Each year, the J. Irwin Miller Award for Excellence in Ecumenical Leadership is conferred by the National Council of Churches USA to a layperson who has demonstrated a commitment to church unity, and who, by living out this commitment through action in the world, has been a witness to justice and other values affirmed by our common faith in Jesus Christ.
The 2020 Christian Unity Gathering theme, "Breathing New Life into Our Nation: Repentance, Re-formation, Reparations," has focused on themes of racial justice, a core value of Creation Justice Ministries, and a passion for our executive director.
We also take this special moment to give a big THANK YOU to Disciples Home Missions, our fiscal sponsor, for their extraordinary demonstration of ecumenical commitment by hosting Creation Justice Ministries. Disciples Home Missions is instrumental in fostering ecumenical leadership!
Award Presentation by Rev. Michael Livingston
Shantha Ready Alonso's acceptance speech for the J Irwin Miller Excellence in Ecumenical Leadership Award
In a spirit of Truth and Healing, I acknowledge am “beaming in” to the virtual Christian Unity Gathering from the ancestral lands of Cahuilla people, in Coachella Valley, California.
I am so honored today to accept the J. Irwin Miller Award for Excellence in Ecumenical Leadership. Thank you to the National Council of Churches for this recognition.
I could not have come to this point without my ecumenical family, for teaching me about Christian unity since birth. Thank you to teachers, mentors, colleagues, and donors who have nurtured my leadership through generous time, scholarship funds, and care.
This is a recognition not just of my leadership, but of the entire, powerful and committed Creation Justice community, who refuse to sit idly by and allow forces of greed and racism to desecrate our one and only shared home, Earth. Together, through our prayers and public witness, we are bringing about eco-justice transformations, and witnessing to Jesus’ call for just relationships among all of creation.
I especially want to express my gratitude to members of the Creation Justice Ministries board, which is comprised of representatives of National Council of Churches member communions. Each of these board members is working toward our creation justice mission within their own Christian communities.
Ministry for creation justice has never been more urgent and important than it is today. It is an extraordinary time to be alive. We are the first generation to truly understand the gravity of the climate emergency. We are the last generation with significant power to change its trajectory. Right now, our collective action, or inaction, could contribute to the sustenance, or the exponential suffering of the generation that follows.
As the mother of a toddler, I feel this mantle of responsibility viscerally every day.
There are many ways we can approach the climate crisis before us. I choose for my approach to be rooted in ecumenical Christian hope.
I do so because it brings me so much more clarity and peace to frame my place in this struggle as SAYING YES to God’s truth of unity than to be in a constant battle against all that is going wrong.
And, a lot is going wrong.
Sins of apathy, neglect, racism, greed, misogyny have sown division and profoundly harmed the integrity of God’s church as well as God’s creation.
It is also true, at the same time, that WE ARE ONE.
Any person who spends time observing God’s creation can see how awe-inspiring unique ecosystems are: their wildly diverse parts, all interacting in mysterious ways, add up to a whole, and this whole is our home.
Christian ecumenism is about accepting God’s gift of unity to the Church – and of embracing our oneness in diverse, dynamic body of Christ, so our oneness in the Spirit can be our spiritual home.
It is up to each of us how we respond to God’s gift of unity, both as members of God’s Church and as inhabitants of God’s Earth:
Will we accept this gift of unity with open hands, and foster anti-racist right relationships, health, and wholeness?
Or will we reject this gift, and suffer in isolation through negligence, domination, and exploitation?
Let us pray:
Creator God, help us say yes to accept your gift of unity...
Say yes to living simply, and learning each day to seek your Godly definition of abundance.
Say yes to rectifying the historic racist injustices that have torn people away from the land, and yes to eco-reparations.
Say yes to embodied, incarnational Christian faith, so no body experiences unequal, sickening burdens of pollution.
Say yes to the healing power of repentance, and humility to learn not only from science, but also from the original caretakers of our communities.
Say yes to compassion through disaster preparation, mutual aid and radical hospitality as together we weather the material and spiritual storms of the climate emergency.
Say yes to wonder -- notice how every creeping thing that creeps is busily signing its own song of praise
Say yes to God’s gift of unity