Churches Uniting In Christ Responds to Violence in Orlando and Multiple Police

In June and July of this year, Churches Uniting In Christ has responded to the pandemic of gun violence that has rocked our Nation.   Churches Uniting in Christ is a covenant relationship among eleven Christian communions that have pledged to live more closely together in expressing their unity in Christ and combating racism together. The member churches of CUIC include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, The Episcopal Church, the International Council of Community Churches, the Moravian Church (Northern Province), the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a partner in mission and dialogue. For more information, please see our website at www.churchesunitinginchrist.org

The innocent lives taken, both police and civilian must stop.  I have included both statements CUIC has released regarding the shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge, St. Anthony, Minnesota, as well as other towns and cities.  These messages are clear and to the point.  I hope you will read them in their entirety and with an objective eye.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 22, 2016

We are deeply concerned with preserving the lives of all God’s children, especially men of color whose lives are imminently and lethally threatened. In what seems to be a weekly, if not a daily occurrence, gun violence has led to the deaths of 3 police officers and the wounding of several others.  In the month since Churches Uniting In Christ released a statement in response to the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we have witnessed the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  In response to those deaths, demonstrations arose in cities across the country.  During a peaceful protest march consisting of Black Lives Matter members and other groups in Dallas, Texas, 12 Dallas police officers and one demonstrator were shot by a sniper.  The gunman was not affiliated with the demonstrators.  Five officers died as a result of their gunshot wounds.  The assailant, Micah Johnson, was killed by a bomb attached to a police robot.

On Sunday, July 17, in Baton Rouge, law enforcement officers again were the victims of gun violence.  Three officers were killed and three others wounded.  Gavin Long, the suspected shooter, was killed by police officers at the scene.

We are deeply grateful for the police officers, first responders, medical care personnel, and chaplains who are providing direct aid and assistance to victims and their family and friends. They are truly a sign of the common humanity which unites us all. Such signs can serve to show us all how to act for positive change in society.

To the fallen officers, may God grant them eternal rest.  To the families of the fallen officers, we mourn with you and pray for your well-being.

We also extend our compassion and prayers to the families of the assailants, for they are suffering too.

As violence seems to beget more violence, we must remember the words of Jesus Christ, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them…”  (Luke 6:27-42, ESV).

Is some change needed in our communities? Yes. 533 fatal police shootings of civilians so far this year. 990 last year. There is no debate, one is too many.

Since July 8th, 9 police officers have lost their lives to gun violence. There is no debate, one is too many.

In the onslaught of recent police killings, we cannot lose sight of the fact that other communities of color are suffering too.

The rhetoric that creates a rationale for senseless gun violence cannot be tolerated.  It is illogical and unacceptable for identified leaders to refuse to consider legislation which would screen applicants for guns and limit access to certain weapons that should be reserved for wartime uses.  Words can kill when we create an atmosphere identifying some cultures/ethnicities as perpetrators and others victims based on biases, prejudices, and discrimination.

Standing with the Black Lives Matter movement does not mean one does not support our law enforcement community.  It also means that one cannot stand by silently as the Latino community suffers from police shootings. In the same week that Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile were killed, five Latino men and women were also shot and killed by law enforcement officers.  There are places in our communities where the number of police-involved shootings of Latino men and women is proportionally higher than those of Black men and women. Albuquerque, San Jose, Los Angeles County are particularly troublesome.

For our Nation’s First People, we must recognize that that demographic is statistically the most likely to be killed by law enforcement.

For too many years we have been spoon-fed lies that have only added fuel to this inferno that rages across our society. Lies like the War on Crime, legislation that has punished our communities of color at a disproportionate rate, with more severe punishments, resulting in the need to build more prisons and privatized prisons. These lies were non-partisan in nature. They have created, what Michelle Alexander called “The New Jim Crow.”

The militarization of our police forces, stemming from an over-supply of military hardware from constant conflicts since 2001, as well as the lack of, or poor training in de-escalation of dangerous situations, capped off by reductions in funding for mental health services and the use of jails as mental health treatment facilities have created a powder-keg.

The militarization of our citizenry, with laws that allow the open carry of weapons in public, is acting as the fuse.

“Fear not.” God, in scripture we hear that message from you again and again. Our minds and our streets are now full of fear—fear of police, fear of men and women of color, fear of foreigners, fear of people we think are different from us, fear of people whose faith is different from ours. Help us to admit our fears. Keep us from letting our fears drive our lives. Fill us with hope for the best from ourselves and from our neighbors as we seek your beloved community.

With each new headline of a police-involved shooting or a police officer shot, the fuse gets shorter.  We may never know the impetus behind the police shootings, but both Micah Johnson and Gavin Long were veterans.  Many of our Country’s veterans return from these conflicts suffering from wounds we can’t see on the outside.  Compounding the problem is that our Country’s veterans are suffering from untreated-PTSD and are winding up on many of our police forces. They are also ending up in our jails and prisons. Too many Vets are on our streets homeless.  We pray for peace but recognize that we cannot abandon the needs of those who faced the horrors of war.

