United Church of Christ

Getting to the Root of itAs part of our monthly Justice and Peace Action Network newsletter, we asked members of our staff to help us unpack the complex justice issues that we’re working on. Using our General Synod pronouncements as the basis for these reflections, we hope to provide insights into the issues you care about that are rooted in our shared faith, and can inform your advocacy efforts.

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Modern Slavery and Migration

When you picture people who have been trafficked and are now what we call “modern slaves”, who do you picture? The most common picture is of a poor woman or child in forced prostitution or sex slavery. However, this accounted for only 20% of all modern slaves in 2016 (4.8 million people). The remaining 80% of modern slaves (20.1 million people) are in some other type of forced labor; the industries that had the most modern slaves in 2016 include domestic servitude (24%), construction (18%), manufacturing (15%), and agriculture and fishing (11%).

Extending Extravagant Welcome to All

A powerful poem by Warsan Shire called Home has been circulating as a deeply heart-wrenching encapsulation of the refugee and asylum seekers reasons for embarking on their journey. It says, “no one leaves home unless home is in the mouth of a shark; you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But really every month is domestic violence awareness month and sexual assault awareness month to those who have had to endure abuse and violence. These past few weeks have shown in stark, real, and devastating terms the world that women live in. (Read more.)

A Just Peace Call to Address Root Causes of Immigration

Rev. Michael NeurothOur Just Peace identity as a church challenges us to work for justice in a holistic way, and so we must address immigration not only at our border, but also examine the broader systemic push factors that impact our neighbors in Central America. (Read more.)

The Sin of Nuclear Weapons

Rebekah ChoateAugust 6 and August 9 are the anniversaries of the only two instances where nuclear weapons were used as a tool of warfare. August 6, 1945 at 8:15am was when the first atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima and August 9, 1945 at 11:01am was when the second was dropped over Nagasaki. Both bombs leveled the cities and killed more than 150,000 people, half of whom were killed the day of the bombings from the explosion and ensuing fire, while the other half were killed in the days, weeks, months, and years that followed. The exact number of victims is still unknown. (Read more.)

What to do on your summer vacation? Mobilize for Change!

It is hard to believe, but August is just around the corner. This has been a challenging and fast-paced year for justice advocacy, and it is important to take time in the midst of the struggle to renew and re-energize body, mind and soul. But the lazy, hazy “dog days” of August are actually a critical time for justice organizing and mobilizing. Here are some ways you can take advantage of August opportunities to influence public policy and prepare for the November elections.

Oppression Makes Feeling Pride Difficult

Jason Carson WilsonJune is Pride month. We often hear proclamations of support and welcome for the LGBTQIA community during this time. Like all of our Creator’s children, those fabulous creations of God should be openly affirmed, but saying we’re all created in the image of God and living into that declaration are entirely different.

The World that Could Be: Militarism and Our National Priorities

Poor People's Campaign LogoToo often in our history, the anti-war movement and those causes working for justice for the poor, or the environment, or LGBTQ rights, or any number of issues have remained separate. The Poor People’s Campaign is a call and reminder that our causes are the same. Justice and peace, as we have articulated in the United Church of Christ, are connected. Just Peace remains a vision for a world that could be, a world in which all are included, all are liberated, and together we build a Just World for All.

Linking Systemic Racism and Poverty: Rollbacks of Voting Rights

At the core of democracy is the foundational principle of voting. It is the most fundamental access point for individuals to engage in the public dialogue and have a voice in the public policy decision-making process that can shape the future of our local, regional, national and global collective life. President Roosevelt once said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they can ever do that is by not voting.”

He was only partially right. (Read more.)

Someone is hurting our people: Hands off SNAP!

On Monday, May 14 the Poor People's Campaign will launch 40 days of action and advocacy in state capitols and in Washington, DC calling for voting rights protections, programs to address poverty, attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism and the war economy.

Each week will have an issue focus and this first week's theme is, "Somebody’s Hurting Our People: Child Poverty, Women, LGBTQ Community and People with Disabilities." These are the very communities that will be directly harmed by changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.

