Pope Calls For Nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace Message

Pope calls for nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace message
U.S. religious leaders respond

Today in his message “Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace,” for the 50th World Day of Peace, celebrated each year on 1 January, Pope Francis urges people everywhere to practice active nonviolence and notes that the “decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results.”

Pope Francis writes: “The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.

“Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”. This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.

“The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace. Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”. I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”. Violence profanes the name of God. Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”

U.S. religious leaders and nonviolence scholars and strategists are beginning to respond to Pope Francis’ message:

“There is no place for violence in a heart at peace and in a world that is just. As Pope Francis said, “Everyone can be an artisan of peace. ” We all can cultivate peace by looking within, committing to a spirituality of active nonviolence, by moving beyond our comfort zones to embrace the suffering of the world, and collaborating with others for a sustained just peace.”—Sister Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, executive director of Pax Christi USA

“In this advent time of waiting for the coming of the one who is peace eternal, we are grateful for the challenge of Pope Francis to commit ourselves to peacebuilding through active Gospel nonviolence. Let us join in solidarity with all who know the injustice of violence, oppression, and poverty to build God’s beloved community.”—Ann Scholz, SSND, Associate Director for Social Mission, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

“With his breathtaking World Day of Peace Message, Pope Francis has broken new ground by calling on people everywhere to unleash the power of active nonviolence as a way of life and as an effective alternative to the scourge of violence. This first official papal document on active nonviolence offers a way forward to build a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.”—Ken Butigan, senior lecturer, DePaul University, Chicago and Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service staff
Continue reading “Pope Calls For Nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace Message”

This Summer. Word & World. Detroit.

July 15-19 2015 Detroit, MI.

Word and World believes that it is time to bring our energy and join the movement work happening in Detroit, a city that has been “ground zero” not only of economic crisis, but also of hope and resistance.

This “Land and Water” movement school will focus on cultural organizing bringing together theologies of justice, indigenous resistance, and hip hop spirituality.

Get your application here. If you can’t come, send financial support here.

Video: Bill Wylie-Kellermann and the Gospel of Detroit

Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellermann tells his story at The Secret Society Of Twisted Storytellers, Friday, March 21, 2014, at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, hosted by Satori Shakoor.

Videographer/Editor Don Wellman (https://www.248pencils.com)

The Great and Powerful Grace Lee Boggs and the Gospel of Detroit

Grace_Lee_Boggs_600x400Guernica magazine published an amazing interview with 99-year-old Grace Lee Boggs of Detroit done by Michelle Chen. Bogg’s most recent book is The Next American Revolution. The book is accompanied by a biographical documentary film titled American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.

Here’s an excerpt from Michelle Chen’s interview:

Guernica: Where do people draw the power that they need to seize in order to start this revolution?

Grace Lee Boggs: I think people look at revolution too much in terms of power. I think revolution has to be seen more anthropologically, in terms of transitions from one mode of life to another. We have to see today in light of the transition, say, from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from agriculture to industry, and from industry to post-industry. We’re in an epoch transition.

Guernica: Do you feel that talking about power and conflict might take away from that, or distract people from that focus on long-term transition?

Grace Lee Boggs: It does. Because when you think of power, you think the state has power. When you look at it in terms of revolution, in terms of the state, you think of it in terms of Russia, the Soviet Union, and how those who struggled for power actually became victims of the state, prisoners of the state, and how that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. We have to think of revolution much more in terms of transitions from one epoch to another. Talk about Paleolithic and Neolithic.

Guernica: Given the fact of increasing government intrusion into our lives, it seems like it would be difficult to ignore these power structures.

Grace Lee Boggs: Just think of Obama and think of how powerless he is. I think we have to understand that the nation-state became powerful in the wake of the French Revolution, whereas the nation-state has become powerless in light of globalization.

Read the whole interview.

U.N. Indicates Detroit’s Water Shut-Offs a Human Rights Violation

Detroit Water Shutoffs from Kate Levy on Vimeo.

This summer, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department announced that it would increase its shut-off campaign to 3,000 shutoffs per week.

Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation says:

“Disconnection of services for lack of means to pay may constitute a violation of the right to water. Disconnection due to non-payment is only permissible if it can be shown that the householder is able to pay but is not paying—in other words, that the tariff is affordable.”

Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, Detroit organizer, sent me this note:

Friends, the watershed in Detroit is crying out. We are working full force against the water department shutting off up to 150,000 homes in the city by September (this is 40% of households). They have already shut off thousands of families. No drinking water, no bathing, no flushing toilets. With no running water, there is a risk of child protective service taking children away from their parents. It is a human rights issue, a privatization of water issue, a health issue, and a watershed issue. The U.N. has responded to the crisis saying that this is a violation of human rights.

For more information:
Detroit ‘must ensure it does not contravene human right to water’ UN official Catarina de Albuquerque says
Detroit’s Water War: a tap shut-off that could impact 300,000 people
UN Declares Detroit Water Shutoffs Violate Human Rights
Going Without Water in Detroit
Submission to the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation regarding water cut-offs in the City of Detroit, Michigan

Support these groups:

Pope Francis & Patriarch Bartholomew: ‘Respect Creation’

Detroit Water Protests ( WWJ Newsradio 950-Beth Fisher)
Detroit Water Protests (WWJ Newsradio 950-Beth Fisher)

“It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard – both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness – the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us. Therefore, we acknowledge in repentance the wrongful mistreatment of our planet, which is tantamount to sin before the eyes of God. We reaffirm our responsibility and obligation to foster a sense of humility and moderation so that all may feel the need to respect creation and to safeguard it with care. Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people.” —Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (from Joint Declaration, 25 May 2014)

The Good Book and Gay Marriage

Bill Wylie-Kellermann

Yesterday in Minneapolis, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) crossed an historic threshold as Presbyterians in the Twin Cities area voted to eliminate all official barriers to the ordination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as ministers and lay leaders in their 2.4 million member denomination.  With their vote the Twin Cities Presbyterians were the 87th Presbytery (a regional governing body) to vote yes, giving the denomination the majority of votes needed to approve the landmark change.

In light of this historic event and other debates closer to home, I want to repost a 2008 item below.


One of my faith heroes and friends, Bill Wylie-Kellermann, a United Methodist serving as pastor at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, recently engaged in a faith-based debate for Newsweek about what Scripture teaches on same-sex marriage. I found it very insightful. His dialogue partner was Barrett Duke from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Their online discussion was a follow-up to the Newsweek cover story by Lisa Miller, Our Mutual Joy.

It’s this kind of thoughtful interaction that can help people of faith grow together in Christ—while hopefully (in my opinion) moving us toward a Christian faith that asks about the “content of one’s character,” one’s fidelity to God, and how one manifests God’ love both materially and spiritually to the poor and the least of these, rather than sexual customs or mores.

Another interesting exchange to recommend is Jon Stewart’s interview with Mike Huckabee on social conservatism and gay marriage. Respectful, funny, and enlightening.

Here’s a bit from the Newsweek exchange, but read the whole thing:

Bill Wylie-Kellerman: I found the cover story by Lisa Miller quite good over all, and stimulating, raising a number of things about which I’d like to talk, beginning with the very nature of marriage in church and society. That is actually a matter of some theological confusion. I love the Bible, and stake my life in the biblical witness, and it is that which calls me to the struggle for full inclusion of gay people and their gifts. I know we disagree.

Barrett Duke: Greetings. I look forward to our conversation. This is a very important topic, not only for the church but also for our culture. I believe Christians must submit to the Bible’s teachings, and I believe the Bible is unequivocal in its teaching that homosexual behavior is sinful. That being the case, it is impossible for me to accept same-sex marriage, which legitimizes a sinful behavior.

I think Lisa Miller’s NEWSWEEK article was atrocious. It was obviously biased in its attitude from the start. It is evident to me that Lisa already had her mind made up and was simply interested in trying to convince her readers that she was right. Of course, she is within her right to do that, but she was hardly honest in her treatment of the Bible in the process. She dismissed it without even giving it opportunity to speak. Her comment, “Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition …” was offensive and uninformed. My objections to same-sex marriage are very much rooted in the Bible. If NEWSWEEK actually intended to be an honest mediator of this issue, they should have published pro and con articles by respected Bible scholars rather than engage in such blatantly obvious opinion journalism.

