“Time won’t leave me as I am, but time won’t take the boy out of this man”--”City of Blinding Lights”, U2

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Update on Cindy Sheehan speech at Venice UMC

In April 2005, Venice (CA) United Methodist Church hosted an event that I felt crossed the line of acceptable political activity by a United Methodist Church. I blogged about it here. In my original post I wrote:
I have emailed the Rev. Ziergert for more information about the event and asked for his thoughts about political activity and the church. I'll post his response when it is received. I want to make clear, it is not my intention to criticize any one for the content of their remarks. Rather, my point is that I think such an event might be problematic for ministry.
The Rev. Ziegert was on vacation and so wasn't able to respond until now. I appreciate the time he spend responding as well as his courtesy. As promised, here is his response:

From: veniceumc@aol.com [mailto:veniceumc@aol.com]

Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2005 12:54 PM
To: tim@timsisk.org

Subject: Cindy Sheehan speech at Venice UMC

Hello Rev. Sisk and greetings in the name of our lord Jesus Christ,

I've returned today from my August vacation. I pray that you are well and didn't feel neglected by the lack of response to your e-mail. For church purposes the April 19 event was meant to provide dialogue, access, and interpersonal connection with some people who have personal investment in their views of the war in Iraq. Petty Officer Pablo Paredes who was facing a court martial for refusing to return to Iraq based on his belief that the war is immoral and illegal also spoke, as did ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern, the father of a soldier killed in action spoke, and also a veteran of Iraq. Whenever I can, I speak against war and how war never has brought a lasting peace but is a preamble to more violence. I consider that an extension of New Testament gospel.

Teaching the language of peace and understanding is one of the requirements of donning the stole of ordination. Understanding the toll violence takes on humans and seeing the faces of its victims is important no matter how one feels about war. Politics is unavoidable when we live in community--who has power over whom, how that power is shared, and how we apply our faith in engaging one another is important. Paul of Tarsus dedicated much time to just that subject
matter.

I am comfortable speaking against violence in all its forms as I deliver the good news to my congregation. At the same time, it is important for people to understand that sometimes a system corrupted by the powers and principalities of which Paul spoke can leave us no"good" choice but only the lesser of two evils. What does a faithful Christian do then?

A church must provide spiritual and moral guidance to our society else it is irrelevant. Our society is in the shape it is because we have too long neglected our responsibility to guide. Here at Venice, a neighborhood of Los Angeles that is extremely active politically, the church must help these people to discern and act faithfully, understanding the power of prayer and fasting in the process that leads to action.

So we open our hearts, minds and doors six days a week for our neighbors to gather and work out their passions and fears, hopes and faith. On Sunday we preach the gospel and praise God for never abandoning us but calling us ever into His embrace.

This church does not take an official position for or against the war, I do not condemn or condone people's political convictions, party affiliation, or action. What I do is insist that they understand the role of their faith and their relationship with God in those convictions and actions. My role is to neither tell others how to think or support those who do but to insist that people do think through their relaitonship with God and what God calls them to do.

I think that if we tried less to judge who is right and who is wrong, less to be conservative or progressive, less to align ourselves with someone else's doctrine, but rather realize that scripture, experience, reason and tradition inform us all and God invites us all into relationship with Him and one another we might discover that none of us is totally right or totally wrong. We might just come to the truth because we cared enough to work it out together.

The blessings and peace of God be yours,

Tom Ziegert, Pastor, VUMC
My response to the Rev. Ziegert will come in the next post.

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