Thursday, November 8, 2018

We Are Church Confessing

On Sunday, an ecumenical group called We Are Church Confessing gathered at Cowles Commons in Des Moines to confess together the ways that we as the church, particularly the predominantly white churches, have not responded adequately to the injustices being perpetrated in the united states.  You can find the video of our gathering here.  This gathering occurs the first Sunday of the month at 1pm.
The Lutherans hosted this event and I wrote the liturgy with collaboration from Rev. Minna Bothwell and periodic contributor River Needham.  Below is the liturgy as it was written, designed for about a 20 minute service.  Each person received a large paper that was a bulletin on one side and had space to write a confession and a prayer on the other, so that is referenced during the liturgy.  Communal responses are in bold.

If you are interested in using or adapting this liturgy, please comment on the blog or contact me directly.

If you haven’t done so already, please write out a confession specific to you around power or privilege and a prayer specific to you for the world as it could be.  Liturgy is the work of the people and the work in this liturgy is complicated, heavy, and important.  As we work through this liturgy, you may find yourself to be among those who are oppressed by what we are confessing.  When that is the case, use your discretion to participate or refrain as appropriate.  

For those who hold identities of privilege and power, especially as relates to different points of confession, even if you don’t think you have specifically done what we are confessing, I invite you to recall not only active ways you may have oppressed others, but also the ways that you may not be aware of, by which you have contributed to others’ oppression and in that sense, please join in on the responses to confess our sins as a whole church.

People of faith, we gather on land originally inhabited by the Báxoj'e, or Ioway Nation, and the Sauk and Meskwaki peoples. People who were systematically targeted by white settler colonialism for extermination.  In the 1800s, through treaties, some of which were fraudulent and all of which were made under duress, the united states government took all of the Ioway and Sauk and Meskwaki lands and forced the tribes onto reservations.

Colonizers selected Two Spirit people, who were oftentimes held in places of high esteem within their tribes, as the first targets for extermination.  White settler colonialism still celebrates “Columbus Day” and calls Turtle Island the “new world.”   The genocide perpetrated against Native Peoples and their forced removal to reservations, justified by the Church’s Doctrine of Discovery, was a model for Hitler in the Holocaust.  We continue to destroy this land out of greed for oil, money, and power.  We join in Indigenous struggles for sovereignty only after we recognize how eminent domain abuse harms us.  

We pretend to celebrate Native peoples through hypersexualized costumes of Pocahontas who was kidnapped, raped, and died in another land at the age of 21.  We do not teach the history of the lands we live and worship on.  We do not acknowledge, let alone honor, respect, or learn from, the original inhabitants of this land we now occupy, pollute, and exploit.

These are sins of the Church. 
So, dear people,
do you confess? 
We confess that we have supported settler colonialism and native erasure by what we have done and by what we have failed to do. We are sorry for the harm this has caused and we repent.

People of faith, many of us trace our faith traditions back to the Protestant Reformation and, especially for Lutherans, Martin Luther.  Antisemitism and anti-Judaism are a part of our histories we would prefer to deny or excuse.  Martin Luther was antisemitic.  Churches have participated in and actively supported pogroms and the Holocaust, and the Inquisition and Crusades before that.  In Christianity’s push for power, we allied ourselves with Empires and remain tethered to our places of power. 

When we read Jesus into the Hebrew Bible, our supersessionism harms and undermines the faith of Jewish people.  When we set Jesus against faithful Jewish people, maligning Pharisees and Jewish leaders, we hide and yet reinforce our anti-Judaism.  When we refuse to honor the holy days of other faiths, allowing Christian holidays to be the standard for elected officials, school systems, and government schedules, our Christian supremacy harms and marginalizes people of every other faith and no faith—all in exchange for power and privilege.

The attack on the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh and the vandalism that has taken place at synagogues before and since are our responsibility to atone for as the Church. 

These are sins of the Church. 
So, dear people,
do you confess? 
We confess that we have supported antisemitism, anti-Judaism and Christian supremacy by what we have done and by what we have failed to do. We are sorry for the harm this has caused and we repent.

People of faith, the same doors to church buildings that welcomed and were built by our immigrant ancestors now close and lock themselves off from immigrants whose skin is darker, whose language is different, who haven’t met the recent, unrealistic standards for official u.s. documentation.  

We eat and drink from what immigrants grow and harvest, yet we will not share a Table together.  We take mission trips to places we say we love and then demonize people from those same countries when they come here seeking a better life, fleeing violence, often a result of military dictatorships propped up by our own government.  

We lift up Jesus and the Holy Family as refugees and immigrants in Egypt, pretending our churches have never turned away immigrants or looked down on those from different cultures than our own.  We refuse to acknowledge our connections to people of other cultures and faiths, and by our silence we allow the demonization and encourage harmful stereotypes of Muslims from this country and around the world as well as immigrants from throughout the colonized parts of this world.

These are sins of the Church. 
So, dear people,
do you confess? 
We confess that we have supported xenophobia and Islamophobia by what we have done and by what we have failed to do. We are sorry for the harm this has caused and we repent.

