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Sunday, October 30, 2016

If Jesus Were On The Ballot--A Voters' Guide

Major Candidates

A. A Thrice-Married Billionaire Playboy Under Investigation For Ethics Violations

B. A Very Wealthy Professional Politician Under Investigation For Ethics Violations

C. A Heaven-Sent Messiah Under Mandate To Bring Healing and Deliverance To Humanity

Major Faith-Based Positions

___ Great blessings belong to those who are poor now.
       God’s kingdom belongs to them.

___ Great blessings belong to those who are hungry now.
       They will be filled.

___ Great blessings belong to those who mourn now.
       They will be happy and laughing.

___ But how bad it will be for the rich,
       because they have had their easy life.

___ How bad it will be for those who are full now,
       because they will be hungry.

___ How bad it will be for those who are laughing now,
       because they will mourn and cry.

___ How bad it will be for those who are praised now.
       (Just look at the false prophets. 
       People always said good things about them!)
- paraphrase of Jesus' teachings in Luke's gospel

Personal note: Sadly, it doesn't like things are trending in Jesus' direction.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Until Recently, Evangelicals Condoned Abortion

To me, all of the amazing 31 stages of prenatal life are precious
Most evangelicals in the US today are known as strongly anti-abortion. But this hasn’t always been the case. 

Fifty years ago it was mostly Roman Catholics who were militantly opposed to ending a pregnancy, appealing to church tradition going all the way back to the Didachea first century document which states, ”Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; do not steal; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; (and) do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.”
http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/didache.htm

But prior to the right wing political push that followed the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, most conservative Protestants in the US either had little to say on the subject or actually defended the right of a woman to choose. 

The November 8, 1968, edition of the evangelical magazine Christianity Today addressed the issue, but in the first of its two lead articles Dallas Seminary professor Bruce Waltke makes the case that scripture is largely silent on abortion, and that “the Bible does not equate the fetus with a living person," but adds that "it places value on it” (CT, Vol. XIII, No. 3).

In 1971, the Southern Baptist Convention actually passed what could be considered a pro-choice resolution, committing themselves “to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”
http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/13/resolution-on-abortion

Soon after Roe v. Wade, the highly respected fundamentalist pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas,  W. A. Criswell, made this surprising statement, “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2016/10/23/what-does-the-bible-say-about-abortion/

My denomination, Mennonite Church USA, committed to a consistently pro-life or “whole-life” stance, opposes war and other forms of violence such as the death penalty, torture and euthanasia. In 2007 it affirmed the following regarding abortion:

• Human life is a gift from God to be valued and protected. We oppose abortion because it runs counter to biblical principles.
• The fetus in its earliest stages (and even if imperfect by human standards) shares humanity with those who conceived it.
• There are times when deeply held values, such as saving the life of the mother and saving the life of the fetus, come in conflict with each other.
• The faith community should be a place for discernment about difficult issues like abortion.
• Abortion should not be used to interrupt unwanted pregnancies.
• Christians must provide viable alternatives to abortion that provide care and support for mothers and infants.
• The church should witness to society regarding the value of all human life.
• Professionals whose ministry involves dealing with the moral dilemmas of abortion and reproductive technologies need our support.

Many of us find it heartening that evangelicals have become more "pro-life" over the past decades. But it is also true that conservative movements in the ’70’s appear to have used the issue for political purposes, as a way of persuading Christians to oppose candidates like Jimmy Carter in favor of Ronald Reagan, for example. This in spite of Reagan having supported some of the most liberal abortion policies in the nation as governor of California.
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133#.U4d_e_ldW2E

I fully support a “whole-life” position, including human life in the womb, and even more so since seeing the ultrasounds of grandchildren in the making, and since becoming more aware of how distasteful the process of a surgically induced miscarriage really is. 
http://harvyoder.blogspot.com/2015/04/all-life-is-precious-conversation-with.html

And I also agree with Catholic Sister Joan Chittister, who writes, "I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

Thankfully, there has been a steady decline in the number of legal abortions in the US since the Roe v. Wade ruling, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. I hope that trend will continue, not necessarily through our criminalizing it and driving it underground, but by discouraging it and making it less acceptable, much as we have in the case of smoking, and by providing alternatives such as better health services and expanded options for people wanting to adopt children. 

Moderating Comments on Harvspot

For some reason, the Comment setting for my Blogspot program isn't showing, so I'm unable to moderate and publish your comments right now. Trying to get this fixed using my pre-tech-age brain is a challenge. Meanwhile, you can send me any comments, questions or suggestions for how to fix this to the email address on my profile.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

We Need Less Jail, More Treatment

When Commonwealth Attorney Marsha Garst met with the Valley Justice Coalition last week, she stated that having some kind of detox and mental health facility should be a first priority toward reducing the rate of incarceration in our community. The current $26,000 cost per per inmate could go a long way toward funding this.

As further evidence of this need, I recently received the following letter from someone at our local jail, an abbreviated version of which follows, with his permission (slightly edited):

Mr. Yoder,

I have suffered with depression and anxiety my whole life and I just started back on medications through the Community Services Board. I also suffer from PTSD from a shooting I witnessed as a teen.

I committed some check fraud in 1999 and I am still on probation from those charges after spending almost ten years behind bars for the original charges as well as for some violations for dirty urines. They now want to give me four more years in prison for a dirty urine when their own records show that incarceration has not helped me.

My depression and anxiety get so bad when stressful life situations arise that I fall back into my addictions (self-medicate) so I can go numb and not feel.

For example, I recently learned that my 13-year old daughter was raped, and that my partner had a miscarriage. Our car also broke down and is not fixable, and I had to put my service dog down due to a cancer. Then when I thought things couldn't get any worse, my grandmother died.

I knew I was in trouble and went to my probation officer and admitted I had slipped and had been getting high, and begged her to help me get to Boxwood Treatment Center rather than going back to jail. I was refused.