Rescission: What's really at stake?

Katie AdamsThere’s been a lot of talk in the news recently about the Administration’s proposed rescission request. The House has now taken up the proposal and will be considering H.R. 3, the legislative vehicle for the request. These are bad proposals – the rescissions request is bad policy and the eagerness of the House to comply with the Administration taking charge of the Congressional budget process sets a bad precedent. The request eliminates funding that will result in unmet needs in public health, education, job training, housing and other critical programs. (Read more.)

The Ugly Truth about Work Requirements

Katie AdamsAs the system stands now, gaining access to needed services – including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits and Medicaid (which provides limited health services to low income individuals) - is already very challenging. The approval process is riddled with complications and hoops to jump through.

This process is about to get a lot harder and a lot more restrictive. Here are just a few examples of the significant ways the Administration and Congress are attempting to kick people off these programs and decrease the scope of government assistance, all under the guise of “encouraging self-sufficiency.” (Read more.)

Welcoming New Staff

We are excited to introduce two new members of the UCC National Staff team. Rev. Dr. Sarah Lund has joined the Wholeness Advocacy Team of Justice and Local Church Ministries, serving as Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice, a new part-time position. Roberto (Robert) Ochoa will join the National Staff this month as Program Associate for Congregations of Color. (Read more.)

Standing in the Valley: Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Karen Georgia ThompsonOn the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., thousands of marchers gathered in Washington, D.C. at the National Council of Churches’ Unite to End Racism Rally, to remember his legacy and commit to the ongoing work of dismantling racism in America.

Rev. Karen Georgia A. Thompson – a poet, pastor and our UCC Minister for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations – was there. Here she shares her poetry and, in doing so, provides us with an opportunity to deeply reflect on the history of our nation and our faith, the ways that racism has shaped us as individuals and as a people, and our call to vision a new way forward.

Acting on our Faith in an Uprooted World

Jason Carson WilsonFinding one’s place in the world can be hard. So, securing somewhere to call home is a blessing. Our sacred texts call us to welcome everyone into the inn. Conflict, corruption, and climate change are displacing people worldwide.

A.C.T. Now To End Racism Reflection: Where do we really go from here?

The National Council of Churches, along with multiple Christian denominations and interfaith partners, put their heart and souls into an incredibly moving day marking the beginning of a multi-year campaign to end racism in the United States. A.C.T. Now To End Racism (Awaken-Confront-Transform) is intended to continue racial equity and equal justice work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The rally event was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of King in Washington, D.C. April 4th on the National Mall. (Read more.)

#MeToo and #TimesUP: More than Harassment

Sandy SorensenThe real work of the #MeToo movement must take us deeper into addressing the policies and institutional structures that provides tacit assent for harassment and create environments that allow for abusive behavior against women.

The State of the Union and our Faith

katie-adams.jpgThe Constitution requires that the President, “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” This annual speech is an opportunity for the President to lay out their vision for the country – not just a chance to reflect on past accomplishments, but give a sense of future priorities.

Looking beyond its passive delivery, we saw a dangerous and forbidding view of America in this year’s State of the Union. Laced with militaristic language that favored strength over compassion, the President failed to address one of the most critical roles of government -- the call to uphold the common good and care for the needs of the most vulnerable among us. As we look at  the President's address, let's reflect on what our faith and what our General Synod has to say about the important issues covered in the State of the Union, and remember the words in 1 John 4:18; “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”

What is the world the United Church of Christ wants to uplift? In what ways will we work to express our love of neighbor, love of children and love of creation? Let's hold these questions before us as we look at what was said. (Read more.)

Hope is Born Anew

Traci3.jpegMay this Advent Season fill our hearts with Great Expectation of what is possible when Hope is born anew. May we expect Joy and Love and Peace and the in-breaking of Christ through our hearts and feet and hands as we care for one another. May the Light of the Christ within us shine through.

