March 2015
Inside this issue
  Welcome!  
 

Welcome to the new electronic version of our newsletter, Justice SeekersJustice Seekers was published as a quarterly print newsletter for many years.  Now we are excited to be able to bring news, resources, calls to action, and other resources to you electronically.

In each issue, we hope to highlight local communities of faith doing justice in their communities and provide resources for other congregations seeking to do the same.  We also want to hear your stories, both successes and challenges, as well as your questions, areas of interest, and suggestions.

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, social justice is "justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society."  All our faith traditions teach us that each person is a valuable child of God deserving the same respect, human rights, opportunities, and privileges.  But too often that is not what we see when we look around. 

Where do you see justice being done in your community?  What injustices do you see that are not being addressed?  How is your congregation or community of faith engaged in doing justice in your local community?  And what issues do you see that are not being adequately addressed around you?

Each issue will center around a theme and will also include timely information and resources about other issues.  Future themes include resurrection and racism, the California budget as a statement of our morals, homelessness, immigration, LGBTQ and women's rights, and more.

We want to hear from you and invite you to take a short survey to give us your feedback.  Please follow this link https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HNK5X7B and tell us what you think.

- The Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director
 

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  Deny, Deny, Deny: Justice or a Zero-Sum Game?  
 
by Elizabeth Sholes, Director of Public Policy
 
There is a wonderful parable in our tradition: Stone Soup.  Many of you know it, but in case not, it is the story of a town under siege that is running out of food.  One household has a handful of barley. Another neighbor has a bit of chicken.  Someone else has some carrots, one family has onions.  No one has enough, and they are scared. 
 
In the midst of the worry, an old woman drags her huge kettle into the town square, fills it with water, puts it on the fire and drops three small stones into it.  People come out of their homes and ask her what she's doing.  She replies that she is making Stone Soup.  As she's stirring the heating water and three stones, she says to a bystander, "It would taste even better if you added your onions - they're not feeding you anyway."  To others she invites them to put in their meager bits, and soon everyone is adding what they have until suddenly they have- soup!  Soup for everyone, man, woman, and child, and they are saved.
 

That is a foundational principle of our faith - sharing what we have so all have what they need. However, too many read this parable as "SOCIALISM!!" or worse, some kind of theft.  Really?
 
 

In a complex society, we pass legislation and allocate tax budgets so we can support one another in many ways.  We are past the days of tribal society and are too big to depend on personal charity and actions alone. But unlike Stone Soup, some have come to see this Soup Kettle of public money as a loss to themselves, not a benefit to all.  We begrudge the funds and hoard them, even though the bits won't support us individually on their own any more than the wilted carrots alone could support the hungry in the parable.
 
California Council of Churches and California Church IMPACT do public policy work through both education and advocacy to pass laws and budgets that will sustain programs that serve those in need.  What we don't always see is how poorly they can work because the justice of providing dependable food, shelter, health care, and other services for those in need has been characterized as taking something from us as taxpayers. At the foundation of the inefficiency lies the antagonism to 'stone soup;.
 
Good stewardship over our public resources is essential, but we have returned to the mindset of  Victorian overseers who brutalized those in poverty from a kind of Social Darwinism view of the 'deserving' vs. 'undeserving' poor.  We still hear screeches about fraud and abuse when strict audits of programs show almost none exists.  We call out the 'Welfare Queen", surely racial as well as class fearmongering, and we demand harsh reviews of people's personal morality from drug testing to invasive reviews of their sex lives all so they can obtain the bare minimum supports for their lives. Audits show that recipients of public support are actually far less likely to be drug users or practitioners of unfettered free love than the rest of us. Facts make no difference
 
In several counties where federally-funded SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Access Program - known as CalFresh here) funds are available, applications result in "deny, deny, deny" then maybe enrolled. Administrative obstruction is designed to discourage people.  It works. SNAP costs the state and counties nothing other than administrative processing, but the mindset that this is a 'zero sum game', that food access takes something away from citizens, has led to these benighted policies. California's enrollment is about half of all who are eligible.  That is the goal because of...well, something.  It's not even clear anymore.
 
Our advocacy cannot be simply about the poor. It cannot be soft-hearted bleatings about the 'vulnerable'.  It has to be loud, fearless, authentic clarity from us about what causes poverty in the first place.
 
People are not poor because of some huge moral failing.  They exist in an economic and societal structure that increasingly wants them poor.
 