I want to be a father my kids can be proud of. I just got back into their lives and I really want to change for them, my family and for myself. I have never received the help I needed to achieve that change because all they seem to want to do is to "lock him up".

I recently completed a drug class here at the jail and continue attending even after I "graduated". I just want to get help with my mental health issues. The time in prison does me no good, and if anything actually harms me and hurts my kids and my family.

This jail is full, with 85% of the inmates here from District 39 not because they committed any new crimes but because of failed urine screens while on probation. People like them and myself need treatment, not harmfully long incarceration.

I pray that this community becomes aware of what is going on with our local system and that things change so we can all get help instead of just being thrown aside to fill our jails and prisons.

Thank you,

(Signed)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Presidential Candidates Are The Offspring Of US

ABC News photo
In all my years I've never heard so much dismay and disgust expressed over the leading candidates in this year's presidential campaign.

Most see Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton as simply not representing the US, as individuals who are alien to everything the rest of its good people stand for.

But might they in fact be an entirely accurate expression of the kind of culture we have become?

For example, did Donald Trump's narcissism, his ego-centeredness, his denigration of people of other faiths and ethnicities, his tendency to see women as objects readily available for male gratification just come out of nowhere, or from some alien planet?

Likewise, is Hillary Clinton's drive for accessing wealth and power for personal and political gain something she and her husband just came up with in isolation from the rest of us? Is her sometimes "extreme carelessness" with the truth for the sake of furthering her political ambitions something unheard of in the nation's history? Is her defensiveness and reluctance to own her mistakes unique to her personality?

And is the aggressive tone of each regarding avenging and killing enemies, as though the nation's motto was "In Guns we Trust", something new in a country which has for decades had a military budget exceeding that of the next highest ten nations combined?

No, No and No.

Unfortunately, our candidates' negative traits are those of our national culture writ large. Clinton and Trump are not so much exceptions to the values of many Americans as they are imitators of the darker side of all too many of us who are its citizens.

What made us think we could flaunt sexual promiscuity and promote endless self-gratification through constant media and other messages and not reap the results of what we have sown? Why should we be surprised when the selfish, shallow and sensual culture of Wall Street, Madison Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard seeks residence at Pennsylvania Avenue?

This isn't to say that everything about the Babylon-like nation we live in is pure evil, or that everyone who seeks political office is irredeemably corrupt, but we have all been tainted by Babylon's moral decline and negatively affected by expressions of its decay.

Yes, our candidates are the children of our own creation. We, with them, are a part of one large bell-shaped curve, with psychopaths at one end and some saints at the other, but the majority of us define ourselves as essentially good and unlike the "deplorable other".

As followers of Jesus we need to get in step with the beat of an entirely different drummer, live by the values of an entirely other, heaven-headquartered Sovereign who loves and longs to redeem all humanity everywhere. While those of us who pledge allegiance to Jesus as Lord remain residents in our predominantly godless society, we should find ourselves increasingly alienated from it, and moving in a counter direction, in conformity with the worldwide "God-movement" Jesus announced millennia ago.

That upside-down "Kingdom" will endure long after this election is over, and forever after the earth-focused, self-centered kingdoms of this world collapse under their own weight.

Yet lest we become too self-righteous in all this, let's take seriously the following story Jesus once told, as found in one of today's lectionary texts:

"Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

"But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
- Luke 18:10-14 (NIV)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Every Life Decision Is A Love Decision

source
It's obvious, if you think about it, that whatever we choose to do, say, buy, or invest in is an expression of what we most value and esteem. All of our behaviors, without exception, accurately demonstrate what at the moment we love the most, and consider most important. 

By instinct we all tend to be ego-centered, which means we primarily love ourselves. We love what gives us pleasure, adds to our happiness, or makes us feel most special and worthwhile.

Acting out of an appropriate sense of what is in our own self-interest isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if our actions don't demonstrate an equal regard for our neighbor, and an ultimate love for God, they are in fact not in our own best interest. We are not better than, or superior to, others, and it is only wise to live with the good of the human community in mind and in light of the wisdom of our Creator and Lord of all.

Its hard to keep that focus when we are constantly bombarded with message after message, ad after ad, urging us to indulge in more and more things to enhance our personal sense of status and security. Over time we acquire a sense of entitlement, and see our self-indulgence as as our perfect right. 

Jesus, in the tradition of the Biblical prophets, shows us another way. "Blessed," "thoroughly happy," he says, are those who are poor, who are merciful, who love God with their whole being, and who love their needy neighbors as they love themselves--no more and no less. 

Yes, every life decision is love-based.

Here's an earlier post on "Every Cash Register is a Polling Booth".

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The 13th Amendment, Ratified To End Slavery, Actually Legalizes It For 1.5 Million Americans

1865 archives.lincolndailynews.com
Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified to end slavery, states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” 

In a nation that promises "liberty and justice for all", this exception clause needs to be reexamined.

I'm certainly not saying that having inmates engage in some kind of meaningful work is a bad thing. But if incarceration is to prepare people to re-enter society and as productive citizens, we need to have what happens inside our jails and prisons represent something of the way the real world works. And in the real world people are given reasonable compensation for their labor.

A typical Virginia inmate employed in food services may work long hours in a hot kitchen and be paid .27 to .45 cents an hour. The same pay rate applies to janitorial, laundry and other inhouse employment.

Inmates working in Virginia Correctional Enterprises (VCE) programs are paid slightly more, from .55 to .80 per hour, making things like license plates, furniture, prison garb and other goods or services for state and other governmental entities.

A smaller number of inmates get to work in programs known as "correctional industries", working for private manufacturing or service enterprises that use prison labor. They are paid minimum or prevailing wages, but since their wages are garnished to pay court costs, restitution, child support, and a portion of prison housing costs, their actual take home pay may be under 20% of what they are actually earning.

Most inmates are willing to work even for a pittance, however, as a relief from the boredom of being confined and to earn money they can use for overpriced canteen items, anything from snacks (to augment much complained about prison food) to underwear and personal hygiene items. And while commissary prices keep escalating, most prison wages have not been raised for years.

