The Justice Ministry seeks to inform the HPCUMC congregation and community about topics of justice; exploring underlying causes and sources of injustice and encouraging actions that seek fairness and equity for all.
Why a Justice Ministry?
Participants in the HPCUMC Justice Ministry take inspiration and motivation from a number of sources and reference points. We encourage you to explore the foundations of your own feelings about equity and to articulate these in conversation with others. That exploration is partly what the Justice Ministry is all about. But let’s talk about two notable inspirations we can all share. Firstly we have the example of Jesus. Noted theologian Marcus Borg characterizes the earthly ministry of Jesus as one that constantly questioned the status quo and conventional wisdom about fairness and justice. By sharing the table with the disenfranchised and scorned of first century society, Jesus offered a clear example to those who claim to be followers of Christ. Secondly we look and listen around us. We see and hear a plethora of news and commentary about fairness and justice, or lack thereof, in our society. Yet we are left hungering to discern and understand beyond the headline, catch phrase or tweet. So, we want to join together in becoming more informed. From a more informed perspective we wish to turn knowledge and conviction into action. Join the Justice Ministry in this quest. Attend an upcoming program and/or let an organizer know of your interest. There is a role for you.
The Justice Ministry presents an occasional series of programs dubbed “Just Des(s)erts”, evenings dedicated to information on topics of justice and opportunities for response. The events will always feature some sort of informative presentation followed by time for questioning, learning how to be involved and sharing conversation over . . . just dessert.
The second half of 2018 featured three Just Des(s)erts programs. In September we learned some of the realities facing immigrants and looked behind the superficial headlines and rhetoric. October’s program sought to enlighten our country’s persistent racial divide with a showing of the documentary film “Mourning the Creation of Racial Categories” and a follow up discussion led by some of the film’s creative team. In December the HPCUMC Clergy led the group in an attempt better to understand the UMC denomination’s process known as the Way Forward. As the UMC leads up to a watershed determination in 2019 regarding its position relative to sexual orientation and gender designation, this program helped us understand the background of the process and proposed changes to published doctrine and practice.
UPCOMING JUST DES(S)ERTS PROGRAMS
Update your calendar now to attend two programs that have been set for the Spring of 2019.
On February 19 we will be joined by Chara Fisher Jackson, CEO and Executive Director of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio. Ms. Jackson will present and discuss research sponsored by the League on the “State of Black Cincinnati”. This provocative research conducted in 2015 did much to document the distinctly different life situations experienced by black and white members of our community. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn about sources of racial disparity in Cincinnati and ways to address them.
In the program scheduled for April 29, Mark Godsey, co-founder of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) will talk about the life-changing work that the OIP is doing in addressing flaws in our justice system. Godsey often shares his talk with one or more co-speakers who have been released from wrongful imprisonment through the work of the OIP.
Plan now to join us for these programs.
ONE PERSON’S REFLECTIONS ON THE OHIO NEIGHBORHOOD SAFETY, DRUG TREATMENT AND REHABILITATION AMENDMENT
A number of our brothers and sisters in the HPCUMC Justice Ministry campaigned vigorously for passage of Ohio Ballot Issue 1 which was defeated in the November 2018 elections. Some of our congregation participated in the first round of signature gathering to propose ballot language and others, including myself, joined the crusade when new signatures were needed to put the measure on the ballot. I and others canvassed in local neighborhoods as Election Day approached.
So, the clear rejection of the issue by voters fell as a disappointment. Possibly more disappointing was the vocal opposition by many of our elected and appointed officials; much of it intentionally misleading from my perspective and, all too often, pointed at making the question a partisan issue. It catered to our penchant for division rather than a spirt of problem solving.
Yet there were some interesting and encouraging headlines following in the wake of the election suggesting that our leaders have taken notice. First coming out of Columbus was news that Ohio legislators are ready to propose criminal justice reforms that, at least partially, reflect key directions of Issue 1. A second, more reactionary, headline from Columbus was that legislators would propose to make it more difficult for citizen efforts to propose change to the Ohio Constitution. Then, a week or so later, news of bipartisan focus on criminal justice reform in Washington came forth; reform which, at least at that moment, was endorsed by the President. All these efforts remain intentions for now but it will be interesting to see them unfold.
So, on the one hand, I am encouraged that the recent efforts have had some positive effect. But we have miles to go before we sleep. I am ashamed to say that, at my ripe age, this was the first time that my faith led me to be so politically active in the cause of justice. It won’t be the last.
Stan Kummer, HPCUMC Justice Ministry