Our state and nation must highlight the deliberate policies that favor outsourcing of jobs, shuttering plants, repressing workers' advocacy, oppressing wages, reducing hours, rejecting benefits all of which push people from self-sufficiency into poverty.  It is both the under-educated whose opportunities were blighted at birth and the formerly middle class who need help.  They are our neighbors.  They sit in our pews.  They are the salt of the earth, not the dregs of society, just trying to get by as best they can. 
 
Back in 1981 Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman asked of this renewed harshness about poverty, "Why do the rich need incentives but the poor need desperation?"  Since then both our economy and our social service system have embraced the implicit notion that providing for those whom the economy has abandoned is theft from taxpayers and must be rigidly controlled along with the recipients themselves.
 
And yet, we could have Stone Soup.  We could embrace policies that put that 'hand under the elbow' to help people rise.  We could go back to first principles of how we treat those in need.  We could be a nation that shares.   That is a choice we can make. It's up to us.
 

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  Introducing Kendra Noel Lewis and the Impact of Each and Every Gift: Benevolence  
 
To fold the hands in prayer is well, to open them in charity is better.
~French Proverb
 
Life is definitely a journey.  For so many of us, we go down many different paths in hopes that we get to our final destination.   The career path has its own path and often times can be the most troublesome.   I am very lucky because I feel I was called to do what I love to do and have had and currently feel lucky every day that I get to work for an organization that has an awesome mission, great staff and wonderful work environment.  Let me introduce myself, my name is Kendra Noel Lewis and I am currently the Director of Communications and Development for the California Council of Churches and California IMPACT. 
 
For 19 years, I can honestly say, that I have been working in my dream career doing what I love.  What do I do?  I am a professional fundraiser.  When asked what I do and I decide to be coy, my response is "I beg for a living."  I usually get a big laugh.  Most people would prefer to jump in a shark tank then ask another individual for one penny.  I don't see it that way at all.  I find benevolence both fascinating and wonderful all at the same time.  I see my job as the opportunity to meet individuals and grantors and pair them with a mission, program or project that they strongly believe.   Or I am a part of the ongoing stewardship once the individual or grantor has decided to make the donation.   According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, "Giving by individuals makes up the vast majority of contributions received by nonprofit organizations."  Giving USA 2013 estimates that individual giving amounted to $228.93 billion in 2012, an increase of 3.9 percent in current dollars (1.9%, adjusted for inflation) from 2011. This accounts for 72 percent of all contributions received.  What is incredible about this statistic is that this information captures the $5 gift and the $5 million dollar gift. 
 
For me, it is the act of giving and not the amount that is so very important.  It is because of gifts large and small that an organization like Cal Churches and IMPACT are able to do the incredible social justice work for many throughout California and how our work is an influence on the national level as well.  If you are a receiving this newsletter and you are a donor, let me say Thank You!  Thank you for your support, your dedication to our mission and each time we ask, you find a way to share and make a difference in the lives of others.  This is the joy of the work that I do.  I am very excited to be working for an amazing organization and with brilliant minds like Rick and Libby.  Through the newsletter, I am looking forward to getting to connect with many of you.  
 
It is truly a pleasure to be a part of an organization that for decades has taken on the task of standing up as a voice and advocate for justice for all.  How lucky we are that so many of you have joined us year after year with your dedicated support.   The impact of each and every single gift is evident our ability to demand justice for health care, marriage equality, civil rights, economic social justice and immigrant rights just to name a few.   And we still have plenty more work to do. 

Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.  
~ Horce Mann
 

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  Help us create Faithful Fridays advocacy on legislative justice. We need you!  
  Dear Friends:
 
Many activists in the faith community have heard of and been moved by "Moral Mondays" in North Carolina.
 
Faith and lay people from all over that state have been converging on the state Capitol to protest what they see as regressive, unjust, and mean-hearted legislation.  A year ago they rallied 80-100,000 people, and they got so much notice the legislature is seeking to ban (unconstitutionally) such rallies again.  Every Monday thousands are now standing for justice on budget, voting rights, tax issues - anything that affects the growing inequality of North Carolina and its people.
 
What you may not realize is that measured in meaningful ways, California has the highest poverty rate of any state in the nation.  (Sacramento Bee, November 29, 2013).
 
To address this appalling issue, the California Council of Churches is urging you and your friends, fellow congregants and parishioners, clergy, and allies to begin local actions we are calling Faithful Fridays.
 
It's not at all easy to come to Sacramento week after week.  It is simply too far for many to travel.
 