People of faith, the Church legitimized slavery, institutionalizing racism in this country.  The church abused sacred scriptures to keep people of color, particularly people of African descent, as well as Native peoples oppressed and enslaved.  The church has worshiped whiteness and power instead of the God of the Oppressed.  We have whispered #BlackLivesMatter, if we’ve said anything at all.   

We have not stopped racist policing.  We remain oblivious to the ways whiteness makes life easier.  We do not put forth the effort to pronounce Laquan or Juliana that we do Dvořák.  We assume people of color are not from here.  We allow classism and racism to divide all who need economic justice from each other.  We reproduce images of God and Jesus as white and lift up whiteness as purity and cleanliness while calling darkness dirty and scary.  We perpetuate racism.

These are sins of the Church. 
So, dear people,
do you confess? 
We confess that we have supported racism and white supremacy by what we have done and by what we have failed to do. We are sorry for the harm this has caused and we repent.

People of faith, Christianity has created and enforced transphobia and cisheteronormativity as standard and “faithful.”  The church has and continues to persecute queer people throughout the world, both actively with violence and through more subtle means.  Churches support conversion therapy, bathroom bills, and book burnings.

Our worship spaces and liturgies are not accessible.  Churches refuse to hire or call queer and trans people, especially women, femmes, and nonbinary folks, into leadership positions; support discriminatory organizations like Focus on the Family and Thrivent Financial; segregate bathrooms and groups according to the false gender binary; and make unclear statements of “all are welcome.”  These contribute to the erasure, oppression, and hatred queer people experience in the church.  

These are sins of the Church. 
So, dear people,
do you confess? 
We confess that we have supported transphobia and transmisogyny and cisgenderism by what we have done and by what we have failed to do. We are sorry for the harm this has caused and we repent.

As you gathered you took time to write your own individual confessions and prayers on the sheets of paper that you have. At this time I invite you to state your confession aloud and after each confession we will join together to respond with “we confess”.

Dear people of God, we are all caught up in systems of oppression and violence. Our sins are both corporate and individual. Intentional and unintentional.  Yet God comes into the midst of it all with this good news: through the power of Christ, death, sin, violence, and oppression no longer have power over us. By the power of the Spirit, I now declare to you, the entire forgiveness of all your sins. 

Song and Offering “There is More Love Somewhere” 
[Our offering went to Iowa's American Friends Service Committee, specifically to support DACA recipients as well as family reunification for families separated at the border

Drawing on the Lutheran baptismal tradition, we will now enter into a time of renunciation—naming that which opposes the God whom 1 John 4 calls Love and renouncing it, turning away from it and towards Love.  When asked, please respond: I renounce them

Evil manifests itself in many ways: implicit bias, harmful stereotypes, ignorant questions, comments, and expectations, fear and perceived scarcity, and active prejudice and violence against others.
Do you renounce these manifestations of evil and all the forces that defy the God who is Love?
I renounce them.

Evil is insidious and works within systems and institutions to oppress and marginalize.  Evil manifests itself in the ongoing legacy of colonialism, slavery, and queerphobia perpetrated by this country and the church.  These evils, along with xenophobia and Islamophobia have been encouraged through the current administration and strengthened in legislation, policies, and plans put forward in governments and churches throughout this country and world.
Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against the God who is Love?
I renounce them.

We understand sin as separation—from the Divine, from each other, and from Creation.  Sin keeps us focused inward on ourselves, ignoring or fearing any who we deem as “Other,” putting our wants before others’ needs, and isolating ourselves.
Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw you from the God who is Love?
I renounce them.

Prayers for Help
Creator God, your sacred nature is in all things.  Help us to honor, respect, and support the Native peoples of this land and protect the earth and all its inhabitants.
Help us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Holy One, you are worthy of praise.  Help us to affirm, celebrate, and support people of all faiths, especially Jewish people and Muslims, challenging antisemitism and Islamophobia whenever we encounter it.
Help us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Sojourning God, you come to us as the stranger and foreigner.  Help us to create sanctuary for immigrants, provide for those in need, and challenge the fears of ourselves and others.
Help us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of the Oppressed, you join with the oppressed in life and death.  Help us to recognize your image in Black and Brown bodies, confront racism, and destroy white supremacy.
Help us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Transgressing God, you break binaries between human and Divine, sinner and saint.  Help us to celebrate queer and gender expansive understandings of scripture, protect the rights and existence of trans and gender expansive people, and challenge gender segregation in every space.
Help us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Liberating God, we need you.  We need your help to live into your liberating power, into the vision you cast of a world free from oppression.  We now lift up our prayers, those we have written down and those on our hearts. At this time I invite you to state your prayers aloud, ending each prayer with “Help us, O God,” to which we will join together to respond with “Your mercy is great.”

[Leader will end the prayer time with the following] 
God of hope, may all you know is needed be done, we pray in your holy and precious name.  Amen.

The news is that God’s wind is blowing.
It may be a breeze that
cools and comforts.
It may be a gust that
summons you to notice.
It may be a storm that blows you where you have
never been before.

Whatever the wind is in your life,
pay attention to it…
…Go in peace.  Live into God’s liberation.
Thanks be to God.

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