It’s Not Over Yet: Stop the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Don’t let our elected officials give a lump of coal to those on the economic margins this Christmas for the sake of stuffing their own Christmas stockings with campaign donations.

For Unto Us

rev-dr-sheila-guillaume.jpegWhat does it mean for us to claim the Prince of Peace in times like these? How do we reconcile the Good News of the Prince of Peace with news we read each day of unjust tax bills, increased threats of war with North Korea, famine in South Sudan, and the pervasiveness of sexual assault against women in our society? (Read more.)

Disaster Response through Faithful Partnership

zach_profile_photo.jpg.jpegThis year has brought an overwhelming number of disasters – both natural and human-caused. As we gather with our families to give thanks this holiday, now is a good time to reflect on how we can proactively work to care for our neighbors, so that when they are at their most vulnerable they can rest on the strength of our connection, both to each other as people of faith and as a denomination.

Violence Against Women: Back in the Shadows?

Sandy_Sorensen_B_W_headshot.jpgIt feels like things on Capitol Hill have been in constant motion since January. Lost, in the midst of so many fast-moving and pressing policy concerns, have been the Administration’s steps to roll back important advances of programs to address violence against women. (Read more.)

WWJB - What Would Jesus Budget?

palatucci-200px.jpgThis summer I marked my tenth year of working for the United Church of Christ’s Washington, DC office. If you had to guess, what would you imagine is the issue I have worked on most consistently in that decade?

Immigration? Health care? Justice for women?

It turns out, the issue that has most consumed my time is the federal budget. Trust me, I know how boring that sounds. But even if talk of fiscal matters doesn’t inspire you to run out the door and pick up a protest sign, it is vitally important work.

Here’s why - every one of the issues I care about is deeply impacted by the federal budget.

Jim Crow Statues and Rooting Out White Supremacy

Tracy-Howe-Wispelwey.jpegIn Charlottesville, VA there has been a comprehensive effort involving city officials, scholars, citizens and anti-racism activists to acknowledge that the Jim Crow era Confederate monuments placed in strategic areas across the city, served to establish and root the Lost Cause Narrative of the Confederacy and bolster white supremacy. (Read more.) 

Nothing short of amazing.

Nothing short of amazing. Early this morning the Senate rejected the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I know that it was your prayers, actions and advocacy that made this possible. You demanded that your elected officials put our concern for our neighbors ahead of politics and they responded just in time.  This outcome is a testimony to the power of your voices and your stories. (Read more.)

Health Care Update: Stay Vigilant

Like the persistent widow in the Gospel of Luke you have gone back again and again to tell our elected officials that we will not leave our most vulnerable neighbors – the sick, the elderly, the working poor and those living with disabilities - behind.

We know that the work is not done.

General Synod 31: Justice Recap

The General Synod of the United Church of Christ is the national decision-making body for our denomination, responsible for giving general direction to the evangelistic, missionary, and justice programs of the UCC. From June 30 – July 4 members of our denomination gathered to consider a number of resolutions or statements of witness on social and political issues that we (members from throughout the life of the church) believe are of concern.

Here’s a brief recap, featuring coverage from United Church News, of some of the actions taken by the General Synod that relate to our work as justice advocates.

Destroyers or Healers? A look at American Drone Warfare

romee.jpeg“Lord I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word and my servant will be healed” - Matthew 8:5-13

During the Roman occupation, arguably no nation was more vile and threatening than the Romans who crucified thousands of innocent people for the sake of dominance. As a centurion in the Roman army the soldier in Matthew was directly responsible for reinforcing the idolatrous, oppressive, and murderous laws of the empire. By modern standards this centurion posed a clear and imminent threat to the Jewish people, but instead of calling in a heavenly strike against the centurion Jesus performed a distant healing. Such compassion from Jesus demonstrates that God’s policy is not that of a distant destroyer, but a distant healer. (Read more.)

The Cost of This Nightmare

Mary StaintonI am a 59-year-old woman with several disabilities. Like many people with disabilities, I also have other, “normal” medical issues for a woman of my age. (Read more.)