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From the Executive Director's Pen ...

Eight years ago, I preached a sermon while using crutches. Be assured, they were not props! They were honest-to-goodness crutches. You see, my wife and I had been in a car accident nearly three weeks before. Our car was totaled, but miraculously, we were not. We escaped with no broken bones or cuts, only bruises. In fact, a bruise to my left knee was significant enough to require me to use crutches.

The interesting thing about using crutches is you cannot hide the fact that somehow, something is wrong, and you cannot move forward without some assistance. The presence of crutches robs people of their ability to play along with America’s most thrilling and captivating reality show called, “Let’s Pretend I’m Perfect!”

Before the wreck, people could ask me our well-worn cultural question, “How are you?” and I could respond with the well-worn cultural response, “I’m well, thanks … and how are you?” – even though I may not have been feeling well at all. Days after the automobile accident, someone asked, “How are you today?” With my crutches being visible for all to see, I had to take the risk of honest disclosure and admit that not all was well with me. This left me feeling vulnerable.

We live by an unwritten and unspoken social contract that calls adherents to project images of strength and self-reliance and thus avoid at all costs any public signs of weakness, pain, and vulnerability. All of this makes me wonder about our society’s portrayal of Christ. While I continue to be amazed and somewhat amused that Christ and other biblical characters with African and Mediterranean roots continue to be cast as European in art and literature, what makes me shake my head even more are the ways Christ is cast as being accepting of values of dominance, self-centeredness, and the glorified stockpiling of stuff, ways that make visible the deep fissures that divide the human family, fissures that seem to announce that we think our way of living is above critique.

Our worship presence during Lenten and Holy Week services indicates that we know our way of living is not above critique. Lent sets the stage for us as for 40 days we live our lives under the intense inspection of a Holy God and our faith communities while seeking to align ourselves more closely with Jesus. 

Then, on Good Friday, we contemplate the death, the crucifixion, the public execution or lynching of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah. This Jesus, whom we call Savior of the World, often called Immanuel, “God-With-Us,” with all the power he possessed and had access to, had the audacity to allow himself to show what we dislike the most: vulnerability, to live an at-risk life, to feel pain, to experience humiliation, and to be put to a cruel and unusual death on a rugged cross.

As the life force slowly left his body, Jesus had the nerve to show one more sign of his humanness and vulnerability by admitting to people whose job was to destroy him that he was dehydrated, weak, and dying as he issued these words: I thirst. He who had the power to quench humanity’s thirst for life, dignity, and worth with the living water of love was signaling his own thirst to those who had already signaled their intent to carry out the state-sponsored cancellation of his life.

The request just opened him to more ridicule, for in no way would the soldiers give him water. Instead, they would give him drops of sour wine from hyssop branches. Yet no one in the crowd had any idea that God’s subversive conspiracy for human wholeness was unfolding right before their eyes.

On April 15, 2022, two days before the glorious Easter or Resurrection Sunday, Major League Baseball will once more celebrate Jackie Robinson Day. Management, players, and fans will take time to remember that on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson, living a life of vulnerability, shattered the ill-conceived apartheid system in baseball by becoming the first African American to play in the Major Leagues. He endured vicious name-calling, segregation in accommodations, and threats on his life, just to name a few of his obstacles. Even so, he displayed dignity and grace and skill and would not let the often baptized, unrepentant hate of his era consume him.

During baseball games set for April 15, every player on every team will wear the number that Jackie Robinson wore as a player: 42. In this act, Major League Baseball players will identify with a man who, through being vulnerable, forever removed the asterisk of illegitimacy that had tainted the game, while transforming a nation, and thus enabling Major League Baseball to truly be major.

 

When Jesus allowed himself to be hoisted up on that cross, in effect he put on our number. He identified with broken, hurting, and disgraced humanity and all past, present, and future lives disrupted by self-inflicted wounds of arrogance or by private and public attacks of others – death row executions and the extrajudicial executions carried out by those charged to serve and protect, all of this rooted in nullification and suppression. Jesus put on our number, and thus, embodied God’s subversive conspiracy for human wholeness.

Through the public vulnerability of his execution, punctuated by his admittance of thirst, Jesus gave a clear and compelling message that would ripple across the oceans, echo from mountains to the plains, and sweep through every valley, announcing that we need not live in fear and isolation in our homes or in our schools or in our nation. No longer must we project the veneer of wellness and pretend to be perfect. We do not have to live by the spear.

Instead, the cross tweets out to us that we can take the risk of being vulnerable and admit that no matter how rugged our individualism may be, it is not enough. We need God and we need each other. We thirst.

When we, the body of Christ, can admit that we thirst, that will be the time when we claim our God-given power to break free from the scandalous preoccupations of party politics, racial privilege, self-interest, and affluence and allow God’s transforming love to not only change us but transform us and help us live more authentically Christian lives, where we put on the number of those who have been held hostage to hate, hopelessness, and humiliation and have been pushed to the sidelines of society.

