Category Archives: Religion

Ceremonial Prayer in Light of SCOTUS

Twenty-some years ago, as a new pastor in town, I was asked to give the invocation at the commencement ceremonies at Fairmont State University.  I was honored.  I crafted that prayer carefully, using expansive as opposed to particular language.  I referred to God generically.  I attempted to make sure that I would bring no offense to the audience, not all of whom were Christian.  I delivered the prayer in a heart-felt way, convinced that I would not run foul of the Constitution.  The commencement speaker that day was none other than the late Senator Byrd.  I recall that he invoked the name of Jesus Christ no fewer than a dozen times in his speech.  I recall thinking that it was odd that I, an ordained pastor could not pray from my convictions and yet a member of the U.S. Senate could go beyond what I allowed for myself.

This was my introduction to “ceremonial prayer”, a phrase in the recent SCOTUS decision that rubs me the wrong way.  Is prayer that is ceremonial even prayer?  For that matter, is generic prayer really prayer?  When we say, “Let us pray” in public settings with people of vastly different religions and religious experiences, what is it that we are doing and is it appropriate?  Some of my more conservative Lutheran brothers and sisters refuse to pray with those who have different beliefs or are of a different religion.  More and more, I think I’m with them.

Prayer is an intimate conversation with God, particular not generic.  When I pray, it is to God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is not to some entity, power, life force, or whoever happens to be listening at the time.  If I invite you to pray with me, I’m inviting you to pray to God … God to whom I pray, not the god of your imagination.  If you are not praying to the one to whom I pray, we are not praying together.

Ceremonial prayer is like that too.  In ceremonial prayer, the audience of the prayer are those gathered, not God.

When SCOTUS referred to prayer as ceremonial, then they said to me that my prayer isn’t what I think it is.  They just neutered my prayer.  That offends me.

I don’t do ceremonial prayers.  I’ve been asked to pray for any number of public events since that time long ago.  I’m always torn.  I’m always tempted to participate because I know that I’m more accommodating than many of those who like to hear themselves pray in public.  But I generally decline, several times a year, including the Maryland Legislature, the Chamber of Commerce Meetings, or other local events, unless it is clearly a Christian gathering.

If I do accept a public prayer “gig”, I think I’ll simply invite the participants to listen in as I pray.

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Heaven Is For Real: Reflections on the Movie

There is something about the spring that brings out religious themed movies.  This year (2014) we’ve seen three released in quick order; Noah, God is Not Dead, & Heaven is For Real.  One of the things I like least about being a pastor is that I’m expected to see these movies.  They stir up a lot of questions and if I’ve not seen them, I will be clueless about how to respond.  I’m able to duck most of them.  This year’s crop is harder.  Having said all that, I attended a matinee showing of Heaven is For Real particularly because I’ve heard that so many people I know are interested in it.

The movie is based on the very popular book (Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back) by Todd Burpo, published in 2010.  It is described as a true story.  I have no idea how closely the movie follows the book, and frankly, I don’t intend to find out.  Maybe the movie follows the book very closely and the book follows the experience of the Burpo family accurately.  If so, then some of the comments below take on a different meaning.  I’ll simply assume that like most movies, liberties are taken.

I’m not a movie reviewer.  This post will not focus on the performances or the other things common to movie reviews.  Others can do that much better.  What I will do is make observations and ask questions that come out of theological reflection.  In that way, I hope this is a useful tool, and relatively unique.  You see, movies like this shape our theological understanding of the world, often more than scripture does.  Without good questions, we are likely to simply take these at face value.

An aside: I thought taking notes in a dark movie theatre would be a lot easier than it was.

Why is this “event” described as “a trip to heaven and back”? 

Colton Burpo (age 4) nearly dies as the result of a burst appendix and has an “out of body” experience during his operation.  It is made quite clear that he does not die at any point during that operation.  He later has at least 2 (maybe 3) other experiences of “heaven” that most people would easily call, “visions”.  These visions serve to reinforce his original experience.  Why wasn’t this simply called a “vision of heaven”?  That’s what it was.  I’d be able to defend a vision of heaven very easily with the evidence presented.  An actual visit to heaven has too many other problems.

 What does this description suggest about who we are?

