Back from the Brink

Offered by Dr. Linda Gaither

An important and disturbing event may have escaped our attention in the midst of the chaos facing us all in 2020.  In January, the 2020 Doomsday Clock was re-set at 100 seconds to midnight, as announced in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.  “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society's ability to respond.  The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.”

This is a terrifying reality to face. We have learned in the battle with COVID-19 that when public health infrastructure and preparedness, whether national or international, are underfunded or defunded, a terrible price is paid in human life. The price for nuclear war and nuclear winter is beyond calculation.  

The vestries of St. John's Church in Ithaca and St. Thomas' in Slaterville Springs have responded to the unthinkable danger of nuclear war by endorsing Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War.  Both the Ithaca Common Council and the Town Council of Lansing voted to endorse as well.

These endorsements are the fruit of a sustained effort over a number of years to educate and raise consciousness in the Ithaca area, in order to call for citizen action for nuclear disarmament.  The Ithaca Area Chapter of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, working closely with the Nuclear Disarmament Group at Cornell, has sponsored several educational visits by Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility

(PSR). In 2017 PSR collaborated with the Union of Concerned Scientists to launch Back from the Brink.  

This is a national grassroots initiative seeking to change U.S. nuclear weapons policy. As Dr. Helfand puts it, Nuclear weapons are not a force of nature, they are not an act of God. We have made them with our own hands and we know how to take them apart. We’ve already dismantled more than 50,000 of them. The only thing that’s missing is the political will and commitment to do this. And that’s where all of us come in.”

Endorsing Back from the Brink supports the adoption of five common-sense steps:

         ** Renounce the option of using nuclear weapons first

          ** End the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. President to launch a nuclear attack

            ** Take U.S. nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert

            ** Cancel the plan to replace the entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons

            ** Pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed nations to eliminate arsenals

To build momentum for this grass-roots citizens' movement, it is our EPF Chapter's goal to invite the parishes of our diocese to engage with Back from the Brink, in response to the call for endorsement. By sharing the news in The Messenger and through the resolution process at our diocesan convention, we hope many parishes and our diocese as a body will say YES to endorsement.  We also invite individuals to endorse; it is simple to do on-line at the website

The ultimate goal is a resolution for General Convention, issuing a call for endorsement by The Episcopal Church.  This is in line with nearly 40 years of our church's policy, urging the U.S. and the other nuclear nations to block the spread of nuclear weapons and eliminate all nuclear weapons from the world (see Addendum below).

The Doomsday Clock is ticking. To us it appears that both the Episcopal Church's long-held policy on the nuclear threat and our Baptismal vows require us to respond.


Dr. Frank Baldwin  []

Dr. Linda Gaither []


1982 General Convention voted to endorse a bilateral nuclear freeze and nuclear disarmament for U.S. and Soviet Russia.

1988 G.C. voted to urge the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to continue disarmament and use saved funds for human needs.

1994 G.C voted to urge the U.S. to sign a Test Ban Treaty and to pursue elimination of nuclear weapons.

1997 G.C.voted to support the goal of total nuclear disarmament by all the nuclear nations.

2009 G.C. voted to call on all nuclear armed nations to determine a timely process for dismantling nuclear weapons.political infrastructure 

The Ability to Protest Peacefully: A Threatened Right or a Right Threat?

By Rev. Christy Close Erskine

I was born on November 28, 1956, baptized on April 20, 1957 and ordained an Episcopal Priest on July 9, 1994. I have always been active in the Episcopal Church and for over 25 years I led congregations in Vancouver, Wa, Bend, OR and Coos Bay, OR before retiring a year ago in Sisters, OR.  I believe that our baptism is our call to ministry and our baptismal covenant has always had a claim on my heart.  

As the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to threaten our country and our world there has been an increasing awareness of a pandemic of inequality and inequity among our black, brown and indigenous sisters and brothers that is difficult to ignore.  It's not new by any means but we have an opportunity to see it with new eyes, leaving many of us wanting to learn and understand our history in new ways.  As we soften our hearts, many of us are learning how pervasive our white privilege is.  Debby Irving in Waking Up White asks us to consider another question:  "How might we use our white privilege to dismantle racism?"

As I sit with that question, I hear in my mind , "Will you strive for peace and justice and respect the dignity of every human being?

I answer in my heart, "I will with God's help!"  ...and I wonder, when did peace become so difficult in our own country?

Our country claims to be an inclusive democracy for all people. I'm becoming aware of a painful reality that from the time those words were first written down there were people working hard to ensure that the democracy was really only for white men.  Later on words were added to include black men, women and people of color, but there are still people working hard to ensure that the democracy is only for the powerful white men.  

