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In response to requests for our retiring CEO’s retirement speech. (Her last day will be mid-July).

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Thank you, distinguished leaders, many of you colleagues for many years, family and friend I’m very honored by all of this and all of you.

I came to this job believing that God had invited me, believing that God would be with us and guide us. I want to start by thanking the God of the universe who deeply longs for the reconciliation of relationships in all of creation, the creation of God’s own making. What a wonderful privilege to be able to spend my time following that longing and to be part of that journey with you all.

I came to this office in 1995 when Bill Clinton was president, it was said that in his campaign headquarters there was a sign that said, “It’s the economy stupid?”  We have sign at the MCC that says, “It’s the relationship, stupid.” No, we don’t really, but I have told that story to every one of my direct reports. Relationships, that is what our calling demands — that each of us become a means of reconciliation.  And here you are so many wonderful relationships.

A second story about relationships which I will take with me – when a certain MN Governor, had done an interview from Playboy magazine. You may remember he made some rather harsh comments about religion.  Well, we started calling his office right away, kindly asking if we could meet with him and share some of the good things religion does in his state. No reply, we tried again, and again, emails, letters, calls. After a while got a reply; they would see what the could do. Months went by, we called and emailed. Finally, we got the call that he would meet with us if we could get the leaders of many of the state’s faith groups and we did. Off we went to the Governor’s mansion to meet with him. It was a cordial meeting we spent most of our chits talking about the justice issues so important to us.

That was May 2001, four months later we would get a call from the Governor’s office on Sept. 12, …2011 asking if we would be part of a planning committee for an event at the capitol focused on the tragedy of Sept. 11.

We were included in that planning, the faith community was included and we got to help shape and mold that event so that it would be more about hope than about fear or anger. Relationship investment pays off.

A few years later the 35 W bridge collapsed and we got a call from the Gov’s. office, a different Governor was in the position at the time, Gov. Pawlenty and former Mpls Mayor RT Ryback called asking if we would pull together a service for the community in the midst of that tragedy.

The place was packed; the balcony was full of reporters. I am quite sure it is the only time in my career that I have been quoted in the Bagdad Times.  After the event one reporter said to one of our staff, “Wow, you pulled this together in three days?” She replied, “No it took more like ten years.”  It’s the relationships. They take time but nothing worthwhile gets done without them. It’s these relationships.

It is the relationships we have had with the Muslim community that have made a difference in our response to things like the threat of a Muslim ban and increased hate crimes. We offered the Blessed Ramadan signs as resistance to the targeting of those of another faith.  As a witness to what the Christian faith calls us to do. Last year a Muslim woman wrote me and said, that sometimes her children ask her, “Why do they hate us?” She said when I saw the Blessed Ramadan sign I could tell them, “Not everyone does.”

 

It is in the relationships that we have built together over the years, that a legacy is built and I trust that legacy will continue.

The MCC board of directors had an election today and I am delighted to tell you that a new MCC CEO has been elected. We want to give my successor  time to speak with the board he/she is now serving. But we hope to announce the new hire tomorrow or the next day. I was gratefully encouraged by this hiring and by the outstanding choice the board has made, I know God is blessing the MCC in this process. And I pray and request that you all would offer a warm welcome and offer continued relationship to my successor. You will have a fine leader and a wonderful colleague with whom to build on our shared; legacy, a legacy of deep relationships.

My parents first taught me about relationships. Please welcome my mother, Donna Bean. In everything they did it was the people and the relationships that mattered. And my sisters and brothers have all taken that on, along with their wonderful spouses; welcome them please: Valerie Wagner, Rich Wagner, Chuck Bean.  Thank you for valuing family relationships and thank you for the relationships of care, convening, leadership and so much more you three do so well. And to my daughter, Anne Cammack, and her partner, Nate Mueller, my thanks for continuing the family relationship in our little Sesame and for your patience, Anne, low these 31 years with a mom who was ‘there and gone’ so much. I trust, beyond my pessimism, that the costs of my work are outweighed by the benefits and that you two and the baby will have a better world for those efforts.

And my husband, Mark Greenawalt, thank you for our relationship of almost 40 years. I am thankful that we found each other again and I am thankful that you did not give up on me – this is the relationship that makes all the others work as well as they do. You are my anchor to sanity, my comfort in trying times, my sounding board, and often my main source of hope – you have the patience of a saint – and you continue to help me see myself and the world in new ways. What a gift you are.