To say that Colton visited heaven is to subscribe to a type of dualism of body and soul that is not scripturally sound.  The distinctions between flesh and spirit we see especially in Paul’s writings describe “passions” or impulses rather than our identity.  The body spirit/soul distinction is dismissed out of hand in our creedal confessions of bodily resurrection despite what our culture might confess.  I’ll simply suggest again, this is a problem with calling Colton’s experience as a “visit” rather than a vision.

 What does this description suggest about heaven?

Popular culture describes heaven as a place where the dead person’s “soul” lives on with God.  It describes heaven as a place existing now separate from the earth.  The movie and the described experience reinforces popular culture’s description, not scripture’s description of heaven.  (I’d be more willing to trust that this was a “visit” if it conformed to scripture’s description than popular culture’s.)  I’m just going to leave that there, because scripture’s description of heaven is much more complicated and nuanced than I can do justice with here.  Suffice it to say, the book of The Revelation does not describe the kind of heaven Colton describes.

 Does God really control each and every event on earth?

The movie wrestles with God’s justice and mercy as a sub-plot.  To its credit, it doesn’t resolve this question.  God is seen as the cause for death and suffering (testing) but this is challenged appropriately.

 Why does Jesus have to wear a robe and be a blue-eyed European?

How long will we continue to make God/Jesus into our own image?  The movie presents a blue-eyed, brown-haired Jesus as fact.  That’s how Colton saw him.  That’s how the girl in the opening scene who has had similar experiences draws him.  The overarching conviction of the movie is that this is exactly what Jesus looks like.  That’s idolatry.  Had I been at home watching a DVD of this movie my vocal chords would have been engaged pretty loudly.

 Why the potshots at Universities, professors, secularists, and women?

As Todd Burpo wrestles with whether or not Colton’s visit was real, he goes to a University professor to get an idea about any alternative explanations.  When he gets what he is seeking, he dismisses it completely, presumably because the person he asks is associated with a secular university, is still in grief over her husband’s death, is a non-believer, and, it seems, is a woman to boot.  The whole University scene is cast in dark hues and the scene is full of elements that cause discomfort in the viewer of the movie.  Clearly Todd Burpo has wandered into “enemy territory”.  Women are the prominent purveyors of doubt and alternative explanations in this movie.  Todd’s wife gives a reasonable, logical explanation of Colton’s vision, opposes telling anyone of the vision, and is only finally convinced of Colton’s vision when he tells her something she has never told him.  Nancy Rawling is the first to suggest that they dismiss Pastor Todd from the church and that no one wants to hear what Todd preaches anymore. (Yeah, that’s right, Todd is a pastor.  That gets left out of the promotional material I’ve seen for the movie.)

 Why does the conclusion drawn by Todd Burpo in the movie’s final sermon dismisses his son’s experience?

 For a book/movie about visiting heaven, the conclusion doesn’t fit if the purpose is to declare that heaven is a real place.  In fact, the resolution that Todd comes to is that all of us have the ability to see heaven around us.  It was very anti-climactic.  I felt cheated by the ending, especially as Todd defends Colton’s visit to heaven throughout the story.  One has to remember that the story is about Todd and his struggle with his son’s experience.  It is not about his son’s experience.

 What does this film say about the nature of the church?

The congregation is a key part of this story, but it is not a healthy congregation.  In comparison, the volunteer fire department seems to be healthier.  The congregation is quick to disappear as the pastor struggles.  It seems that Todd is popular and attendance is tied to that popularity.  Todd is not compensated properly, this is never resolved in the movie.  There is some good person to person care demonstrated.  The Board consisted of two strong personalities and one silent member.  The church itself was never presented in a favorable light except as the location of a vision and the place where Todd redeemed himself.

Other quick observations

I was surprised by the references to intimacy between Todd and his wife, although it was portrayed as her power over him.

I appreciated the landscape scenes of rural Kansas.

So, do I recommend this film?  No.

If you see it though, I’d recommend talking about the questions raised here, and those you might have from your own reflections.

 

Boycott!

These days it has been hard to get me here to post some “ponderings”.  Recent events calling on boycotts as a first response to news has me riled up.

You’ve seen the news.  Dan Cathy, The CEO of Chick Fil-A disclosed his objection to marriage between two people of the same gender.  He made the claim that the company is run on Christian values to justify his perspective.  The backlash was immediate.  Many groups have called for a boycott of the business, protests are planned, and counter protests are planned.  Almost every action is directed against another group with the desire to draw attention to one’s own perspective.

