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A vision for a just peace

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8-9)

The issues in Israel and Palestine are complex. The history of the lands now known as Palestine and Israel are laden with many layers of stories. These stories are often powerfully felt and told from many different perspectives.

As followers of the Jesus way, we do well to approach with the prophet Micah’s words in mind. We do well if we do not dehumanise either side. We do well to learn more about the issues. We do well to work towards a vision for a just peace, where all people in Palestine and Israel can live with freedom, dignity and security based on international law and human rights.

There are many opportunities to learn more, and ways to respond to issues that give priority to seeking lasting peace for the people of Palestine and Israel.

Today the VCC Executive Officer Rev Sandy Boyce met with Nell Potter, a returned ‘EA’ (see EAPPI below) and Executive Officer with PIEN (Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network), Jessica Morrison (Executive Officer, APAN), and Rev John Gilmore (President, National Council of Churches).

Jessica Morrison (APAN), Nell Potter (PIEN), Rev Sandy Boyce (VCC), Rev John Gilmore (NCCA)

Sandy, Nell and Jessica are involved in EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel). EAPPI is a World Council of Churches program. In Australia, EAPPI is managed by Act for Peace (the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia).

EAPPI began when local church leaders in Palestine and Israel came together to take action in response to the pain and injustice they were witnessing in their communities. Their vision was a just peace, where all people in Palestine and Israel could live with freedom, dignity and security based on international law and human rights.

EAPPI volunteers deploy to Jerusalem and/or the West Bank, and spend three months living and working alongside both Palestinian families living under military occupation, and Israeli human rights defenders. Through the presence of the volunteers who act as international observers, human rights violations in Palestinian communities are reduced.

Nell also the Executive Officer of Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network (PIEN). She first visited Palestine in 2017 when she spent three months living in the West Bank on the World Council of Church’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). Read an article Nell wrote for Anglican Focus.

Jessica has been the Executive Officer of APAN (Australia Palestine Advocacy Network) since 2011 and has a broad understanding of issues effecting Palestinians. She has traveled to Palestine on a number of occasions, including serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams. She has taught Social Work and been involved in a range of community campaigns and broader movements for peace and social justice. APAN works for an Australian policy that supports Palestinian human rights, justice, and equality.

Sandy has been engaged with the national EAPPI committee since the first volunteers were deployed – Bek Christensen and Aimee Kent. Sandy continues to be involved through the work of the EAPPI Committee and through the recruitment and training program for EAPPI volunteers.

The PIEN website has suggestions for resources and learning more:

For a brief introduction to the socio-political context, we’d recommend the Jewish Voice For Peace (USA) (video) or  a written introduction from Australia Palestine Advocacy Network.  For a theological introduction, we’d recommend the recent short publication The Wall has been broken down.

If you would like some more detailed information about the context of Palestine and Israel, please see our recommendations of  booksvideos, and Palestinian stories

There are church statements from Christian leaders in Palestine and around the world.  There is specific information about Christians in Palestine and the World Council of Churches World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.

We would encourage you to listen with a generous spirit and open heart as we seek to understand more about what many people call the holy land.

If you’re interested in finding out more, or would like a speaker, check out the APAN, PIEN and EAPPI (Act for Peace) websites.

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World Oceans Day June 8

2022 theme: Revitalisation – Collective action for the ocean

Sing a new song, for God has done wonderful things! Sing to God all the earth, sing praise and songs of joy! Let the oceans roar and all the creatures that live within it give praise! (Psalm 98 adapted)

The purpose of World Oceans Day is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world’s oceans.

The oceans are the lungs of our planet and a major source of food and medicine and a critical part of the biosphere. The ocean connects, sustains and supports us all. Yet its health is at a tipping point and so is the well-being of all that depends on it. As the past years have shown us, we need to work together to create a new balance with the ocean that no longer depletes its bounty but instead restores its vibrancy and bring it new life.

The ocean covers over 70% of the planet. It is our life source, supporting humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on earth. The ocean produces at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen, it is home to most of earth’s biodiversity, and is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world. Not to mention, the ocean is key to our economy with an estimated 40 million people being employed by ocean-based industries by 2030.

Even though all its benefits, the ocean is now in need of support. With 90% of big fish populations depleted, and 50% of coral reefs destroyed, we are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished. To protect and preserve the ocean and all it sustains, we must create a new balance, rooted in true understanding of the ocean and how humanity relates to it. We must build a connection to the ocean that is inclusive, innovative, and informed by lessons from the past.