Locally our two jails, Rockingham/Harrisonburg Regional Jail and Middle River Regional Jail, have contrasting policies with regard to work. 

RHRJ has no work program at all, citing security and safety concerns. MRRJ, however, has numerous inmates involved in "work crews" which provide maintenance and other services for local governmental agencies, for which they receive no pay. Other trusted inmates hold down jobs in the community and pay the Jail $15 per day for the privilege.  Much of what they earn can be withheld for outstanding medical or other charges and for payment of court costs, fines or child support. This means low income earners may have little left to show for their efforts.

What if we could agree on the following?

1. It is in everyone's best interest to provide meaningful and well supervised work opportunities for as many inmates as possible. 

2. Wages should be in line with local standards, with a reasonable amount withheld for room and board and other costs, and with some money kept in reserve for the inmate's use upon release and/or used to help support his or her family. 

3. While the jail or prison should be able to recover some of the administrative and other costs of a work program, none should profit from cheap inmate labor.

4. All earnings should be subject to social security withholding, so that upon release, inmates and their families will not be without benefits.

5. For every day in which an inmate demonstrates respectful and responsible behavior he or she should be offered some reduced time behind bars.

6. Detainees who already have jobs should be granted work release and/or be under house arrest (with or without GPS monitors) in as many cases as possible--except when they are at work or at approved classes or medical appointments. 

If our criminal justice system is to help people establish responsible work habits and be productive citizens, meaningful and reasonably compensated work needs to be a significant part of the equation.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Blessed Beyond Belief At EMU's Homecoming

from EMU's spring issue of Crossroads, photo by Joaquin Sosa
When I enrolled at Eastern Mennonite College in the fall of 1960, I would have never dreamed of being chosen as an "Alumnus of the Year" a half-century later.

It still seems incredible to think of having been honored in this way as a part of this weekend's Alumni Homecoming events at Lehman Auditorium, along with wonderful people like Donna Beachy Burkhart and her husband Wayne Burkhart (Distinguished Service Award), and Grace Schrock-Hurst Praseyto (Outstanding Young Alumnus).

Here are my comments at this morning's worship service at Lehman, where I was asked to speak briefly on the first part of Micah 6:8, "to do justice".
**********************************************

Thanks for the opportunity to speak to a sometimes neglected aspect of “what God requires of us”, and to what Richard Stearns calls “the hole in our gospel”.

I can’t thank EMU enough for its part in being the kind of alma mater (“nurturing mother”) that’s addressed that issue of justice in a way that has made a huge difference in my life from the time I enrolled here 56 years ago. My experiences in my classes, in regular chapel services and special events held right here in this space, were transformative, along with the many friends I made who enlarged my world and helped impress the words of Micah and of the prophets and of Jesus even more indelibly on my life. 

And of course the most special of all of my Christ-following friends I met here, someone who took an active part in a little church all the way over in Mt. Jackson while she was a busy student here, became the love of my life, Alma Jean, my wonderful wife and companion and a great mom to our three children, and grandma to our six grandchildren (all reasons, by the way, to choose a good Christian college!).

I’m also indebted to God’s people in the congregational families I grew up in, and later pastored, folks who were my spiritual uncles and aunts and cousins and sisters and brothers who demonstrated Micah-like faithfulness, along with my having been blessed and nurtured by my biological family. 

My father, who passed away 31 years ago, left me his well worn Bible, in which he has today’s text from Micah heavily underlined. Without talking much about justice, he and my mother just lived it. On her tombstone are the words of a gospel song she liked, “I need no mansion here below.” As a testimony to that, in their retirement my parents lived in a modest mobile home, and throughout their lives everyone knew them as among the most hospitable people ever, not just toward their many friends, but toward strangers and people who were marginalized in our rural southern neighborhood. 

And my dad, in spite of his struggle to provide for us nine children, the youngest being one they adopted as a welfare child, gave a tithe of his milk check to Mennonite Central Committee or to some other charity every month, out of gratitude for feeling blessed with far more than others he saw as being less fortunate. And that wasn't just a tenth of the profit, but of the entire check. Now we did have other farm income as well, but that left a big impression on me when it came to loving God and loving your neighbor with a generous justice. Today I know his heart, and a tenth of his milk check, would still be for people like Syrian refugees and for hurricane victims in Haiti.

I’ve also been inspired by numerous inmates in our Virginia jails and prisons I’ve come to know, starting with when I went with other students every week to spend time at our local jail, an experience that began a lifelong interest in criminal injustice. One of my current inspirations is Charles Zellers, Sr., who writes volumes about justice from inside Buckingham Correctional Center, where he’s taken multiple college classes during his 22 years in prison. And in spite of being a trusted supervisor at one of the manufacturing enterprises at Buckingham, where he earns just over a dollar an hour, and in spite of having an aging and ill mother who desperately needs his help at home, he’s been denied parole a heartbreaking 8 times. Like many others, his underpaid court appointed attorney had persuaded him to take a plea deal with the assurance that if he stayed out of trouble in prison he would be released on parole within a few years. It’s never happened. 

I showed this picture of Mr. Williams (with the red cap)
Then there’s the passion for justice I feel for John Bennie Williams, an 83 year-old, blind African-American with an excellent record of behavior in prison, and who has for years been eligible for geriatric release because of his age, but has been turned down 22 times by a parole board with only a 3% annual release grant rate of the cases it reviews each year.

These are just a few of the things that have motivated me to keep putting off settling down in a Sarasota-like retirement somewhere, and to keep using whatever influence and means I have left to encourage everyone to love justice as God does, and to keep praying daily that God’s upside-down kingdom come, so that God’s will be truly be done right here on earth as it is in heaven.