Wylie-Kellerman: By laying out a clear argument, public conversations are invited. I also know it was a great breath of air for gay folks to read a theologically literate argument on their behalf. They are so constantly hit over the head with Scripture, to which we must surely come.

Ms. Miller called the mix of civil and religious elements of marriage an often “messy conflation of the two.” I agree. On the one hand, a marriage is a civil contract between two people and the state with certain rights, responsibilities and privileges implied. On the other, it is also often an act of worship between two people before God, surrounded by prayer and support from a worshiping community and with the presence of ongoing pastoral care. It seems to me only over the former that the state should have authority. In the Episcopal Church, for example, marriage is one of the sacraments. In Methodism, it is a service of worship. This means we have the intrusion and participation of the state in a sacramental act of worship. That’s more than messy.

Duke: I’m sure some considered the article a “breath of air,” but they have not been well served. It is not a theologically literate argument. It didn’t even deal with many of the key Bible passages. Reading Ms. Miller’s article, one could get the impression that the New Testament is silent about the subject of homosexuality, which of course it certainly is not. Furthermore, my objections to same-sex marriage are not based solely on the Bible’s teachings. The Bible informs my opinion about this issue, but the question I think we are trying to answer is, what does God have to say about this? It is clear that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior. Since I believe that the Bible is God’s word, and I have good reason for this belief, then it must mean that God condemns homosexual marriage, so the Bible cannot be used to help create an argument for same-sex marriage. Whether one wants to create a nonreligious, i.e., civil, marriage or not, it doesn’t change what is the clear biblical teaching about homosexual behavior.

Wylie-Kellerman: I want to go forward here speaking out of the conversation which I hear going on in Scripture, one pertinent to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people. The direct sanctions in the Levitical code against male homosexual acts arise during the period of the exile. They are part of the purity code that set boundaries against assimilation into Babylon. Much of those laws concern dietary restrictions. Think Daniel and Meshach and friends and their refusal to consume the imperial diet. The boundaries of the community are being proscribed and protected by the code. As I understand it, the body itself becomes the image of community. So all of the body’s entry and exit points, all orifices are regulated: what goes in as resistance to the empire—like kosher table—has served Judaism’s cultural identity throughout the Diaspora. By the time of Jesus, however, these boundaries had been turned on their sides. The purity code was turned against women, the sick and disabled, and poor people. They were the unclean.

At great personal cost, Jesus set about in his life and ministry to welcome the unclean into his community and to his table. He violated the purity code with his body, even finally on the cross. In the Book of Acts (chapter 10), the Holy Spirit urges Peter in a vision to eat unclean foods, and he says that would be an “abomination.” Precisely so. But the Spirit persists, and he accedes, which really means he is able to welcome and eat with a gentile, Cornelius, otherwise unclean, then on his way to visit. St. Paul spends a lot of his correspondence thinking this through in writing about the law (more than the purity code, but really set in motion by its stricture). For him the issue is whether the “wall of hostility” (Ephesians) would run down the middle of the common table, even the communion table, dividing Jews and gentiles in the Christian community. In the church, the movement is toward fuller and deeper inclusion. It is that which culminates in Paul saying there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female for we are all one in Christ. In the context of the American freedom struggle, this was understood by the church (sometimes poorly and certainly belatedly) to imply, there is neither black nor white. Today I hear the summons to say, in Christ, there is neither gay nor straight.

Continue reading “The Good Book and Gay Marriage”

What Wikileaks is Teaching Us about Empire

I’ve been going back and forth on what I think about the Wikileaks release of State Department cables. I generally come down on the side of Wikileaks, but the State Dept memos dump seemed more like a stunt, as opposed to the earlier release of Iraq material. Francis Shor’s essay, WikiLeaks, Ideological Legitimacy, and the Crisis of Empire, excerpted below, helped me analyze the information release and especially the dangerous backlash through the lens of how empires operate. Empires are almost always antithetical to the dreams of God for how humanity can be. They sacrifice human dignity and feed on fear.

Shor teaches at Wayne State in Detroit and wrote “Dying Empire: U.S. Imperialism and Global Resistance” (find more on the web site www.dyingempire.org). I particularly appreciate Shor bringing in Filipino scholar-activist Walden Bello, a leading defender of empowering the Global South.