Demanding policy changes that call for better community policing is not the same as being unsupportive of law enforcement. Demanding that our justice system provides the fair and equitable application of the law whether one wears a badge or not is not too much to expect.

We feel the woundedness of our communities.  As people of faith, we have experienced the loss of members of our churches, our denominations and the Body of Christ reels with the pain.

The sin of racism, both overt and implicit, combined with the seemingly unbridled violence toward law enforcement, has created an environment of discord, mistrust, and tension that exacerbates an already volatile situation.

We implore that our churches preach messages of reconciliation, teach lessons of understanding, and exemplify a model of Christian love for all.  There are no sides to be taken other than the side of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

We beseech our churches to create safe places for law enforcement agencies and community members to engage in meaningful conversations about the fears and concerns of all sides of these festering issues in an effort to bring peace, tranquility, and respect to our neighborhoods.  These conversations should be preemptive as well as reactive to the trauma experienced by all.

As our congregations reach out beyond the walls of their buildings, we encourage speaking as if the Holy Spirit were part of the conversation.  There is no room for invective in our pews, nor is their space for heated vitriol in our communities.  As the Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  (Ephesians 4:32, ESV).

Bishop Teresa Snorton , President, CUIC

Mr. Vince Gonzales, Chair, Racial and Social Justice Task Force

Rev. Michael R. Fisher, Jr. , Chair Young Adult Task Force

Mr. Abraham Wright, Vice President, CUIC

Rev. Hermann Weinlick, Secretary, CUIC

Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, Treasurer, CUIC

 

 

Churches Uniting in Christ’s (CUIC)

Statement on the Mass Shooting at Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, FL

On this, the anniversary of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, once again, our Nation and the World hear the names of the slain from another mass shooting. And once again, the Body of Christ weeps over another evil act that has taken lives of 49 souls, as well as the life of the assailant in yet another mass shooting. This time, it was at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando on June 12, 2016. 54 were left injured. The victims, many who were persons of color, of Latino heritage, or both, gathered to celebrate their culture. The impact is felt across our churches, schools, and workplaces. The shockwaves have been felt around the World, as the global community grieves the loss of so many lives.

In its quest for unity with justice, Churches Uniting in Christ offers our lament as well as our hope that all divisions amongst God’s people will be reconciled. We recognize that many families, but especially families of color, have been directly affected by this tragedy. We deplore that the Latino community, Muslim community and the LGBTQI community will continue to suffer, even after the news media turns to the next headline-grabbing story.

Across our denominations, many prayers have been and will be said. Numerous vigils will be held. We pray for compassion and understanding and are especially concerned about the two communities particularly experiencing the impact of the Orlando massacre. Everyone in the LBGTQI and Muslim communities deserves to know they are safe and free from any kind of discrimination and hateful, divisive language and retribution. As people of faith, the dignity of every human being is without question. No form of violence, whether it is terrorism or spiritual teaching, has the right to denigrate any person. In this moment of grief, we implore all of the members of our churches as well as the public in general to hold the human dignity of everyone in the highest regard and courageously speak up for the rights of the minorities and marginalized when they are attacked. As followers of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, we stand up against invective and vitriol. In the words of Maya Angelou, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the World, but has not solved one yet.”

To the fallen, may God grant them eternal rest. To their families, we mourn with you and pray for your well-being. We also extend our compassion and prayers to the family of the assailant, for they are suffering too. We are deeply grateful for the police officers, first responders, medical care personnel, pastors and chaplains who are providing aid and assistance to victims and their families and friends. This sign of the common humanity unites us all. Such signs can serve to show us all how to act for positive change in society. To political leaders, we implore you to address the elements that allow these events to happen time and time again. We must recognize that our society has yet to provide adequate mental health care to those who resort to acts of violence out of their own despair prior to a tragedy occurring. The same type of assault rifle used at the Pulse Night Club was also used in Sandy Hook and San Bernardino. Let us not be shy about taking the necessary steps to increase oversight in the sales and purchase of these types of weapons. Enough is enough!

We are people born from the pain of the cross upon which Jesus of Nazareth was executed. Our solidarity with the victims and their families is visceral from the very core of our faith. We pledge our houses of worship as spaces in which comfort for the grieving can be found and the rhetoric of hate has no place. We also recommit ourselves to ministries of reconciliation and justice in our city streets – for we believe that “God is in the midst of the city” (Psalm 46:5a).