To the great staff of MCC, so many here today – current and former staff – you have given yourselves to this work with such conviction – it inspires many – May you have wonderful days full of Good News boards ahead of you for years to come. To Doug, a perfect yin to my yang all this years, thank you fro your commitment and persistence. To the hard working committees and commissions – you ground this work soundly and have each offered so much.  To the board of directors, who believe that we are indeed called to manifest the God-given unity of the Body of Christ and that we are, indeed, called to live the will of God on this earth, as in heaven, to build together the Common Good. Thank you. An honor to be with you and to work for you.

And finally a special thank you to the leaders on the board, the heads of communion – our bishops and communion executives. Thank you for letting me walk with you in this incredible journey – a journey to not only preach the good news, but also to demonstrate  the good news. Thanks to all of you for your support, commitment and participation in the journey.

I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life and will be watching with joy from a long distance the continuing wonderful work of the MCC. God’s richest blessing on you all.

 

Curtiss_DeYoung_012_cMINNEAPOLIS, MINN – (May 17, 2017) – “I am eager to join the Minnesota Council of Churches in their important work of building the common good as agents of unity in the faith community and moral voices for a just society,” said Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, who was approved on May 16 by the MCC board to be the organization’s new CEO. DeYoung will replace Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, who is retiring from leading the Council after 22 years. Rev. DeYoung will start on July 17, 2017.

 

Rev. Curtiss Paul DeYoung is most recently the executive director of Community Renewal Society (CRS) –a 135-year-old faith-based organization in Chicago working for racial and economic justice through the unique programmatic combination of church-based community organizing, policy advocacy, and investigative journalism.

 

Dr. DeYoung earned degrees from the University of St. Thomas (MN), Howard University School of Divinity (Washington, DC), and Anderson University (IN). He is an author and editor of ten books on reconciliation, multiracial congregations, interfaith activist spirituality, racism, and cultural diversity.

 

Previously, DeYoung was professor of Reconciliation Studies and co-chair of the Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. He was the executive director of the Twin Cities Urban Reconciliation Network (TURN) in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. Rev. DeYoung served on staff at congregations in Minneapolis, New York City, and Washington, DC. He consults and speaks internationally with extensive relationships among activists and peacemakers in South Africa and the Holy Land.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – (May 17, 2017) – “When religion has been used to divide people, you have been a constant voice that can unite us,” said Saint Paul Mayer Chris Coleman to Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, retiring CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches, at a reception in her honor at the Minnesota Church Center tonight.

 

Speakers including Mayor Coleman, Minneapolis Foundation President R.T. Rybak, Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon, Church of God in Christ Minnesota Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Bishop Fred Washington and (by video) Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar shared their praise of Rev. Chemberlin. The wide array of speakers reflected the breadth and depth of the Minnesota Council of Churches’ relationships.

 

Reflecting on the Council’s role in organizing a public service after 9/11, Rybak, a former Minneapolis mayor, said “You put wind in my sails as a rookie mayor right after 9/11.” He went on to tell the group of 150 people that Rev. Chemberlin is “a warrior for peace.”

 

Bishop Washington read a proclamation from Governor Mark Dayton proclaiming May 17 “Minnesota Council of Churches Day” given that the Minnesota Council of Churches “represents approximately 37% of Minnesota’s faith community” and saying the Council’s “dedication to fostering compassionate, justice-oriented dialogue has enriched the lives of those in Minnesota and beyond” and that it “works to welcome refugees to our state” and to “bring Christians and Muslims together.”

 

Rev. Prestemon quoted Rev. Chemberlin’s ecumenical vision, saying “we cannot be the church without being the church together.”

 

Rev. Chemberlin also spoke, sharing the story of how after his negative comments about religion she had worked repeatedly to get in touch with then-Governor Jesse Ventura, who ultimately would only agree to a meeting if the heads of Minnesota’s other major religious groups were also present. That meeting, which the Minnesota Council of Churches put together, formed the basis of a relationship that months later led Gov. Ventura’s staff to ask MCC to partner with it in creating a post-9/11 event that would be more about hope than anger. Echoing a Bill Clinton campaign slogan, she said her working philosophy was “it’s the relationships, stupid.”

 

She concluded her comments by saying “Thank you for letting me walk with you on a journey that not only preaches the good news but lives it.”

Below is the text of Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin’s keynote address to the National Workshop on Christian Unity banquet, May 3, 2017.

 

 

National Workshop on Christian Unity

May 3, 2017

Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, D.D.