Some years ago, 60-minutes commentator Andy Rooney suggested, tongue in cheek, the need for a new religion, one that would totally rule out war and other forms of violence and injustice and inequality. We know there already is such a religion, but one that simply lacks enough people committed to living it in such a way that “justice will roll down like a mighty torrent, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream”, where what happens here in Harrisonburg and wherever we live is directly impacted by what is happening among our our global village neighbors. 

Wherever there are people who are suffering, in Haiti, in Honduras, in the Sudan or in Syrian refugee camps, those people, those places, should become for us, in the words of the late Elie Weisel, “the center of the universe”.

Among the closing words of the book of Hebrews are these I leave with you: 
“Remember those in prison as though you were their fellow prisoners, and this who are mistreated as though you yourselves were suffering.”

Link to EMU podcast of the October 16 service 
http://emu.edu/now/podcast/2016/10/16/homecoming-worship-service-5/

Friday, October 14, 2016

ATTENSHUN!

source
Have you ever wondered why scriptures so often urge us to worship, magnify and praise God? Does God need our adoration to satisfy some infinitely super-sized ego?

I don't think so. I have come to believe that worship is meant to help us focus on what is ultimately and eternally important, as an alternative to our becoming preoccupied with our own self-centeredness and self-seeking.

Worship is similar to the absolute attention a commander musters from his troops when preparing them for a mission. When the command "Attention" is given, all enlisted members in a unit line up in formation and face forward, awaiting orders. They then pledge their absolute allegiance and give their undivided attention to understanding and wholeheartedly responding--with all of their "heart, soul, mind and strength"--to the directiions they are given.

As called out members of God's enlisted people, our mission is to incarnate the life and carry on the work Christ came into the world to accomplish, an assignment no less challenging and dangerous as going into battle. And for God's kind of non-violent mission of waging God's peace and extending God's justice and grace we need all of the rallying and all of the inspiration and equipping possible.

Without that kind of worshipful, undivided attention, we can become aimless, self-absorbed and useless to the world around us, too earthly-minded to be of much earthly good.

I love this rendering of a part of Psalm 96 from Eugene Person's the Message:
7 Bravo, God, Bravo!
Everyone join in the great shout: Encore!
In awe before the beauty, in awe before the might.

8-9 Bring gifts and celebrate,
Bow before the beauty of God,
Then to your knees—everyone worship!

10 Get out the message—God Rules!
He put the world on a firm foundation;
He treats everyone fair and square.

11 Let’s hear it from Sky,
With Earth joining in,
And a huge round of applause from Sea.

12 Let Wilderness turn cartwheels,
Animals, come dance,
Put every tree of the forest in the choir—

13 An extravaganza before God as he comes,
As he comes to set everything right on earth,
Set everything right, treat everyone fair.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

There Ought To Be A Law

Virginia State Capitol (photo by Wilipedia)
One of my Virginia inmate friends came up with the following list of proposed bills he's like to see enacted by the Virginia General Assembly. Which of these do you feel deserve a hearing? 

1 - (EDUCATION) - Create and distribute annually to seventh thru twelfth graders in public schools a summary of state laws that can lead to criminal convictions, along with the maximum sentence for each.

2 - (EDUCATION) - Mandate Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) to ensure that every inmate is educated in basic math, reading and spelling until their GED has been successfully achieved, along with personal financial management, basic computer skills, job resumes and other work related skills, plus any treatment throughout their incarceration that would prepare inmates to successfully return to society.

3 - (HUMANE TREATMENT) - Mandate that all jails and prisons be humanely temperature controlled throughout the year.

4 - (HUMANE TREATMENT) - Mandate that every inmate is issued at least one free roll of toilet tissue and at least one bar of anti-bacterial soap weekly.

5 - (OFFENSES) - Require every sexual related crime or offense within a jail or prison to be reported to Virginia State Police within 24-hours of learning that such a crime has been committed.

6 - (OFFENSES) - Mandate a minimum 5-year sentence for every inmate found guilty of a felony while incarcerated, or arrange for such inmates to be housed in a step-down facility. 

7 - (PAROLE) - Grant immediate parole release to inmates sentenced under the parole laws prior to the Truth-in-Sentencing (TIS) in 1995 who were juveniles when incarcerated and who have been incarcerated for at least twenty years, subject to an evaluation to assure they are no longer a threat to society. 

8 - (PSYCHOLOGICAL) - Require a study to be completed on the long-term social and psychological effects of incarceration on inmates kept idle in jails and/or prisons for long periods of time.

9 - (REENTRY) - Make it a crime for a business owner found guilty of not hiring an individual solely because they are ex-inmates.

10 - (SENTENCING) - Abolish the death sentence in Virginia.

11 - (SENTENCING) - Abolish life sentences for juveniles.

12 - (SENTENCING) - Sentence individuals based on the current life expectancy of their race and gender.

13 - (SENTENCING) - Place a cap on sentences, and not allow a total combined sentence of over 40 years.

14 - (SENTENCING) - Mandate that every individual arrested for a felony be administered an IQ examination from an independent qualified mental health professional before allowing them to enter into a contract or plea bargain agreement, including but not limited to an Alford Plea.

15 - (SENTENCING) - Create an Independent Review Board with an investigator to review all statewide claims of innocence from incarcerated individuals.

16 - (TRANSPORTATION) - Require that when inmates are  transported to and from a destination that they be exposed to public view as little as possible, with proper safeguards to protect them from insult, curiosity and publicity in any form. The transportation of inmates in conveyances with inadequate ventilation or light, or in any way that would subject them to unnecessary physical hardship, should be prohibited. Enhancements made to security vehicles allowing inmates to be locked inside a full metal cage and again locked on the outside of the transport vehicle should be prohibited.

17 - (TREATMENT) - Ensure that all State responsible Inmates are relocated to Reception and Receiving Centers within 90 working days after the inmate's final sentencing order has been received by VDOC.

18 - (VCE) - Require that all state agencies purchase products and services offered by a Virginia Correctional Enterprises (VCE) whenever possible.

