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For over five centuries the Moravian Church has proclaimed the gospel in all parts of the world. Its influence has far exceeded its numbers as it has cooperated with Christians on every continent and has been a visible part of the Body of Christ, the Church. Proud of its heritage and firm in its faith, the Moravian Church ministers to the needs of people wherever they are.

The name Moravian identifies the fact that this historic church had its origin in ancient Bohemia and Moravia in what is the present-day Czech Republic. In the mid-ninth century these countries converted to Christianity chiefly through the influence of two Greek Orthodox missionaries, Cyril and Methodius. They translated the Bible into the common language and introduced a national church ritual. In the centuries that followed, Bohemia and Moravia gradually fell under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Rome, but some of the Czech people protested.

The foremost of Czech reformers, John Hus (1369-1415) was a professor of philosophy and rector of the University in Prague. The Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, where Hus preached, became a rallying place for the Czech reformation. Gaining support from students and the common people, he led a protest movement against many practices of the Roman Catholic clergy and hierarchy. Hus was accused of heresy, underwent a long trial at the Council of Constance, and was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.

ORGANIZED IN 1457
The reformation spirit did not die with Hus. The Moravian Church, or Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren), as it has been officially known since 1457, arose as followers of Hus gathered in the village of Kunvald, about 100 miles east of Prague, in eastern Bohemia, and organized the church. This was 60 years before Martin Luther began his reformation and 100 years before the establishment of the Anglican Church. By 1467 the Moravian Church had established its own ministry, and in the years that followed three orders of the ministry were defined: deacon, presbyter and bishop.

GROWTH, PERSECUTION, EXILE
By 1517 the Unity of Brethren numbered at least 200,000 with over 400 parishes. Using a hymnal and catechism of its own, the church promoted the Scriptures through its two printing presses and provided the people of Bohemia and Moravia with the Bible in their own language.

A bitter persecution, which broke out in 1547, led to the spread of the Brethren’s Church to Poland where it grew rapidly. By 1557 there were three provinces of the church: Bohemia, Moravia and Poland. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) brought further persecution to the Brethren’s Church, and the Protestants of Bohemia were severely defeated at the battle of White Mountain in 1620.

The prime leader of the Unitas Fratrum in these tempestuous years was Bishop John Amos Comenius (1592-1670). He became world-renowned for his progressive views of education. Comenius, lived most of his life in exile in England and in Holland where he died. His prayer was that some day the “hidden seed” of his beloved Unitas Fratrum might once again spring to new life.

RENEWED IN THE 1700S
The eighteenth century saw the renewal of the Moravian Church through the patronage of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a pietist nobleman in Saxony. Some Moravian families fleeing persecution in Bohemia and Moravia found refuge on Zinzendorf’s estate in 1722 and built the community of Herrnhut. The new community became the haven for many more Moravian refugees. Count Zinzendorf encouraged them to keep the discipline of the Unitas Fratrum, and he gave them the vision to take the gospel to the far corners of the globe. August 13, 1727, marked the culmination of a great spiritual renewal for the Moravian Church in Herrnhut, and in 1732 the first missionaries were sent to the West Indies.

TO AMERICA IN 1735
After an unsuccessful attempt to establish a Moravian settlement in Georgia (1735-1740), the Moravians settled in Pennsylvania on the estate of George Whitefield. Moravian settlers purchased 500 acres to establish the settlement of Bethlehem in 1741. Soon they bought the 5,000 acres of the Barony of Nazareth from Whitefield’s manager, and the two communities of Bethlehem and Nazareth became closely linked in their agricultural and industrial economy. Other settlement congregations were established in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. All were considered frontier centers for the spread of the gospel, particularly in mission to the Native Americans.

Bishop Augustus Spangenberg led a party to survey a 100,000 acre tract of land in North Carolina, which came to be known as Wachau after an Austrian estate of Count Zinzendorf. The name, later anglicized to Wachovia, became the center of growth for the church in that region. Bethabara, Bethania and Salem (now Winston-Salem) were the first Moravian settlements in North Carolina.

Bethlehem in Pennsylvania and Winston-Salem in North Carolina became the headquarters of the two provinces (North and South), which developed as the Moravian Church in North America became established as an autonomous church body after the Unity Synod of 1848. The church spread out from the geographical centers of Bethlehem and Winston-Salem, following German emigrants to the Midwest. At the end of the nineteenth century they responded to the spiritual needs of Moravian refugees of German ancestry who were fleeing to western Canada because of persecution in Eastern Europe. Such wide geographical spread caused the Northern Province to be divided into Eastern, Western and Canadian Districts.

After World War II, strong pushes for church extension took the Northern Province to Southern California (where only an Indian mission had existed since 1890) as well as to some Eastern, Midwestern and Canadian sites. The Southern Province added numerous churches in the Winston-Salem area, throughout North Carolina and extended its outreach to Florida and to Georgia. In North America, the Moravian Church has congregations in 16 states, the District of Columbia, and in two Provinces of Canada.

From http://www.moravian.org/history/

You can buy famous Daily Texts 2009, Hardcover , $14.50, here: http://www.moravian.org/publications/catalog/

Once Upon a Time there was the theory of the deterrence of the death penalty.
This theory was easy to understand: “the more the State kills, the less there are homidices”, but it was a hoax.

