Fall 2016, "Responding to Refugees"
Imagine there is a credible threat on your infant son’s life and you have been warned to leave the country. You quickly gather a few things and flee with your young family across the border into the country from which your ancestors escaped centuries before. You have no idea where you will live, how you will support your family, whether you’ll be welcomed into this new country, or whether people will think you should have stayed where you were. You have faith that God will protect you, but life is still uncertain, scary, and unfamiliar. We know how that story turned out. When there was no longer a threat to the child’s life, Joseph was told to return to Israel with Mary and the young child Jesus. Yes, Jesus was a refugee—he was a foreigner in a strange land and probably depended on the hospitality of strangers. When we think about the plight of refugees today, how might we view them differently if we thought one of them might be Jesus himself? This edition of Shalom! explores some possible responses, tells the stories of people who were refugees themselves and/or are responding, offers some spiritual grounding, and dips briefly into the Brethren in Christ history of responding to refugees following the Vietnam War in the 1970s.
Summer 2016, "Being Christian and a Citizen"
The early Brethren in Christ believed in being separated from the world, including politics, so they did not vote. Times have changed, however, and now the vast majority of Brethren in Christ people in the U.S. vote in national, state, and local elections. We want to influence the system in the direction of the values we consider important, such as the common good, justice, peace, compassion, care for people who are disadvantaged and marginalized both here and elsewhere in the world, care for the earth, stewardship of resources, respect for the essential dignity and worth of everyone, and so on. At the same time, we need to be aware of the danger of putting too much trust in the political system and not enough in things of more eternal significance, and of seriously compromising our values.This edition of Shalom! features a variety of perspectives on what it means to be both a Christian and a citizen of an earthly kingdom, especially given our separatist Anabaptist heritage, and challenges us to remember where our ultimate allegiance resides and that no matter what happens, God is in control.
Spring 2016, "Fear Not"
Fear is a powerful motivator, and it motivates us far more often than we'd like to think and act in ways we wish we hadn't. Some fear is normal and helps us take appropriate precautions to protect ourselves. But the current emphasis on all the things we should fear (economic collapse and financial disaster, crime, loss of freedom and our way of life, the “other,” death, terrorism) runs the risk of turning us into people we should not want to be: xenophobic, racist, and sexist; ungenerous and self-centered; angry, mean-spirited, and insulting; violent in our words and actions; unable to live up to the very values we hold dear. Rather than be afraid of the possibility of terrorism, crime, economic collapse, or something as yet unknown, we should be able to walk through the dark valleys without fear because we know God is with us whatever happens (see Psalm 23). We should be ruled by love, compassion, and generosity, rather than by fear.
Winter 2016, "Criminal Justice Reform"
Sometimes it is hard to balance the kind of justice required by the criminal justice system (or the kind of justice that requires people to take responsibility and accept consequences) with mercy that understands the possibility of mitigating circumstances and takes them into account. So often it seems like there is very little mercy; instead, there is revenge, retaliation, retribution, and ongoing judgment, in stark contrast to scriptural blessing giving to "the merciful." In our rush to judgment and condemnation, do we forget that sometimes we ourselves might need to rely on the mercy of others? The lack of mercy sometimes shown to people who have committed crimes is just one issue facing the criminal justice in the United States. There are increasing calls at the highest levels of government for reforms in the system that address the inequities, cruelty, and racism inherent in the system. This edition of Shalom! comes at those issues from a variety of perspectives, including the parent of a son in prison, a college student studying politics, and an advocate for criminal justice reform. Mercy is a common theme.
Fall 2015, "On Belonging"
Human beings have a great need to feel like they belong to something, whether to their families, their churches, their country, a circle of friends, or something else. This edition of Shalom! was inspired by a study conference sponsored by the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies at Messiah College on “Who’s In? Who’s Out? Rethinking Church Membership in the Twenty-first Century,” where the subject related to the specific notion of belonging to the church. The edition explores more broadly the question of what it means to belong, beyond the issue of church membership. The articles range all the way from the new relationship between the Brethren in Christ Churches in Canada and the U.S. to how language and social media shape our sense of belonging.
