I am running for re-election to the Church Pension Group Board. This would be my second and final six year term, now five I believe! I am not much of a campaigner, and truth be told, really don’t like to do it. However, I also believe you deserve to know my thoughts on this position and why I aspire to continue in it.
First, I have to tell you, before being on this Board I was one of those who you might hear say something like, “Let’s look to the Church Pension Group, that is where all the money is!” Or “Church Pension Group has more money than God, so let’s ask them!” I admit it. I was there. At the same time I had great admiration for CPG and even more gratitude for the service and comfort it provides for those who are fortunate enough to be part of it. So, I offered myself for service and I was elected. I can say after the service of these last six plus years I no longer can, or will, make the statements above because I no longer believe them. Further, I now have far more knowledge to base my beliefs on. I would now say, CPG has ENOUGH money.Enough money to cover the promises it has made. It does not have too much money, but enough.
I will say, honestly, I am a voice on the Board that tries to remind our members, and our Church, that the Church Pension Group was set up initially to do one thing: provide a pension for those who are part of it. It became, in the years that followed, a vessel for many other aspects of the church, some of it wholly appropriate, and I would argue some not so much. But, one thing I am now very confident of is that it does this one thing the Church called on it to do, very well. I want to continue that.
On the Board I have been blessed to be part of the Benefits Policy Committee and I am most proud of the changes that committee recommended and that were passed, all of which were changes designed to make access easier and to include many more people, with more possibility for benefit. Those changes have been in place now for several years and they have made a way for vocational deacons to be a part of the plan, those who are locally ordained, bi-vocational clergy, and many others. We also made a change to the HAC (highest average compensation) so it is based on months rather than years and portions of years in order to be more relevant for a career average compensation.
One thing many do not understand is that the gap between what the 18% assessment brings in, and what has to go out to keep even our current promises is wide and getting wider by the year. That gap can only be made up by solid investments and solid performance from those investments. I have served also on the Investment Committee and I can speak with complete confidence that we have some of the most professional and most competent people overseeing just that challenge.
Church Pension Fund ultimately exists to secure some comfort in retirement for those who have so willingly, and often at great sacrifice, served the Church. I have worked in this position to keep that strong and thriving. I would like to do so, on your behalf, and on behalf of all those who will one day benefit from our work. I ask for your vote for Church Pension Group Board.
The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel
VIII Bishop of Olympia
On this day, February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed this order and by so doing authorized the evacuation of all persons of Japanese descent, alien or non-alien, which were deemed a threat to national security from the West Coast to relocation centers further inland. In the next 6 months, over 100,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were moved to assembly centers. They were then evacuated to and confined in isolated, fenced, and guarded relocation centers, euphemously known as internment camps but much better described as concentration camps, or prisons. It is a sad mark on our country. I had the honor of visiting Minidoka, one of those prisons, where many from Seattle were sent. Visiting Minidoka is something anyone can do, and I would urge you to consider it, as well as the others scattered around the West and as far East as Arkansas. This is a day that reminds us what fear and racism can cause for us all and what our racism leads us to do and be. On this day I felt it would be a good day to remind you all of the resolution passed two years ago at our diocesan convention commending the Anti-Racism Covenant. You will find that below. I also commend the newsletter from the Friends of Minidoka. You can find that here mailchi.mp/124f3a08aa34/introducing-our-new-executive-director-13725686?e=8bb445ef5a
You can read more about this Covenant, see the list of signers, and sign yourself here
Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”
1 John 4:20
The sin of racism disrupts the harmony and oneness that God intends for humanity. Racism is dangerous, divisive, and damaging. Racism purports that some are deserving of dignity over others and disregards the image and likeness of God found in every human being. We are created in the image of God; therefore, to engage in racism of any form is to refuse to acknowledge the image of God in the other and the stranger. The fact that we were created in the image of God should remind us that each person is a living expression of God that must be respected, preserved, and never dishonored.
Throughout our history, courageous people of God have taken the risk of standing up and speaking out for the least and the lowest. God now challenges us to become courageous people who seek to create sacred communities of hope by dismantling the sin of racism. This work involves risking ourselves for the sake of God’s love, moving beyond ourselves in order to seek and serve Christ and one another.
We invite you to add your name to this covenant and join us as we work to root out racism. Individuals, parishes, groups, dioceses as well as community leaders and businesses are all welcome to be a part of this project.
We lament…As people of faith, we acknowledge our sins and our failure to respect the dignity of every human being. We have, individually and corporately, fallen short of the glory of God, and now call to mind and name the aspects of our lament.
I was saddened to learn of the verdict today in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who traveled to Kenosha, WI last year and fatally shot two people, seriously injuring a third. The incident brought to the surface many of the issues that our country wrestles with - and all-too-often attempts to ignore - around racial justice, white vigilantism, and gun violence. Rittenhouse came to Kenosha, heavily armed, as part of a mob of white men to stop the protests for racial justice and took two lives. Under the auspices of protecting property, he came prepared to commit violent acts and did just that. As the prosecutor stated, there is a difference in defending yourself from violence perpetrated against you, and you creating the situation in order for you to do it - or more specifically, “You lose the right to self-defense when you’re the one who brought the gun, when you are the one creating the danger, when you’re the one provoking other people.”