What a mess.  This is nonsense.  This is more polarization of our society.  I’ve never seen it so bad.

When did it become true that if we disagreed with someone that instead of talking we protest, demonize, or boycott?  What ever happened to civil discourse?  What ever happened to the hard task of listening to others not to find fault with their perspective but to hear their perspective and learn from it.  Are my opinions so full of ultimate truth that I must make sure that all people agree with me in word and deed?  The arrogance is astonishing.

While I personally disagree with Mr. Cathy’s reading of scripture related to same-gendered marriage, I also disagree with the actions of those who are calling for boycott or banning Chick Fil-A from certain communities.  These actions have further damaged any chance of seeing any change in Mr. Cathy’s stance.  Thanks for making that work harder.

My experience has been that I have more influence in someone’s life and decision-making if I am in relationship with them.  Boycotts and bans damage the possibility of relationship.  Boycotts and bans have their place, but not as the first response, or maybe even the 10th.

Martin Luther explained the 8th Commandment (You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor) this way: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and interpret everything he does in the best possible light.”

Ash Wednesday & Lent 2011

Ash Wednesday – March 9, 2011

Our Shepherd Lutheran Church – Severna Park, MD

For the next 40 days, you are invited to live your life as if your life matters.  You didn’t expect me to say that did you?  Let me say it again.  For the next 40 days, you are invited to live your life as if your life matters.

You received a reminder of your mortality on your forehead just minutes ago.  You heard the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  As I see it, you have a couple of choices.  Live your life as if your mortality is a far off into the future slight possibility.  Or, live your life as if your life matters, precisely because you are mortal.

What people want me to do today is to be a cheerleader.  You are giving up chocolate for Lent?  Great!  You can do it for 40 days.  It will be hard.  Hang in there.  You can do it.  It is only 40 days.  Think of the reward at the end!  It will be worth it.

I can’t do that.  I’d rather turn in my pastor card.

Let me tell you something else you might not expect me to say.  What we do during Lent is never meant to be temporary.  That’s right.  If you are living this season as it is intended and you are giving up, oh let’s say chocolate for Lent, then when Easter arrives, there will be no chocolate Easter bunnies for you.  Why play like Lent means nothing?  Why decide to ignore the call Jesus issues to obedience?

Live your life as if your life matters.  Lent is a time for renewal.  Lent is a time to take on some spiritual disciplines that make sense 24/7/52/lifetime.  Lent is a time for making sure the “whenevers” of Matthew’s Gospel are part of who we are.

Whenever you give alms.  Whenever you pray.  Whenever you fast.

Jesus doesn’t say, if you give alms, if you pray, if you fast.  He doesn’t say when you take the time to give alms, pray, or fast.  The expectation is that these three are all done, all the time, unnoticed by others, because this is what people of faith do when they are living their lives as if their life matters.

Whenever you care for the needs of others … just do it without fanfare or recognition.  It’s what people of God do.

Whenever you pray to align yourself with God … just do it without any need for recognition.  It’s what people of God do.

Whenever you deny the temptations that draw you away from God … just do it without needing to draw attention to yourself.  It’s what people of God do.

If you give alms, pray, and fast only during Lent, isn’t that really drawing attention to these practices and that you are something special during Lent?

Sorry if what I’m saying is messing up your plans for Lent.  I simply want you to live your life as if your life matters.  Why trivialize it?  Why make this 40 day time mean so little?

The church I served in Johnstown invites people to use self-denial envelopes during Lent.  I think they are asking either 25 cents or $1 per day as a means of self-denial.  Horse feathers!  You want to give alms, or to use this as self-denial … what about giving a full tithe during Lent if you’ve never done this before?  More than a tithe if you already tithe.  Maybe an even amount … say $80-100 a week.  A quarter a week?  Nonsense.  Live as if your life matters.

Pull out a 1 minute devotion and pray daily during Lent?  Ok, I suppose that’s a start.  Phfff.  Write a devotion daily, pray each hour on the hour for 5 minutes, memorize scripture … maybe a couple of chapters, read 20 pages of scripture a day, read a Gospel book a week and cycle through them twice during Lent.  All of this is prayer.  All of this addresses a whenever.  Live as if your life matters.

