(Nashville, Tenn. – 7/11/11)—Disciples meeting at the 2011 General Assembly voted today to adopt resolutions opposing bullying and supporting justice in educational reform.
Business item 1123, in support of children and youth and opposing bullying was introduced by Shelly Garrison of Colorado Springs, youth pastor for the Central Rocky Mountain Region.
Noting that “bullying takes many forms,” Garrison said the region “has been doing anti-bullying training at camps and retreats for several years.” She hopes the resolution will inspire more churches and regions to provide such training.
Brenda Truax, pastor of Lizton (Ind.) Christian Church, voiced support for the resolution, but said it did not go far enough in addressing bullies themselves. “It calls bullies sinners,” she said. “Bullies are broken and in great need of healing.” She urged the Assembly to send the resolution to the Committee on Reference and Counsel for a rewrite to focus on healing for the bullies as well as for those bullied.
Kevan Peer of Murphreesburg (Tenn.) Christian Church, an independent Christian church, took exception to the mention of immigrants and gays and lesbians as victims of bullying, saying “They have to be Christian first” and “we cannot condone homosexuality.”
Several youth and young adults recounted personal stories of bullying, including Jackson Cobb, a middle school student and member of First Christian Church of Lynchburg, Va. Speaking to Peer, Cobb said, “I understand your beliefs, but bullying is never okay.”
David Rogers, pastor of First Christian Church, Carlsbad, N.M., noted, “If we simply look at bullying in schools, we draw the line too short. We need to look at bullying in the political process. Bullying dominates political rhetoric today.”
Delegates approved the resolution overwhelmingly.
Delegates also approved Business Item 1121, Justice in Education Reform. The item was introduced by Brenda Cardwell, minister of Pilgrimage Christian Church, Suitland, Md.
Cardwell noted the irony of the No Child Left Behind Act, saying, “It makes me sick. Those very policies are responsible for leaving children behind.” She urged Disciples to support policies that “do not lay blame on teachers and students because they have not accomplished what needs to be accomplished. … Justice calls us to support and not to punish.”
Several people spoke in opposition to wording in the resolution they felt “indicted” charter schools as “part of the problem.”
Jennie Kennel Adams, a member of Bethany Christian Church in Arapahoe, N.C., moved that the Assembly send the resolution to the Committee on Reference and Counsel for revision. After several people spoke in favor of and against the motion, the Assembly voted not to send the resolution to committee.
More discussion followed, including comments by Dave Tietsort, a member of Tylersville Road Christian Church in Mason, Ohio. Saying that, “Public education is not necessarily the best way,” Tietsort urged Disciples to “Give every parent the chance to choose what’s best for their children. Right now only the rich can afford to do this. Let’s give everyone the chance to do what the rich can do.”
Many others spoke in favor of the resolution, including Warren Walrath, interim minister at First Christian Church of Chicago Heights (Ill.), who reminded delegates that “Teaching is an art that cannot be reduced to a mechanical evaluation system.”
One delegate from Kokomo, Ind., noted that five schools have been closed there and 30 teachers laid off. “It’s time to support our teachers,” he said. “It’s time to renew public education.”
By Sherri Wood Emmons