As the Black Lives Matter protests have continued across our country we are increasingly hearing about crowd munitions-- tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and others-- being used by law enforcement to control peaceful crowds. Our own Portland, OR has been highlighted nationally as being out of control with violence and looting and yet nothing is mentioned about the peaceful protests. Messages of violence and lawlessness have again and again co-opted the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests from the majority of people across our country. 

I am very concerned about the increased use of crowd munitions to control protests, even when they are peaceful in nature.  This represents an erosion of our constitutional right to protest and gather peacefully. Over the last several months there have been many examples across our country and state of peaceful protests that have been disbursed by the use of crowd control munitions by police and federal agents and I believe that this is an abuse of power that needs to end. The argument is that this use of force is the only way to control the "unruly crowd", but in my experience this is simply not true.

Several weeks ago I was part of a peaceful protest of about 500+ people in a parking lot in Bend, OR.  Our intent was to support and come alongside two undocumented community members (living in Bend for 15 years) who had been detained by ICE early that morning and were being held in an unmarked ICE bus without having been told their rights or why they had been detained. As it started to get dark we were told that it had been confirmed that 50 federal agents were on their way and we needed to be prepared for possible tear gas or rubber bullets.  We were asked to sit down so that it would be very clear that we were a peaceful protest.  Someone pointed out a drone overhead and federal agents observing through the windows in the building behind us as we waited peacefully.

During the whole protest, I was sitting about 50 feet in front of the ICE bus which gave me a great vantage point to observe.  When the federal agents arrived, I was shocked to see fully armed and aggressive agents in front of us forcefully removing anyone in their way in order to take the two men from the bus.  The only violence I witnessed that night was initiated by the federal agents. 

As I sat there with armed federal agents in front of me, and a drone overhead I realized that the last time I had experienced something like this was when I was in Gaza last October.  Drones overhead and armed Israeli guards everywhere you looked to supposedly keep order and control over the Palestinians.  In Jerusalem an attorney who runs "Court Watch", a non-profit that helps educate Palestinian children and youth about their rights, had spoken to us.  He helped us understand that it was common practice for Israeli's to unlawfully go into homes and detain children and youth in the middle of the night. 

That was my experience in October 2019 in Gaza, an area where there is known "apartheid like" oppression that has been going on for decades:  Israelis subjugating Palestinians.  Now in August, 2020, I am in a hotel parking lot in Bend, OR, a resort-like place to live, destination spot for many to visit, a sanctuary city in a sanctuary state and I'm witnessing two men who had been detained at 5:30 am in an unmarked vehicle without being told why, not told their rights, not given access to an attorney or adequate water and food...with a drone overhead and armed federal agents using tear gas and rubber bullets to control a crowd that was sitting down on the pavement.  It was later reported by news media that we were a violent crowd and it was the only way to control us, but in no way was that my experience!

I was stunned that this was happening in my town and in our country and I'm not sure I would have believed it if I hadn't witnessed it myself.  I love our country and believe in the democracy that it stands for, an inclusive democracy for all people.  As citizens of this country our rights are being threatened.  We all need to work hard to defend our democracy and to ensure that it really is for all people and that it does truly protect everyone. As Christians we need to commit over and over again to working hard for peace and justice and to truly respect the dignity of every human being...and yes, gratefully all of that hard work will be with God's help!  What action are you being called to? How might you respond?

Bishop Paul Jones

Bishop Paul Jones, Founder of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship

On September 4th, the Episcopal Church celebrates and remembers the life of the Rt. Rev. Paul Jones, 4th Bishop of the Missionary District of Utah.  He became bishop in 1916 and was a prominent pacifist. 

As the fever for the United States to enter World War I strengthened, Bishop Jones’ pacifist views were considered controversial.  He believed and stated that “war is unchristian.”  He spoke out openly and frequently about his opposition to war.  His views faced opposition in much of the Church, especially his home diocese.  

In April 1918, a commission of the House of Bishops forced Paul Jones to resign his post as Bishop of Utah because of his outspoken opposition to World War I.  Jones then served as a chaplain at Antioch College and founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  In the 1930s, Jones was deeply committed to assisting Jewish and other refugees fleeing the Nazi regime in Germany. He pushed the Episcopal Church to take up the cause of refugees, a topic that like today was not without controversy.

As a result of his efforts, the Episcopal Church formally established the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief which later became the Episcopal Relief & Development.

