized veterans!). They've got a lot of soldiers! In fact, outsource the National Guard (although that would be a great irony). Establish a "French Foreign Legion" mercenary army . . . wait we've already got that going - Blackwater USA security who abuse their power in Iraq.
11. Chemically castrate all sex offenders (to reduce recidivism and associated costs to victims) . . . We used to do that in California years ago. Bring that back. That, or pump them full of Lunestra so they're just too sleepy to assault anyone anymore.
12. Eliminate the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, because we spend more money on smoking than Russia of China spends on their military budget. If you want to be patriotic, and crush other superpower threats, discourage smoking.
13. Require everyone to move into urban projects, so no more cars guzzle gasoline: no more foreign oil dependence, less building materials (buildings are also the number one source of pollution), healthier people (I went to Manhattan where everybody walks - no fat people there!), etc.
14. Give every child an Xbox 360 or Sony Playstation or Nintendo Wii so they are too busy and tired to commit any crimes. We'd save so much money on juvenile detention, rehabilitation, and potentially nurturing career criminals - nip it in the bud.
Then, and only then, can America not have to raise any taxes, on Joe Sixpack or anyone else. We can also afford to reward Wall Street for unregulated and undisciplined greed. Let the good times roll.
The Kenyan Daily Nation Sunday edition visits a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jersey City, New Jersey.
It looks like a typical storefront in a poor and black-dominated part of any large US city.
Entering the Community Services Centre of the Beth-El Seventh Day Adventist Church last Saturday afternoon, the Nation team was in for a cultural shock.
In a flash, we were transported from one of the toughest US black inner-city neighbourhoods to a corner of Kenya planted here.
All the people in the room are Kenyan and the language one hears is not just Kiswahili, but Ekegusii, the Kisii language.
Even when English is spoken, it does not come with the American drawl, but the distinctive Kisii accent.
The food, too, is traditional fare, with some twists because of the ingredients available.
Church elders are just finishing their lunch after a service and are preparing another meeting to plan their activities.
Upstairs, younger people are holding their own meeting, and also discussing church and community matters.
It is only at the younger people’s meeting that one hears various American accents — ranging from the black inner city one to the white mid-west drawl and the cultivated Ivy League.
When our team arrived, there was much excitement because many people at the meeting are also actively involved at the community and local levels in Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama’s campaign for the US presidency.
They shared with us their motivation:
Richard Maburi: I’m president of Kenyan-Americans Community Association Inc in New Jersey. It’s a good year for Kenyan-Americans because we have Barack Obama running for president.
He’s making history as the first African-America making a serious bid for the presidency and he’ll make history as the first one to be elected.
He is Kenyan blood, but it is policies that motivate young people to register as voters and to join his campaign for change. I have been working as a campaign volunteer, making telephone calls, sending e-mails and raising funds.
There is a Kenyan-American community of at least 5,000 in New Jersey and they are all excited by Obama’s message of change. Many have given donations ranging from $5 (Sh375) to $500 (Sh37,500).
Shem Onditi: I have been voting in the US for many years. Now I am busy canvassing and helping to mobilise voters for the Obama campaign.
At present I am concentrating not in the section of Jersey City where I reside, but in the neighbouring Essex County where there are many Republicans whom we need to win over.
I support Barack Obama because this is the chance for change. Obama is offering much more for change than McCain, and his ideas are more relevant to ordinary people.
I don’t support Obama just because of the Kenyan connection or because I am a Kenyan-American. This is not a Kenyan issue; it an issue for all of us Americans.
Zachary Moitui: I am a high school teacher in New Jersey. I am involved in the campaign because Barack Obama is the best hope for not just African-Americans but for all Americans.
This country has gone in the wrong direction. The economy is flagging, people are losing their homes and job losses are increasing.
As a Kenyan-American, it is my moral duty to work for the change the US needs.
We have in our organisation of School Workers Union in Jersey City of 1,800 members, many of whom are volunteering for the Obama campaign.
On the voting day, November 4, I will wake up early at 6.30am and go and cast my vote. Luckily, the Board of Education has given us the day off, so I will be helping to transport young people to make sure they vote.