As we do this, we will be fitted with a new number, Christ’s number. We will then declare on Public Square in every city and town, every county and every precinct that we do not and we will not depend not on arms designed to kill and maim, but on arms designed to heal and to hold our neighbors. All of them.

Then we can sing with renewed hope for the present, with our eyes on the prize of a stronger and more faithful future, words made immortal by Isaac Watts: 

When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

Peace and love to you, I pray.

Jack

The Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr.

Executive Director

Ohio Council of Churches

JSullivan@ohcouncilchs.org

From the Public Policy Director ...

Since the last newsletter, I have been working with groups that are addressing the following legislative issues:

  • HB 22/HB109 – These bills aim to criminalize peaceful protests that are guaranteed by the First Amendment’s right to assemble. Provisions include failure to follow a lawful order from a law enforcement officer, diverting a law enforcement officer’s attention, and throwing an object at a law enforcement officer as obstruction of justice (HB22) and allows peace officers to bring civil suits against persons participating in a riot.

 

  • HB 322/HB327 – dubbed the Critical Race Theory bans. There is still no forward movement on these bills. This is the focus of our work with the Honesty for Ohio Education Collaborative.

 

  • HB294 – changes to election law. Among the changes are eliminating early in-person voting the day before Election Day; limiting ballot drop-off boxes to one per county and mandating these can only be used 10 days prior to Election Day; requiring two forms of ID to request absentee ballots online (and the request must be made 10 days before Election Day); and prohibiting the Secretary of State from paying for return postage on voter ballots without approval of the state legislature. This is voter suppression.

 

  • HB387 – more changes to election law. This bill bans the Secretary of State from mailing absentee ballots to all registered voters during governor and presidential election cycles. It also makes major changes to what is considered acceptable ID; limits precinct officers to working seven hours on Election Day; and requires persons to give the last four digits of their Social Security number and their driver’s license or state ID number on a voter registration form. It eliminates early in-person voting unless the voter is physically unable to vote on Election Day; requires voters to provide a reason to receive an absentee ballot; and requires a picture ID to register to vote. This bill, like HB294, is voter suppression because it makes it harder for people to register and to vote.

 

  • SB215 – Gun owners will no longer be required to get a permit to carry a gun. Unfortunately, Governor DeWine signed this bill into law. Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr., our Executive Director, has written a letter stating why the Council is opposed to this.

 

  • SB182/HB315 – These bail reform bills were introduced May 2021 but neither has moved out of committee. These bills have bi-partisan support. There is concern these bills may be harmful to domestic violence victims. The Senate is working on addressing that issue.

 

  • Redistricting – The Ohio Redistricting Committee still has not submitted constitutional legislative maps. The majority of the committee still keeps voting for maps that are gerrymandered.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO!!

For bills still in committee – contact your state representatives and senators and tell them how you feel about these bills. Ask them to vote against the harsh bills and work on passing meaningful bail reform.

For the gun law – write to Governor DeWine and express your feelings about this law that could prove dangerous to our respective communities.

For redistricting – contact the Committee Co-Chairs (Reps. Huff and Sykes) and express that they respect what you as a voter have asked them to do, which is to create fair legislative maps.

 

Blessings,

The Rev. Dr. Amariah McIntosh

Public Policy Director

Ohio Council of Churches

Fierce Urgency: Advancing Civil & Human Rights

VIRTUAL ECUMENICAL ADVOCACY DAYS • APRIL 25-27, 2022

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2022 (EAD) calls us into solidarity to restore, protect, and expand voting rights in the United States and to realize human rights around the world. As people of faith, we know each person to be created in God’s image, imbued with dignity and having a voice that demands to be heard, heeded, and treated justly. We arise in unity, holding up a mirror to leaders of nations, putting injustice on display and tearing down the veil of oppression that obscures the beautiful, God-born light shining from within us all. We bear witness to a global increase in violent repression of journalists, activists, rights defenders, and social leaders.

Political leaders around the world are using the pandemic as cover to boldly steal power and silence opposition through intimidation, torture, and murder. Our government is comfortably complicit in such abuses for economic gain and in the name of “national security,” but true security demands human rights be protected everywhere. Those asserting the right to speak for their communities and shape policy should be free from fear for their lives. We are summoned by the Holy Spirit to act immediately in solidarity with the world, insisting on an end to repression and drawing attention to God’s image reflected in the rich diversity of humankind.

As we gather in 2022, we are called to reflect the urgency and determination found in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words. In his speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” he reminds us, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.”

As people of faith, we are called to meet the challenges of this moment. At Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2022, we will unite to amplify our Christian voice in advocacy for civil and human rights in the United States and abroad. Won’t you join us?

REGISTER HERE.

MN-3041 -Educational Ministry - June 6-June 10 with Dr. Mary E. Hess

This course is an examination of the theological and educational foundations and basic questions that shape the congregation's ministry of education. Attention will be given to developing teaching skills. Includes in-class teaching experience. This is a three-credit hour course. 

Non-degree students may audit summer classes for $105 per credit hour. Non-degree auditors over 65 years of age receive a 50-percent discount.