What are the issues for us in our land ‘girt by sea’. How do we reflect on our divine role as caretakers of God’s Creation? How might we advocate on behalf of the well-being of the oceans? What might we learn from Aboriginal people about the way they care for the ocean?

In news this week, there is a report about the decision by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema) giving Santos approval to drill up to eight wells off the northern beaches of the Tiwi Islands. Munupi senior lawman Dennis Tipakalippa is challenging that decision in the federal court saying he and his community were never consulted about the drilling. ‘We spend a lot of time out in the water – hunting, fishing. We only ever take what we can eat in a day, no more. We respect our homelands, our sea country and it looks after us. Santos should have respected us and consulted in the proper way’. Read more here.

Rev. James Bhagwan, General Secretary for the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC), says “the Pacific is on a journey of self-determination, reclaiming itself as a large “liquid continent” and people connected by the ocean. The impact of climate change in the Pacific is profound. Land and sea are bound to culture and a sense of belonging”.

“We understand the ocean does not separate us. It’s what connects us. So we recognise that the ocean is our home and part of who we are. And we have seen terms now develop that are about the Liquid Continent, about the Blue Pacific, or the Blue Continent, recognising that the Ocean is part of who we are. It’s part of our identity”.

“In most traditional Pacific Island cultures, the self does not exist. We exist in community. We exist as part of the natural environment, which is the land, the sea, the sky, and all creation. Our traditional spirituality is a creation-centred spirituality”. (Read more here)

More reading
Pacific people caught in the link between ecological racism and deep-sea mining

Still we rise with hope

Pacific Council of Churches Facebook page

Prayer
Swirling God, who at the dawn of creation swept over the face of the waters, hover over our oceans and all waterways with your blessed presence.
May each droplet of mist and sea be clean and fresh for all life who come in contact with these holy streams.
Bless each cell and molecule of life below the surface of the waters who trust in you and us to create a prosperous world.
Continually nudge us to nurture creation, joining together with humans all over this planet to covenant with one another and celebrate the gifts of water, air, fire, and land that you have given us. Amen.
(Source: Michelle L. Torigian, God goes pop)

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Metropolitan Dr Gennadios (1951-2022)

(original post on CCA website, 4th June 2022)

Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios passed away on 1 June 2022 in Thessaloniki, Greece. He was 71 years old.

Metropolitan Dr Gennadios of Sassima, vice moderator of the Central Committee of World Council of Churches (WCC), has been one of the towering Christian leaders who greatly contributed to the life and witness of the global ecumenical movement; he was imbued with the spirit of ecumenism throughout his life and his passing will create a vacuum in the worldwide church and the ecumenical movement as a whole, stated Dr Mathews George Chunakara, the General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA).  

Recollecting Metropolitan Gennadios’ invaluable contributions to the ecclesiastical and global ecumenical movement, the CCA General Secretary said, “Metropolitan Gennadios made a remarkable impact in the Christian world, and he always affirmed the need for strengthening the coherence and ethos of one ecumenical movement; his contributions to church unity will be gratefully remembered by the churches across the world.”

Dr Mathews George Chunakara said that he had fond memories of his close association and working together with Metropolitan Gennadios for over two decades, when Metropolitan Gennadios was initially serving as a member of the governing board and subsequently as Vice Moderator of the Central Committee of WCC. 

The CCA General Secretary also recollected the fond memories of his travelling together with Metropolitan Gennadios in different continents, especially to communist countries such as North Korea, Vietnam, and China, to dialogue and meet with government and communist party officials along with the representatives of churches in these three nations, where churches and Christian missions still face difficulties. 

“Often perceived as a serious person in his external appearance, Metropolitan Gennadios was pastoral, compassionate, and knowledgeable, as well as skilful in handling complex issues with sensitivity, often easing a tensed situation with a sense of humour. His tenacity in affirming the orthodox faith and tradition was always candid, but everybody could well understand the fact that he embodied and embraced the spirit of ecumenism. He evinced keen interest in the highest goals of ecumenism for which he worked diligently. He had a passion to strengthen, nurture, and promote the ecumenical spirit in the worldwide church through the WCC and other related ecclesiastical bodies over the years of his committed work,” recalled Dr Mathews George Chunakara, who had worked closely with Metropolitan Gennadios during his tenure with the WCC as its Asia Secretary and the Director of International Affairs.

Metropolitan Gennadios served in several capacities at the WCC including the following: a staff member of the WCC’s Faith and Order secretariat in Geneva from 1983 to 1993, a member of the Executive and Central Committees, vice-moderator of the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission, and Vice Moderator of the WCC Central Committee for two consecutive terms, first elected in 2006, and a second term since 2013. 