Jones’ title as bishop was restored in 1939 with seat but no voice in the House of Bishops.  Until his death on September 4, 1941, he dedicated his life and ministry to peace rooted in the Gospel.


Burgess: What is life?

"What I feel, I can't say
But my love is there for you any time of day
But if it's not love that you need
Then I'll try my best to make everything succeed.”

I am not sure whether George Harrison’s song What is Life was written about a woman or was George’s discernment as to the purpose of this life.  Experts far more steeped in Beatlemania argue that to this day. 

Let’s assume for a moment that Harrison was writing about spiritual discernment.  After all, What is Life was written at time of spiritual searching for Harrison.  The same album that featured My Sweet Lord, Isn’t It a Pity, Hear Me Lord, and All Things Must Pass.

This past half year or so has presented challenges for all.  The pandemic and its related economic crisis adds to all our stress.  

A little more than a year ago, I joined a non-profit board which supports the homeless and seeks to prevent homelessness in my Southwest Michigan county.  Michigan was originally hit hard by the pandemic and the related economic fallout. For months, Michigan was under a governor’s executive order to halt landlord evictions.  That order was lifted in July and evictions have begun apace.  Earlier this week, I learned in our small county, judges have been hearing four eviction cases an hour for weeks now. My non-profit was awarded a federal grant to help stave off some evictions. We just received an advance on these funds a week ago.   The judges, landlords, and our partner non-profits are anxious because we had not helped a month and a half ago when the governor’s ban was first lifted.  We are a cash starved non-profit that does not have the resources to do that.  Our staff is stressed to assist with burgeoning case loads at the same time comply with federal grant requirements.

My Sweet Lord, it is a mess. But for those already evicted or at risk of eviction, the stress must be nearly Job like.

In my personal life, my wife and I, who are guardians for our grandson, recently had to make a decision as to whether he would return to in-person school after being out since March or continue his education virtually.  Michigan seems to have done a better job than some states at tamping down the pandemic, so our decision for now has been for him to return to in-person instruction.  He needs the socialization and classroom teacher’s attention.  Many of you have probably had to make similar stressed filled decisions.  My Sweet Lord, I pray that we have made the correct one.  

While we can wear masks, social distance, and wash our hands frequently, the pandemic has magnified the things in life that are out of our control.   Growing up, my father had a simple prayer posted on his bedroom wall.  I think it grounded Dad.  Maybe it will help us too:

God grant me the Serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can

And the Wisdom to know the difference.

My Sweet Lord, grant each of you those things this day.

Peace Out! Week Seventy-five

Peace Out! Week Seventy-five
#WearOrange for Gun Violence Prevention
THIS SATURDAY! Read on for how you can participate and help the most vulnerable among us to be heard. And, if you still need inspiration, listen to Rev. Dr. William Barber's sermon at Washington National Cathedral here.

JUNE 12 - Feast of Enmegawboh
Offered by Rev. John Floberg
Standing Rock Sioux Nation
Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota

The difficulty of some celebrations is our desire to recognize the achievement without remembering the resistance. And so it was for Blessed Enmegawboh. Life is complex and the historical context of those we celebrate is complex. That complexity can and often does result in disorientation. The temptation that we have as people is to return to the familiar and back into what, in comparison, were more comfortable times.
Enmegawboh was involved in conflict between nations. The Ojibwa, the Dakota and the Settlers were divided over land and how to live on that land. Their cultures were in conflict. By the time the Minnesota Conflict erupted in the summer of 1862 Enmegawboh was a priest of the Episcopal Church. He was ordained by Bishop Whipple - a man for his time, ahead of his time and yet part of his time.
It was in this conflicted place that Enmegawboh found himself desiring to return to his own people (Ottowa) and leave the stresses of Minnesota. But Whipple had confidence in Enmegawboh. The Bishop sent Chief Rising Sun, of the Ojibwa in the Dakota Territory to him to learn the Lord’s Prayer, the Creeds and how to Keep Track of Sundays. It is that third point that owns my thoughts. Keeping Track of Sundays is really not about the simple use of a calendar. It is about the profound Truth of the Resurrection. That is why the Church keeps itself centered on Sundays. We need the Hope of the Resurrection in order to confront the complexities of each generation lest we become disoriented and attempt to return to the familiar and retreat to what we may think of as more comfortable times.
The story of the resurrection is often about being sent into the midst of conflict. Peace that is the result of crossing the bridge of justice that rights the wrong. Resurrection rights the wrong.