19 - (SENTENCING) - Restore the sixty-five percent Parole Eligibility (PE) Law and change the Truth-in-Sentencing (TIS) Law for all inmates.

20 - (WORK) - Provide compensation for inmate workers who that have been injured while working in a state correctional facility.

21 - (COMMISSARY) - Provide commissary items to inmates at affordable prices, and mandate that commissaries be operated by state employees with inmate workers rather than  by outside for-profit enterprises

22 - (CO-PAY) - Repeal laws that allow the DOC to withdraw money from inmate accounts as co-pay for dental and medical services that should be provided by the state.

23 - (RETIREMENT) - Provide retirement funds to be deducted from inmate pay or have a portion go into the Social Security system for the benefit of inmates and their families when they are no longer able to work.

24 - (INDUSTRIES) - Provide a long overdue increase in pay for inmate workers, to at least the following levels:
Skilled Lead Positions - $1.20 per hour
Skilled Assistant Lead Positions - $1.15
Skilled Workers - $1.00
Semi-skilled workers - $0.90
Unskilled workers - $0.80

25 - (SENIOR CITIZENS) - Suspend personal property taxes for all senior citizens.

Here's a link to contact Governor McAuliffe on any of the above concerns: 

Here are email addresses for our local state legislators:

Delegate Tony Wilt

Senator Mark Obenshain

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Another Pro-Trump Ad Aimed At The Amish

Recent AMISH PAC ad in Lancaster Farming magazine

The above is the latest attempt by a group calling itself the AmishPAC to get the normally non-political plain people of Lancaster County to vote for Donald Trump. Their spiritual ancestors, church leaders like Menno Simons and Jacob Amman, would surely have been appalled at this prospect.

While I'm not a fan of either party, I do object to the use of distortions and outright deceptions as found in this ad:

• Attacks on religious freedom would rise to a level never seen before in the U.S. 

• Taxes and regulation of farmers and business owners will continue to increase.

• More on demand abortion and more tiny babies will be sold for profit.

• The Supreme Court would gain three liberal judges, destroying the checks and balances that have protected our liberty.

The fact is that both liberal and conservative Supreme Court judges and legislators have been consistent supporters of religious liberty, issuing rulings that have directly protected the rights of minorities like the Amish--regarding education, social security and exemption from participating in Obamacare, for example. Also, as a matter of fact, the number of abortions has been steadily declining under both Republican and Democratic administrations over the past decades.


Here are two additional posts on the Amish Pac:
http://harvyoder.blogspot.com/2016/09/billboard-aimed-at-amish-claims-trump.html
and
http://harvyoder.blogspot.com/2016/09/more-on-trump-amish-pac-ad.html

Friday, October 7, 2016

Some Down Sides Of My Early Singing Career

Rare photo of me at six, with my older brother Eli

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?

At the Northern Barber Shop,
Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his crop.
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?

I was six years old when I innocently offered to sing this little ditty at a talent sharing time in Miss Fauber's second grade class. That was some 70 years ago.

Big mistake. I had no idea how many problems it would create for me during my remaining five years at Stuarts Draft Elementary. From that point on, students from all over the school of some 400 kids would repeatedly pester me to sing "Fuzzy Wuzzy" for them--at recess, over the lunch hour, while waiting for the bus, and at any other unexpected times.

Not only was this annoying, it was embarrassing for a young Amish kid who didn't care much for that kind of attention. Even worse, I was nicknamed "Fuzzy Wuzzy" by some of my fellow students.

I've mostly gotten over any complex this may have created, and I have sometimes even sung this nursery rhyme piece to my younger grandchildren, who have themselves asked me for repeated encores, along with the story of how others begged me to sing it when I was in school. 

I recently learned that the term "fuzzy wuzzy" originated as a derogatory term for some tribes of nineteenth-century Sudanese warriors who gave British imperial forces no end of trouble. So I was probably being politically incorrect and insensitive during this entire part of my singing career.

Of course I was totally unaware of this, and in my defense, the little song some of my sisters had learned from some worldly friends of theirs no longer carried that meaning for most people. 

Maybe my childhood performing experience wasn't all in vain, in that it may have helped me overcome some of my shyness. Or who knows, maybe it contributed to my becoming a pastor and counselor--in part to help others overcome past childhood traumas. ;-)

Note: I have no idea where the second verse actually comes from, as I haven't been able to find those words in print anywhere. But not to worry, my grandkids and I will likely remember them forever.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Evangelicals vs. Evangelicals, Position 1

A new group opposes justice-minded Christian organizations
Today I'm posting a condensed version of an eight-page letter by a newly formed group calling itself the"American Association of Evangelicals", followed by another post of a open letter by a group of evangelicals with an opposing point of view. 

I hope we can all prayerfully distinguish between truth speaking versus political rhetoric, and between addressing legitimate concerns and attacking other individuals or groups. 

Here's an abridged version of the first letter, with names of some of the signers:

"An Open Letter to Christian pastors, leaders and believers who assist the anti-Christian Progressive political movement in America"

After years of earnest but less public attempts, it is now with heavy hearts, and a hope for justice and restoration, that we Christian leaders urge 'progressive' evangelicals and Catholics to repent of their work that often advances a destructive liberal political agenda. We write as true friends knowing that most believers mean well. We desire the best for you and for the world God loves.

As recent leaked documents confirm, and as Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners eventually admitted, wealthy, anti-Christian foundations, following the lead of billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, fund and "rent" Christian ministers as "mascots" serving as surprising validators for their causes. The consequent realities include injury to countless people, the Church, the family, nation and the global Church including many martyrs.

We must reclaim the Church’s witness in the world. Biblical truth and wisdom are the highest love for human beings. While God loves justice and mercy for all, many "social justice" campaigns are politically crafted and not the true Gospel. Only the truth of our sin, both personal and systemic, and Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for our salvation and rebirth, is true hope for persons and nations. The gospel charges all things with hope.