Americans belive in death penalty even if in the Thirties, when executions were common, the homicide rate was very hight and in Forties and Fifties both executions and murders fall. They take for granted that the grow of homicides in the Sixties was linked to the suspension of executions (1967-1977) and forget that America was without capital punishment for a very short time after Furman. According to the hangmanfriends any drop in the homicide rate is the benefit of the soar of executions and they do not notice that both rise from 1984 to 1991.

Anyway.
Their mantra is that each execution saves 18 innocent lives (someone offers even more) and from 1991 to 1999 this seemed to happen: with more and more executions and less and less murders. The triumph of the executioner was 1999 with 98 executions, 300 death sentences and the lowest homicide rate in decades: 5,7.
So, they all lived happily ever after?
Not exactly.

Executioners’ triumphalism ends the following year.
Their bombastic confidence suddenly disappeared as the supposed deterrent effect of the death penalty vanished. Since 2000 we saw a breakneck drop both in sentences as well as executions and, in the same time, we assisted to a remarkable stability in the homicide rate. Death sentences are now a little more than one hundred per year and executions were only 53 in 2006, 42 in 2007 and a mere 37 in 2008. On the other side the homicide rate looks nailed between 5,5 and 5,7.

This can be explained in two ways: prospective murderers do not know that the probability to be condemned to death is even rarer than before, or the whole theory of the deterrence of capital punishment is an enormous bullshit.
I am inclined to the second explanation.

Americans hangmanfriends are very insular and do not like to get a look abroad: not even north of the border. It’s a pity because they could learn a lot.
In 2002 Americans were very happy because they had only 16.638 criminal homicides. They were right because, from 1984 to 1993, criminal homicides were 22.000 per year and 25.000 in 1991. Au contraire, in the same 2002, in Italy we were very afraid because, with a population that is grosso modo one fifth of the American one, we had 638 homicides. We were very concerned about it, even if those 638 were less than one third the 2.000 homicides we had in 1991. Americans love to think the drop in homicides is a benefit of the death penalty. We cannot agree because we are a death penalty free country. (In Europe this punishment is strictly forbidden and the majority of the world is abolitionist).
Actually Italy ended capital punishment in 1877 and had it again only under fascism. In those sad years the homicide rate was five times bigger that we have now, and, in the twenty years following the definitive end of the death penalty (1948-1968), the homicide rate dropped from 5 to 1,4.
Something very similar happened in Canada in the years that followed the end of capital punishment in 1976. Since then its homicide rate fell down constantly.
Curiously in the same July 1976 the US Supreme Court gave green light to the “new and improved” American death penalty and, with the shooting of Gary Gilmore (17th January 1977), the hangman was back in business and the experiment begun. Now, after more than 1.100 human sacrifices, we can say with Justice Blackmun: “the death penalty experiment has failed”.

Americans can see that capital punishment is not a deterrent even in their own country, where 15 jurisdictions are abolitionist (Michigan since 1837). A long time ago Thorsten Sellin observed that: “the states with executions chambers had rate or murder that were significantly higher than states that did not execute murders”. Possibly this is a consequence of the wild examples of brutality executions give, because: “ Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.” (Justice Brandeis, dissenting in Olmstead).

Of course this does not satisfy hangmanfriends, so John Lott writes:
“This simple comparison really doesn’t prove anything. The 12 states without the death penalty have long enjoyed relatively low murder rates due to factors unrelated to capital punishment.”
And wins the 2008 chutzpah prize.
Claudio Giusti
P.S.
Please, excuse my very bad English

Dott. Claudio Giusti
Via Don Minzoni 40, 47100 Forlì, Italia
Tel. 39/0543/401562 39/340/4872522
e-mail giusticlaudio@aliceposta.it
Member of the Scientific Committee of Osservatorio sulla Legalità e i Diritti, Claudio Giusti had the privilege and the honour to participate in the first congress of the Italian Section of Amnesty International: later he was one of the founders of the World Coalition Against The Death Penalty.

Mr. Maurizio Benazzi,
Thank you for your kind and respectful letter and request. I am delighted to offer a response and to have you use any of the following for the newsletter Ecumenici – Leonhard Ragaz. It is a very important initiative and I am grateful for your leadership and service for peace and justice through it.

In addition to what I will share in this text, I invite you to use anything you find useful from our website – www.mlp.org – my bio, other writings, etc. You might find interesting that I just returned from a Benefit Climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro for LGBT Equality — and took an Italian rainbow PACE flag with me to the summit. Photos of that Italian PACE flag are on our website with the stories at www.mlp.org

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For your use in the newsletter:

 

First of all, we are very glad to welcome you among us, dear friend: how do you feel in yr job in MLP, psychologically, physically and spiritually?

As an out gay human rights activist, I work to foster understanding, acceptance and embrace of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender persons and their families within their faith communities of choice and civil society. I have been an activist serving in the LGBT and HIV-AIDS communities since 1988. Radical progress has been achieved toward LGBT equality and in raising awareness and support for those affected by HIV-AIDS, and there is much yet to accomplish.