A dedicated, passionate core of Rochester's Episcopal clergy, including Rt. Rev. Prince Singh, Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester and all of the clergy members of EPF, have been working, thinking, speaking and writing every day in an effort to articulate a response to the murder of George Floyd and the righteous response that has followed. The group held a purposefully small public gathering on the steps of St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene Episcopal Church in downtown Rochester. Click the link here to read their statement and to see the news story. #BlackLivesMatter
Not Peace, but a Sword
A sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost
Offered by Hailey Jacobsen
Virginia Theological Seminary

Bringing the Sword of Holy Transformation

I wonder if you’ve ever seen or prayed with Brother Robert Lentz’s icons? They’re a mix of old and new – portraits in stylized Byzantine positions with Latin inscriptions and golden nimbuses encircling the heads of figures like Martin Luther King of Georgia and Harvey Milk of San Francisco or Mary and the Christ child as members of Navajo Nation.

One of my favorite icons of his is called “The Christ of Maryknoll.” It portrays Christ with a dark olive complexion looking through a barbed-wire fence of what we can only assume is some kind of encampment – a prison, a labor or internment camp, or perhaps an immigration holding center. He’s leaning on the fence and peering through at the viewer – with his fingers carefully placed in between the barbs. Both of his palms bear the wounds of crucifixion. One hand silently covers our view of his mouth. The other hand reaches above his head. It’s difficult to look at. Christ’s gaze is haunting – almost like a Rorschach inkblot test. Is his stare coldly accusatory or one of comforting solidarity? Is he on the inside or the outside of the fence? Are we inside or outside? Whichever side he’s on, we’re on the other, and he’s silently calling to us. The barbed wire on which Jesus is leaning is attached to two wooden beams, framing two sides of our view and evoking the cross – a cross between us and Christ. It’s chilling and comforting and undeniably both modern and ancient. It somehow speaks to our long history of human suffering at our own hands.

I discovered this icon as a teenager when I was looking for prayer items that matched my newfound vocabulary that I was learning in a social justice class at my Catholic high school. This icon continues to resonate with me in a way that only finding it during that formative time as a teenager could.

I bought a print of the icon and brought it with me to college. Carefully, with those little 3-M strips, I hung it up next to my giant Bob Dylan poster, a small foot washing icon my church had given me at Confirmation, a colorful, animal-filled Heifer International poster, and the obligatory Van Gogh prints that I soon came to realize that every girl between the ages of 18 and 22 has on her wall. They took their place amid my roommate’s Johnny Cash and Led Zeppelin posters and our suitemates’ Gandhi and The Muppets Take Manhattan prints and picture collages of high school friends.

A couple of weeks later, one of our suitemates hesitantly approached me: “We’ve all gotten together and decided that you need to take down your Jesus poster. It’s creepy and sad, and it weirds us out. It’s nothing but pain and suffering – that’s pretty messed up, and we don’t need to look at it.” Without protest, questioning if it was actually everybody that felt this way, or any conversation at all, I immediately apologized and said that it wasn’t my intention to creep people out. I took the icon down and put it in a drawer. I didn’t want to hurt people, and I especially didn’t want to get the reputation in my first two weeks of college that I was the creepy, weird person with morbid pictures of suffering on the walls. I gave it away a couple of years later.

I wish now that I had kept the icon up or that I had at least shared why I like it and explained: “That’s the point of this icon: to make us uncomfortable. To make us disturbed with oppression and to help us realize that Christ is in every moment of suffering. To help us fight, like Gandhi, for equality and equity – especially when that fight needs to take place in ourselves.”
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's foes will be members of one's own household.
(Matthew 10:34-36)

My example is a small example but an important one (as many small examples are!). Maybe I would have taken the icon down in the end anyway; but, there was a deep and theological conversation – a holy conversation, just waiting there for my suitemates and me. We missed out on it because I wanted these new people to like me, and I was afraid to sit in the discomfort of conflict. When handled respectfully and openly, our holiest insights can come out of the sword of disagreement. I had been Catholic, and the other women I lived with were Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian. What a fruitful conversation we might have had about social justice, how we view Christ, what crucifixion means to us, and how our personal theologies were formed – a little summit of Christian unity between the four small walls of a cinderblock dorm room.

Opportunities like these – even more important ones, present themselves every day – especially in the areas in our lives around power. Will I live with the false peace and ignore a racist joke – or will I stand, as lovingly and assertively as I can, with the sword of disagreement? Will I let an acquaintance treat a stranger like an object instead of a person beloved by God because of their sex, country of origin, or political party, or will I hold up a mirror? Will I keep my status or will I risk being not as well-liked by making room for someone’s voice when another knowingly or unknowingly tries to silence them?