Summer 2015, "Loving Enemies"
There is a bumper sticker that reads, “When Jesus said ‘love your enemies,’ he probably meant you shouldn’t kill them.” The question of what it actually does mean to love your enemies takes on new urgency in our modern world of tribes and nations and religions at war with each other – a world where young girls are kidnapped and enslaved, journalists are beheaded and the video evidence broadcast around the world, innocent people are terrorized and bombed, cruelty of unimaginable proportions takes place daily, churchgoers are summarily shot and killed by an avowed racist, and national leaders are unable or unwilling to engage in good-faith negotiations with those perceived to be their nation’s enemies. In such a world, what do Jesus’ words mean? Loving enemies is messy, complicated, and difficult. But it is what we are called to do as Christians, whether those enemies are the ones plotting the destruction of a nation, the person spouting hateful rhetoric from the other side of the political spectrum, or the bullying or irritating neighbor next door. Our Brethren in Christ “pursuing peace” core value hints at what loving enemies might mean at a minimum: valuing all human life, and promoting understanding, forgiveness, reconciliation, and nonviolent resolution of conflict.
Spring 2015, "Conversations About Race"
Over the past several years, conversations about race have often dominated the headlines, often in not very helpful ways. What is abundantly clear – whether the subject is the first black U.S. president, the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the incidents of deadly policing, or the recent killings of nine African Americans in a Charleston church – is that racism still exists in the United States. We are not a post-racial society, and we are still often divided by race. While there are many insightful, profound, honest, wise, and challenging perspectives on race available elsewhere, in this edition of Shalom! we feature a few of our own Brethren in Christ brothers and sisters reflecting on their experience and conversations about race.
Winter 2015, "The Global Church"
As Brethren in Christ we are members of Mennonite World Conference, a community of Anabaptist-related churches. According to the 2012 MWC World Directory, there are at least 18 Brethren in Christ national conferences around the world that are members of MWC, including the Canadian and United States conferences. That’s a relatively small percentage of the total of 101 member conferences, but it’s still a significant number. The current president of MWC is Danisa Ndlovu, who until recently was bishop of the Brethren in Christ Church in Zimbabwe. The immediate past president, Nancy Heisey, has strong roots in the Brethren in Christ Church. Brethren in Christ members also serve on the General Council of MWC. In this edition of Shalom!, we highlight the Brethren in Christ Church around the world, as well as provide information about Pennsylvania 2015, the global assembly set to take place in Harrisburg this coming July. Consider this your personal invitation to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event that has been described as a kind of family reunion of Anabaptists, as well as “an experience of Jesus we can’t fully replicate in our own congregations . . . a taste of heaven as we worship and fellowship in many languages and cultures.”
Fall 2014, "Immigration Reprised"
Only two and a half years ago, in Spring 2012, the topic for Shalom! was “The World at Our Doorstep,” addressing issues related to the immigration debate raging at that time. Unfortunately, things have not changed much since then. Hopes for comprehensive immigration reform have been dashed repeatedly, as partisan politics rule the day. So here we are again, reprising the issue of immigration. While there appear to be no easy answers (on the one hand, the United States is not likely to open its borders to anyone who wants to come, and on the other hand, it’s simply not logistically possible or desirable to round up and deport everyone who is here illegally), perhaps we can agree on some basic biblical principles that should always characterize our actions and attitudes: treating others as we want to be treated, compassion, care, respect, kindness, and love, to name a few. The articles and stories in this edition feature those among us who open their hearts and homes and communities to care for, support and love the real people who are caught up in way or another in the complexities of the immigration debate.
Summer 2014, "Let Peace Begin With Me"
The eighth of the ten core values of the Brethren in Christ Church is “pursuing peace.” It reads: “We value all human life, and promote understanding, forgiveness, reconciliation, and nonviolent resolution of conflict.” In our current context of polarization, divisiveness, meanspiritedness, and serious and deadly conflicts of all kinds, this value speaks of the possibilities for something different. What if more people practiced this core value every day? What if we were so committed to valuing all human life, and to understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation that we refused to allow the conflict to degenerate into violence – whether the violence of angry words and character assassination or the violence of guns and bombs? What might happen if more of us lived by this core value? This edition of Shalom! explores how we all can be instruments of peace and let peace begin with each of us individually.
