Carmen Fowler-LaBerge, President of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, a CGCN member, recently added some perspective on the history in a post at Townhall Review.
American history is very short by global standards. In the news we’ve been hearing about Coptic Christians in Cairo and the plight of the peoples of Aleppo. What many of us don’t remember is that those were two of the three largest cities in the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic Caliphate that ruled the region from 1299-1919.
Our tendency is to focus on issues of the West and even western varieties of Christianity. This can leave us lacking the “long view” of history that informs many Muslims and—especially—the Islamist movements that have disrupted the entire region.
Of course: the even longer view of history reminds us of when Christianity thrived throughout the greater Middle East.
As ancient cities and people of ancient faiths make contemporary headlines, we need to remember just how young (relatively speaking) our nation is and yet just how much we have to offer those who for centuries have not had the blessings of living in freedom and peace.
UPDATE: Secretary of State John Kerry has officially recognized the actions of ISIS to be genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
The Scriptures attest to the reality that beneath the altar in heaven there is a choir crying out “How long?” That choir of martyrs is growing every day as ISIS carries out genocide against Christians and any other group that gets in the way of its Caliphate in the Middle East. Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq are targeted for death, sexual slavery, displacement, cultural eradication and forced conversion by ISIS. This crisis has received little attention from either Republican or Democrat presidential candidates on the campaign trail, or from the Obama Administration.
For months now, reports have circulated indicating that the State Department will exclude Christians and other religious minorities and only include Yazidis in their forthcoming genocide determination for ISIS. There is no question that ISIS is perpetrating genocide against all the religious minority communities, particularly the Christians who constitute a special threat to the propagation of Islam because they follow Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Concern over this injustice and its ramifications for the other targeted populations has provoked the introduction of a resolution to declare genocide on behalf of all ISIS victims in the U.S. House of Representatives.
We, as Christian leaders from numerous denominations and confessions, call on all of the presidential candidates to seek a morally and legally correct genocide determination and to declare to the world that they will not permit the genocide of Christians and other beleaguered religious minorities by ISIS or any other jihadist terrorist group – even if the media and the debate moderators fail to ask about this important issue.
In addition, we call on our fellow Christians in America to stand up for the persecuted around the world, particularly at such a time as this, for Iraqi and Syrian Christians – descendants of the ancient Assyrian people of the Bible – and not to stand idly by as they are killed. We urge them to contact their U.S. Representatives and their Senators and demand that Congress pass the resolution declaring ISIS’ genocide against these Christians, as well as the Yazidis, Mandaeans, and other religious minorities.
As Christians we must lift our voices not only in songs of praise, but also in solidarity with the voices of the martyrs beneath the throne of God crying out, “How long?” When we face our sisters and brothers who will die today for the name of Jesus, we want to be able to say that we did everything in our power to stand in the way of those that killed them.
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey, American Anglican Council
Dr. Robert D. Benne
Mrs. Carmen Fowler LaBerge, Presbyterian Lay Committee
Rev. Tom Lambrecht, Good News (United Methodist)
Mr. Lloyd J. Lunceford
Mr. Forrest A. Norman
Mr. Charles Peckham
Anne Paulk, Restored Hope Network
Rev. Kevin Rudolph, Windwood Presbyterian Church
Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth, Lifewatch (United Methodists)
Mr. Mark Tooley, Institute on Religion and Democracy
Pr. Larry M. Vogel, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod
The Common Ground Christian Network calls American Christians to stand together as their religious liberties are threatened and as others face persecution across the globe. “The backlash to proposed religious freedom laws in Indiana, Arkansas and Georgia comes from a culture that is increasingly uncomfortable with Christians living out their faith in public. Bible-believing Christians must practically and prayerfully support each other,” Carmen Fowler LaBerge, President of the CGCN, said. “We must also stand together to support our Christian brothers and sisters in Kenya, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and those places where the church faces physical threats and extermination.”
Meeting in Washington D.C. in March, the CGCN’s recent meeting focused on issues of religious liberties in North America and globally. Retired VA Representative Frank Wolf addressed the group and told of his new 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative that advocates religious freedoms.
