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What Does the Lord Require? Statement from David Steele, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren

NewslineThe Church of the Brethren email news service
June 4, 2020What does the Lord require? A statement from David Steele, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”–Micah 6:8

Our hearts break for the loss of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others who have lost their lives due to the color of their skin. Each death represents injustices disproportionately affecting the Black community.

Many across our country have protested in the wake of George Floyd’s death because of the way authorities delayed arresting and charging the police officers involved, but most importantly because his killing is a perpetuation of the injustice, violence, and racism that have devalued and harmed Black Americans for centuries.

Many protests have remained peaceful; violence has erupted in some. What is clear is that the nation, and especially our sisters and brothers from various racial backgrounds are hurting and in mourning.

Jesus commanded in Matthew 3:8: “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” Bearing the fruit of repentance, we stand in solidarity with all who suffer from injustice, violence, and racism.

Brethren have long recognized the inherent worth of all human beings while also recognizing that our church, and we ourselves, are not free from racism. Our denomination has recognized that we have participated in and benefited from racism, whether we have been aware of it or not. The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in 1991 issued a report on “Brethren and Black Americans” ( ) that said, in part:
“Members of the Church of the Brethren face the subtle temptation of thinking that because there are not many black Americans in the denomination, or because many of us do not live in physical proximity to black people, that the problem of racism is not our concern. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of us benefit from racist practices, without being direct participants, because of decisions and policies already in place in our religious, economic, and political institutions.”
Jesus spoke strongly to those who choose willful ignorance for their own benefit, saying in Matthew 23:23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” And we find this in James 4:17: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

As a denomination we must reaffirm that racism is sin, and that there is good we ought to be doing to combat it. Racism is indeed our concern as we strive to truly love both God and neighbor. When we are not concerned and do nothing, we sin.

We must repent for ways we have participated in the racism that has caused so many deaths. We must repent for the ways we have not spoken or taken action against systemic racism’s structures and institutions. We must repent for the times we have witnessed overt racism yet remained silent.

The 1991 report recommends that congregations “stand in solidarity with black Americans and other victims of racial hate by speaking out against overt expressions of racially motivated violence and offering assistance to victims.” In doing so, we identify ourselves as disciples of Christ, who said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18).

Let us commit ourselves to be a part of the healing of the nation. Let us pray, and let us act to undo racism in these times.



Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren, serves as editor. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to . Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters or make subscription changes at . Newsline is the Church of the Brethren e-mail news service. All submissions are subject to editing. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren.


Pastoral Letter from Moderator Paul Mundey





COVID-19. Unprecedented. Maddening. Extraordinary. Surreal.

But also: upheaval. It’s as if everything has suddenly been disrupted, causing the “train of life” to careen, ready to derail.

If it’s any consolation, this is not the first pandemic to threaten the trajectory of life. There was the 1918 influenza outbreak, the 2015/2016 Zika occurrence in Central/South America, the 2002/2003 SARS incident, and the 2014/2015 Ebola eruption in West Africa. In each instance, there were deadly results; but in time, healing returned.

Churches contributed to that outcome. For example, during the 1918 influenza outbreak, the Russell Street Church of Christ in Nashville approached the Red Cross, offering their building as a temporary hospital since city hospitals were filled.1 So even though Sunday services were canceled, Russell Street saints didn’t cancel service. In fact, they intensified service, and so must we. Whether through expanded virtual outreach (worship services, Bible study, devotionals, pastoral touchpoints, etc.), monetary support to COVID-19 hot spots, or securing groceries for needy neighbors or shut-ins, we’re called to “be the church” despite disruption and upheaval.