I think part of the reason that “The Christ of Maryknoll” icon stays with me is because it is so modern – Christ with crucifixion marks standing in one of our current methods of torture and death – of crucifixion. We have many more. Theologian James Cone wrote about the lynching tree as an American cross. Lynching terrorized Black Americans across this nation for decades. The sin of lynching terrorized people where I grew up in Tennessee and where I now live in Virginia – two young Black teenagers in Old Town Alexandria in 1899. Teenagers whose grandchildren would be alive today if they had been allowed to live long enough to have children – members of our community who could have been living next door, worshiping in the same pew, or attending seminary with my classmates and me. And there were many more such murders across Virginia and the whole US – people stopped from inhabiting the fullness of their calls and lives because they were Black. These murders wounded, traumatized, and cut life off from not only those people but also their families and friends. These sins also marred the lives of all those who witnessed and committed them – whether they supported lynching or just stood silently by as it happened. Jesus is on both sides of the fence – with those being oppressed and those oppressing. He is with us in our suffering and trauma, calling to us for the oppression to stop.

As we hear again today in the voices of activists and as we have heard too many times for this to keep happening, the nightmare of lynching across this country still lives with us. The hate that inspired it still courses through our blood, creating school-to-prison pipelines and continuing to murder unarmed Black people whose only crimes are walking home from school, selling loose cigarettes, jogging, or sitting in their home. Our crosses today? We see them on the news day and night, and I have no doubt that if Jesus had come today, we would have crucified him – because we’re crucifying him still: just as you did it to one of the these who are members of my family and who have the forces of earthly power stacked against them, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:40)

It’s deeply disturbing to hear Jesus talk about bringing a sword and conflict among our family and between us and the people we cherish and love most. Isn’t he the healer and teacher of love, the “Father-forgive-them” guy – the one going after the lost sheep? He is, and he brings the sword, too. Too many people, including me, live with the so-called ‘peace’ of this world. We need more truly holy conflict – not exclusion of groups or wars fought in the name of God but respectful, difficult conversations and hard reckonings about our individual identities in this world, how we treat one another, and how we see God. We need reconciliation and transformation. We need true change, and it begins with true listening. It begins with honest conversations that mutually acknowledge our shared humanity and witness the deep suffering of those inside the fence with Jesus – however those suffering choose to say it. We need conversations between Democrats and Republicans. Between Westboro Baptists and Queer Christians. Between those keeping strict quarantine and those entering capital buildings unmasked with assault weapons. Between billionaires and those who make $7.25 an hour. Between those who assert that Black lives matter and those who believe that even to say this somehow diminishes the lives of non-Black persons. Between me and the person who does or believes the thing that I can’t stand, and between you and the person with whom you have difficulty.

The sword does not just bring conflict among families. We can’t stop reading there. Jesus also tells us that the sword makes foes become members of the same household. It gathers us in to one big house – full of holy conflict, full of love, and undeniably linked forever. A sword brings urgency and clarity to where we stand along the fence with Jesus, and it ultimately destroys that fence. Foes become members of the same household. A sword won’t let us avoid the holy conversation, the holy conflict, and the holy transformation. A sword calls us to action, to relationship. The Lord knows our hurting world – our hurting neighbors and selves, need our immediate attention.

The Christ of Maryknoll
Brother Robert Lentz

Are you interested in connecting with justice-minded Episcopalians on any of the following issues? EPF is looking for your energy and leadership:

+ Defunding the police
+ Conscientious objectors
+ Nuclear disarmament
+ Voting rights and advocacy
+ Environmental justice
+ Racial justice and reparations

Contact us at epfactnow to be connected!
COVID-19 has forced the nation into an unprecedented emergency. The current emergency, however, results from a deeper and much longer-term crisis — that of poverty and inequality, and of a society that has long ignored the needs of 140 million people who are poor or one emergency away from being poor.

In 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others called for a “revolution of values” in America and sought to build a broad movement that could unite poor and dispossessed communities across the country. Today, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has picked up this work. People across the nation have joined under the banner of the Campaign to confront the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, climate change and ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.
They are coming together to demand that the 140 million poor and low-wealth people in our nation — from every race, creed, gender, sexuality and place — are no longer ignored, dismissed or pushed to the margins of our political and social agenda.