“As hostility toward Christians increases overseas and at home, Religious Freedom Restoration Acts and even the First Amendment won’t be able to protect us. Working together across denominational lines should be a top priority and will strengthen our message of the good news of Jesus Christ,” LaBerge said.
The 2-day meeting concluded with the CGCN unanimously adopting the following statement of solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world.
Statement of Solidarity with Persecuted Christians around the World
Common Ground Christian Network
Approved, March 10, 2015
As members of the one Body of Christ, and knowing that we are exhorted by Holy Scriptures to do good to all, especially to those of the household of faith, (Galatians 6: 10) the Common Ground Christian Network, a coalition of Christians standing together for the cause of Christ, declares its solidarity with Christians around the world, persecuted for the sake of the Gospel.
When one part of the Body suffers, every part suffers with it (1 Corinthians 12: 26). We grieve for the persecution of Christians everywhere, and especially of fellow believers who are threatened with cultural cleansing and genocide at this very moment:
Middle Eastern Christians – forced to flee their ancestral homes and watch the eradication of their very identity – men, women, and children who are being tortured, enslaved, and slaughtered by ISIS as it works for the expansion of an Islamic Caliphate;
Northern Nigerian Christians – under constant threat by Boko Haram – whose villages are attacked and burned, displacing hundreds of thousands, and whose churches are bombed, men slaughtered, and girls taken as slaves;
Christians in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State – targeted for destruction by their own government – forced by the Islamic Republic of Sudan’s constant aerial bombardment and attacks by militias to flee as refugees, or to hide in caves or bush, facing government-orchestrated starvation.
We denounce the evil that destroys life and wages war against Christ and His Church, and we denounce the apathy and passivity that allow it to perpetuate. We commit to intentional, sustained prayer, waging spiritual warfare against this evil. We will speak out on behalf of those whose voices have been silenced or sidetracked. And we will take action on their behalf through organizations providing direct aid, and in our churches, communities, and government.
TheCommon Ground Christian Network is a group of denominations, organizations, congregations, and individuals who believe that 21st century Christians need tostand together for the cause of Christ. We come from different denominational and theological traditions, but these distinctives are respected and appreciated, not a cause for division among us. The common ground upon which we stand is the affirmation of classical orthodox Christianity. Learn more at www.CommonGroundChristian.com
We the Common Ground Christian Network affirm the dignity and value of every human being and we oppose President Obama’s July 21, 2014 executive order which seeks to limit the free exercise of religion by organizations doing business with the federal government. The order compels all federal contractors, including religious organizations, to practice “nondiscrimination” based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” While designed to proscribe discrimination, the order actually sanctions it by punishing those whose faith-driven convictions the government does not approve.
The First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the free exercise of religion, includes religion-based ethics in the workplace. The President’s executive order would force Christian charities and other religious groups, whose services are always extended without discrimination, to hire people whose lifestyles do not conform to the religious beliefs of the organization. This includes the historic biblical Christian teaching that sex is for marriage between husband and wife. It also violates the First Amendment’s disestablishment clause by endorsing “transgender” ideology, the assertion that individuals can reinvent their own self-perceived “gender identity,” irrespective of physical reality. Christians whose faith aligns with historic, biblical Christianity consider this ideology to be Gnostic in its elevation of mind and feelings over biology.
By excluding many religious charitable and educational organizations from government contracts, this executive order will harm the poor and needy who often benefit from the unique expertise and compassion that religious groups offer. More broadly, this executive order represents a growing intolerance for expressions of historic biblical religious faith in public life. Ultimately the order undermines freedom of speech, conscience and religion for all Americans by coercively imposing through a discriminatory government policy a secular ideology that displaces traditional religious faith and family life.
As Christians and leaders of religious institutions affirming liberty for all persons, religious or not, we pray and hope for judicial and legislative corrections to this misguided executive order. We declare our own commitment to the teachings of historic orthodox Christianity about marriage, sex, gender and the human body. And we decry any government discrimination waged against religious groups under the purported banner of “nondiscrimination.”
