The On Earth Peace (OEP) board held its spring meeting, April 8-10, 2021, gathering virtually by zoom for the third time due to the pandemic.
Times of worship were a significant part of the gatherings. Board member Lucas Al-Zoughbi opened the first session with an introduction to the worship resources of Sabeel (An Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center based in Jerusalem). Sabeel connects the Christian community around the world with Palestinian Christian traditions and with following Jesus in the work of justice for oppressed people. OEP was co-sponsor of Sabeel’s “Easter In Jerusalem '' celebration. Staff member Matt Guynn opened the second session utilizing resources for Holy Week which had been provided by On Earth Peace for individuals and congregations to use for worship. Nancy Heishman was invited to share a time of reflection and worship on the theme of trauma as both an individual and a community experience with thoughts on how to work at healing. Board member Cindy Weber closed the meetings with a time of worship featuring scripture, music, and prayer.
2021 marks the eighth year since OEP began an intentional process of institutional transformation toward becoming an anti-racist, anti-oppression organization. Part of this commitment has been the expectation that the board and staff will complete a two and half day anti-racism training once every five years. Board action extended that expectation to include persons serving as liaisons from other organizations, such as the Council of District Executives. Since in-person training is not possible this year, the board approved an interim virtual training event with Widerstand (https://www.widerstandconsulting.org/) which will include:
reflection, input, and discussion about anti-racist spirituality with particular focus on the
- roots, traditions, and practices for an anti-racist spirituality praxis,
- the spirituality of conflict and crisis,
- antiracism and the spiritual disciplines, institutional transformation, spiritual formation, historical trauma, and the importance of racial identity.
- reflection, review, and discussion on growth and development of an anti-racist institution through work with the Widerstand Consulting's continnum including field-tested and research-based direction on how to be effective and focused in the work of dismantling institutional racism;
- guided reflection on the challenges and opportunities being faced by OEP in its collective anti-racism journey.
In person training will be scheduled for 2022.
A major focus of the meetings involved conversations about resources and staff structure needed to further the transformation of On Earth Peace work around anti-racism and anti-oppression commitments and values. Staff and board members completed a survey ahead of the meetings to review current programs in light of value commitments and strategic priorities. A covenant of shared values was approved to guide the conversations and several sessions of brainstorming followed. A time of racial caucusing helped board and staff reflect on how internalized racial superiority (IRS) and internalized racial oppression (IRO) limit our thinking together as we have these conversations. Appreciation is extended to the board’s Resource Management Committee for planning and leading this process.
A Vulnerable Persons Protection Policy proposal was discussed. Awareness of the impact of police background checks on marginalized persons resulted in a decision to do more work on the policy before approval. Marie Benner-Rhoades who co-chairs the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) as OEP’s liaison is assisting both organizations in reviewing their protection policies.
Bill Scheurer provided the staff report to the board. A major part of his report was on how the board and staff will cover his responsibilities as he begins his sabbatical. Bill will return from his sabbatical time on June 26.
The report from the Church of the Brethren (COB) Council of District Executives (CODE) was provided by David Sheltler. He acknowledged that he was unaware that On Earth Peace had not been invited to report to the January CODE meetings as has been customary. Instead, CODE dedicated the time to reflect on relationship concerns.
The report of the executive committee of On Earth Peace was followed by a report on the decision of the COB Standing Committee to form a Task Team. The purpose is to clarify understandings about the On Earth Peace decision to join the Supportive Communities Network (https://www.bmclgbt.org/scn).
The Board Governance and Development Committee forwarded nominations for new board members to Annual Conference. When these new members are confirmed and welcomed, the board will have reached its full capacity of twelve. The committee also led the board in several powerful team builders in which board members were invited to share stories of courage and hope. These not only helped board members learn to know one another better but infused the meetings with sacred moments of inspiration and faith.
Melisa Leiter- Grandison and Irvin Heishman, co-chairs