Don’t eat meat on Fridays, but instead go to some fish fry or seafood place?  When did that ever get to be equated with fasting?  Stop pretending!  Do you really need more than 1500-2000 calories a day, ever?  Have you ever considered eating a restricted calorie diet because it is the right thing to do, because over-consumption of everything is an American anti-Christian attitude?  Does our gluttony say something about how we see ourselves as entitled?  Is entitlement a Christian virtue?  Live your life as if it matters.

There are a lot more examples.  You can use Lent as a trivial venture into pretending that we are mortal.  Or you can use Lent as if you really get your mortality and live as if your life matters.  What you do has an impact on the world, on the people around you, on you, and on your relationship with God.

For the next 40 days, you are invited to live your life as if your life matters … and then …

Amen

Christmas Wars

I think it is worse this year.

More and more “Christian” groups are stridently demanding that Christmas be celebrated as the remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ and are opposing what I refer to as “secular Christmas” celebrations.  One group, “Repent Amarillo”, has gone so far as posting a video of the execution of Santa Claus.

I observe that as a group loses influence within a culture, they often become more strident and work hard at regaining lost influence.  This is what I think is happening to religious conservatives.

I operate with the assumption that there are two Christmas celebrations.  One is firmly rooted in the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  The other is a secular winter holiday with the same name.  When someone wishes me “Happy Holidays”, they are in fact being considerate because they don’t know which one (or ones) I celebrate.

Here is the kicker.  I celebrate both.  I don’t find that to be a problem at all.

What religious conservatives and Christmas “purists” don’t seem to recognize is that they continue to drive a wedge between Christians and non-Christians with their strident rhetoric.  When it gets to be an either/or situation, evangelism suffers.  Far better to use Paul’s example in Corinth when faced with the monument to the “unknown god”.  He shared with the people of Corinth what he knew about that unknown god … Jesus Christ rather than beating them over the head with their paganism.

The way Christians can claim Christmas is through that interpretive maneuver.  After all, it is a short step from the secular Christmas celebrations to the Christian celebrations, and when approached reasonably, most who observe the secular holiday are open to Christian interpretation.

Dialogue in Disagreement

It seems to me that one of the most difficult things for Christians to do is to engage in dialogue over matters where there is disagreement, especially in matters related to faith.  I’m going to use a recent comment on this blog to illustrate this and to attempt to engage in some dialogue, knowing in advance that I’ll make some mistakes, and it won’t be perfect.  The article I wrote that the commenter responded to is here.

The quoted comments will be italicized and indented.

My comments will be in normal typeface.

Are you really a pastor or just pretending, because you make no sense at all.

I’m sorry that you didn’t understand.  I was attempting some very short answers to complicated questions, and my shortcuts were likely too brief.  Please, because we disagree or you don’t understand, don’t call into question my role in this church.  Too often, we belittle those with whom we disagree or don’t understand.  I’ll attempt to not belittle you.

The commenter then quotes my statement, and adds a comment.

“You see, the matter is that the ELCA is what the congregations determine it to be. It is not some monolithic entity” The ELCA is what happens to a denomination when they are of the world and not in the world. Our congregation could easily vote to reject the ELCA statements
and go with the flow and not make waves. What would the point be in belonging to the ELCA Club and paying dues to support someone elses agendas.

Once again, I apologize that I wasn’t clear.  I’ll try to expand and be more clear.  The ELCA is indeed a denomination, but since its inception, it has been described as being composed of three expressions; the congregation, the synod, and the churchwide.  Most who are unhappy with the “ELCA” are focused only on part of the church, usually churchwide.  What each congregation teaches and how it lives the Gospel helps shape what is the ELCA.  As congregations decide to leave, they change the dynamic of what is the ELCA, which I think is a great loss to this church. Therefore, there is no such thing as “the ELCA Club”.  The ELCA does not exist apart from the congregations of which it is made.  The ELCA is not some independent “other”.  Mission support is not paying “dues” but gathering together resources for shared ministry.  Congregations have a responsibility to be engaged with one another because we are the ELCA.

I note that we wrestle with our role as parts of a body in many other ways too.  I may disagree with the priorities of the local congregation (especially related to where we spend our resources), but still am engaged in sharing ministry with others.  I will work to influence the priorities of congregational spending wherever I can, but ultimately, it is about something larger than me and what I hold to be important.  Likewise, I share ministry with people who throw a few dollars into the offering plate every once in a while, even though I contribute enough that it makes a difference in how I have to budget other things in my household.  I disagree strongly with their priorities, and yet, will work side by side with them to advance the ministry and mission of the congregation.