As the verdict came in today, it has been widely observed that we have two legal systems in this country - one for white men, and one for everyone else. Many have suggested that if Rittenhouse had been Black, the verdict would have been drastically different. I would go further - when you watch the videos of that night, I would say if Rittenhouse had been Black, he most likely would not have come out of that night alive. A young white man brazenly carrying an automatic weapon through city streets was virtually ignored by law enforcement. Had it been a Black man, I do believe the result would be drastically different.
In these same days we are witnessing the trial of the ambush of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, in Brunswick, Georgia. And even with all the accused admitting that Arbery was unarmed and ultimately not threatening them, and all evidence pointing to Arbery trying to flee the scene unarmed, this case hangs in this unjust balance as well. In both cases, we see self-appointed vigilante’s taking justice into their own hands. And folks, if it can happen to these folks, it can just as easily happen to any of us.
But, the point is, mostly, it doesn’t. Especially if we are white, if we are privileged, if we have enough money to defend ourselves. We simply must do better, and we must be better.
This comes only one day after a judge in New York “prayed” about the sentencing of a young white man who had pleaded guilty to charges rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment and only gave the man probation because he said that prison time "wasn’t appropriate" (https://lawandcrime.com/crime/judge-prayed-about-it-and-decided-that-prison-time-for-admitted-rapist-of-teen-girls-isnt-appropriate/).
We know that incarceration rates for Black Americans is five times the rate of white Americans, and for Latin Americans it is 1.3 times higher (https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/). According to the ACLU, women who kill their abusers will spend an average of 15 years in prison, while men who kill their spouses spend two to six years in prison (https://www.domesticshelters.org/articles/in-the-news/women-serve-longer-prison-sentences-after-killing-abusers). Men from Indigenous communities are four times more likely to be incarcerated than white men, while Indigenous women are six time more likely (https://www.jailedformelanin.org/native-commuities).
Justice is supposed to be blind, but time and time again, our justice system has been proven to favor white men. It is severely out of balance.
I pray for all involved in this case, including Kyle Rittenhouse. I pray for all the victims of gun violence. I pray for our country and for our justice system. There is so much that needs to change. Let’s engage and act so that we may see a more just system going forward. To get involved in making our criminal justice system equitable, you can see what steps The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations recommends here: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/ogr/get-involved-with-criminal-justice-reform/
By Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States, Member of the Muscogee Nation, from her book, “An American Sunrise”
A CALL AND RESPONSE
A country is a person.
A country is a noun, to be bought and sold. I have a deed.
The ruler’s disposition and rules determine the state of being for all constituents.
Each state governs itself without respect for individuals. It’s everyone for themselves.
Power is dangerous when wielded in the hands of one. It is meant to be shared.
I was given this position by cunning, by money, by sex, by family, by God. It belongs to me and no one else.
We cannot own anyone else, people, the lands, or resources. We are here to care for each other.
We are right. We build walls to keep anyone else who is not like us out of here. God gave us these lands. We separate children and cage them because they are breaking our God’s law.
Every increment of any thought, action, or deed matters, has consequences in all directions.
Not if you can make a law: Not if it passes the Supreme Court. Not if we pay for it.
There will be no balance without all voices present in the power circle.
You will never earn your way here. You are the wrong sex, wrong color of skin, wrong sexual orientation, not my religion, not my language.
We are making our grandchildren’s world with our words. We perceive a world in which everyone sits at the table together, with enough for everyone.
We will make this country great again.
Sad ruling today in my mind and heart, and our Presiding Bishop says it best.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issues statement on Fulton v. Philadelphia
[June 17, 2021]
My heart is with my LGBTQ siblings in light of today's ruling by the Supreme Court in Fulton v. Philadelphia.
For us, the affirmation of equal rights for all people is a moral and religious conviction; it is grounded in the Bible, which declares that all people have been created equally in the image of God.
LGBTQ siblings, we stand with you in this moment, and we continue to affirm that you are — and have always been — a blessing to our church. But above all, you are children of God with the entire human family. The struggle does not end here; the work goes on, and we are committed to the fullness of human equality and to building a just future that is free from discrimination against LGBTQ people.
We are also concerned for the impact of this ruling on the foster care system, in which so many Episcopalians offer shelter and care to vulnerable children, many of whom are LGBTQ themselves. It is important to remember that the New Testament teaches that “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress. . .” (James 1:27).
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
More information on the brief The Episcopal Church submitted to the Supreme Court can be found here.
On the web:
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issues statement on Fulton v. Philadelphia
As you may have seen, the Episcopal Church recently released a racial justice audit of Episcopal leadership. While in no way a panacea, it is a long overdue start at data collection on this topic which should inform our mission and vision. The report shows, unsurprisingly, how far we have to go. I hope you will share it widely, and engage it personally. I am centering on it for many of my decisions, personal, and collective going forward. You can view it and share it at the link below.
This is a watershed study that will likely impact how the Church sets priorities as we continue to dismantle racism and pursue justice and healing. I encourage you to become familiar with the findings which will also help congregations and the Church look at ourselves and set priorities for action. There is a series of informational webinars being offered by The Episcopal Church, the first one being this evening and then two more in the month of June. Feel free to share this more widely.
The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel is the VIII Bishop of Olympia, the Episcopal Church in Western Washington State. He has been the bishop here since September, 2007.