 

Bishop Teresa Snorton , President, CUIC

Mr. Vince Gonzales, Chair, Racial and Social Justice Task Force

Rev. Michael R. Fisher, Jr. , Chair Young Adult Task Force

Mr. Abraham Wright, Vice President, CUIC

Rev. Hermann Weinlick, Secretary, CUIC

Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, Treasurer, CUIC

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Hispanic/Latin@ millennials and the Church

This past April, I attended a gathering of Hispanic/Latin@ church leaders with the intent of discussing how to reach Hispanic/Latin@ millennials for the church.  There was great diversity of denominations, national origin, language and polity among this group.  I was fortunate enough to have been asked by our denominational Ecumenical Officer, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson and the good people of The Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships of the UMC Council of Bishops to attend on behalf of the UMC.

The event was put on by Christian Churches Together.  The UMC is a partner communion of CCT.  Christian Churches Together is a relatively young ecumenical group made up of denominations across the spectrum of Christianity. Its stated purpose is as follows:

The purpose of Christian Churches Together is to enable churches and national Christian organizations to grow closer together in Christ in order to strengthen our Christian witness in the world. The by-laws list seven specific tasks:

  1. to celebrate a common confession of faith in the Triune God,
  2. to discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer and theological dialogue,
  3. to provide fellowship and mutual support,
  4. to seek a better understanding of each other by affirming our commonalities and understanding our differences,
  5. to foster evangelism faithful to the proclamation of the gospel,
  6. to speak to society with a common voice whenever possible, and
  7. to promote the common good of society and engage in other activities consistent with its purposes.

To fulfill its purpose of growing closer to Christ and to each other, Christian Churches Together focuses, in its annual meeting, on praying together, discerning the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer and theological dialogues, and providing fellowship and mutual support. Out of this process, participants discern how and when to take action together in common witness to our society. In 2006, CCT began to address the scandal of domestic poverty; specific proposals for CCT actions will be brought to the next annual meeting for consideration and decision.[1]

From this initial work, a vision was set to bring together Latin@[2] church leaders together in an effort to:

  1. Meet and develop relationships with other Latino/Latina leaders
  2. Pray together and celebrate our common identity in Christ
  3. Learn of other’s efforts, actions, and programs
  4. Talk about our differences and seek a better understanding
  5. Coordinate common actions in support of the Latino community

The April 2016 meeting was the third gathering of Latin@ leaders to date. It was held at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Encino, CA on April 26-27. I have attached an agenda of the meeting to this report as Attachment A.

There was ample attendance to facilitate good conversation and adequate denominational representation from a diverse group of communion. The demographics were heavily male in the makeup of the delegation. There were few young adults with an estimate average age of attendees being around 50 years of age.

Those in attendance were:

Rev. Carlos L. Malave, Executive Director, Christian Churches Together, Louisville, KY;

Mr. Alejandro Aguilarea-Titus, Director Ministerios Hispanos de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos, Washington, D.C.;

Rev. Eddy Aleman, Coordinator of Hispanic Ministries, The Reformed Church in America, Grand Rapids, MI;

Rev. Luis Avila, Director Ministerios Hispanos de la Iglesia Internacional de Santidad y Pentecostal, Oklahoma City, OK;

Rev. Dr. Fernando Cascante, Director Ejecutivo, AETH – Director del Centro Justo L. Gonzalez[3], Orlando, FL;

Rev. Iris de Leon-Hartshorn, Director of Transformative Peacemaking for Mennonite Church USA, Portland, OR;

Rev. Nancy Frausto, Associate Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Los Angeles, CA;

Bishop Jose Garcia, former California State Presiding Bishop for the Church of God of Prophecy, now Director of Church Relations, Bread for the World, Washington, D.C.;

Rev. Rudy Gonzalez, Office of Race Relations, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Moreno Valley, CA;

Rev. Marco Grimaldo (PCUSA), Senior National Associate for Latino Engagement, Bread for the World, Washington, D.C.;

Rev. Canon Anthony Guillen, Missioner, Hispanic/Latino Ministries; Los Angeles, CA;

Rev. Enrique Baldeon, Director America Latina y Brasil; Biblia, Inc. (formerly known as International Bible Society), Doral, FL;

Pastor Florecita Merlos, licensed, Principe de Paz (Church of the Brethren), Santa Ana, CA.

Rev. Salvador Orellana, National Coordinator – Latino Ministries, American Baptist Home Mission Society, Valley Forge, PA;

Rev. Ruben Ortiz, Senior Pastor, La Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Deltona, American Baptist Church USA, Daytona Beach, FL.; and

Vince Gonzales, Laity, United Methodist Church, Board, General Commission on Religion and Race; Chair, Racial and Social Justice Task Force, Churches Uniting In Christ, Weatherford, TX.

Day 1

We opened with a shared meal, greetings, and introductions. After an opening prayer, Rev. Malave gave a brief devotional to start us on our path of discussion and discovery.