The Common Ground Christian Network (CGCN)
The Very Rev. B. Keith Allen, Mid-South Anglican Convocation (ADOTS)
Sara L. Anderson, Bristol House, Ltd.
The Rev. Canon J. Philip Ashey, Chief Executive Officer, American Anglican Council
Rev. Dr. Mark D. Atkinson, Pastor
Dr. Robert Benne, Roanoke College
The Rev. James D. Berkley, Pastor
Marie Bowen, Presbyterians Pro-Life
Bishop John F. Bradosky, North American Lutheran Church
The Rev. Mark Chavez, North American Lutheran Church
Father Chris Colby
The Rev. Sue Cyre, Presbyterians for Faith, Family and Ministry; Theology Matters
The Rev. James V. Heidinger II, President and Publisher, emeritus, the Good News Movement
The Rev. Chuck Huckaby, Pastor
The Rev. Dr. Jerry Kirk, The Prayer Covenant
The Rev. Robert Kopp, Remnant movement, PCUSA
Carmen Fowler LaBerge, Presbyterian Lay Committee; Chairman of CGCN
The Rev. W. Scott Lamb, pastor and literary agent
The Rev. Tom Lambrecht, Good News Movement
Viola Larson, Christian worldview blogger
Martha Leatherman, Presbyterians Pro-Life
Mary Van Driest, Vice President of the Board, Presbyterians ProLife
The Rev. Alex McFarland, The Center for Apologetics & Christian Worldview, North Greenville University
The Rev. Dr. Ron Rand, UpBuilding Ministries
The Rev. Kevin C. Rudolph, Windwood Presbyterian Church
Jack Sharpe, Esq., Presbyterians Pro-Life
The Rev. Terry P. Simm, Pastor
The Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth, Lifewatch
David M. Stanley, The Institute on Religion and Democracy; United Methodist Action
Jean Leu Stanley, United Methodist Action
The Rev. W. Stevens Shipman, Director, Lutheran Coalition for Renewal
The Rev. Roy Taylor, Presbyterian Church in America
Dr. Ken Thomas, EPC Pastor & Board Member of OneByOne
Mark Tooley, The Institute for Religion and Democracy
The Rev. Jeffrey Winter, Pastor
The Rev. Dr. Randy Working, Pastor
(organizations are listed for identification purposes only)
Ecumenical Leadership Summit Builds Working Relationships
DALLAS, TX – 10/25/2012 – An ecumenical summit of leaders from Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches and organizations affirmed common theological ground and sought practical ways of working together during a recent conference in Dallas, TX.
In their statement, titled “Jesus Christ: Our common ground and common cause”, the leaders said “Even as we fully acknowledge the imperfections of Christian institutions and the broken nature of our collective witness to the world, we commit to strive together for a faithful way of being the Church together. Our hearts are burdened for the millions of our neighbors who are estranged from God and the Church.”
The gathering formed working groups and listened to plenary sessions on ecumenical relations and theological education, engaging North American culture, church planting and mission as well as social witness during the four-day meeting. Participants affirmed an ecumenical statement that addresses each of these subjects on the summit’s final day. The leaders agreed to explore working together in areas of church planting, theological education and training. They also committed to meet again for a second summit in 2013. While each of the participants endorsed the statement they were not necessarily doing so on behalf of their respective churches/organizations.
The group of 32 met from October 22-25 and included leaders from the following churches and organizations:
• Lutheran CORE
• North American Lutheran Church
• The Presbyterian Lay Committee
• Presbyterian Church in America
• The Evangelical Presbyterian Church
• The Evangelical Association of Reformed and Congregational Christian Churches
• ECO: a Covenanted Order of Evangelical Presbyterians
• The Institute on Religion and Democracy
• Good News (United Methodists)
• The Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church
• Lifewatch (Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality)
• American Anglican Council
• Anglican Church in North America
• The National Covenant Association of Churches