Spring 2014, "Healing from Trauma"
Mental health professionals are learning that when individuals have major depression, severe anxiety or some other mental health diagnosis, one of the most important first questions to ask is whether there has been any trauma. Asking the question has been likened to the “universal precautions” that are common in public health. Knowing the back story to the presenting mental health problem makes it more likely that the treatment the individual receives will be “trauma-informed” and won’t add another trauma to what the person has already experienced. In the church, where we believe that Jesus can bring emotional and spiritual healing, it’s also important to be trauma-informed. We know that many people who come through our doors have experienced and/or continue to experience trauma, and we need to be sensitive to their need for love, grace and compassionate and appropriate care. This edition of Shalom! includes not only some analysis of the effect of trauma and how healing happens, but also stories of individuals who have experienced great trauma and significant healing.
Winter 2014, "Economic Justice"
The reasons for increasing economic inequality not only in North America but around the world are complex. There is frequent disagreement about those reasons, so that addressing them generates passionate political debate while inequality and injustice continue. For Christians, however, the issue of economic justice is one that should be at the heart of what we care about and it can be approached from different angles, as the articles in this edition attest. The Bible has much to say about how we treat those among us who are poor and in need of the basic necessities of life. We are called to generosity and practical acts of kindness, we are given the example of the early church where there were no needy persons, and we are also instructed to do justice and create social systems that do not oppress and trample the needy.
Fall 2013, "Organizational Decision-Making"
In the church, we hope the process by which decisions are made and change happens shows care for the people who are affected, and involves mutual discussion and discernment of what God is calling us to do. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, not only because of faulty or inadequate processes but also because of differing ideas about the respective roles of leaders and grassroots members. Sometimes when decisions are made with which people disagree and feel like they have had little or no part in making, there is significant conflict. This edition of Shalom! addresses some of the dynamics of effective organizational decision-making, especially in but not limited to the church. Organizational decision-making requires the ability to practice reconciliation and to bring people together in the pursuit of common goals. Effective organizational decision-making is, in fact, a very practical example of the kind of peacemaking to which we are called as Christians.
Summer 2013, "Prison and Ex-Offender Ministries"
According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2011 one in every 107 people in the United States was in prison or jail; almost seven million people were under some form of criminal justice supervision (including almost five million on probation or parole); and the American incarceration rate of 716 people per 100,000 is the highest in the world. While the rate of incarceration dropped in 2012 for the third straight year, apparently attributable to a change in approach to crime and punishment, there are still more than 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons. That's a lot of people in need of a friendly letter, a visit, a helping hand upon release from prison, a practical demonstration of God's love. This edition of Shalom! explores how Christians can be involved in ministries to prisoners and ex-offenders, and tells the stories of some who have experienced the criminal justice system firsthand.
Client Development Assessment Wheel (PDF), referenced in Lou Astuto's article on "Re-Entry Management" on page 5.
Spring 2013, "Reducing Gun Violence"
We say that only God can enable us to love--even our enemies--and forgive rather than punish those who wrong us. If we believe this, it's a message that is needed more than ever in the world today. Each death caused by a gun symbolizes how important it is for Christians to model Jesus' way of nonviolent love in all our relationships. The rhetoric surrounding guns is strident and polarized, and the issues are controversial and complex. However, relying on guns for security seems fundamentally wrong for Christians. Rather than being ready and willing to use a gun to get our own way, we should choose to pursue peace by doing our best to value all human life, and promote forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation and nonviolent resolution of conflict.
Winter 2013, "Brethren in Christ Essentials"
Each year, the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist and Wesleyan Studies at Messiah College sponsors a study conference on a topic of interest to the Brethren in Christ Church. The Fall 2012 conference explored the idea of “Why We Must Take Our History Seriously.” By raising the question of why we must take our history seriously, the study conference implicitly suggested that we don’t always do so. It’s often been easy to follow whatever theological, sociological and cultural trends are popular and forget where we came from and why those who went before made the choices they did about how to understand and interpret the Bible and what we value and commit ourselves to as Christians. At one point during the discussion, someone commented that perhaps we need our own version of The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith by Stuart Murray (Herald Press, 2010). In a similar vein, this edition of Shalom! explores the essentials of our Brethren in Christ faith. Most of the contributors to this edition are relatively young. Some of them are new to the Brethren in Christ, while others grew up in the church. Some are ministering in well–established churches; others are church–planting or preparing to do so. What they have in common is a commitment to all the core values of the Brethren in Christ, and to making them come alive in a culture increasingly searching for authentic Christian witness that stands up to the prevailing values of the world.