In the first session, we shared professional and personal stories of being a Hispanic, latin@ and immigrant within the context of the church. The stories, often of success, often reflected success within the Latin@ church and did little to shed light on a greater struggle to find equity in the mainline denomination. Regardless, these stories were encouraging as these leaders have shown the ability to overcome many obstacles that our congregant and those seeking a church have faced.

We fell behind schedule so we spent a little time discussing programs and actions that were working at reaching Latin@s in our communities. I mentioned the Hispanic/Latino Ministry Christian School in the Northwest Texas Conference. This joint project with United Theological Seminary has been training small group leaders with an eye to moving these trained persons into local pastor roles. This has spurred a leap in Hispanic new members within this Conference. The Iowa Conference has considered this program, the New Mexico Conference is starting to implement it and, as I understand it, the North Georgia Conference has reviewed this program and may be considering its implementation.

Our first presenter was the Rev. Marcos Canales. Rev. Canales is the Hispanic Ministries director at First Nazarene Church in Pasadena, CA. Born in Costa Rica, his family moved to Lima, Peru and then to Quito, Ecuador. His family then returned to San Jose, Costa Rica. He eventually came to the United States. After a one year stay in Miami, Florida, he then traveled to Asuncion, Paraguay.

Leaving Paraguay, he moved to San Diego, CA to attend Point Loma Nazarene University from which he graduated. After graduation, he attended Fuller Theological Seminary while serving as Senior Pastor at San Fernando Church of the Nazarene. After 8 years there, he moved to his current appointment.

His migration story is relevant when he speaks of what he sees as the Four Core Issues for the Latin@ church.

These Core Issues are:

  1. The Power of La Familia.
  2. The complex reality of migration.
  3. Leadership dynamics.
  4. Identity formation.

The Power of La Familia.

Self is defined by one’s relationship with one’s family. Stress/tension is created between 1st generation, Spanish-language dominant family members and 2nd generation, English-dominant family members. Children often have to take on adult roles as intermediaries for their parents.[4] The roles are often in the form of translating at doctor’s appointments, legal appointments, banking, school meetings, etc. This can often lead to low attendance or inability to participate in church programs.

The complex reality of migration.

Churches must be cognizant of migration stories to create effective ministries to Latin@s. The need for a church to be aware of community resources that prove to be valuable to Latin@s is extremely important. These resources must be more than benevolence programs. The two top concerns for Latin@ millennials are High Blood Pressure and Diabetes, followed by clinical depression. Knowing resources for health care, both physical and mental will assist in bridge-building. Being in a relationship with the community will help tp identify specific needs that might exist.

Leadership dynamics.

Latin@ youth suffers burnout and/or under use. In large part, this may be due to rampant patriarchy within Latin@ congregations.

To make matters worse, within predominantly white churches, the use of language often serves in a manner that invites, obscurantism, the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known to Spanish-dominant or bi-lingual speakers.

Identity formation.

Identity formation is dependent upon spaces for the narratives which define the Latin@ culture and character. Any missional agenda must embrace the issues which lead to Hispanic/Latino identity formation.

In an interesting exercise, Rev. Canales had the group watch a YouTube video by the group Las Cafeteras. The song title is “La Bamba Rebeledes”. It can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/9xv-FjbXaqk

The purpose of viewing this video was for the attendee to answer the following questions:

  1. What values do you see reflected in the video?
  2. Which parts could one relate with in the video?
  3. Which parts made you uncomfortable?

Having been born and lived in Los Angeles until the age of 12 I was reminded of the four core issues Rev. Canales addressed in his presentation. The Latin@ love and respect of family, culture, faith traditions, the manner of dress, food and identity are often lost in the inadvertent (maybe even to some degree, intentional) attempt to assimilate Latin@s to become mainline church members.

Rev. Canales pointed out that it should be a major pastoral concern to know the difference between being an agent of change or a recipient of change. To be an agent of change, one maintains his or her self-identity and all that is attendant to that identity.

To recognize and respect the value of Latin@ Christians, we must be willing to give a load-bearing responsibility with the attendant high visibility in positions of church missional work and church leadership.

In a side-bar conversation with Rev. Dr. Cascante, he pointed out that many churches utilize the model:

Believe> Behave > Belong

This model requires a change in order to belong and creates a litmus test before acceptance.

The preferred model is:

Belong> Behave> Believe

Belonging to a community of faith is an ecclesiological question, not a programmatic one.

Day 2

We began with a moving devotional delivered by Rev Ruben Ortiz. We were asked to listen to a portion of an NPR podcast entitled “Walking Across America.” The selection can be found here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/494/hit-the-road Start: 16:00 End: 18:41

We then discussed Race and Grace. It was moving to discuss who each of us extended grace as well as had grace extended to each of us.