Consider some of the consequences of Progressive political activism over the past eight years:

1. A growth industry trafficking in human baby organs and body parts – funded and defended by the Democratic Party.
2. The abandonment of a biblical view of marriage that protected and liberated children and adults from centuries of pagan slavery, poverty, polygamy and non-life-giving sexuality.
3. The Transgender agenda imposed by Obama-government edict, including gender re-education to be forced on our citizens, businesses, schools, military and churches.
4. Doubling of our national debt, economic stagnation and increased welfare dependency.
5. Increased minority unemployment, poverty and violent inner city lawlessness, with an accompanying loss of opportunity, self-determination and family stability.
6. Heightened racial division and tension, and the growing phenomenon of paid demonstrators being recruited and dispatched to instigate protests that often become riots.
7. Open borders and 'sanctuary' cities increasing drugs, disease, crime, gangs and terrorism.
8. Forced refugee resettlement in hundreds of American cities without citizen consent, mandated by the federal government in collusion with the United Nations. "Refugees" are primarily non-assimilating Muslims, while authorities reject persecuted Christians.
9. Hostility towards Judeo-Christian religious liberty in our courts, media and universities including the suppression of conservative speakers, free thought and moral education.
10. The widespread, political use of the IRS to intimidate conservative, patriotic and Christian groups that disagree with the current political establishment.

For many years, Soros’s Open Society and other liberal foundations have funded not only most of the disturbing campaigns mentioned above (1-10) but also the Religious Left, using and creating ostensibly evangelical and Catholic organizations to "message and mobilize" Christians into Progressive causes. They use the Marxist-Alinsky tactic of funding "ministers" who cherry-pick faith language to confuse and divide the Church’s morality, mission and vote.

At a time when many Christian ministries are struggling, a few of the Soros network "faith" and "interfaith" grantees are Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Richard Cizik's New Evangelical Partnership, Telos, J Street to malign Israel, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Faithful America and Gamaliel. Faith in Public Life, to "counter" Christians and the Tea Party in the media and, with PICO, advocates for amnesty, mass Islamic migration, and even sought to influence the visit and priorities of Pope Francis himself. Billions of additional dollars to "Christian VOLAGs" for large scale "refugee" and migrant resettlement often comes from the Obama administration.

We urge you to question the true intentions of persons or organizations that receive money from Soros and other billionaire globalists. We must not give their surrogates four more years.

And so we ask again, why do those who claim to share our faith in Christ continue to advocate for politicians who will pass legislation, and appoint justices and judges who will attack Christian liberty and persecute believers? Turning our nation over to the enemies of biblical faith does not honor Christ, promote love of neighbor, or advance God’s kingdom in the world.

We ask those who have intentionally or unwittingly aided the Progressive agenda in the past to look at the actual consequences of their policies. Please stop inviting fellow believers to assist global profiteers and political activists who are determined to de-Christianize America.

Please repent and turn away from those who attack the Church. Say "no" to blood money. Refuse funds from anyone attempting to put the Church and America in chains.

Selected signers:

Lt. Gen. Wm. "Jerry" Boykin (U.S. Army, retired)
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely (U.S. Army, retired)
Bishop Harry R Jackson, Jr. (High Impact Leadership Coalition)
Dr. Everett Piper (President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University)
Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riano (Executive Vice President, Regent University)
Dr. Wayne Grudem (Phoenix Seminary)
Dr. Jay Richards (The Catholic University of America)
David Barton (author and speaker)
Rep. John Becker (Ohio state representative)
Dr. Jim Garlow (Senior Pastor, Skyline Church, San Diego)
Pastor Steve Riggle (Grace Church, Houston TX)
Pastor Steve Smothermon (Legacy Church, Albuquerque NM)
Fr. Frank Pavone (Priests for Life)
Eric Metaxas (author, talk-show host)
Tim Wildmon (American Family Association)
George Barna (Researcher and author)
Mat Staver (Liberty Counsel)

For an opposing view see the next post.

Evangelicals vs. Evangelicals, Position 2

Here's a second "evangelical position" directly opposed to the one I just posted:

Called to Resist Bigotry —
A Statement of Faithful Obedience

During elections, religious leaders have an obligation to lift up the moral values of their faith traditions that offer instruction and guidance on issues of public consequence. When entering into the public sphere, faith leaders must take care to avoid being used by politics or politicians, or to allow their faith to be exploited for partisan causes or their faith communities turned into mere political constituencies.

As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”

The right questions, for Christians, include: What does the Bible say? What does Jesus teach? How can those convictions best be applied to the complex and imperfect choices of political elections? Various Christians will reach different conclusions on these questions – and vote differently – and those differences must be respected in a democratic and civil society.

At significant times in history, however, Christians from across the political spectrum come together around political realities that threaten the fundamental integrity of Christian faith and the well-being of society itself. Sometimes what is called politics raises moral crises, in which our faith is literally at stake in the way we respond.
We the undersigned believe this is one of those times, and that the churches in this country, and our country itself, face such a moral threat today. We are seeing the very worst values of our nation and its history on display with a vulgar message and style. A direct appeal to the racial, religious, and gender bigotry that is always under the surface of American politics is now being brought to painful public light.

The ascendancy of a demagogic candidate and his message, with the angry constituency he is fueling, is a threat to both the values of our faith and the health of our democracy. Donald Trump directly promotes racial and religious bigotry, disrespects the dignity of women, harms civil public discourse, offends moral decency, and seeks to manipulate religion. This is no longer politics as usual, but rather a moral and theological crisis, and thus we are compelled to speak out as faith leaders. This statement is absolutely no tacit endorsement of other candidates, many of whom use the same racial politics often in more subtle ways. But while Donald Trump certainly did not start these long-standing American racial sins, he is bringing our nation’s worst instincts to the political surface, making overt what is often covert, explicit what is often implicit.
Trump’s highly visible and vulgar racial and religious demagoguery presents a danger but also an opportunity—to publicly expose and resist the worst of American values. By confronting a message so contrary to our Christian values, our religious voices can help provide a powerful way to put our true faith and our better American values forward in the midst of national moral confusion and crisis.

