Promoting a passion for justice within our church and churches.

Providing prophetic Disciples leadership to ecumenical and interfaith coalitions.

Working with other people of faith and conscience to build the Beloved Community envisioned by Dr. King.

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Reflections by DJAN's Director


(see pictures below)

2017 has been a busy and especially challenging year for many faith-based progressive groups, including DJAN.  The year began with the first African American President of the United States still in office.  Shortly afterwards, however, we as a nation inaugurated as the new President of the United States a dangerous and divisive demagogue who won the election by running an election campaign that openly appealed to racism, sexism, xenophobia, and religious bigotry.  Once in office this hero of the alt-right began to attack, undermine, and reverse every policy that promoted and/or protected the things we so deeply value:  civil rights, voting rights, the environment, public education, gender justice, reproductive choice, criminal justice reform, worker justice, programs that aid economically struggling families, the just and humane treatment of immigrants and refugees, quality and affordable health care for all, etc., etc., etc.

Worse than the incredibly harmful policies and reversal of helpful policies that came out of the White House and the Congress on nearly a daily basis was the destructive spirit unleashed within the body politic—one that gave permission for the worst biases and ugliest prejudices of many people to manifest themselves in the public square.  Thus, violence against others, vandalism of places of worship, hate speech, and a vigorously renewed  Neo-Confederate racism all increased in presence and intensity throughout the nation.

In response to this situation, people of faith and persons of conscience took action:  through marches, vigils, rallies, and even civil disobedience, they expressed their principled resistance to Trumpism.  And because of your active participation and financial support, DJAN was part of this resistance:
 we helped organize and promote Disciples participation in major national activities and events such as the Women's March; the Climate March; the March for Science; a march and rally for immigrants, families, and workers; and the Thousand Ministers March from the King Memorial to the Department of Justice (an event that drew not one, but three thousand clergy and religious leaders).

But DJAN did more than provide a prophetic Disciples voice against Trumpism.  We also provided prophetic Disciples leadership to such events as a prayer vigil at the Pentagon in response to increased militarization; a march against the appointment of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General; a twenty-four hour rally/vigil for health care on the lawn of the Senate; a rally, march, and prayer meeting in a Senate office building to call for a fairer and more compassionate federal budget; the delivery of underlined Bibles and health care testimonies to the office of Speaker Ryan; a vigil in front of the Supreme Court opposing the death penalty; a march around the Supreme Court and to the steps of Congress in opposition to voter suppression; and a protest in the Capitol Rotunda against the immoral and unfair tax bill.

As usual, DJAN was also very busy at General Assembly, where we worked collaboratively with others to make a number of important things happen:  in order to model cooperation among justice-seeking groups, we shared exhibit space with Reconciliation Ministries,  Disciples Peace Fellowship, Disciples Center for Public Witness, LGBTQ+ Disciples (formerly GLAD Alliance), the Disciples Palestine/Israel Network, and the religious organizing department of the Center for Responsible Lending (a close ally of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative); in order to bring attention to the injustices of the U.S. criminal justice system, we joined with the National Benevolent Society to organize a workshop on this issue area and also joined with them to host an exhibit using virtual reality technology to allow people to experience just a small bit of what it’s like to be in solitary confinement; we worked with Refugee and Immigration Ministries and other Disciples groups, plus local community groups, to organize a rally that featured Dr. William Barber II and focused on “Justice 4 Families”; and we joined forces with the Black Ministers Fellowship, Reconciliation Ministries, Disciples Peace Fellowship, LGBTQ+ Disciples, and others to organize a prayer vigil where participants stopped and prayed for justice and wholeness in a number of areas of concern while walking around the Convention Center.  DJAN also sponsored two workshops of its own:  one in which Dr. Michael Kinnamon addressed the issue of “The Politics of Fear” and one in which Rev. Sandhya Jha spoke about “The Fear of Politics.”

With our Charles Harvey and May Sweet Lord Justice Action Fund, DJAN helped bring 12 young adults to Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice, an annual conference where around 1000 Christians from across the US came together in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, to worship and pray together; learn from one another at workshops and panel discussions; network with one another across denominational lines, within denominational groups, and within state caucuses; and visit their elected representatives on Capitol Hill.  During denominational time, Disciples joined with the United Church of Christ to host a gathering that focused on how to have difficult discussions with others about controversial issues.

There are three ongoing DJAN activities about which I am especially excited:  the expansion of our leadership network in Canada; our increased outreach to young adults; and our efforts at organizing on college campuses.  The latter is beginning at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and then expanding to Lynchburg University in Virginia.  Our hope is that we will find models of doing campus organizing that can be adapted to other Disciples colleges in the months and years ahead.  Also, given that the Canadian outreach is primarily among young adults, young adult outreach combines with campus organizing to provide opportunities for younger activists to network with one another, something that holds great promise not only for the future of DJAN but also, even more importantly, for the future success of the mission of our Church in the world.  

Providing a prophetic Disciples voice against Trumpism in the United States and countering Trumpist attitudes within our churches; providing prophetic Disciples leadership to denominational, ecumenical, interfaith, and religious-secular efforts at prophetic resistance and faithful witness; and bringing more college and young adult activists into our larger efforts to work together to build the Beloved Community envisioned by Dr. King—this is what DJAN has been doing throughout 2017 and, with your active participation and financial support, it’s what DJAN will continue to do in 2018.

Thank you to one and all—members of the executive team, members of the decisions team, and members of the larger leadership team (advisors, volunteers, and close friends)—for making all of this possible.  Without you, there would be no DJAN.  And I truly believe that without DJAN, the life of the Church we all love would be greatly impoverished.

New Year Blessings!
Ken BL
Director of DJAN (volunteer)

         Correspondence:                              Contributions:
         1040 Harbor Drive                             PO Box 35887
         Annapolis, MD  21403                      Tulsa, OK  74153


NOTE:  A final fiscal report for 2017 will soon be available.