Our next session was presented by the Pastores Molinas from Iglesias de Restauracion in Los Angeles, CA. A father and son pastoral team, Rene Sr., and Rene Jr. lead a 3,000-member church affiliated with Mision Cristiana Elim International, a Pentecostal group with approximately 60,000 members. Both pastors are working toward the M.Divs at Fuller Theological Seminary.

I have attached a newspaper article from the L.A. Times that covers most of their presentation, but would add the following points from their presentation:

  1. “Tradition is the dead faith of the living.”
  2. Proselytizing among millennials (doesn’t work because) young adults don’t like it.”
  3. Authenticity if very important. Do not treat millennials like a “bar-code.”
  4. We must stay fluid to develop meaningful relationships.
  5. We must decide what we intend to follow, the tradition of the Gospel or the tradition of the church.
  6. Millennials only have “space for grace” when churches fail when there are genuine relationships.
  7. “Closed small groups” lead to greater accountability based on trust and relationship. Once a small group is formed, there can be no new members. The privacy and sanctity of the small group have led to open discussions on issues such as homoeroticism, same-sex attraction, demons, etc.
  8. We must utilize relevant age and demographic appropriate social media.
  9. “Nones” (spiritual, not religious) people are an issue across denominational lines. They ask “Why go to church when technology usurps church structure?”
  10. Young Adults have experienced diversity within their social structures. Why does the Church create impediments to that practice?

Rev. Nancy Frausto asked the question “How do we deal with our sexuality conflicting with our theology?” Pastor Rene, Jr. responded, “We don’t as millennials, it is fluid.”

Finally, we must struggle with determining how to identify 1) leaders; 2) followers; and 3) those simply on a journey. Then we must provide appropriate resources for each group’s spiritual development and formation within the structure of our theological traditions.

Our next set of presenters was Mr. Alejandro Aguilarea-Titus, Director Ministerios Hispanos de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos, Washington, D.C. and Alberto Embry, the Archdiocesan Coordinator for Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Mr. Embry delivered most of the presentation. He emphasized that connexionalism is dependent upon bridge-building with marginalized groups. This is done through small group gatherings of these marginalized people and very intentionally draws connections back to the church. The “who” is more important than the “what” when it comes to programs. When the “who” is identified, the “what” defines itself.

It is important to address individual needs through identification, classification, and connection to appropriate resources. One size does not fit all!

Our final presenter was Pastor Christian Garcia, New Generation Church in Temple City, CA. Although his ministry focuses on youth rather than millennials, he feels that many of the techniques and practices are applicable to both groups. He states that one of the greatest challenges to working with millennials is they (millennials) desire immediate satisfaction and personal attention to their needs.

He suggests not using a set curriculum but to respond to the Spirit.

He went on to point out many issues which churches should be aware:

  1. Millennials are quite diverse, tolerant, free-thinking and more global.
  2. To millennials, friendship is more important than family (not consistent with comments made by a previous presenter).
  3. Ministry (preaching) from the pulpit is not effective.
  4. Leadership through dictatorship in ineffective.
  5. Leadership from a distance is ineffective.
  6. Leaders are judged by words and actions.
  7. The church must paint a vision of the future for ministry, family, community, relationships and work.
  8. Innovation as a work rule.
  9. Establish deep friendships/relationships.
  10. Boost up, as a faith leader, others and believe and trust in them.

Final thoughts from the group

At future gatherings, we should start a mentoring process by bringing a young adult/millennial from our denomination with us.

Be aware of the next National Convocation of CCT. Notices will be sent out.

Concentrate on the gender balance of the delegations. Only three women were present and that was a step forward.

What will unite us is the intentional development of relationships.

Our differences are relatively small compared to that which ties us together.

Important statistics and information:

According to Pew Research Data, among Latin@ mainline Protestants, 45% are English-dominant, 28% are bi-lingual and only 26% are Spanish-dominant.[5]

Among the general population, 36% a are English-dominant, 41% are bi-lingual and only 23% are Spanish-dominant

Approximately 54 million Latin@s in the U.S. Of that number 17.9 million are younger than 18 years of age.

14.6 million are millennials.

A millennial is defined as someone born after 1980.

Hispanic: a person of Latin American or Iberian ancestry, fluent in Spanish. It is primarily used along the Eastern seaboard, and favored by those of Caribbean and South American ancestry or origin. English or Spanish can be their “native” language.

Latino: a U.S.-born Hispanic who is not fluent in Spanish and is engaged in social empowerment through Identity Politics. “Latino” is principally used west of the Mississippi, where it has displaced “Chicano” and “Mexican American.” English is probably their “native” language. “Empowerment” refers to increasing the political, social, and spiritual strength of an individual or a community, and it is associated with the development of confidence of that individual or community in their own abilities.

