Saturday, December 12, 2015

Religious Freedom and Love of Neighbor

On December 10, 2015 I participated in a meeting of the board of directors of the Minnesota Council of Churches.   The following statement was approved by the board for sharing with the member faith communions in Minnesota.   I invite you to pass on this document to others, including your own faith community.


Respect for Religious Freedom and Love of Neighbor: A Call to Offer These Christmas Gifts
Minnesota Council of Churches
Statement of the Board of Directors
2015-12-11
As Christian leaders who serve as the board of the Minnesota Council of Churches, we want to speak to our communities of faith and to the larger community of people living in Minnesota.
To begin, we want to address the members of all our communities of faith.  We call on people to speak with respect in a tender time when we all feel vulnerable and unsafe after acts of mass violence.  “Be not afraid…” is an exhortation in the Bible, again and again.  Let that be the deep value in which we rest. Courageously reaching out to our neighbors, learning more about their stories, and supporting our newest neighbors is a gift worth giving in this Advent and Christmas season.
Secondly, we express appreciation for and commend consideration of all candidates in our political process who are respectfully engaging the issues of how we best build up the life of our state and nation and serve the common good.  We encourage people in political conversations in family, communities and work contexts to speak with care.  Our words matter.  Let us commit to refrain from using speech that reflects hatred of others and contributes to the division of our society.
We also ask media outlets to tell the stories of candidates, who in their campaigns, debates and addresses are offering constructive proposals for our shared life together.  Your choice of stories matters and can build up or tear down the common good.  When we focus only on the negative or inflammatory, we do not have time to hear the larger conversation and participate in discernment about our shared future together.
Most importantly, in a time when hard actions and sharp words have been directed at our Muslim neighbors, we want to speak a word of support and pledge to walk with them and support their freedom to practice their religion.  This country is built on that freedom.  We pledge to walk respectfully and to learn from one another.  The Islamic community in Minnesota is vibrant and diverse, contributing much to the state - as citizens, teachers, police officers, medical workers, tradespersons, community leaders, mothers and fathers.  We stand in solidarity with the Muslim communities of Minnesota and are ready to denounce the vitriol that comes their way.  As Christians, we are called to love all our neighbors.  Muslims are our neighbors, and we love them. 
Finally, we are committed to continuing our long experience of working with diverse faith communities and of welcoming refugees into our midst, without regard for religion or ethnicity.  We are committed to building communities of respect.  We call for respect, support and helpful curiosity, instead of critique and attack, in the days to come from all people as we seek to build the best Minnesota possible.

We invite the sharing of this statement

MCC Members - Minnesota Jurisdictions of the following:
African Methodist Episcopal Church
American Baptist Churches, USA
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church of God in Christ
Church of the Brethren
The Episcopal Church in Minnesota
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America  
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Mennonite Church
Moravian Church
National Association of Congregational Christian Churches
National Baptist Convention
Pentecostal World Assemblies
Presbyterian Church (USA)
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church


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