Fall 2012, "The Use and Misuse of Power"
We all recognize former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of young boys as a blatant misuse of power, and we may think that this incident is way of out of the mainstream of anything we would ever do with our own personal power. We would most likely be right. However, we're not always aware of how we sometimes use the power we have as individuals–whether by virtue of position, relationship, gender or whatever–in ways that are not helpful and are sometimes hurtful. This edition of Shalom! approaches the subject of power from a variety of what might seem like unrelated perspectives–views from our Brethren in Christ brothers and sisters in Southeast Asia and Zimbabwe, how and why one well-known fiction author dealt with power in his novels, the power of advocacy, the use of the Bible, the power of God at work in our lives, etc.
Summer 2012, "Thinking About Retirement"
Twenty-seven years ago, the first edition of Shalom! in its current format was published. The title was "Do Not Cast Me Away When I Am Old." The introduction to that edition read in part: "We need to acknowledge the fact that our society makes it both easy and difficult to be aware of and to care for the older adults among us . . . We are very youth-oriented and often tend to discard older people like used paper towels even though many, if not most, are still capable of making useful and positive contributions. Finding our way through the many issues associated with aging (widowhood, health care, economic needs, preparing for retirement, caring for aging parents, psychological needs, feelings of vulnerability, home care vs. institutionalization, to name a few) takes time, patience and much understanding. In the church, especially, where we believe that everyone has a special gift from God to share with others regardless of age or whatever, we should help our older adults to feel genuinely respected and very much wanted, loved and appreciated." Those words are still true in 2012. This edition of Shalom! highlights some of the stories and issues older people in our culture face as we retire from regular routines and re–orient our lives to new challenges.
Spring 2012, "The World at Our Doorstep"
As Christians we are called to be generous, compassionate, and willing to sacrifice our own well-being for the sake of those less fortunate, including many who find their way into North America to make a better life for themselves and their families. This edition of Shalom! explores issues related to immigration to North America. The controversies related to immigration have intensified in recent years, and there is also increasing recognition in the church of the opportunity presented by all the people coming to us. Whether they settle permanently in the U.S. or Canada, come as international students or business people for just a short time, or are undocumented, they usually maintain connections in their home communities. What we share with them, including the gospel, has the possibility of being exponentially shared in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. The world at our doorstep presents a whole new way of obeying Jesus’ command to "go into all the world."
Winter 2012, "Caring for Our Children"
From 1995–1997, more than 17,000 people participated in a study about the effect of “adverse childhood experiences” (ACES). The study showed that two-thirds of the participants reported at least one ACE and 20 percent reported three or more. ACES include emotional, physical and sexual abuse; emotional and physical neglect; as well as domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness of a parent, parental separation or divorce, and incarceration of a parent. The study also showed that more ACES in childhood increase the risk of things like alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and suicide attempts later in life. In addition, ACES and other traumas or stressors like accidents, war, poverty, and natural disasters have a negative effect on the healthy development of a young child’s brain. Other research has shown that toxic stress (like abuse, neglect and poverty) can prevent the healthy development of the connections in the brain that are the most important for later success in school and work. Information like this is important not only for the public and private human service systems that work with children but also for individual families and the church. The Church should be in the business of helping to prevent adverse childhood experiences and supporting parents in the sometimes difficult task of raising healthy children. As Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, for the kingdom belongs to them."