(copyright)

REFORM, REPENT, RECONCILE

Thank you, Bishop Delzer. Thank you, distinguished leaders, many of you colleagues for many years. I’m very honored to be with you.

Bishop Delzer was in my office a few weeks ago and I said that I’d gotten this invitation to do the keynote address. I showed him the material with the theme on it – Reform Repent Reconcile and I said the inviting Committee had suggested that part of what I talk about is how the ecumenical movement has been successful in Minnesota. Then I asked him, “What do you think, Bishop, why has the Council of Churches here been strong?” He looked at me and he looked at the brochure and he looked at me and said, “Because we do each of these.”  Brilliant – that was the answer right there. Reform. Repent. Reconcile.  Done. Mic drop. But, of course, there is a bit more.

In fact, preparing this address was like living inside an accordion, it would contract to this simple and profound statement –  reform, repent, reconcile – and then the message would immediately expand to a semester’s worth of stuff.

That is, of course, because our work so broad. In Christ God is reconciling the world, the whole world. Like John 3:16, it is the whole world that God so loved….Amen?

What a political statement! They must have been shocked – this isn’t just about those of us who share this one identity?  It’s all the world’s citizens? In Christ God was reconciling the whole world to God’s own self, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

We struggle at the Minnesota Council of Churches with the expansive nature of this work.  “All of what it means to be a Christian is immersed in the biblical idea of reconciliation.” writes Curtiss DeYoung.

All … of what it means…. to be a Christian… for the whole world.

Wait, wait, any good non-profit leader will tell you that a nonprofit needs focus; a focused mission statement. But when MCC went to write our mission statement we came up with this: “To manifest the unity of the Body of Christ and through Christ to build the Common Good in the world.”  One board member was heard to say “Well, that’ll keep us busy for a few months”.

But we could not turn away from the magnitude of the call.

God’s purpose was to create in Christ one new humanity; we are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s household. We could not turn away from the magnitude of the call.

God, who reconciled all through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation and we could not turn away from the magnitude of the call.

Reform, Repent, and, by the way, Reconcile the whole world, would you please?

Let me offer a glimpse of my thoughts on the call to Reform, Repent and Reconcile with a few examples from MCC’s life.

Reform the ecumenical movement for the sake of Christ’s mission. I offer four particular tasks in the category of reform: 1) we must reckon with ecumenical – interfaith dialectic, 2) we must continue to move from dialogue to relationship, 3) we must translate ecumenism from being an individualized specialty of the few to the daily practice for all, 4) and we must look with new eyes for the relevancy of our work.

The St. Paul Area Council of Churches has become Interfaith Action. The Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches wrestles with the question about identity as ecumenical or interfaith.

 

At the MCC that same question came up a number of years ago.  And so we entered into a process of discernment. Our brothers and sisters of other faith groups told us they needed us to stay a Christian group. They needed a place to which they could go as a focal point for relating to Christian leaders. They also said that they were concerned that in any interfaith group, the mere size of the Christian community means that other faith groups will be absorbed.

 

We concluded that ecumenical vs interfaith are separate disciplines and tasks. We also concluded that the question isn’t an either/or question: we would do our interfaith work out of the conciliar Christian context. So we offer the Blessed Ramadan lawn signs as resistance to the targeting of those of another faith.  But as a witness to what the Christian faith calls us to do. Last year a Muslim woman wrote me and said, that sometimes her children ask her, “Why do they hate us?” She said when I saw the Blessed Ramadan sign I could tell them, “Not everyone does.”

 

We, at MCC, understand the ecumenical movement to be based on the oneness of the body of Christ and the interfaith movement to be based on the oneness of creation.

 

The reformation of the ecumenical movement is also enhanced when we move from a strictly dialogic approach to working at relationships that include empathy, trust and respect even in the midst of disagreement. Relationships are both the means and the end of the work.

Some of you will remember when the other Clinton was running for president and the campaign headquarters had a sign that said, “It’s the economy stupid?”  We have sign at the MCC that says, “It’s the relationship, stupid.” No, we don’t really, but I tell that story to every one of my direct reports. Relationships, that is what our calling demands — that each of us become a means of reconciliation.

And this is everyone’s work: bishop, pastor, priest, ecumenical office, and laity. The reformation of the ecumenical movement, for the sake of Christ’s mission, must move from being a highly academic pursuit by a few individual specialists to the daily practice of the all. And so our job sometimes is to be a holy nag to everybody about that – reminding each other that we believe in universal reconciliation and so we all need to figure out how that works into our annual workplan.