But on Fridays your legislators are at the district offices, and, as constituents, that is a perfect place to gather to stand for justice.  Gather together however you can, and bear witness every Friday before those who hold the power over many fragile lives that they do no further harm.

 
This year's budget is a key target.  We have abundance after many years of want.  Proposition 30 has brought money to the state that the Governor has delegated almost entirely to repaying the debt and filling the 'rainy day' fund.  Almost none of it will go to those whose programs were decimated to stave off collapse.  We cut programs for the poorest of the poor to save the General Fund, but now, in abundance, we still make them the human sacrifice.
 
Yes we must pay our debts.  Yes we need reserves.  But people who have been thrown aside by the private sector or that the private forces cannot help have no other resources but ours, manifestations of justice for the Common Good.
 
Several compassionate Senators have offered a 1:1:1 compromise for surplus last year - one third to debt, one third to savings, one third to returning support to those in need.  The new Speaker of the Assembly, Toni Atkins said the same, not specifying a formula but noting we must protect our families and children from want.  These views have some bi-partisan support as many from both parties support specific programs even while disagreeing on others.
 
It is within this space our voices are powerful.  We can build bridges while advocating for the poor.  We believe there are just and honorable solutions, and we urge you to organize to speak to the adoption of budget justice that balances fiscal responsibility with compassion for those hanging by a very slender economic thread.
 
To start a Faithful Fridays action, begin where you are - "where two or more are gathered" - and make your presence known.  Visit and talk or visit and hold signs, sing, recite, whatever you are moved to do, however you choose to do it.  If you are unable to be present, call when others you know may be there.
 
Let your local papers and television and radio know what you are doing!  Encourage ministerial councils and interfaith groups to join in.  The more voices, the more authority over these issues you can have.  Please take the time to go to offices of friendly legislators, too!  They need your witness and support just as much as the cranky ones need to rethink their positions!
 
The budget must be passed by June 15, so this is urgent.  We ask that you do this quickly, and that any clergy so moved become a local presence with high visibility as soon as you can.
 
To find the nearest office for your officials, please go to:
http://www.churchimpact.org/take-action.html.  If your zip and/or address are entered, it will take you to a list of legislators where you can click the link and find their main page with addresses and phone numbers.
 
As the weeks and months roll on, we will be offering suggestions on issues for Faithful Fridays.
 
Please stay in touch with us.  We are a small staff as you know, and we can't be with you much in person, but we can share your stories with others and offer strategies that have succeeded for your inspiration.
 
Write to us a faithfulfridays@calchurches.org and tell us what, and how, you are doing.
 
This is something we can do.  Please join us in making Faithful Fridays a way to have your voices heard and heeded on behalf of too many who have no voice at all.
 
Thank you!
 

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  Please Give Us Your Experience and Opinions!  
 

Where do you see justice being done in your community?  What injustices do you see that are not being addressed?  How is your congregation or community of faith engaged in doing justice in your local community?  And what issues do you see that are not being adequately addressed around you? 

We want to highlight the work your community of faith is doing for justice in your community. We want to hear from you and invite you to take a short survey to give us your feedback.  Please follow this link https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HNK5X7B and tell us what you think.

If your community of faith is involved in justice ministries and you would be willing to share your experiences (successes and challenges) with others who may be seeking to do the same work, we would love to interview you and feature your work in future issues of Justice Seekers.  Please email rick@calchurches.org with your story and your contact information.
 
In the meantime, please click here and complete this short survey.
 
Namasté!
 
Rick

 
 

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  Covered California  
                             
 



 


The California Council of Churches has been involved in outreach, education, and enrollment in Covered California, the state health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act as part of our long-time commitment to accessible and affordable health care for all Californians. 
 
 
Covered California Certified Enrollment Counselors
Please contact our trained and certified staff for enrollment in Covered CA or Medi-Cal
 
Sacramento
 
The Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser

rick@calchurches.org
916-488-7300
 
Robert White

white@calchurches.org
916-256-9778
 
 
San Francisco Bay Area
 
Archbishop Aurea Lewis

aurealewis@yahoo.com
(510) 666-5139
 
The Rev. Dr. Jasper Lowery

jasper-lowery@sbcglobal.net
(510) 776-5404
 
Marijke Fakaseeiki

marijke@calchurches.org
(510) 529-5011
 
Glenda Paterson

glendapaterson@aol.com
(415) 244-5651
 
 
Los Angeles
 
Angie Jiminez

ajimenez@cluela.org
(323) 229-3399
 
 
San Diego County
 
The Rev. Jaime Romo

jjromo@gmail.com
(760) 519-0823
 
Madison Shockley III

madisonshockley@gmail.com
(760) 889-8876
 
 

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  Become an Activist!  
 