Metropolitan Gennadios was also part of the governing board of the Conference of European Churches, the counterpart of CCA. He was instrumental in facilitating several ecumenical and theological dialogues among various churches and ecclesiastical and confessional bodies, including the Roman Catholic Church. 

Known by his original name Prof. Dr Lymouris Nikolaos in the academic field, Metropolitan Gennadios was a professor of Orthodox Theology and Orthodox Canon Law in several universities, including at the Theological School of the University of Strasbourg, the Institute of Ecumenical Studies, “St. Bernardino” of Venice, and Pontificio Ateneo Antonianum University in Rome, Italy. He graduated from the Theological Institute of Saint Sergius in Paris and then pursued postgraduate studies at the University of Strasbourg. 

In recognition of his genuine and sincere commitment to peace, dialogue, and Christian witness, he was gifted with an honorary fellowship by the Orthodox Academy of Crete and was conferred two “honoris causa” degrees from the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Brookline, Massachusetts, USA) and from the University of Athens (Greece) Faculty of Theology in 2010 and 2015, respectively.  

The Christian Conference of Asia, together with its member churches and councils, expresses its deepest condolences to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the World Council of Churches, and to his bereaved family.

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Day 8: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Beyond the familiar routes of separation to God’s new paths. “They left for their own country by another road.” (Matthew 2:12)

Scripture

  • Jeremiah 31:31-34, I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel.
  • Matthew 11:25-30, Because you have hidden these things…

Meditation
We do not know what the wise men thought – they who were experts in astronomy and navigation – when they were warned to re- turn by another road. They may well have been very confused, but the same light that illumined their journey showed them that there was another road, another possibility. They were called to change direction.

God’s divine providence is always there to show us that there is another way prepared for us. God is there to renew his covenant and lift us up from the frustration we experience when we meet an obstacle. A fresh start is always possible when we are will- ing and open to the work of the Spirit.

On the old familiar roads, Christian communities have walked apart from one an- other. On the new roads to which God calls us, Christians walk together and become pilgrim companions.

Prayer
Gracious God, when we think that all roads are blocked, and we fall into despair, we always find you there. We find you creating a new path before us, one that we did not expect. We thank you because your creative paths open up unforeseen possibilities. Help us to always find you, who lead us yet by a more excellent way. We pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, that you will always lead us back to you. Amen.

(Source: Franciscan Friars of the Atonement)

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Day 7: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The gifts of communion. “Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

Scripture

  • Hosea 6:1-6, For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice.
  • Matthew 6:19-21, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Meditation
In our journey to Bethlehem, the city of bread, we contemplate the wise men who came to pay homage to the Christ Child. They opened their treasures, and offered the new-born king their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

What gifts have we prepared to offer the king who comes to illuminate our lives and lead us to the grace of unity? We know that God does not want our riches and burnt offerings, but rather that his power works through our poverty. Let us then prepare for him the gift of a heart full of love. Kneeling in worship requires hearts that are contrite for the sin that divides us and obedient to the One we serve. This obedience revives, heals and reconciles everything that is broken or wounded in us, around us, and among us as Christians.

Prayer
Lord God, you have revealed yourself in the epiphany of your Son both to those who have long awaited for your coming, and to those who were not expecting you. You know the suffering that surrounds us, the pain caused by our divisions. We ask you to enable our hearts and our minds to know you. As we join the wise men com- ing from afar, we pray that you open our hearts to your love and to the love of our brothers and sisters around us. Receive our prayer in the name of your Son Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Source: Franciscan Friars of the Atonement)

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Day 6: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Gathered in worship around the One Lord “They saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage.” (Matthew 2:11)

Scripture

  • Exodus 3:1-6, Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
  • Matthew 28:16-20, When they saw him, they worshipped him.

Meditation
When the Magi arrived at Bethlehem and saw the child with his mother, they worshipped him. Similarly at the sight of the burning bush, Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God. When the disciples saw the risen Christ on the mountain in Galilee, they worshipped him. In the heavenly liturgy, the twenty-four elders fall before him who sits on the throne. Encountering God’s presence, we respond thus: gazing, followed by amazement, leading to worship.

Do we see? Are we amazed? Are we truly worshipping? In our narrow vision, too often we see only our tangled disagreements, forgetting that the one Lord has given his saving grace to us all, and that we share in the one Spirit who draws us into unity.