Because I have this perspective, I’m not as troubled by decisions of the ELCA which run counter to my specific priorities or my specific understanding of the center of scripture.  Likewise, I’m not threatened by those congregations that in their context, make different choices than I make in my context.  That does not mean for me that the ELCA is a denomination “of the world”.  Your comment suggests to me that you believe that those who voted to approve controversial positions were not grounded in scripture.  I listened carefully to the debate, and am convinced that there was appropriate attention to scripture from all sides, even the sides of the debate with which I disagree.  What takes priority and what is the central message of the Gospel is different for different people.  In some ways, it is similar to the differences between denominations.  But from my perspective, these differences are not sufficient to cause a split. Clearly, you see that differently.

“Regarding abortion, the issue is not about knowing someone who has had an abortion but supporting a denomination that offers to pay for the murder of a child.

I agree that the question about abortion is not about knowing someone who has had an abortion.  I apologize for being curt in my reply. Abortion is a passionate debate, one where there is little hope for dialogue.  Passions run much too high.  The commenter is opposed to the ELCA health plan paying for abortions.  I probably agree, not having thought about it much.  I’d simply ask that there be some discussion about what constitutes abortion for the commenter.  Is the commenter against termination of any pregnancy, viable or not?  How is that determined?  I don’t know enough about all this. Then, as in guidance offered in many parts of scripture, one must weigh the “greater good”.  That is not easy even from scripture.  Remember, this is the scripture that advocates stoning of adulterers and disobedient children.  It both commands divorce and calls divorce adultery.

As far as sexuality in colleges of the ELCA, again I say, it is not about knowing that there is sexual activity but the fact that the colleges are providing avenues of acceptance of for such activity.
I went to college in the 70′s and had a good old time, but when I grew up I knew my children would go to a Christian college because my husband and I wanted the best faith based professors to mentor them and serve as Godly examples. Well that was a waste, so why would someone choose to send their child to an ELCA school who’s attitude has nothing to do with Biblical teachings.

I have some real challenges with broad sweeping statements about what constitutes Christianity (based on morals).  The American Lutheran Church college I attended shaped my understanding and appreciation of paradox, vocation, and scripture (that was not literal or fundamental).  Students and professors sometimes lived out the Christian faith in obvious ways, and at other times were engaged in sinful activity … including competitiveness for grades.  In some ways, I’m not sure what a “Christian College” might be.  Is it a college that lives radical grace and forgiveness as its foundational values?  Is it one that offers radical hospitality?  Is it one where the poor, disenfranchised, alienated, and those whom society has deemed valueless are lifted up and given value?  Is it one where only scripture is used for teaching?  Is it one where all share all possessions in common?  Is it one in which vocation is understood as a calling of God and equipping of the Holy Spirit?  Is it one in which one is allowed and encouraged to wrestle with questions of faith in a safe learning environment, far from fear of condemnation?  Some of us might define Christianity in these ways from a faithful reading of Scripture.  “Christian” is a term I use to describe Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  I’d be interested in conversation about how the commenter describes “Christian”.  In the places where I have conversations about the Christian faith, Christian does not mean only one thing, and it is not universally understandable.

And yes I dare say that we all have seen illicit sexual activity in our congregation as well as many other sins, if we didnt all sin there would be no need to go to church. We are to observe, address and repent of our sins. If all our sins are okay, I’m okay, you’re okay, he’s okay ,it’s okay, we’re all okay.,lets just all get along. Then why did Christ have to die on the cross. It is our job to love our brothers enough to steer them away from sin and each of us help each other to recognize and repent .

Often, when there is conversation about these kinds of disagreements, the conversation devolves to the “if there are no standards then everything is ok and Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension mean nothing” position.  Please, step back and take a breath.  It is not “everything goes”, although I can see where it can look like that’s where it is leading.  Obedience to scripture is important.  But here we’ll probably disagree about what is most important in scripture.  Grace is important.  I often wonder if one is more important than the other, because when I put one ahead of the other, things get messed up.  It is my experience that sometimes grace happens before obedience.  Sometimes obedience is first.  Sometimes forgiveness comes before repentance.  Sometimes repentance is first.  Sometimes obedience draws me closer to God and sometimes God draws me closer to obedience.  I don’t want to be like the Pharisees who could see everyone’s failings and not consider their own.