Join our Action E-List and get an alert when your involvement can make a critical difference.
 
California Church IMPACT and the California Council of Churches need you and your friends to become members.  Your support allows us to continue and to expand our important work.
 
The California Council of Churches develops resources and programs and publishes study guides on issues of social and economic justice, equity, inclusiveness, compassion, and peace.
 
California Church IMPACT (CCI) seeks to be a prophetic witness to the Christian gospel through legislative advocacy on behalf of 51 Protestant and Orthodox denominations and judicatories, more than 5,500 congregations, and over 1.5 million church members in California.
 
In California, IMPACT's influence in the legislature for social justice, fairness and human rights has never been greater.  We have been told by legislators and staff that it was our activist base that made the difference in several close votes for justice and equality.
 
Our activist base numbers in the thousands, larger than ever and growing.  This year alone, we presented advocacy training workshops to more than 1,500 people in fifteen training sessions throughout the state.
 
Church IMPACT is also known for our acclaimed faith-based recommendations on ballot propositions based on the traditional moral values of justice and fairness for all of God's children.  Over 1,000 congregations participate in our IMPACT Sundays leading up to elections to hold discussions and distribute our ballot proposition recommendations.
 
Other activities include tracking legislation at the state and federal levels, testifying at legislative hearings, working collaboratively with other advocacy groups, lobbying legislators, and publishing our electronic activist alerts, which reaches every congregation in the state, and training local church advocates to be effective participants in the public policy processes of government.
 
We invite you to help us expand our activist base in every legislative district to continue and increase the effectiveness of our advocacy efforts to work toward meaningful governance reform that will allow California to provide needed services for the most vulnerable in our state and to provide updates, training and resources to help people of faith to be as effective and articulate advocates as possible.  IMPACT is the largest and most effective faith-based advocacy organization in California.  It is essential to our mission to be the advocacy voice for justice for our member denominations.
 
Please visit http://www.churchimpact.org/take-action.html and sign up now!  Please share this newsletter and link with others in your congregation, community, and denomination and encourage them to sign up and help us grow our activist network!
 

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  California Council of Churches Lead Petitioner Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Marriage Equality  
 
The California Council of Churches has long been the largest faith-based organization in California actively working to achieve full equality and rights for all God's children, including our LGBTQ sisters and brothers.  We have filed many Amicus Briefs in support of marriage equality in state and federal courts.  Thanks to the ever-brilliant Eric Alan Isaacson, the brief he submitted on our behalf to the US Supreme Court last week is quoted in the article below.
 
May justice and equality prevail for ALL God's children!!
 

 

How Marriage Equality Opponents' Arguments Are Getting Turned Against Them

http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/03/13/3632995/children-religious-liberty-tradition-supreme-court-marriage-equality/
 
To read the full brief: http://www.supremecourt.gov/ObergefellHodges/AmicusBriefs/14-556_California_Council_of_Churches.pdf

 

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  Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines  
 

Pre-Post-Racial America

Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines

by Sandhya Rani Jha

 

Those people. Their issues. The day's news and the ways we treat each other, overtly or subliminally, prove we are not yet living in post-racial America. It's hard to talk about race in America without everyone very quickly becoming defensive and shutting down.

What makes talking race even harder is that so few of us actually know each other in the fullness of our stories. A recent Reuters poll found 40% of White people have no friends of other races, and 25% of people of color only have friends of the same race.

Sandhya Jha addresses the hot topic in a way that is grounded in real people's stories and that offers solid biblical grounding for thinking about race relations in America, reminding us that God calls us to build Beloved Community.

Discussion questions at the end of each chapter provide starting points for reading groups.

Hardcover edition available through smile.amazon.com (be sure to designate the California Council of Churches!).  Electronic versions are availabe from chalicepress.com

Sanshya Rani Jha is the director of the Oakland Peace Center, the East Bay Housing Organization, a former member of the California Council of Churches Board of Directors, and so much more!

 

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  Long-Time IMPACT Activist, Supporter and Board Member, Rev. Bill Miller, dies on Valentine's Day  
 

WHITTIER  The Rev. Bill Miller, beloved retired pastor of the Whittier United Methodist Church, died unexpectedly during a Valentine's Day outing. 