As communities enlivened by the Holy Spirit, our churches call us to walk together towards the Christ Child to offer him homage as one people. The Spirit of compassion guides us to each other, and together guides us to our one Lord.

Prayer
Compassionate God, you gave the blind the insight to recognize you as their Saviour, enable us to repent. In your mercy, remove the scales from our eyes and lead us to worship you as our God and Redeemer. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon us, so that together we glorify you in the Spirit’s fellowship, and witness to all those around us. Amen.

(Source: Franciscan Friars of the Atonement)

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Pentecost 5 June 2022

The Holy Spirit moves the church towards a new vision

A message from the Presidents of the World Council of Churches for Pentecost 2022.

A symbol of the trinity, cross and resurrection decorates the pulpit in the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, March 2020, Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

As these days of Pentecost arrive, we recall the commitment of the church to bring good news to those who suffer the most from armed conflicts, from the harmful effects of economic ambition throughout this time of pandemic, and from the devastating damages that we have caused the planet.

Acts 1 and 2 relate that, in Jerusalem, the apostles received the promise of the power to witness and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit to bring the good news to all ends of the earth. It is not until Act 8 that these geographical advances in evangelisation are reported: not through the mouths of the apostles but instead though Philip, a deacon. This happens as a consequence of the persecution against the church.

In the Acts, the Holy Spirit brings new gifts, new ways to evangelise, new places to reach, new ways to live life, and pathways to reach those who have been discriminated against; it takes lives lived in the service of persecution and death and transforms them into lives in the service of Christ’s name and his good news; it gives power to confront political, military, and economic powers. The church understood the need to build safe spaces and thus save lives.

We pray that the impetus of this Spirit continue to move us in that direction. That it keeps putting words of eternal life into the mouth of the church. That its creativity is manifested through its unexpected actions and that, through its breath of life, take us wherever it wishes.

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Day 5: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Guided by the One Lord “Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising.” (Matthew 2:9)

Scripture

  • Revelation 22:5-9, For the Lord God will be their light.
  • Matthew 2:7-10, Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising.

Meditation

Again and again the scriptures tell us how the Lord God walks with God’s people, protects them, and watches over them day and night. In all our journeying through life, we can be confident that God, who neither “sleeps nor slumbers”, protects us lest our feet slip and we fall.

Even in the greatest darkness, Christ is the guiding light for all nations, the glory of God in the world, the source of divine life, sealing a new covenant in his blood.

The way ahead into unity with one another, and so into closer union with Christ, is not always clear. In our earnest attempts to build unity ourselves, it is all too easy to lose sight of this fundamental message of the scriptures: God does not abandon God’s people even in their failures and divisiveness. As the story of the Magi re- minds us, God guides people of all kinds, with the light of the star, to where Christ, the light of the world, is to be found.

God sends the Holy Spirit whose light enables us to see with the eyes of faith the truth of the divine Child, and the call to unity and reconciliation of all things in him. It is this Spirit that leads us from dark- ness and tragedy into Christ’s light and life.

Prayer

O Lord God our Father, increase our hope in you and let us know at all times that you are walking with us, watching over your people. Open our eyes to your Spirit, and encourage us in our faith, so that we may confess that Jesus is Lord, and worship and rejoice in him as the Magi did in Bethlehem. We ask you these blessings in the name of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

(Source: Franciscan Friars of the Atonement)

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Disability

Labor’s election win sees a return of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to the control of the party that first passed legislation for it. Bill Shorten’s appointment as NDIS Minister makes him responsible for the scheme he championed and helped establish.

The NDIS is an incredibly important source of support for people with disability but in recent years a large gap has opened between those who make it on to the scheme and those who don’t. Of the 4.4 million Australians with disability, only around 12% are eligible for the NDIS. Many participants reported significant cuts to their budgets, forcing them to miss out on essential supports and their family members to give up work. Many people with disability are left with no services at all and incur significant out-of-pocket expenses to pay for supports such as allied health.

(Related article here: The NDIS crisis – what’s needed is more autonomy for people with disability).

Churches have been very responsive to disability and inclusion. Here are some examples:

From the Catholic Church on disability and inclusivity
Jesus deeply loves each one of us. Each and every one of us is a unique and unrepeatable child of God. Nothing we ‘do’ or ‘achieve’, gives us this dignity and worth. It is part of who we are and how we have been created. The understanding that every life is precious and sacred – that each person is made in the ‘image of God’ and has inherent worth and dignity – is central to our faith. 