That’s why Episcopal Peace Fellowship is proud to join the Poor People’s Campaign as a mobilizing partner for the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington Digital Justice Gathering, on June 20, 2020. Register to attend as a member of EPF here:

Poor People's Campaign Virtual March On Washington
Join EPF on June 20, 2020 for The Poor People's Moral March on Washington
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Peace Out! Week Seventy-three

Peace Out! Week Seventy-three
#WearOrange for Gun Violence Prevention
Good People:
There is no peace without justice
Offered by Rev. Will Mebane
Vice Chair, EPF National
Falmouth, MA

I am a black man. I spend literally every day of my life looking over my shoulder wondering from where the next glare, taunt, invective, and threat will come my way because I am black. I am a black father. I place my head on my pillow each night praying that my two black sons will not meet their demise at the hands of a police officer drunk with power, or a vigilante living out the dogma of white supremacy.

These concerns may seem illogical to you. If so, then I know you are neither black nor the parent of a black child. My indoctrination to this fear began when I was just a little boy facing severe repercussions should I drink from the water fountain marked “Whites Only” or try to sit on the main level of the movie theater and not in the balcony reserved for blacks. That fear intensified when the KKK began sending letters to our family’s home outlining the fate that awaited me if I continued glancing at white girls in our recently integrated school.

I am a black man in search of peace. However, I know there can be no peace without justice. The institutionalized and systemic racism that permeates every part of American society denies my sister, brothers, wife, children, and me the inalienable rights purportedly guaranteed all citizens of this country. There is no life, liberty, and justice for all in this nation. Not if you are black. Happiness cannot be pursued as long as those sworn to protect and serve deliver with impunity, pain, suffering, and death to black people.

Too many that cloak themselves in the flag, and sing a national anthem that was first heralded as a pro-slavery song, are concerned more about Colin Kaepernick kneeling than about the knee that was in the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds squeezing every breath of life out of his black body. Such lynchings might end if more allegiance was paid to the Cross of Jesus than to the “Stars and Stripes.”

I am a black man that has been in search of the land of the free for six decades. My father never found it. His father never found it. My sons will likely not find it in their lifetimes. It’s possible peace that grows from justice can be found. However, it will take more courage than my white sisters and brothers have shown they have. Demonstrations, protests, vigils, and even riots now in streets across America, are indicators that people may finally be fed-up with the virus of racism that infects our healthcare, housing, education, athletics, entertainment, economic, and injustice systems.

A black man offered words more than 50 years ago that have profound relevance for today:

“The time is always right to do what is right. The ultimate measure of a person is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?”

“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship is looking for some more “good people,” as The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described, to work for the removal of the knee of racism from the neck of America. EPF has space reserved for those seeking peace through justice who have the courage to speak-out, and act against this Spirit-destroying pandemic. No experience is necessary.

Tulonn Sawyer
In a week where the pace of demoralizing events threatens to overcome our ability to meaningfully respond, we share this from Michael W. Waters: "Let's be clear. When Trump lifted up the Bible in his hands, he was lifting a weapon of mass destruction. White supremacy masquerading as Christianity is by far the most destructive force the world has ever seen. The Bible in the wrong hand with the wrong intent becomes a book of horrors. Pay attention."
#Resist. #StayWoke
Coming soon for Gun Violence Prevention Month:
Michael Austin's book 'God and Guns in America' has been published and is now available. The Washington National Cathedral, along with The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, is hosting an online conversation June 9th at 8:00pm EST with the author and Dean Randy Hollerith . Cathedral Canon Missioner The Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr., D.Min and Bonhoeffer Institute President The Rev. Rob Schenck will join as well. Questions will be taken from the online audience as time allows. We encourage all to join.

To register here:
You may also follow on Facebook:
You can also watch a short video introduction produced by the Bonhoeffer Institute.

Excerpts of Reviews

"How should Christians think and act with respect to guns and gun ownership? God and Guns in America provides a thoughtful, measured, robust, and articulate biblical treatment of an issue that is too often treated with more heat than light. Ethicist Michael Austin ultimately defends the view—from a Christian but non-pacifist perspective—that (1) the right to own and use a gun is a conditional right, (2) using a gun to harm another person is only morally permissible as a last resort, and (3) more legal restrictions are needed in the United States".
Goodreads - full text

“Austin’s sound arguments, welcoming tone, and emphasis on building peace alongside protections of individual rights have the potential to sway Christians on both sides of the discourse around faith and firearms.”
Publishers Weekly - full text)

“Michael Austin exposes the economic forces that have driven America’s gun culture since the end of the Civil War and challenges Christians to be peacebuilders in a violent world, offering a way forward in making it harder for us to harm one another with guns.”
Rev. Deanna Hollas
Minister of Gun Violence Prevention, Presbyterian Church (USA)