Latin: an abbreviation for “Latin American,” or “Latinoamericano” in Spanish (written as one word), a Latin is a person who was born in Latin America and migrated to the United States. Regardless of his or her immigration status, a Latin is a foreign-born worker for whom English is a “foreign” language and who lacks the cultural fluency taken for granted by those born and raised in the United States. Spanish, Portuguese, or an indigenous language is their “native” language.[6]

My reflections and observations:

Bilingualism in our programs and church programming is imperative to maintain familial connections.

Latin@s make up a rich tapestry of cultural diversity. To approach all Latin@s as one body is fool-hardy and detrimental to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the World. It fails to recognize cultural differences and creates an impediment to deep, personal relationship building.

The National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry of The United Methodist Church fails to recognize that the vast majority of Latin@s speak English. To focus on ESL courses and Spanish-language church startups further alienates Latin@s. As Rev. Canales stated so well, this is the difference between being an agent of change or a recipient of change. If the church is only interested in keeping Latin@s as recipients of change, it should continue on the path as outlined in the National Plan, however, in doing so it strips many Latin@s of their self-worth, self-esteem and his or her self-identity and all that is attendant to that identity. It ignores the Latin@ culture.

One thing is for certain.  Much can be learned from dialogue with other denominations and communions.  The “evangelical” churches seem to be doing a much better job at reaching millennials, as well as Hispanic/Latin@s than the mainline Protestant communions.

Once again, it is an ecclesiological question, not a programmatic question. May we prayerfully seek the way to be in relationships with our Latin@ brothers and sisters, rather than simply create programs where we are in ministry for, rather than with.

[1] http://christianchurchestogether.org/

[2] For the purposes of this report, I have chosen to use the gender-neutral Latin@ rather than Hispanic or Spanish. The use of any descriptor raises objections from many seeking definitive “political identity.” I personally choose to believe that all Latin@s are Hispanic, but not all Hispanics are Latin@. I will further elaborate in the body of this report.

[3] http://www.aeth.org/en/

[4] Referenced Jeffrey Arnett, Ph.D.

[5] http://www.pewhispanic.org/files/reports/75.pdf

[6] http://hispaniceconomics.com/overviewofushispanics/hispaniclatinolatin.html

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A Few Bad Apples

Yesterday afternoon, I was on the streets of Fort Worth, interviewing homeless men and women regarding one of my cases. The topic of the police came up and I made a comment about how I assumed the homeless in that part of town were treated. I was quickly corrected. These men and women told me that the police treated them with grace and respect. I was also informed that, despite a “few bad apples” most of the men and women in blue are good people.

As I watched events in Dallas unfold last night and into the early morning hours, the words and wisdom of those men and women echoed in my thoughts and prayers.

I have taken many a DART train and am sure that, at one time or another, I have crossed paths with the officer killed and the officers wounded.

I know many men and women in the Dallas Police Department, past and present. My sister-in-law’s father was one of the detectives escorting Lee Harvey Oswald out of another parking garage not far from the parking garage at El Centro when Jack Ruby shot Oswald. DPD did not cower then and they did not cower last night.

I have been on defense teams that represented people charged with killing police officers, including in Dallas. I have heard of acts of heroism and great service. I have also heard stories of police abuse, cowardice and incompetence, but not very often. You know, “a few bad apples.”

By God’s grace, I was not in Dallas for the march last night. I have attended them in the past, but was too exhausted from being on the street and in the heat earlier in the day. And, quite frankly, I have been disappointed by a few of the protesters that can’t seem to stay on message and, in my humble opinion, take things to extremes unnecessarily. You know, “a few bad apples.”

I have dealt with Chief Brown and his staff, several Assistant Chiefs and men and women on patrol. I know them to be good and honorable people. Today, I grieve with them.

Dallas Police Department and DART Police Department, know that the community, the State and the Country grieves with you. In one of the darkest times imaginable for law enforcement, you were shining beacons and gave true meaning to the term “to protect and serve.”

To the protesters last night, you were described as peaceful and cooperative. Stories are coming out of acts of bravery in which officers shoved protesters out of harm’s way, shielding those protesters from bullets. In a time of great angst over more police shootings, particularly of people of color, don’t let those “few bad apples” spoil the bunch. Last night should be a reminder.

Is some change needed in our communities? Yes. 509 fatal police shootings of civilians so far this year. 990 last year. There is no debate, one is too many.

Last night, 5 officers lost their lives. There is no debate, one is too many.

As I head back to Fort Worth today, I will take the time to personally thank every officer I encounter. I will let them know that I will be praying for their friends, their families and their community. And I’ll be praying for them personally. I ask that you do the same.

This is a complex issue to which there is no easy answer.  It goes beyond community policing.  It is not just about race.  It is not exclusive of a gun-toting society and its attendant mentality.  It requires so many facets of our society that a starting point requires all of us to work together.

But, one thing is certain.  As one group of people on the street reminded me yesterday afternoon, another group reminded me last night and into the early morning hours…there are more men and women of integrity and honor wearing the badge than their are “bad apples.”