Douglas Bonuke: I am secretary of the Kenyan-Americans Community Association and I’m involved in mobilising voters for the Obama campaign.
I have been sending out e-mails, making phone calls and knocking on doors. I also compile and maintain a data bank of Kenyans we are reaching out to become a part of this campaign for change by volunteering their time as campaign organisers.
NOTE OF SINCERE APOLOGY FROM THE AUTHOR: On October 27 I committed a terrible blunder and accidentally deleted not only my article (which I wanted to temporarily take down) but the conversation thread that included other people's comments as well. I have been working with others to try recover the deleted comments but so far without success (although we did find a Google "snapshot" of the original posting). In the event that we are not able to locate a cached version of the comments, I want to apologize to all who made valuable contributions and whose perspectives have now been lost. Hopefully contributors will be able to pick up the conversation if they feel there is more to be said, perhaps viewing this as an opportunity to refocus on the theme I had actually hoped to champion: finding creative "third ways" to remain in civil conversation and community with people one has fundamental disagreements with.
According to a poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California, Proposition 8, which would amend California’s Constitution to disallow same-sex marriage, is likely to be defeated on November 4. The Church State Council tells us that if this should happen our religious liberties will be imperiled. According to Adventists Against Proposition 8, the real threat to religious liberty lies in the attempt by religiously motivated groups to enforce their own theological understandings on others in the secular political realm. It seems increasingly clear to me, however, that for Adventists there can be no winning side in this debate. On November 4, I plan to abstain from voting either for or against Proposition 8. In the event that it is of any interest or use to others, here are the reasons why I have come to this view:
1. I fully support the civil and human rights of same-sex couples, including the same entitlements as heterosexual couples such as equal tax benefits, the right to adoption, healthcare, etc; however,
2. I do not believe that it is a civil or human right to have one's private sexual identity affirmed or recognized or sanctioned or sanctified or codified or categorized or validated by the state; and,
3. I also believe it is necessary to preserve the right of religious communities to have their own distinctive institutions—and distinctive words to describe these institutions—without encroachment by the government.
A “No” vote on Proposition 8 seems to me to violate both numbers 2 and 3 above. The word "marriage" for most people in America continues to invoke not only a legal status but also a particular set of historical, cultural, and religious understandings (including the view that marriage within our society ought to be restricted to two persons). In this perspective, legislative overriding of traditional cultural and religious norms and redefinition of the word along more avowedly “secular” lines marks a troubling encroachment of the state into matters it knows not whereof.
A “Yes” vote on Proposition 8, however, seems to me to violate both numbers 1 and 2 above. As long as non-religious heterosexual marriages are recognized by the state without controversy, religious communities have no basis for objecting to legalized same-sex “marriage” on religious grounds. In this perspective, legislative imposition of traditional cultural and religious understandings on non-believers—or upon believers with different beliefs—marks a troubling encroachment of the state into matters it knows not whereof.
How, then, to cut the Gordian knot? If we truly support separation of church and state, I submit, we should be agitating not for the collapsing of civil and theological understandings of “marriage”, as both pro and contra positions do in their own ways, but for two distinct institutions: 1) “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships”, which would be the only unions recognized by the state and would be exactly the same for all couples, regardless of their genders; and 2) marriage as a theological sacrament, which would involve different restrictions, meanings, and obligations depending on the theological understandings and beliefs of different religious communities.
Let the state be truly neutral in its language, let this language be the same for heterosexual and same-sex couples alike, and let this language be something other than the language religious traditions have long claimed as their own. Religious communities can then work out for themselves how inclusive or exclusive their particular belief systems can be on the question of same-sex marriage.
This position is not, of course, an option on this year’s ballot, and many Adventists will feel compelled to vote either for or against Proposition 8 on the basis of what they think is the lesser evil. I respect their personal decisions. Conscientious refusal to vote can, however, also be a creative and responsible political action, particularly if one shares one’s reasons for abstaining with others. And perhaps the most compelling witness Adventists can still make in the political realm, I would argue, is to refuse to be trapped in the false dichotomies of America’s culture wars.