By Wendy Davidson, Disciples Peace Fellowship intern
Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)
I’ve always found it strange the way that one word can have two very different meanings, especially when the meanings seem almost antithetical. For example, I can dust a shelf to remove dust or dust a cake with sugar to add it; I can impose sanctions to penalize another or sanction an action to signal our approval; I can run fast to move quickly or hold fast to stand still. They’re called auto-antonyms, among other things. Similarly, I can bear witness by actively observing, and I can bear witness by speaking up. The Disciples Center for Public Witness and the Disciples Justice Action Network embody the dual nature of the word “witness.”
The Disciples Justice Action Network (DJAN) is a collaboration of Disciples who witness primarily in the first sense. DJAN witnesses to the way the Disciples of Christ operate as a whole, and to speak out on the ways justice is overlooked or ignored by the denomination at large. In more recent years, as the denomination has grown more justice oriented, DJAN has been able to participate in bringing to life the denomination’s justice goals.
Where DJAN speaks mainly to the church, the Disciples Center for Public Witness (DC4PW) speaks mainly to the state, advocating in the public realm, especially in the area of public policy. The DC4PW board consists primarily of the leaders of a diverse set of African-American and multi-racial congregations, and witnesses primarily in the second sense of the word, speaking up and speaking out on behalf of the oppressed, advocating for racial and economic justice, and working to enact policy changes that support this effort.
As the country grows more and more polarized, the witness of these organizations grows more and more complicated. Where once, politicians would speak to you, whether or not they agreed with you, now, many politicians refuse to open their door to you if they know that you disagree. This lack of communication both results from our growing polarization and contributes to our growing polarization.
However, while this is cause for lament, there is hope. The Poor People’s Campaign: A national call for moral revival calls us to address the sins of racism, poverty, militarism, and the degradation of our environment. The Black Lives Matter movement is growing in support not only from those involved in the movement but also from allies. Churches and communities of faith are showing up to marches and protests to be involved in the change that so desperately needs to happen. Finally, the many and varied Disciples justice organizations (that have been highlighted throughout this summer!) are working together, collaborating as the Disciples Justice Ministries to better communicate and facilitate positive change. There is good work being done, and good work left to do. Will you join us?
How Can I Be a Part of This Work?
- STAY INFORMED! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a request to get on DJAN’s newsletter or email email@example.com to hear from DC4PW. These organizations will often include alerts to inform you of justice concerns to be praying for and acting on.
- GET INVOLVED where you are most passionate – locally, regionally, or at the general level! Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and the folks at DJAN will help you figure out where your interests and passions can fit into the good work that yet needs to be done.
- CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES and other public officials to share your concerns. They keep track of how many people call to express concerns around each issue. Our voices coming together can help to bring about meaningful change.
- DONATE – go to http://www.centersupport.org/ to give to DC4PW or http://www.djan.net/support.htm to give to DJAN, today!