Posted in capital punishment, Dallas, death penalty, Ezell Ford, Ferguson, guns, Justice, law, mass shootings, Michael Brown, Peace, Police, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Statement on the Orlando Shooting

On the somber anniversary of the Mother Emanual shooting, Churches Uniting in Christ released the following statement:

Statement on the Mass Shooting at Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, FL

On this, the anniversary of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, once again, our Nation and the World hear the names of the slain from another mass shooting. And once again, the Body of Christ weeps over another evil act that has taken lives of 49 souls, as well as the life of the assailant in yet another mass shooting. This time, it was at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando on June 12, 2016. 54 were left injured. The victims, many who were persons of color, of Latino heritage, or both, gathered to celebrate their culture. The impact is felt across our churches, schools, and workplaces. The shockwaves have been felt around the World, as the global community grieves the loss of so many lives.

In its quest for unity with justice, Churches Uniting in Christ offers our lament as well as our hope that all divisions amongst God’s people will be reconciled. We recognize that many families, but especially families of color, have been directly affected by this tragedy. We deplore that the Latino community, Muslim community and the LGBTQI community will continue to suffer, even after the news media turns to the next headline-grabbing story.

Across our denominations, many prayers have been and will be said. Numerous vigils will be held. We pray for compassion and understanding and are especially concerned about the two communities particularly experiencing the impact of the Orlando massacre. Everyone in the LBGTQI and Muslim communities deserves to know they are safe and free from any kind of discrimination and hateful, divisive language and retribution. As people of faith, the dignity of every human being is without question. No form of violence, whether it is terrorism or spiritual teaching, has the right to denigrate any person. In this moment of grief, we implore all of the members of our churches as well as the public in general to hold the human dignity of everyone in the highest regard and courageously speak up for the rights of the minorities and marginalized when they are attacked. As followers of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, we stand up against invective and vitriol. In the words of Maya Angelou, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the World, but has not solved one yet.”

To the fallen, may God grant them eternal rest. To their families, we mourn with you and pray for your well-being. We also extend our compassion and prayers to the family of the assailant, for they are suffering too. We are deeply grateful for the police officers, first responders, medical care personnel, pastors and chaplains who are providing aid and assistance to victims and their families and friends. This sign of the common humanity unites us all. Such signs can serve to show us all how to act for positive change in society. To political leaders, we implore you to address the elements that allow these events to happen time and time again. We must recognize that our society has yet to provide adequate mental health care to those who resort to acts of violence out of their own despair prior to a tragedy occurring. The same type of assault rifle used at the Pulse Night Club was also used in Sandy Hook and San Bernardino. Let us not be shy about taking the necessary steps to increase oversight in the sales and purchase of these types of weapons. Enough is enough!

We are people born from the pain of the cross upon which Jesus of Nazareth was executed. Our solidarity with the victims and their families is visceral from the very core of our faith. We pledge our houses of worship as spaces in which comfort for the grieving can be found and the rhetoric of hate has no place. We also recommit ourselves to ministries of reconciliation and justice in our city streets – for we believe that “God is in the midst of the city” (Psalm 46:5a).

Bishop Teresa Snorton, President, CUIC

Mr. Vince Gonzales, Racial and Social Justice Task Force Chair

Rev. Michael Fisher, Jr. Young Adult Task Force

Mr. Abraham Wright, Vice President, CUIC

Rev. Hermann weinlick, Secretary, CUIC

Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, Treasurer, CUIC

The following denomination are made up of approximately 20 million congregants.  This is an important statement, perhaps even historic, when one looks at the 11 denominations involved.

Churches Uniting in Christ is a covenant relationship among eleven Christian communions that have pledged to live more closely together in expressing their unity in Christ and combating racism together. The member churches of CUIC include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, The Episcopal Church, the International Council of Community Churches, the Moravian Church (Northern Province), the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a partner in mission and dialogue. For more information, please see our website at http://www.churchesunitinginchrist.org

Posted in Charleston, Churches Uniting In Christ, Council of Bishops, CUIC, Emanuel A.M.E. Church, General Commission on Religion and Race, Hope, Inclusiveness, Jesus Christ, Justice, law, Marginalized, mass shootings, Peace, Race and Religion, SC, Uncategorized, United Methodist | Leave a comment

On Being a Clergy Spouse, Part Two

I prepared this blog posting several months ago but, apparently, forgot to hit the publish button.  It is Part 2 of what I hope will become a series.

One of the things that I find alarming is the way in which those in our community view clergy spouses (and clergy, you have to verify this one way or another, but I assume you get treated the same way).

People seem to think we have no life other than the church. Maybe, in supporting my wife, it seems that all I do is church ministry. Well, there is a lot of that

Maybe I’m a guarded individual and seem unapproachable to others. Trust me folks, I can be likeable.