I ask, because I’m interested to know, is there a point where forgiveness is not offered if there is no real change in a person’s behavior (if repentance is related to behavior)?  Does anyone ever repent about Thanksgiving Day feasting (gluttony), a sin when so much of the world goes hungry or do we in the church bless this sin?  Does anyone ever repent of the coveting that is the basis for our North American economy or does the church simply go along?  Jesus says all remarriage (in one of the Gospels) is sinful, and yet we don’t demand those marriages end.  My point is not to justify “sin”, but to invite us into a larger question where we seek out the answers together and listen carefully to one another in a way that honors how scripture speaks to another.  I want to have this kind of conversation … not because I know the answers, but because it has implications on what we mean by repentance, obedience, sinfulness, and forgiveness.  Why is it that some sins are considered acceptable and others are not?  How do we decide?  Is there a difference between sin as a condition and sinful acts?  Dialogue will reveal a good deal in these matters.

There is more from the commenter, some of it quite personal.  I hope I did not call her names, or insinuate that she is homophobic or un-Christian, or is out of touch with the world.  If I did, I am sorry for that, for that was not my intent.  There is too much of that in the world as it is.  I have a lot of questions, and believe that Christians can ask questions of one another without having to fight about preconceived truths.  I learn a great deal from these kinds of dialogues and invite people into them all the time.

There is more I can say, and I’ve said too much, so enough for now. 

World AIDS Day – 2010

Today is World AIDS Day.  In the ELCA, we’ve been called upon by our Presiding Bishop to pray, remember, lead by example, and sign a religious leaders’ commitment to action in response to HIV and AIDS.

I’ve signed the commitment, which is located here, and invite other clergy to do the same.  This commitment is rather extensive.  The commitment reads, in part:

Conscious of the specific needs of all those affected by HIV, this leadership means…

To people living with HIV, I commit myself to:

  • working tirelessly to end all stigmatizing attitudes and actions until people living with HIV are fully included in our religious communities and societies;
  • supporting concerted efforts and partnerships to provide support including health care and education in ways that respect privacy and dignity;
  • seeking to understand and respond to the specific needs and situations of different communities affected by HIV to enable all people living with HIV to participate fully in society;
  • providing spiritual support and resources to give hope and enable positive living, assuring you that HIV cannot separate you from love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness.

To children, I commit to:

  • Recognizing your rights, including health, education and support, that will help you celebrate childhood and learn values and ethical practices for safer and healthier living.

To young people, I commit to:

  • Listening to your needs and empowering you with the values and support to help protect you from violence and suppression and from behaviours that create risks for yourself and others;
  • Enabling and facilitating your leadership and participation.

To women and girls, I commit to:

  • Recognizing your special vulnerability and roles as caregivers and mothers and working tirelessly to ensure you have the services you require for prevention, treatment, care and support.
  • Exercising respect and challenging any oppressive systems of power within my religious community and society which fuel violence and injustice;
  • Providing space for your voice and leadership in our communities.

To men and boys, I commit to:

  • Encouraging understanding of power that allows people to relate to one another with dignity and love.
  • Supporting leadership and decision making that addresses the root causes of HIV.

To my religious community, I commit to:

  • Doing all I can to break the barriers of silence and exclusion to fully and openly include people living with HIV and their families in our religious communities;
  • Leading by example and encouraging my religious community to deepen its engagement in the response to HIV, including advocating for prevention, treatment, care and support for all.

To networks, organizations and public institutions, I commit to:

  • Fully supporting all efforts to extend services and support that will enable an HIV-free generation by 2015;
  • Challenging and supporting governments to meet their moral duty to implement their promises on HIV in their priorities, practices and financial support.
  • partnering with you to combine our experiences, approaches and expertise to reach our common goal of halting the spread of HIV and reversing the pandemic.

To those I am addressing in this pledge and to other religious leaders who join me in this covenant/pledge, I commit to:

  • reporting through available channels every 18 months how I have worked to fulfill my pledge. (September 2011, March 2013, and September 2014)

My first action is simple.  I’ll encourage our Bishop to sign, and ask him to encourage others to sign.