The Pastor Speaks Publicly (besides from the pulpit)

The Pastor Speaks Publicly (besides from the pulpit)

In the past weeks, Michael has had some outside speaking engagements. He thought it important that he should share with the congregations what he has said elsewhere. If you have any responses, he would love to talk with you… 

On Friday, April 19th, along with 45 other ratepayers of PECO, he testified before the Public Utilities Commission:

“I’m the Rev. Michael Caine, pastor of Old First Reformed United Church of Christ at 4th and Race Streets in Old City.

I also serve as the Co-chair of the Board of Directors of POWER Interfaith. As you have heard earlier this afternoon, POWER Interfaith is the largest interfaith, interracial organizing effort in the Commonwealth – committed to racial and economic justice on a livable planet. We are working for living wages, full, fair education funding; and climate justice for all the people in PA, particularly those who feel the pain the most.

I am here today to testify as an individual, as a PECO customer (I actually have multiple PECO accounts). I am also here before the Public Utility Commission as a person of faith.

When I was 34, in 1995, I was reading about the Kyoto Protocol, the first international agreement of nations to set limits on greenhouse gasses and to plan the transformation of economies to clean energy. As I read the news article – I’m still not sure exactly what exactly hit me, but – i realized: “human’s misuse of creation is a confessional issue: fighting climate change confronts me with a choice – to be faithful or apostate.  Let me explain.

In 1930’s Germany, the Nazi’s tried to take over the church, to use it as an instrument for party propaganda and politics. Their effort was in large part successful. But there also emerged a confessing church movement – individuals and congregations whose faithfulness depended on resistance. In effect, one couldn’t be a Nazi and a Christian.

Ever since then, a number of “confessional issues” have come to be seen as metrics for faithfulness. Churches in South Africa pointed out one couldn’t be Christian unless you were willing to fight apartheid. More generally, I’d say, one can’t be racist and a Christian. Or be anti-Semitic or Islamophobic and faithful. Another instance has been some Christians feel one can’t be a Christian unless you are willing to work for a world where everyone has enough to eat. You get the idea.

In the 1980s, I heard the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, my pastor at Riverside Church in NYC, challenge us:

‘It behooves us North American Christians to learn what some forty years the German churches learned too late. It is not enough to resist with confession; we have to confess with resistance.’

Anyway, I realized in 1995, almost 30 years ago, I couldn’t go on living as I had been… couldn’t keep burning fossil fuels; couldn’t continue to contribute more than my share to global warming,  if I wanted to be faithful.

That realization began significant changes in my life. It didn’t happen overnight. But over the years, I have given up driving. I realized my clothes didn’t need a dryer to dry. I stopped using air conditioning. I radically reduced the meat I eat. I try not to fly anytime there’s another public transportation option.

I’m hardly a saint. I still take hot showers for way too long. And I haven’t yet figured out how to add solar power personally. And, like many who have spoken before, I often despair about the effectiveness of my individual efforts.

But, also like many who have spoken before me today –  often with much more policy precision than I can add – like them, I am trying, doing my part. In my individual life I have made changes, starting almost thirty years ago.

So I don’t understand why PECO isn’t doing the same? If all of us who have spoken today are trying to be greener, why can’t PECO even try? Their proposed Default Service Plan offers no greater commitment to affordable, clean energy than their Default Service four years ago.

Is their loyalty to the fossil fuel industry so great they can’t see any need to change? Not just for all the grandchildren and great grandchildren we’ve heard invoked over and over this afternoon. But for our children and for ourselves. The consequences of climate disaster are already crashing quite close to home.

It’s been almost 30 years since the Kyoto Protocol. And if PECO isn’t willing to make the commitment to pack their Default Service Plan with as much affordable, clean energy as possible, why isn’t the Public Utility Commission forcing their hand?  Thank you.”

On Friday, April 26, Michael spoke as part of a press conference at City Hall. A coalition of advocates for increased and fair education funding is making a public stand against vouchers, public tax money dedicated to paying for private and religious schools. Michael will be speaking for POWER Interfaith: 

“Good afternoon. I’m the Rev. Michael Caine, Pastor of Old First Reformed United Church of Christ at 4th and Race in Old City. Along with Imam Abdul-Halim Hassan, I serve as Board Co-Chair for POWER Interfaith, the biggest interfaith, interracial organizing effort in PA.

POWER Interfaith has been in a 10 year fight for a full, fair public education funding formula so that black and brown students and students in poorer districts get their fair share –  good, public schools. Those students deserve a first rate public education; our democracy demands it.

I want to welcome everyone here today to  our press conference demanding sustainable public school funding. We are here to stand up and say NO to vouchers for private and religious schools.

We will hear from elected officials, labor leaders, parents and community partners who are united in this fight for public education.

First up, I want to turn it over to Representative Roni Green…”

[One by one, Michael will call the following to the speakers to the podium:
Jerry Jordan, Philly AFT
Representative Jennifer O’Mara
Sherry Roland Washington of the NAACP-PA.
Senator Nikil Saval
Diana Robinson of Make the Road PA.
Senator Vincent Hughes
Karalynn Derstine, the parent of a public school student
Representative Rick Krajewski
Nicole Hunt of Unite Here Local 634
Representative Ben Waxman
Art Steinberg of the AFT – PA
Joan Duvall – Flynn of the League of Women Voters
Representative Anthony Bellmon
Danny Bauder of the Philly AFL – CIO
Senator Sharif Street
…before his chance to do more than emcee:]

“Again, I’m Michael Caine, the pastor at Old First and Board Co-Chair of POWER Interfaith.

POWER Interfaith has spent more than a decade organizing against the racial disparities in state education funding.  Black and brown children and children from economically disadvantaged and rural districts deserve the same start in life as all the other children.

Our education work has been a driving force in expanding POWER Interfaith’s presence from Philly to communities throughout the state  – you can’t make the schools work for families in Philadelphia unless there is change in Harrisburg.

You also can’t make the public schools work by funding private and religious school education.

POWER Interfaith says NO to all vouchers. We can’t use taxpayer money for private and religious schools, when our public schools are still desperately underfunded..

These voucher schemes are just further attempts to undercut investment in or adequate funding for our public schools. Vouchers would claw back the hard-fought gains in getting additional resources for public education.

We stand with our partners in this fight to say NO to any voucher system.

POWER Interfaith, and our network of over 250 congregations in Philadelphia, Bucks County, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Lancaster, and Lehigh Valley, as well as thousands of individual members and families, call for the state legislature to fix Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional funding system:

The General Assembly must pass the Governor’s $1.1 billion budget increase in public education funding.
The General Assembly must vote against any plan to fund vouchers.
The General Assembly must pass and implement a full plan to close the funding adequacy gap in a set timeframe.

It’s way past time. No one gets a second chance in elementary school. And educational deficits not only accrue; they multiply. Each year is precious and irreplaceable in the education of every last child.

Finally, I would like to turn it over to Rep. Liz Fiedler to close out our event…”