While empires try to maintain their hegemony through economic and military prowess, they must also rely on a form of ideological legitimacy to guarantee their rule. Such legitimacy is often embedded in the geopolitical reputation of the empire among its allies and reluctant admirers. Once that reputation begins to unravel, the empire appears illegitimate. …

Given the battered economic and military standing of the United States over the past several years, the hysterical reaction of the American political class over the recent release of State Department cables by WikiLeaks is not surprising. However, it is instructive to note the response of those in the West to such “displays (of) imperial arrogance and hypocrisy” as reported by Steven Erlanger in The New York Times. Erlanger cites an important editorial from the Berliner Zeitung that underscores the question of ideological legitimacy: “The U.S. is betraying one of its founding myths: freedom of information. And they are doing so now, because for the first time since the end of the cold war, they are threatened with losing worldwide control of information.” …

In their desperation to retain the empire, the US political class is undermining the remaining vestiges of the empire’s legitimacy over the WikiLeaks affair. They may also be preparing to expand the definition of treason to include those who are dedicated, as is Assange and WikiLeaks, to freedom of information, especially when it reveals the duplicities of empire. Beyond WikiLeaks, the crisis of empire, according to Filipino scholar-activist Walden Bello, “bodes well not only for the rest of the world. It may also benefit the people of the United States. It opens up the possibility of Americans relating to other people as equals and not as masters.” …

Read the full essay here.

Gentrification’s Violence and the Conundrum of the Neighbor

Bill Wylie-Kellermann

My mentor and friend Bill Wylie-Kellermann, wrote an exceptional reflection on living locally in Detroit and practicing restorative justice in the face of hate crimes.

Looking for real justice: What we can learn from a Corktown attack
is a well-crafted example of radical Christian witness in place. I encourage you to read Bill’s whole essay. Here’s an excerpt below:

Last Friday, Steve DiPonio, a resident of Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, pleaded not guilty in Wayne County Circuit Court to felony charges related to the October beating of a homeless man, Charles Duncan, also of Corktown.

DiPonio, according to witnesses, first used his pickup truck to harass several men, including Duncan, bedding down for the night in an alcove of Holy Trinity School, flashing his lights and revving the engine. Then, it is alleged, he beat Duncan repeatedly with a baseball bat, tied his feet with a rope and pulled him toward the truck, threatening to drag him to the river. Neighbors intervened. The prosecutor’s office might well have charged this as a hate crime. Both the weapons and the symbolism bear a terrible weight.

As pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal at Michigan and Trumbull, both of these men are known to me. I count them each as neighbors. I’m struck that when Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” he told a parable about a man beaten and left for dead by the side of the road (Luke 10). In our story at hand, I notice a parable of community and hospitality as well.

Charles Duncan has made his home variously in Corktown for at least a decade. He is a regular guest at our soup kitchen, Manna Community Meal. Charlie is a chronic alcoholic, subject to seizures, but a truly gentle person, even if he can get exercised over the fate of certain Detroit sports teams. The homeless folks of Corktown are by no means all alcoholics, but then neither are all the alcoholics in Corktown homeless. He is currently in rehab. And through the District Court preliminary hearings, he has, by my lights, been courageous to keep appearing for all the proceedings. Grant him this heart: He stands up and refuses to be terrorized. He insists by his witness that you don’t have to own property or even rent it to be a member of this community. He declares himself our neighbor.

Steve DiPonio is also our neighbor. For many years, he’s lived down the street. He cares honestly and perversely about Corktown. He is a skilled handyman in neighborhood projects. He participates vocally, even loudly, in community meetings, and was formerly part of the Corktown patrol (think: Neighborhood Watch with yellow lights and walkie-talkies). He was not on the patrol the night of the beating, and has since been removed from its rolls. However, the assault with which he is charged fits into a larger pattern of violence against and harassment of homeless people in the neighborhood. Homelessness is being criminalized and profiled. By looking at someone on the street, it’s presumed one can tell who belongs in the neighborhood — and who doesn’t. Harassment is extended to young people of color as well.

… What happened to Charlie may be seen as the blunt end of gentrification. Poor folks will be pushed to new margins. Homeless people for neighborhoods without homes.

Read the rest here.