“God and Guns in America is required reading for any follower of Jesus interested in the gun debate. Austin advocates a third way between pacifism and the just war notions of the use of violence, which he calls ‘peacebuilding.’ A fine work of theological integration around one of our culture’s most vexing issues.”
Scott B. Rae
Biola University

“This is an important book—comprehensive yet concise, well researched yet accessible, with a balanced treatment of the theological, ethical, and legal issues related to guns.”
David P. Gushee
Mercer University

To Honor George Floyd's Memory, Vote

by Evelyn Dove Coleman

My friend said that her heart hurt when she heard that yet another black man had been murdered by someone paid with tax dollars to protect the community. Throughout the land, people's hearts were hurting. But that pain cannot come close to what the late George Floyd felt as he lay handcuffed, being openly murdered by a policeman. One commenter said, "This is why Colin Kaepernick took a knee, to stop the killing of black men by police officers. Others made the issue about the flag." Another commenter said, "The killing hasn't increased; the filming has increased." There is a reaction each time a tragedy happens. But then people go back to living as if everything is alright. I just hate it that so many lives have been lost, and still people do not go to the polls and vote. There is no power in filling the streets after yet another man is killed. No one ever answered the late Rodney King's question, "Why can't we all just get along?" Too few people are striving to reach the late Rev. Martin Luther King's dream of civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States. There is too much divisiveness in a country that has the word "united" in its very name. Get to know the candidates for public-service offices and support those who value people's lives, basic humanity, and community unity. Don't keep doing the same things expecting a different result. Urge every person you know to urge everyone that they know to find out how to mail in their ballots or go to the polling places to vote!

This week!! Wear orange for gun violence prevention is June 5-7, 2020. We will be filling up the social media airwaves to create awareness around the prevention of gun violence. Send us your photos and videos so we can share the energy you have for this vital social justice effort. Please use #WearOrange for all your social media posts! Give to support EPF's efforts to end gun violence here.
COVID-19 has forced the nation into an unprecedented emergency. The current emergency, however, results from a deeper and much longer-term crisis — that of poverty and inequality, and of a society that has long ignored the needs of 140 million people who are poor or one emergency away from being poor.

In 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others called for a “revolution of values” in America and sought to build a broad movement that could unite poor and dispossessed communities across the country. Today, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has picked up this work. People across the nation have joined under the banner of the Campaign to confront the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, climate change and ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.
They are coming together to demand that the 140 million poor and low-wealth people in our nation — from every race, creed, gender, sexuality and place — are no longer ignored, dismissed or pushed to the margins of our political and social agenda.

That’s why Episcopal Peace Fellowship is proud to join the Poor People’s Campaign as a mobilizing partner for the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington Digital Justice Gathering, on June 20, 2020. Register to attend as a member of EPF here:

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Faith Statement on Escalating Violence with Iran

As people of faith, we condemn the United States’ dangerous aggression towards Iran, including the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and the deployment of additional troops to the region. We urge the Administration to step back from the brink of war.

Our faith communities see the futility of war, and its power to dehumanize. We know that human flourishing entails breaking cycles of violence, being courageous peacemakers, and focusing on the root causes of conflict. Violent conflict is a path of mutual destruction.

Instead, all actors must move forward in a way that upholds our shared, sacred human dignity:

As communities of faith, we renounce the escalation of violence, and call on the United States to work towards lasting peace with Iran.


American Friends Service Committee
Center on Conscience and War
Christian Peacemaker Teams
Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy Churches for Middle East Peace
Coalition for Peace Action
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach Conference of Superiors of Men (Catholic)
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces Faith in Public Life
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Provincial Council Clerics of St. Viator
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas- Institute Leadership Team Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

Updated January 6th, 2020 with the following signers:

Choose Life Abort War Podcast for Peace Church of the Brethren
Disciples Justice Action Network Episcopal Peace Fellowship
Glenmary Home Missioners
Mennonite Church USA
National Religious Campaign Against Torture NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice Pax Christi Metro New York
Pax Christi USA
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice

Happy New Year from Melanie!


Happy New Year, and Merry Christmas, from EPF’s Executive Director!

At the dawn of this brand new year, I am looking out from my very familiar desk through a very familiar window, knowing that soon, all of this familiar will be left behind.  It seems odd to be starting a new adventure from my same-old, same-old spot, but it is comforting, nevertheless.  Nearly thirty years of law practice is almost wound down, and my law partners have graciously agreed to let me have this space to launch into my new work for the near term.  So, I write this first blog from the safety of my ivory tower.

