On Earth Peace Celebrates SCN Membership

Rainbow Welcome

Jesus began his work by proclaiming that he was anointed “to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18). This message was not received well in his hometown, but he knew it was a vital component of the “things that make for peace” (Luke 19:42). Overcoming oppression and welcoming the stranger are both central to the full evangelistic message and work of Jesus toward a peaceful beloved community.

On Earth Peace’s commitment to undoing racism has taken us on an organizational journey of almost twenty years. Especially for those of us who are white, it has been staggering, humbling, and convicting to witness how oppression impacts people’s personal and family lives and their participation in church and society. For those of us who are people of color, this journey has been vital in the organization’s willingness and ability to fully include us in its work and leadership. For all of us, it has been liberating to deepen our understanding of the sin of racism and live more deeply into Jesus’ life and call.

All forms of prejudice and oppression overlay each other and undermine the Good News of Christ. As part of receiving Christ’s call to repentance and new life, his disciples are called to dismantle these prejudices and oppressions in their hearts and institutions. To all who are pushed aside, shamed, made invisible, or silenced, Jesus is good news. “Take heart, get up, he is calling you” (Mark 10:49).

In faithfulness to this understanding of the good news, and in support of people of various gender identities and sexual orientations who live in our Church of the Brethren communities, the On Earth Peace board is pleased to announce its decision to join the Supportive Communities Network (SCN) of the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests (BMC). This growing network now connects nearly 140 Brethren and Mennonite congregations and communities who are working together to provide spaces of belonging, pastoral services, and full support to LGBTQ+ believers and seekers.

Membership in SCN will assist OEP in learning how to be a multicultural, inclusive agency, which fosters justice, peace, and joy. To this end, we invite the whole church to learn about the exciting work of the Supportive Communities Network so that more people might find peace in the Beloved Community of Jesus we call the Church of the Brethren.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is Supportive Communities Network (SCN)? How do we join SCN? Where can I learn more about SCN?

Supportive Communities Network (SCN) is a community of nearly 140 Brethren and Mennonite congregations, colleges, and organizations who publically affirm gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members. We are joining them! You can learn more at https://www.bmclgbt.org/scn including how to join. You can also find a full list of SCN congregations, colleges, and organizations there. SCN is a program of Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests.

What was the catalyst for joining SCN?

Joining SCN is a natural step for OEP in our work for justice and peace. And it is long overdue.

OEP has been on an intentional journey in anti-racism/anti-oppression for almost two decades. Various forms of prejudice and oppression have compounding effects on people (which is called intersectionality), and this undermines the Good News of Christ and the Beloved Community for which we strive.

While in 2011 OEP released a “Statement of Inclusion” in response to the actions at that summer’s Annual Conference, OEP had not yet examined ways that we exclude based on race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Our journey with the Church of the Brethren and people most affected by systems of oppression has strengthened our commitment. Having “counted the cost,” we can now with joy and integrity join SCN.

Can you share more about your anti-racism/anti-oppression journey? Where do we start on this journey?

Yes, we’d be happy to share more.

You can learn more on our website: https://www.onearthpeace.org/artt_info.

Also feel free to give us a call or email us at OEP@OnEarthPeace.org so we can hear where you are on this journey and think about next steps together.

Why did we make this decision when the issues are causing so much strife and controversy within the Church of the Brethren? Does this mean On Earth Peace disagrees with the actions of Annual Conference?

We know that not everyone in the Church of the Brethren is of one mind on this matter. Some individuals and congregations have thanked us for our decision. Others feel we are taking sides in a highly contentious time within the body. This is a pastoral and missional choice to say to those most impacted by the conflict, “We see you, our brothers, sisters, and siblings from the lgbtq community, and we are here with you. You are wanted and welcome.”

When the 2011 Annual Conference re-affirmed the 1983 Statement, Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective, we took heed that the statement encourages relationship and open communication rather than exclusion, and recommends working to protect the rights of gay people in society. We believe we are acting in accord with that counsel. It is our view that agencies of the church both help express the will of the church and creatively point toward new possibilities.

Do we have any scriptural or theological backing for making this kind of decision to support the lgbtq community?

Jesus began his work by proclaiming that he was anointed “to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18). This message was not received well in his hometown, but he knew it was a vital component of the “things that make for peace” (Luke 19:42). Overcoming oppression and welcoming the stranger are both central to the full evangelistic message and work of Jesus toward a peaceful beloved community.

In scripture, we find many examples of how God’s people have been led by God and Jesus to remove boundaries, which their own religious culture has created. For example:

  • In Acts 10, the early church learns that Gentiles may follow Jesus without first becoming Jews.
  • Jesus used a Samaritan to exemplify a good neighbor – rather than a Jew – at a time when the majority of Judeans summarily rejected the Samaritans.
  • Jesus talked with women at times when it was culturally unacceptable to do so.
  • Jesus had fellowship with politically despised people such as tax collectors and Roman occupiers.
  • Jesus made healing contact with lepers and others who were feared and considered unclean by many in his community at the time.

Throughout history, God leads the faith community to remove the barriers that culture has created. In Galatians 3:28, we are told that “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

For in-depth study: On Earth Peace board co-chair Irv Heishman has written a booklet, A Biblical Basis for Inclusion: A Pastor’s Journey.

Read it here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7iDmKJ70eqvRnRIdjdqTXY2NlE/view

Who is On Earth Peace accountable to?

As an agency of the Church of the Brethren, On Earth Peace is accountable to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, our constituents, and the whole body of believers. We take these relationships very seriously.

Our journey toward becoming an anti-racist/anti-oppressive organization requires us to institutionalize this commitment in our practices and structures, including staff and board composition, programs, budgets, policies, and accountability to partners including Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing & Training and the Supportive Communities Network.

How do you respond to people who disagree with this decision?

It is our hope and belief that there is space for us to be together as a church even as we currently hold deep disagreements. We grieve that issues of deep conviction often lead to broken relationships and mistrust. We seek to follow Jesus in his teachings and ministry and seek respectful fellowship with all who are on that journey. We also believe that we are called to raise the level of relationships from maintaining the status quo (too often a false appearance of peace) to exploring significant areas of difference while advocating for justice -- this is where the Spirit moves.

How can we support OEP as the Church of the Brethren struggles with this decision?

It is our hope that this decision to join the Supportive Communities Network will encourage others to do the same. We ask for prayers of support for the LGBTQ+ community and SCN, including OEP. When possible, speak up for justice and full inclusion so that all may be a part of God’s Beloved Community. Join us in our work for justice and peace.

What is On Earth Peace?

On Earth Peace envisions a world in Beloved Community, liberated from oppression, violence, and war. Our mission is to develop and walk with leaders who work for justice and peace. Founded in 1974, we serve as an agency of the Church of the Brethren, a historic peace church, and we gladly work with faith-based and secular community groups around the United States. Our core values are Jesus-Centered Spirituality, Positive Peace, Anti-Racism/ Anti-Oppression, Intergenerational Leadership, and Beloved Community.