The last point of the Reform section is this: The Reformation of the ecumenical movement requires that we become more relevant to the needs of the world. That requires us to ask the question “Who are we most likely to demonize today?”

At the Minneapolis Institute of Art there is an El Greco painting of Christ driving the money changers from the temple. Art historians have posited that it was a post-Reformation favorite in the Catholic Church and represented the condemnation of heresy. I am sure that there were those Protestants who would have interpreted it in the reverse.

It is with great joy that we come to this moment in time in which we can say that we are no longer enemies, nor even strangers, but brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t always agree.

In every generation we demonize one another, pointing fingers at the ones we perceive as the enemy.

Paul had the Jew/Gentile – the circumcised and the uncircumcised divide – it seems like such a small divide to us now. In Minnesota Catholic girls now marry Protestant boys and vice versa without it being the town scandal anymore. There are issues that need attention, like how shall we have joint wedding services. But if we put our energies there and do not ask ourselves, “Where is the demonization of our day?” – we will have missed the relevancy of the gospel for our time.

Perhaps we look at the pain inside the United Methodist Church in this moment. Sexuality is certainly one of the great dividing issues of our day. A few years back the Minnesota legislature was looking at a bill that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman. We knew we would not have a shared agreement on this issue among the folks at the MCC table. The Historic Black Church was more likely to agree with the Greek Orthodox than they were with the United Church of Christ and the ELCA congregations were going to be pulled apart in the middle. In fact, in most of our congregations, division was going to rise up and show itself. Polarization was blowing in like a spring tornado. We asked how we could be present to each other in the midst of this highly charged moment.

At MCC we designed a program called the Respectful Conversation Project.  RCP is designed not to change minds, but to open hearts.

More than 2,500 Minnesotans have participated in almost 90 Respectful Conversations. And those conversations have gone beyond the marriage amendment:

  • Guns in Minnesota
  • Differences between urban and rural government leaders
  • Racial implications of religious art
  • Muslims and Christians on global security
  • Jews and Protestants on Israel/Palestine
  • The Presidential election.

70% of participants report a stronger sense of empathy for those whose viewpoint is different from their own. Months later, people report a greater awareness of their own listening attitudes and more curiosity about those, they would previously have considered opponents.

Divisions which can’t be reconciled without an openness to one another nor without repentance. Of what do we repent? I have some working notions that show up a lot at the MCC table. Let me offer four key issues for the church and the world: 1) let us repent of narrative of individualism, 2) let us repent of our isolating siloes of identity, 3) let us repent of the hubris of our limited worldview and 4) let us repent the narrative of consumerism and commodification of relationship.

 

It may be one of the most important tasks of the ecumenical ministry to call for the repentance of these. I don’t think much needs to be said about these; you all are wrestling with them in ways that are beyond me. Let me just offer this.

 

The Narrative of Individualism The reformation opened up a regard for the individual in his /her personal faith journey, decried the pitfalls of the religious state, and supported the move toward democracy. I believe in a democracy that guarantees the freedom of the individual but I also believe that inside of that freedom of religions we have a gospel to proclaim that reminds us that the goal is never just about the individual. It is always about the community and Christ tells us our community is the globe.

Isolated Identity Silos. Our community — that is our cities, our state, our country, our world– our community is shattered into special interest shards, shards which can’t carry a commitment to a common good. The isolated shards can’t envision, much less build, a commitment to the common good which is part of the systemic reconciliation.

Repenting of our tendency towards silo-ed identities, the MCC board understands that it has an ecclesiological role, the leaders of the regional judicatories – bishops and executives -are the MCC leaders, and their first job is to know each other, be vulnerable with each other, pray for each other, trust each other and discern together what action needs to be taken.

This is not easy when our denominational leaders are offered little support for time spent in an ecumenical way. Increasingly our congregants see themselves as consumers of church not producers of church and increasingly our congregations see themselves as consumers of denominations not producers of denominations. Pastors, priests, bishops are perceived as personal chaplains not community leaders.

How do leaders lead for the whole in such a time? And yet our wonderful leaders know this calling and offer one another the space and time which leads to opportunities to lead for the whole. What an extraordinary witness. In these times when our communities feel the social earthquakes of deep seeded mistrust, vitriolic slander, and broad apprehension about any common GROUND from which to seek the common good.  We share a common witness as we did at a press conference in late January in response to President Trump’s executive order. The leadership of 90% of the faith community were there that day: Catholic Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, Muslim, Jewish leaders – all with the same condemnation of the order.