What I see through the mist out my office window is a giant wooden black box around the base of a Confederate memorial which sits in Linn Park, downtown Birmingham, Alabama.   Former Birmingham Mayor William Bell had the twenty foot obstruction (ply-wooden drape) erected around the memorial in challenge to Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act of 2017, which was passed to preserve all monuments 40 years or older from relocation, removal, alteration, renaming or “other disturbance.”  For context, this law was passed when confederate memorials began being dismantled, destroyed and moved into museums following the racially charged events of that summer in Charleston.  Of course, there is a legal challenge to the presence of the box making its way through the courts, but I mention this here for you to get some idea of what the world looks like from my perspective.  A peace ambassador from Birmingham, Alabama, predictably, has seen a lot that might inform her world view.

Today’s posting is to share my best intentions for what my work as your ED will look like in this “Year of Action” for EPF’s 80th year.

Immediate plans:  I have spent much of this week with the very capable Shannon Berndt (EPF Member Services Coordinator) here at my law offices in getting trained on the administrative chores of the ED job.  Shannon has graciously agreed to be available to me on an ongoing and virtual way for a few more weeks while I get the hang of things.  Fr. Bob Davidson, who has been doing the work of the Executive Director since Rev. Allison Sandlin Liles left to accept her call to parish ministry,  joined us this week with  the details of the expectations of the NEC for the remainder of my duties.  Following this orientation, after a send-off tomorrow from my home parish, St. Andrew’s-Birmingham -- which will include a house blessing for the Leisure Travel Van that my husband, Steven, and I will be living in and working from as we travel the country -- we will start driving west.  Pray for our safe travels, please, and watch social media for a chance to meet us when we are in your neighborhood.

Ongoing plans:  I’ll begin to blog regularly, and plot a course across the county for visiting with congregations and making meaningful connections.  I’ll be listening closely to find out what resources our members and chapters need from us.   I will appear where the NEC directs, including being in Chicago in March for a Palestine Israel Network retreat, in Colorado in April from the Columbine commemoration, in Arkansas this summer for an abolition of the death penalty event, in Palestine this October, and then in New England in the fall for our 80th anniversary celebration, among much else.  I’m excited about all of these activities, and can’t wait to start meeting our members and making new connections.  If you would like to make an opportunity to spend some time with me while I am near your hometown or parish, please contact me at

On a personal note, I’ll be in Nashville in early May for my son’s graduation from Vanderbilt, and will make time for visiting in the middle Tennessee area while I am there.   I’ll also be writing about some of the events unique to Birmingham, including the recent Thanksgiving day shooting of E. J. Bradford by Hoover police, and the aftermath and demonstrations following that tragedy, including renewed efforts at nonviolence and direct action training that I have participated in.  My hometown almost always has something provocative happening relevant to my work!

After I interviewed for this position back in November, I was given a copy of the history of EPF: “The Voice of Conscience: A Loud and Unusual Noise?  The Episcopal Peace Fellowship 1939-1989” by Nathaniel W. Pierce and Paul L. Ward.  I was stopped in my tracks when I read this paragraph, relating to the calling of the inaugural executive director of EPF in 1965:

“But first, in the EPF Newsletter for later Trinity 1965, Sayre appealed to members for help in finding a capable person to travel, organize EPF cells and interpret across the country the relevance of the Christian Gospel in terms of nonviolence and reconciliation… He would have to … have enough sense of organization to follow through on hopeful openings and not waste time repeatedly knocking on doors that have been shut and barred against him…  In militarized America, peacemaking is a ‘mission field’ and the EPF secretary will have to have the missionary’s spirit of dedication, zeal and patience.”

The Voice of Conscience, page 30.

Remarkable!  Without knowing this particular piece of EPF’s history, I had pitched myself as a possible candidate for Executive Director by telling the NEC that it would be my intention to travel around the country, visiting with parishes and youth groups, and appearing at diocesan events, recruiting new members and re-establishing ties between EPF and her longstanding peace disciples and allies.   I explained that in order to be effective doing these things, I would need the NEC’s help identifying “our tribe,” meaning finding the persons and places within the ECUSA where our message was likely to resonate.  My plan would be to develop relationships, then empower our “boots on the ground” witnesses with the resources they need to “wage peace” during these most divisive times in our country, and then help create resources as needs manifest themselves and new issues arise.  Who knew that I was not creating a new vision of the ED role -- rather returning us to our well-established roots -- with my imagination of what needed to be done.  I think I can fairly be described as a missionary for peace.

Until next time, power to the peaceful!