There is understandable anger across the country. The failures of both Washington and Wall Street have created legitimate citizen anger and alienation across the political spectrum, and many of us are empathetic to the many people who feel marginalized and unheard by economic, political, and media elites that don’t serve their needs. Faith leaders and our communities need to reach out to all of those in marginalized communities — even across racial and ideological lines–to listen, learn, and serve.
But Donald Trump, a celebrity from the worlds of real estate and reality television, is manipulating this anger for his own political advantage – at the expense of the common good. Trump is shamelessly using racial resentment, fear, and hatred – always dangerously present in our society – to fuel a movement against “the other,” targeting other races, women, cultures, ethnicities, nations, creeds, and a whole global religion.

That stands in stark and chilling opposition to the reconciling love of God confessed by those who claim Jesus as Lord. So we, as faith leaders, hereby confess our resistance against the message and actions of Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s message and the way he communicates it is the antithesis of Christian values, and it is time for faith leaders to say so. The media concerns itself with its own ratings and the political polling on the messages of Donald Trump; but faith leaders should focus on the morality of his message.

The demographics of the United States are changing. Soon, this country will no longer be a white-majority nation but a majority of minorities. We believe, as faith leaders, that our emerging cultural diversity is a blessing and not a threat. But Donald Trump has pitted himself and his followers against the more diverse America that we are becoming. He defends the status quo of white majority power and privilege. To that, Trump adds the use and abuse of women, and the defense of old patriarchies. 

As Christian leaders, we reject those ugly racial and sexist attacks on our brothers and sisters.
The growing racial and cultural diversity of our churches and society should be welcomed by those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, and embraced by those who call themselves the body of Christ. Instead, Donald Trump is condoning the politics of race and hate, and now even justifying political violence. His divisive rhetoric, laced with racist, bigoted, and hateful attitudes and wrapped in nationalistic xenophobia, is being enthusiastically embraced by millions – including many self-identified Christians, who are allowing their racial identity to trump their faith. This stands against the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Painfully, the politics of race and violence have been used repeatedly against people of color in our history – indeed, since our nation’s founding. But instead of repenting from America’s original sin of racism, Donald Trump is exploiting the legitimate economic grievances of marginalized white Americans with false and ugly racial blame.

Trump’s personal attacks on America’s first black president as illegitimate and not one of “us,” his false accusations against African Americans, his vicious attacks against Mexicans and inflaming the fear of immigrants more broadly, his claim that most Muslims hate America and his call to “ban” them from our country, his advocacy of torture and the killing of terrorist’s families and children – are all of deep concern to many of us as religious leaders. To all that falsehood, hatred, and violence we must say no, in defense of all of God’s diverse children.

Reports of the bullying of Hispanic and Muslim children on school playgrounds indicate the danger in the culture to such messaging. Therefore, it is time for both Republicans and Democrats of moral conscience to speak out against this message. The rise of open bigotry and effective demagoguery requires more than a political response – rather, it demands a moral, and even religious, declaration of opposition and theological resistance.

Many within the Republican Party have strategically used racial politics for decades, and that flame now burns out of control. They have harvested the votes of many white working class voters, but then failed to represent and address their needs. Indeed the use by these Republican leaders of racial resentment and political extremism has provided a fertile ground for the rise of a leader like Donald Trump. Thankfully, some Republican leaders have condemned and disassociated themselves from many of Trump’s most pernicious statements and positions, but many voices for a more
inclusive Republican Party have been swept aside. Both our political parties have exploited racial minorities and not kept promises they have made. This racial demagoguery negatively shapes the policies of other political candidates and alarmingly reveals the continued structural racial disparities in our national political life across party lines.

The promotion of racial and religious fear and hate, and the justifying of political violence, are gospel issues, not merely partisan political matters. Confessional resistance to that message is now required by faithful Christians. This is not merely an electoral debate in which Christians hold legitimately differing policy views from one another. Rather, it is a public test of Christian truth and discipleship. History records other moments that beckoned churches to publicly confess the truths of faith in order to confront political movements that represented a deceitful and dangerous attack on the gospel—to try to clarify faithful Christian witness in a time of crisis.

Inflammatory messages of racial, religious, and nationalist bigotry compel confessional resistance from faithful Christians who believe that the image of God is equally within every human being. We hold up the call to love Christ in the encounter with one another, and we believe social justice is an integral component of the way of Jesus, leading inevitably to speaking up for our neighbor against political attacks, especially by oppressive leaders and governments. Racism is a sin against the Holy Spirit; it overtly opposes the work of God in the world; and we Christians are called to stand up for our neighbors. We must always uphold the principle, in both our personal and public lives, of reciprocity –the Golden Rule — that we should treat others in the ways we want to be treated ourselves.

When we face dangerous and demagogic messages of racial fear, hate, xenophobia, gender disrespect, and nationalist ideology, it is incumbent upon Christians to lead by example – on behalf of racial justice and reconciliation, mutual respect, civility, service, religious freedom, international peace, and partnership. We must lead with our best values, and show how the people of God can help guide the way toward a more diverse, just, and unified America. The Christian vocation is to build bridges instead of walls, as Pope Francis has recently reminded us.

German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” So we are called to speak and act, from pulpits and prayer groups across the nation, declaring our refusal to cooperate, in word and deed, against actions of intolerance and hate, not as a political group or partisan voice but as disciples of Jesus Christ. We can use the opportunity of speaking clearly about what we are against, to demonstrate and lead by example on behalf of what we are for.
We can do no other.