But be of good cheer for repentance does indeed lead us to reconciliation. That interaction is laid out so wonderfully Pope John Paul The 2nd’s Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliation and Penance

So Reconcile. Reconcile what?

My answer: The whole darn thing. This is where we started.  Our work is the work of the whole thing. We cannot turn away from the magnitude of the call.

Two things I want to offer about reconciliation: that reconciliation is the result of God’s Jubilee already begun in Jesus Christ and that reconciliation requires engagement with the world in some difficult ways.

Reconciliation among the denominations plays less of a role in the MCC council life. But reconciliation of the whole darn thing is the driving principle. We talk about love, justice, compassion — it is around that world view of connectedness that drives us to make things right everywhere.

Reconciliation is the central issue of the gospel and the key issue of the ecumenical movement. Reconciliation: To make right the relationships.

Jesus lived into the ‘righting’ of all things, the Jubilee, the reset button on relationships, setting things right. Reconciliation is a reflection of the ongoing-ness of the Jubilee year.

Jesus sets this all up when he reads the Isaiah 61 scripture in his home congregation.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor….
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

That’s the ecumenical message!!! “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” That’s the good news, reconciliation is upon us…join in… invite others.

The fullness of time is here, God’s will is being done on earth. Get on board, roll your sleeves up, let’s bring it to fullness. Hallelujah?

Every day I pray this prayer because I know that every day we will be called to resist a whole list of barriers to reconciliation.

John Paul’s Reconciliation and Penance names them well and they become our liturgy. He exhorts us to resist the:

  • The trampling upon human rights – and I pray, Christ, make me an instrument of your reconciliation
  • Resist hidden attacks and pressures against the freedom – Christ, make me an instrument of your reconciliation
  • Resist discrimination: racial, cultural, religious, etc.
  • Resist Violence and terrorism. – Christ, make me an instrument of your reconciliation
  • Resist the use of torture and unjust and unlawful methods of repression.
  • Resist the stockpiling of conventional or atomic weapons – resist the spending- on military purposes – of sums which could be used to alleviate the undeserved misery of peoples that are socially and economically depressed – Christ, make me an instrument of your reconciliation
  • Resist the unfair distribution of the world’s resources – Christ, make me an instrument of your reconciliation

Reconciliation is a political act. We shouldn’t be surprised. What I am surprised about is the denial in our own constituency of the church’s role as moral voice.

Pope Francis has been very articulate about these issues as have many of our leaders. But our people think they can dismiss what these leaders say because it is ‘political’ – as if the gospel is not political. And we are partially responsible for that understanding. We have been hesitant to see the political issues as part of the ecumenical calling.

We must encourage each other to speak to these barriers to reconciliation, as central to the ecumenical calling of reconciliation on a personal and on a global level. Reconciliation is a globalized Jubilee.

Am I optimistic, not really, but I am hopeful. The reconciliation goes before us. While we were still enemies (Rom 5:10) we were reconciled to God. In the power of the Holy Spirit reconciliation is happening as we speak.

We meet one another finally, not in our agreements, but in the fire of Pentecost– where God is faithful, where Christ is present, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ and through Christ part of Christ’s reconciling mission in the world.

Amen

 

The Minnesota Council of Churches is a strong proponent of religious freedom and of the faith community’s role in the public square.  We are concerned that President Trump’s executive order relaxing accountability on faith group engagement in partisan politics will ultimately pollute the integrity of the voice of faith in America and turn some faith communities into partisan political tools under the banner of religion. This order signals a politicization of the faith community that our country has sought to avoid since the beginning of our nation.

 

It will open the door for donors who wish to make tax exempt contributions to a faith community (beyond what they can give to political campaigns) in order to circumvent campaign finance regulations and could make communities complicit in this act. It runs the risk that certain faith communities will become arms of a partisan politics without accountability.

 

Standing in a long line of prophetic voices, we applaud the right of religious communities to raise moral issues for public debate. We often do so ourselves.  But we draw the line on politicizing America’s pulpits on behalf of particular candidates.

 

Religious beliefs do and should influence advocacy work and voting.  However, each individual should make a determination, in good conscience, about how the teachings of their church, synagogue, mosque or other faith community shape their decision about which candidate to support.

 

Donations to churches and other non-profits are used to further the work of these valuable organizations because they are striving in faith for a better world.  If these organizations are promoting (or opposing) specific candidates, they are functioning as political organization and should instead be treated as such.