Viktor Frankl’s classic, Man’s Search for Meaning, has been a frequent companion of mine during crisis. Frankl’s book has multiple truths, including this gem: “So live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”2 Overall, Frankl is addressing the way we often view upheaval and suffering—not as fodder for maturing life, but as a toxin tainting and spoiling life. However, we have a choice, as Frankl reflects: “Everything can be taken from a man [or woman] but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”3 Face it: we cannot control the current pandemic; there are dynamics surging beyond our reach. But as Frankl reminds us, we can control our outlook and attitude. The Apostle Paul models such thought-discipline:

“…We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus…We are always facing death, but this means that you know more and more of life…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-13 PHILLIPS)

Note Paul’s realism—handicapped–puzzled–persecuted–knocked down—but catch his conclusion: not knocked out. What are you concluding during this pandemic? Many surmise we’re indeed knocked out—derailing and train

wrecking. But, if we prioritize Bible headlines and not social media headlines, we come to a different conclusion.

“God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You’re a proven help in time of trouble—more than enough and always available whenever I need you. So, we will never fear even if every structure of

support were to crumble away…[So] surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God…I will be exalted throughout the whole earth.” (Psalm 46:1-10 TPT, emphasis added)

Surrender anxiety. Silence striving. And see that I am God.

Needed, true, but so hard to live out. However, there’s assistance. Recently Henry Cloud provided practical steps for realizing Godly hope in upheaval. In sum: keep connected, recreate structure, recraft equilibrium, regain control, stay productive.4 In upheaval, connection, equilibrium, control, and productivity are all attacked, pulling us toward distress. But if distressed, it’s hard to feel safe and secure in anything, including God. I was especially drawn to Cloud’s counsel about regaining control: 1) list things within your control and list things out of your control; 2) practice healthy compartmentalizing—limit worry about things beyond your control to 5-10 minutes daily; 3) actively give energy to the things you do control; 4) get creative about the new discretionary time now available.

Wise counsel that, if heeded, will heighten awareness of the God who is “a safe and powerful place to find refuge” (Psalm 46:1 TPT). Once, Bruce Lawson helped a New York executive discover God’s refuge and power. Walking in front of Rockefeller Center, they encountered a large statue of Atlas, straining under the weight of the world. Going to nearby St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Larson took the executive behind the high altar to find a statue of the boy Jesus, also carrying the world, represented by a small orb in his hand. Unlike Atlas, Jesus is not straining; He’s radiating peace. The choice became apparent for the executive: continue to carry the weight of the world and struggle like Atlas or give the world over to God and know peace like Jesus.

COVID-19 presents a similar choice: carry the weight of the world or give it over to Jesus. Give the weight of the world to Jesus, for, as Andrew Murray notes, “God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.” But yielding is not passive—we need to fully engage what we do control. We need to actively enter the renewed space “sheltering in place” provides, looking to God expectantly in that space, even though the structure of our support crumbles away. For God provides safety and power, nevertheless, more than enough, even in times of trouble.

With expectation,

Paul Mundey, Moderator, Church of the Brethren

Discussion Starters / Questions

  1. Moderator Paul mentions past pandemics, then comments: “there were deadly results; but in time, healing returned.” Name a crisis in history or your own life that was dire, but then, in time, saw healing return. How does that fact give you hope during our current crisis?
  2. Moderator Paul encourages us to “be the church” despite disruption and upheaval. Dream of creative, new ways we can “be the church” during our current crisis.
  3. Reflect on Viktor Frankl’s conviction: “Everything can be taken from a man [or woman] but one thing…to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Name instances when you’ve either lived, or not lived, that truth.
  4. Reflect on Henry Cloud’s practical steps for realizing Godly hope in upheaval. What additional steps would you add?
  5. Reflect on Andrew Murray’s conviction: “God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.” What arehealthy ways to live out that sentiment? What are unhealthy ways to implement Murray’s teaching?

To Dig Deeper

Viktor Frankl. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.
Henry Cloud. “Four Things You Can Do for Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis.”

N.T. Wright. “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To.”

1 2 Viktor Frankl. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006, p. 109.
3 Frankl, p. 65.