Appendix

Offenses committed by Donald Trump include:
* He began his political career by challenging the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president as not a real American, offered or passed along degrading comments, images, and lies related to African Americans, and refused to quickly and clearly disavow the support of the KKK and other white supremacists for his candidacy.
* He began his candidacy and has deployed his national platform with false, incendiary, insulting, and racist attacks on Mexicans and other immigrants, thereby endangering not only all Latinos in America but other people of color now targeted even by bullying school children. Along with others, he has proposed a cruel mass deportation of every undocumented immigrant in the United States, which would separate and destroy millions of families.
* He has offered a blanket condemnation of Islam as a religion and has proposed an unprecedented and unconstitutional ban on all immigration of Muslims to the United States; he has falsely accused U.S. Muslims of many things, including supposedly cheering the attacks of Sept. 11, thus impugning the national loyalty of millions of our fellow citizens – which undermines our national security by alienating and marginalizing our Muslim neighbors.
* He has made numerous objectifying and degrading comments about women, disrespecting both their dignity and equality – including mocking the appearances of female candidates and the wives of candidates who opposed him and issuing sexist attacks on female reporters who challenge him. His own sexual boasting and cheating on multiple wives offend both men and women and serve as a negative role model for our children.
* He mocked a disabled reporter, creating an environment that leads to further mockery of disabled persons.
* He has threatened to “open up” libel laws in order to punish those who criticize him, a chilling threat to free speech and freedom of the press, and, along with his continuous hostile words and actions against the media, he has created a threatening environment for reporters covering his campaign. Trump’s harshly negative statements and actions toward a free and critical press is discomforting for many of us. Without apology, he has expressed his support for strong dictators and their crackdowns on dissent, thus sending a signal.
* His rallies have become frightening settings that both threaten and at times enact violence in word and deed. By implicitly and explicitly encouraging violence and physical attacks on those protesting at his rallies, he has endangered public discussion, and even exploited such incidents for his political advantage. Not only has he failed to clearly and emphatically denounce his supporters for violent behavior, he has actually called for such practices and, when people engage in them, has offered to subsidize their legal expenses.
* He has several times threatened to deploy torture techniques “far worse” than waterboarding against national enemies, and has threatened to kill “family members,” including the children, of suspected terrorists – all in contradiction to U.S. and international law.
* He has coarsened political discourse through threats, vulgarity, and vile personal attacks on his opponents – giving justification for many of his followers to engage in similar vitriol. He has lied repeatedly, seemingly pathologically, about many matters when directly questioned about the facts. Instead of deepening civil discussion, he inflames angry feelings at home and has already worsened relations with other nations who have become targets of his verbal attacks.
* He defines leadership only in terms of strength, toughness, “winning,” and “making deals,” rather than the ethic of public “service,” finding common ground, or serving the common good. With him, politics is reduced to win/lose battles, with leaders as the winners against the losers. He offers to be the authoritarian strong man, instead of the servant leader, and in his distorted definition of leadership, the Christian virtues of humility, compassion, empathy, mutuality, and integrity disappear.
Instead of learning from his mistakes, the list of Donald Trump’s moral offenses keeps growing. It’s time to say enough.

*Organizations listed for identification purposes only.


Rev. Claude Alexander, Pastor, The Park Church
Rev. Donald H. Ashmall, Council Minister, International Council of Community Churches
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Legate of the Eastern Diocese, Armenian Apostolic Church
Bishop Carroll Baltimore, Sr., President and CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Networks
Rev. Leroy Barber, Founder, Voices Project
Rev. Traci Blackmon, Acting Executive Minister, Justice & Witness Ministries, UCC
Rev. Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director Emeritus, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton, Founding Senior Pastor, The Open Church of Maryland
Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life
Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Rev. Dr. Shawn Casselberry, Executive Director, Mission Year
Noel Castellanos, CEO & President, CCDA
Shane Claiborne, Director, Red Letter Christians
Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International
Rev. Joshua Dubois, Founder and CEO, Values Partnerships
Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, Pastor Emeritus, Providence Baptist Church
Dr. Robert M. Franklin, President Emeritus, Morehouse College
Rev. Wes Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
Dr. David Gushee, Professor, Mercer University
Dr. Mimi Haddad, President, Christians for Biblical Equality
Rev. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church
Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins, Senior Vice President for Public Programs, Union Theological Seminary
Lisa Sharon Harper, Chief Church Engagement Officer, Sojourners
Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, Senior Pastor, Friendship West Baptist Church; Chair, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Rev. Alvin Herring, Deputy Director of Faith Formation, PICO National Network
Michelle Higgins, Director, Faith for Justice
Hyepin Im, Founder and President, Korean Churches for Community Development
Micky ScottBey Jones, Public Theologian, Activist, Organizer, Faith Matters Network
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
Rev. Carlos Malave, Executive Director, Christian Churches Together
Rev. Michael A. Mata, Los Angeles Director, Transformational Urban Leadership Program, Azusa Pacific Seminary
Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, Director of Clegy Organizing, PICO National Network
Rev. Timothy McDonald III, Pastor, First Iconium Baptist Church
Rev. Brian McLaren, Author/Speaker, Convergence
Rev. Carolyn Metzler, Spiritual Life Coordinator, Living School for Action and Contemplation
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ
David Neff, retired Editor in Chief, Christianity Today
Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, Senior Pastor, Glide Memorial UMC
Rev. Adam Phillips, Christ Church, Portland
Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary
Rev. Rudy Rasmus, Co-Senior Pastor, St. John’s United Methodist Church
Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation
Dr. Steve Schneck, Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America
Rev. Dr. Ronald J. Sider, Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy, Palmer Seminary at Eastern University
Dr. T. DeWitt Smith Jr., Senior Pastor, Trinity Baptist Church of Metro Atlanta, Co-Chair, National African American Clergy Network
Rev. Ron Stief, Executive Director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Rev. Robert H. Thompson, Exeter, N.H.
Rev. Anthony L. Trufant, Senior Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church
Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder and President, Sojourners
Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church
Dr. Joan L. Wharton, Pastor, Hemingway Temple AME Church
Dr. Reggie Williams, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, McCormick Theological Seminary
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Chair, National African American Clergy Network
Rev. Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches
Rev. Dr. Frank Yamada, President, McCormick Theological Seminary