Bill was a long-time and very valued member of the California Church IMPACT Board of Directors.  His inspiration, activism, and support was a blessing and will be greatly missed.

Bill was 81.

A tireless advocate for peace and social justice locally, regionally and internationally, Miller was a frequent contributor to the Whittier Daily News.

"He is the heart of this community," said longtime friend Judith Prather. "The number of things he's involved in is absolutely incredible. He's the kind of person who was just there for people."

He had organized a rally Sunday at Painter Avenue and Whittier Boulevard to demonstrate against sending U.S. arms to Ukraine.

A few people showed up, but Miller never arrived, said Orlando Terrazas, chairman of the Whittier Area Peace and Justice Coalition.

Later, Miller's daughter gave those who had gathered news of his passing, said Charell Charlie, of the coalition.

 "The community is going to miss Bill in more ways than it even knows," said John Beynon, president of the United Nations Association-USA, Whittier Chapter, who worked with the pastor to create the Whittier Environmental Coalition and had breakfast with him once a week.

"First and foremost, he was an advocate for peace and social justice," said Beynon.

The Whittier Area Environment Coalition grew out of a book discussion Miller organized on "The Transition Handbook: from Oil Dependency to Local Resilience," said Beynon. In 2012, the UNA chapter organized Earth Day events to highlight environmental issues in the Whittier area.

"Bill, along with Victor Ledesma, Judy and George Prather and others concluded that the community needed an umbrella organization to bring together organizations and individuals that are concerned with addressing climate change," Beynon said. "WAEC is that organization."

Miller also was instrumental in the formation of the Whittier Area Interfaith Council, and in the "rebirth" of the Whittier Area Peace and Justice Coalition.

"He'll be missed," said Terrazas, of the Peace and Justice Coalition.

After the outbreak of the Iraq War, he organized demonstrations against the war at Painter and Whittier.

"That's when I met Bill," said Terrazas. "That was the beginning of the rebirth of the Whittier Area Peace and Justice Coalition," which had become inactive, he said.

"Over the years, he became my mentor in peace," said Terrazas. "He got me involved in the cold weather shelter.

"I am so honored to have known him."

Sharon Heck, secretary of the Whittier Area Interfaith Council, said the reverend spearheaded the council and kept it going.

"He urged us to do study groups. He was involved in everything. Interfaith was very interfaith, and he made sure it was," said Heck.

She had planned to attend a meeting, "Rising Tide: Economics, Climate Justice and the Way of Jesus," with Rev. Miller on Monday in Long Beach.

"He was very involved in social justice," she said.

Miller was born in Modesto on June 24, 1933.

This article was adapted from The Whittier Daily News (http://www.whittierdailynews.com/obituaries/20150216/whittiers-rev-bill-miller-dies-on-valentines-day)
 

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  If You Shop on Amazon.com, Support Us with Amazon Smile!  
 
Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to California Council Of Churches whenever you shop on AmazonSmile.

AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. Same products, same prices, same service.

Support your charitable organization by starting your shopping at smile.amazon.com.

 
California Council Of Churches
 

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California Council of Churches/IMPACT
4044 Pasadena Ave.
Sacramento CA 95821
Phone: (916)-488-7300
Fax: (916)-488-7310
 
justiceseekers@calchurches.org
calchurches.org and churchimpact.org
 
The Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser
Executive Director
 
Elizabeth Sholes
Director of Public Policy
 
Kendra Lewis
Director of Communications & Development
 
Tom Bourne
Statewide Project Director
 
Stefan White
Administrative Assistant
 
The mission of the California Council of Churches and California Church IMPACT is to be a prophetic witness to the Gospel by educating faith communities, and advocating in the public policy arena, to pursue justice, equity, and fairness, in the treatment of all people, in particular those most vulnerable in our society.
 
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CCC/CCI are committed to serving faith communities to pursue justice, equality and fairness.  If our work stirs your passion and dedication to ALL God's people, please consider making a donation to CCC/CCI.
Please support our work with your donations!

Contribute to the Council here

Contribute to IMPACT here





The California Council of Churches is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, EIN 94-2780260.  Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

California Church IMPACT is a registered 501(c)(4) public benefit non-profit engaged in advocacy, EIN 68-0346604.  Contributions are NOT tax deductible
.

Mobilizing California's prophetic spiritual activists for justice since 1913!