Working for change and LGBT equality within faith communities in the United States, with particular attention to the Christian tradition and the Presbyterian Church (USA) as an out gay person of faith places me in remarkable situations. I am often interpreting “the church” to LGBT persons encouraging them to know that not all Christians are anti-gay, and at the same time, working to let Christians know that many of us who are people of faith want to fully participate within our church, tradition or faith community.

I do believe absolutely that as queer people, we are people of heart and spirit. I believe that being gay is a gift, a blessing and certainly not a mistake or curse. I believe that God creates all persons in the image of God, that God loves all of God’s creation unconditionally, and that all persons should be unconditionally welcome into all faith communities.

 

What are the purposes of the MLP? Do you believe you reached those goals in USA …and in Europe have you contacts?


Having worked full-time for More Light Presbyterians, the national LGBT equality network within the Presbyterian Church (USA) since 1999, it has become evident to me that this work of LGBT equality, like other peace and justice work, is a long-distance run, a marathon, not a sprint. It is important, therefore, for all of us who are activists to take good care of ourselves and each other, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

While we have some correspondence with LGBT people of faith in Europe, and around the world, we do not have a tangible network beyond the USA. I keep a global view by participating in Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

How can we the europeans, whether as citizens or as believers, help american people, to settle peace in Iraq by the means of non-violence?
It is important for all the people of the world who are committed to making peace and ending war to keep speaking up and speaking out. It is essential for each person to work for peace within their own country, to continue holding up the possibilities and necessity for peace to their own political and religious leaders. A growing number of citizens within the USA oppose war, and this war in Iraq. Many of us have opposed this war from its start. As Italians, please continue to place pressure upon your political leaders to not support the USA in such unilateral actions. And, may all of us continue to pray for peace while working to end this war. The other day my heart was encouraged by seeing a sign on a car in my hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico that said this, “I oppose the next war.”

While it is necessary to persist in political action, to speak out, to voice our commitments to peace… it is also necessary to live together in peace where we are by recognized all persons and creation as sacred, worthy of respect, equality and care.

 

What spiritual message would you send to our subscribers, believers of every religious confession and non-believers?
As a person of faith, I take seriously the commandment of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, that we are commanded to “love God, neighbor and self.” And, Jesus was clear to say that their are no boundaries to that understanding of neighbor, that all persons are our neighbors. The spiritual ethics, teachings and example of Jesus parallel Buddha. The ethical teachings and essence of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism mirror each other in the call for all persons, all beings to dwell together in peace, harmony and community. Any departure from these ethics and values do not reflect the truth of each.

It is not possible for a person of faith, Christian, Jew, Muslim or Buddhist, to authentically claim that lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons are not equally created sacred and natural. Who we are, who we fall in love with, how we make love and create family as LGBT persons is natural and sacred.

 

What do you think about ecumenism in the U.S?


The ecumenical movement in the United States with roots back to the 1960’s finds some of its strongest expression and growth within the Welcoming Church Movement in the United States and Canada. Many of us who are working for LGBT equality within our own tradition share resources, network and organize across denomination or faith tradition lines. Those who study the growth of churches indicate that the Welcoming Church Movement is experiencing significant growth in the midst of decline for those who are unwilling to offer hospitality, welcome and affirmation to LGBT persons and their families.

While we continue to address homophobia and heterosexism within civil society and among some religious groups, the tide has turned. It is not morally or spiritually acceptable to “gay bash” as it was even a few years ago. In political, religious and social circles and discourse, it is not possible to “get away” with anti-gay remarks or discrimination without a challenge now.

 

Can we find in USA a sincere dialogue with islamic religion?


Interfaith dialogues for and between LGBT Christians, Jews and Muslims continue to be part of the welcoming movement within both the USA and Canada. We share common goals of working for understanding and acceptance within our own faith traditions, as well as dealing with mythology about us that seems to be similar across lines. Interesting, fundamentalist theology and language sounds quite the same whether it comes from a fundamentalist Christian, Jew or Muslim. It is not acceptable that any religion, society or government ruled by religion, treat LGBT persons as second-class human beings or citizens. All persons of faith, and all human beings committed to fairness, must challenge any and all ant-gay attitudes, laws or treatment that harms or discriminates against LGBT persons and their families.

 

Can you tell us about a few meaningful episodes of your personal and ecclesiastic life; what’s happen today in USA in LGBT community and the HIV-AIDS Community ?


I see many signs for hope. More countries are recognizing that they violate principles of fairness by not allowing same-gender couples to marry. Those of us working for marriage equality for same-gender couples in the USA are encouraged when other countries lead the way, lead by example and offer same-gender marriage and/or civil unions. While struggles continues within religious bodies, there is no turning back. Not too many years ago, invisibility and silence were the rule. Now, as LGBT persons we are out, we are claiming our spiritual birthright along with equal civil rights alongside heterosexuals.
My best to you and those you love,
Michael

Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., Nationa Field Organizer
More Light Presbyterians, 369 Montezuma Avenue # 447, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 USA
(505) 820-7082 , michaeladee@aol.com, www.mlp.org

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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