I would like to take a moment to write to you through the platform of this Disciples Peace Fellowship web blog as a member of Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. Yes, on this platform I represent DPF in some capacity, but please set that aside purely for this post…
I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was doing work for the XPLOR program (Disciples of Christ) in Ferguson, Missouri, when the news articles started spreading like wildfire. RFRA – that phrase that now seems so powerless had just integrated itself into public rhetoric. It was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or to be more precise in how it sounded to me, it was the package deal that allowed services to be denied based on sexual orientation. More personally, it meant services could be denied to me.
Yes, this day stands out like it was yesterday! Not because there was anything particularly unusual about the act itself. If memory is correct (and I have a terrible memory), there was already standing legislation in other states that served the same purpose. No, this didn’t stand out because of anything particularly new about the legislation. Instead, it was the response.
Seared into my memory is the image of Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins on Yahoo! news releasing a public statement on behalf of Disciples of Christ. Truly, my heart swelled! While I won’t claim to have been a Grinch before that day, if my heart had indeed been two sizes too small, it would have swelled to twenty sizes too big. The very denomination I had been participating in would now solidly be my home.
My home church, Table of Grace, did not put much weight on membership. Rightfully so, I might add. Having been involved in this new church startup for a few years prior to RFRA, I understood that membership created a sense of status and this just didn’t have much place in our community. All are equal at God’s table from the richest to the poorest. Indeed, the wonderful beatitudes imply that whatever hierarchy is established here on earth is reversed in the glorious Kingdom.
Yet my view was shifting. Somehow, some way… I wanted to deepen my relationship with Disciples of Christ…
My home church doesn’t like representatives of status. As such, I had never had ‘official’ membership in Disciples of Christ. After reading of my denominations response to RFRA, however, that simply had to change. While others in my home church did have membership by default through either Baptism or having started the church, I was the first to pursue membership outside of the route of default. I wanted to stand with the denomination that stood with me. I wanted my name to be counted as a voice in solidarity with the voice that stood in solidarity with me.
I wanted to proclaim to the best of my ability that I, Matthew Capestro, support the life and ministry of Disciples of Christ. What a proud moment the day I was officially a member of DOC!
Now an official member, I no longer think of membership as status. I entered into spiritual covenant with Disciples of Christ. Thus, my membership does not represent a hierarchy of power but a commitment to be in relationship with my church. Too often, it is easy to forget this portion of membership within the church. It is not about the numbers, but about the relationships. If we expect our denomination to be in relationship with us, it is equally expected that we be in relationship with the denomination.
The famous phrase, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” reminds me that in the life of our church, we are the body. The denomination is not just a static or abstract set of ideals or theology, but instead an actively breathing representation of the collective wholeness of one body. It is, in essence, the product of us.
So, what’s all this talk about membership mean? Well, I wanted to share my view of membership as a covenant – a sacred relationship, if you will – so that you can understand just how I am speaking as a member of Disciples of Christ. As a member, there are a few things I want you to know about Disciples Peace Fellowship, and particularly what supporting the intern program means.
The day that Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins spoke out alongside other church leadership against RFRA, I saw the church I wanted to be in relationship with. Today, having finished an extensive and exhausting summer traveling all across the United States of America, I see yet one more reason I want to continue to be in relationship with Disciples of Christ.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, JR. once said “Without justice, there can be no peace.” Oh, how these words resonate in my understanding of peace! And to be quite frank, didn’t Jesus completely understand this? Didn’t he challenge the rule of the Pharisees over and over? Justice was not foreign to the peace that Jesus so vehemently represented. As such, this is why I believe in the Disciples Peace Internship.
This summer, five interns have dedicated huge amounts of time and energy into creating workshops that resist the Pharisees, Goliaths, Pharaohs, and oppressors of our day. As a member of DoC, I have seen how these workshops come together and how they are designed to facilitate larger, deeper conversations of what it means to be Christians who have a goal of peace. More importantly, how a route to peace is not possible without justice.
It is in this spirit that having participated in the Disciples Peace Fellowship this summer, I speak as a member in saying quite clearly this is exactly the type of program I want supported in my church! As I have told the leadership of the program itself, I’m sold. I’m a lifelong supporter from here on out.
If we want the church to be active in fulfilling a vision of peace, this is the program to support. If we want a denomination that supports its youth and young adults, enabling them to be more informed and justice-oriented people on this earth, then this is absolutely the program to support. If we believe in a voice for the marginalized, victimized, and oppressed, then this is the program to support.
Friends, as a member of Disciples of Christ, I urge you to read the blogs of the interns so you can know their passion and their efforts. More than that, I urge you to hear them so that you may hear God speaking through our church. Lastly, I urge you to support this voice so that this ministry of our church might continue to live out its fullest potential.
Below, you will find a link to the letter our church leaders wrote on behalf of a marginalized community. It is still something I read with great pride and joy. No doubt even readers of this blog will have differing views on how the church should respond to what happens in the world of politics, but I urge you to see that at the root of it all is our church speaking on behalf of marginalized. In so doing, it had to speak as a response to politics not by choice but by necessity.
I believe in a church that stands as a voice opposing injustice. As Rev. Dr. MLK also said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is so, and so may we support the ministries of our church that stand for justice. My humble prayer – may we support ministries like DPF so that the link below is, over time, figuratively amended and molded to speak on behalf of all marginalized communities. Let it be our vision!