Fall 2011, "Editor's Choice"
In 1981, Harriet Bicksler became editor of the Peace and Justice Newsletter which transitioned into Shalom! in 1985. This edition of Shalom! observes her 30th anniversary as editor by reprising several articles from past years, some of them with updates by their original authors. In 30 years, Shalom! has tackled many different topics: at least 20 issues on something related specifically to peacemaking, 15 on topics related to church life, several on pro-life themes, several on children and the family, and several on Christians and political involvement. Other topics include sexuality, the Middle East, Africa, Central America, poverty, the environment, racial reconciliation, the media and technology, health care, immigration, and money. The editor's commitment has always been to use her God-given skills and passion to communicate the biblical imperatives to Christians to be peacemakers and to practice in contemporary ways the "pure religion" described in James 1:27 (NRSV).
Summer 2011, "Pursuing Peace: How Are We Doing?"
Last year, Mennonite World Conference posed a question to its member churches, “How is your church doing in its desire to be a peace church?” The Brethren in Christ response to that question was adapted and published in the Spring 2011 edition of In Part ("Keeping the Peace"). This question is an important one to consider, especially as we observe war and armed conflict in faraway places or angry words and abusive relationships at home, in our neighborhoods, workplaces and churches. It matters that the Brethren in Christ continue to be a “peace church” for two reasons: 1) Following Jesus means following his call to be peacemakers and his example of living nonviolently. In other words, it’s biblical. 2) A world mired in conflict and injustice cries out for solutions that don’t perpetuate horrific cycles of violence from generation to generation. As first the Psalmist and then Peter said, we are to “seek peace and pursue it”!
Spring 2011, "Relating to People Who are Not Like Us"
This edition of Shalom! was motivated by the current state of public discourse, which so often seems full of inflammatory and negative rhetoric by many individuals and groups demonstrating very little respect for those with whom they disagree. The problem is not the disagreement, often significant, or even the characterization of one’s own or one’s group’s attitudes and beliefs as good and right compared to others. It’s more that the others are so often portrayed as "not one of us," often in hateful and untruthful ways. In a recent sermon on preconceptions, Granthan Church senior pastor John Reitz noted that "our preconceptions are one sure way to work against God." How many times have we stood in God’s way because of our attitudes toward other people, especially those who are not like us and who stretch us beyond our comfort zones? As we observe how often people, especially Christians, speak in such cruel ways about others, and realize that within us is the same capacity, we need to remind ourselves that God loves everyone—no matter how despicable or unlovable the person is—and calls us to do the same.
Click on any of the links below to download past issues of Shalom!
Spring 2011 - Relating to People Who are Not Like Us
Winter 2011 - What's in a Name?
Fall 2010 - Movies
Summer 2010 - Human Trafficking, Slavery and Sexual Exploitation
Spring 2010 - Heroes
Winter 2010 - Health Care for All
Fall 2009 - Money Matters
Summer 2009 - The Stewardship of Creation
Spring 2009 - Responding to Evil
Winter 2009 - Alleviating Poverty
Fall 2008 - Real Men
Summer 2008 - The Church's Role in Peace and Justice Ministries
Spring 2008 - Our Children, Our Future
Winter 2008 - Media, Technology and Faith
Fall 2007 - Women in Ministry and Leadership
Summer 2007 - Focus on Africa
Spring 2007 - Profiles in Peacemaking
Winter 2007 - The Persecuted Church
Fall 2006 - Advocating for Peace and Justice
Summer 2006 - Globalization and Technology
Spring 2006 - Welcoming the Stranger
Winter 2006 - Gender
Fall 2005 - Creating Safe Space for Dialogue on Difficult Issues
Summer 2005 - Water Stewardship
Spring 2005 - Perspectives on Health and Wellness
Fall 2004 - Perspectives on the Middle East
Summer 2004 - Engaging the Government: Christians and Politics
Winter 2004 - Food Security
Fall 2003 - Being the Church in Global Community
Summer 2003 - Transforming Conflict and Making Peace
Spring 2003 - Living Simply
Winter 2003 - The Arts and the Church
Fall 2002 - Grief and Loss
Spring 2002 - Leadership Development
Winter 2002 - Partnership and Capacity-Building
Fall 2001 - Restorative Justice
Summer 2001 - Multiculturalism, Diversity and Racial Reconciliation
Spring 2001 - Peace
Winter 2001- Ministries of Compassion
Fall 2000 - Denominationalism vs. Congregationalism