The Church seeks to welcome all people into a rich, meaningful experience of the Christian life, regardless of any physical abilities. We are committed to working towards a more just society, in which people with disabilities are free to make their own decisions about their own needs, and where their unique contributions to the life of the community are valued and respected.

In this spirit, the Church seeks to make the sacraments accessible to people with disabilities and to ensure the process of Christian initiation is appropriate to their needs and circumstances. Recent Church guidelines affirm that ‘People with disabilities are called to the fullness of sacramental life … The sacraments are gifts of God and the liturgy, which even before being understood rationally, ask to be lived: therefore, no one can deny the sacraments to people with disabilities’ (Directory for Catechesis, 2020).

The Australian Catholic Disability Council has produced a number of useful resources for parishes on issues surrounding disability and inclusivity, including a pastoral document for parishes, and guidelines for the celebration of the sacraments with people with disability.

Anglican Church on disability inclusion
Significant commitment to ensuring that the public places in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne have disabled access (see 2021 Synod report). The motion called for the allocation of funding in the 2022-23 budget for a full time dedicated disability access and inclusion officer for a period of two to five years. It also called on the diocese to reaffirm a 2010 synod resolution that called on parishes and organisation in the diocese to develop plans to remove obstacles that “prevent people affected by disability from sharing in congregational life”. Additionally, it noted a 2015 motion passed by synod that required the president to report annually on the progress of this disability plan until at least 98% of the diocese’s public places were disability accessible. 

A paper on The Anglican Church of Australia and engagement of people living with disabilities (link here)

The Uniting Church on disability inclusion
We are committed to ensuring people with disabilities are full and equal participants in all activities of the Synod.Striving for this goal means engagement and advocacy with individuals, congregations and presbyteries, and a range of organisations beyond the Synod.

Since 2010, our Disability Inclusion Advocates have been involved in developing:

  • The Disability Action Plan 2019-2022, in response to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. (Easy English Disability Action Plan summary). These two versions complement each other and need to be read and considered as a whole: it is recommended you initially read the Easy English version.
  • A mental health kit for congregations.
  • A University of Divinity subject (Pastoral Care with People with Disabilities).

For more information, contact Andy Calder on 03 9340 8844 or andy.calder@victas.uca.org.au

Launch of a new book on disability: 2pm 14th June

Reflective Being, Being Reflective: 25 years of multi-faith perspectives on disability and spirituality in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand
This book, edited by Andy Calder, Jayne Clapton and Trevor Parmenter, celebrates 25 years of the multi-faith disability and spirituality movement in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. Since the inaugural conference in Brisbane, 1996, a further five have been held. Arising from the conferences, this collection explores issues of faith and meaning in the lived experience of disability. Contributors explore a range of issues including: ethics, care, friendship, discrimination, inclusion, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), love, justice, liberation and ‘cripped’ spiritualities.
(Limited numbers (36) of in-person places are available. Please register by 7 June at the latest if you wish to be present. Register here and more information here)

Reference: The Conversation

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Day 4: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Though small and suffering, we lack nothing. “And you, Bethlehem… are by no means least” (Matthew 2:6)

Scripture

  • Micah 5:2-5a, 7-8, From you shall come forth… one who is to rule Israel.
  • Luke 12:32-40, Do not be afraid, little flock.

Meditation

From the small and lowly city of Bethlehem, the Lord, the Son of God, made his entrance into the world. From the womb of a humble village girl, he took human flesh, and chose to live his humanity in obscurity and simplicity. Out of the obscurity has come a ruler, the shepherd and guardian of our souls. And though he is our shepherd, he became the Lamb who carried the sins of the world that we might be healed.

Bethlehem, a name that means the “house of bread”, can be a metaphor for the Church that brings to the world the bread of life. The Church continues to be a place where the weak, the powerless and the small are welcome because in her each has a place.

In the midst of political turmoil, Christians, like others in the Middle East, suffer persecution and experience a sense of marginalization, living in fear of violence and injustice. In Christ they find a model of humility, and from him they hear a call to overcome divisions and to be united in one flock. Though they are few, in their suffering they follow in the steps of the Lamb who suffered for the world’s salvation. Though few, they are sure in hope, lacking nothing.

Prayer

Good Shepherd, the fragmentation of the little flock grieves your Holy Spirit. Forgive our weak efforts and slowness in pursuit of your will. Give us wise shepherds after your own heart who recognize the sin of division, and who will lead the churches with righteousness and holiness, to unity in you. We ask you, Lord, to hear our prayer. Amen.

(Source: Franciscan Friars of the Atonement)