I remember the first time I noticed how my life as a clergy spouse had made me “different.” While overseeing tornado recovery volunteers is Granbury, TX for a two month period, I was only working in the next county to the south. One Saturday afternoon, I walked into a local hamburger shop for lunch. As I walked in, a few members of our church were there enjoying lunch and a few cocktails. You know, those margarita-things with the beer bottle turned upside down in them. I might know the name of the drink if the congregation didn’t assume I was part of the temperance movement! I still remember the looks of the faces of those congregants;. No judgment here folks, I promise.

Being a male, clergy spouse has an entirely different issue. I don’t get invited to clergy spouse events (are there such things?). If so, is they operated in such a way as to be gender-exclusive? This is an area that I have experience in breaking down walls. Once upon a time, many years ago, I was a legal secretary for a 4-woman law firm. Nobody from the Lubbock Legal Secretaries Association ever invited me to join that group either.

Not that I don’t bring some of this on myself. In the years that I’ve been in Weatherford, I’ve been an active Board member to the General Commission on Religion and Race. I also now serve on the Coordinating Council for Churches Uniting In Christ as the Chair of the Racial and Social Justice Task Force as the Chair of the Task Force. I do work out of the house as a trial consultant. And I’m sure you’ve seen me around the church in some form or fashion. Where you might not see me is having a cold-beer at Chili’s on a hot day, not because I’m a teetotaler, but I’ve seen how some have reacted when I saw them enjoying a cocktail. Quite frankly, I’m afraid of the reaction of those that might see me enjoying a glass of wine or a pint.

Another thing; my politics are separate from my faith. I can assure you that I put my faith first. That doesn’t mean I won’t enter into an engaging conversation with you on a wide variety of social issues. And, in that regard, I might not agree with my spouse on these issues. You see, I am an individual that made a covenant to my spouse. I made a covenant to the “Church” through my baptism and to the “church” through my membership. I didn’t enter the Candidacy process, my wife did. I don’t answer to the District Superintendent, the Board of Ordained Ministry or the Cabinet for MY theological statements. According to the Book of Discipline, the Pastor has the role of assuring that, should I be teaching, I teach sound Wesleyan (and United Methodist) theology.

But the most important thing to glean from this posting is that I am just like you in many ways.  I love my church and I love my denomination, all the while arguing and fighting with them as is they were family.  And that is because they are.  I feel celebrate with you when your are joyful, I shed a tear when you are grieving, I feel pain when we are not committed to our Covenant or we speak hatefully toward others.  I grow angry when we are not true to the Great Commission.  I am fiercely defensive of my wife and children.

You know, I am human.

Posted in Central Texas Conference, Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Churches Uniting In Christ, Clergy spouse, CORR Action Fund, Council of Bishops, CUIC, General Commission on Religion and Race, Race and Religion, Uncategorized, United Methodist, Wesleyan | Leave a comment

Yet again!

Another day, another mass shooting. We deflect our anger so as to not impinge upon our gun ownership. We deflect our anger so as to not have to look in the mirror at our own image of apathy. Nothing will change if we don’t change ourselves.

We will blame the killing on a “radicalized Islamic” as the media has reported so quickly. Or we will place blame on the killing on a misguided White Supremacist. We will blame the killing on untreated mental illness. We will blame the killings on urban warfare between ethnic gangs.

And we will circle the wagons and preach of the message of Second Amendment rights.

All while ignoring the right to live a life free from hate, free from ridicule, free from exclusion, free from threat, free from being gunned down because of being black, or Hispanic, Native American or a member of the LGBTQI community.

What we hold precious in this Country defies logic. We want our AR-15’s for self-protection. We want our Legislatures to draft bills that legitimize our bigotry. We want our churches to define who and who cannot be in ministry and to whom we can be in ministry. And in doing so we create a society that is toxic.

All while standing idly by as killing after killing take place.

We place blame on victims, we place the blame of lifestyles, we place blame on everything that avoids our own moral culpability in creating an environment of violence. It is a characteristic of human nature to hate those whom we have hurt.

I hear the vitriol from the campaign trail. I hear the vitriol from so-called church leaders. I hear the vitriol from too many to count. Maybe all that vitriol has an effect on a potential killer. I don’t know.

But maybe the real culprit is our silence. Maybe the real culprit is the fear our politicians feel by being emasculated by the Gun Lobby. Maybe the real culprit is our apathy as we forget the names of the dead all too soon.

We demand that our denominations make statements outlining our belief in the sanctity of life and yet we don’t give a damn if that life is that of an LBTQI person or someone different than the bulk of our denomination or congregation.

What is it going to take to hold our legislators accountable for their inaction when it comes to gun-control? What is it going to take to make our church leaders accountable for not addressing meaningful social issues by choosing issues that side-step the type of rampant violence that happens in this Country? What is it going to take for things to change?

It’s going to take each and every one of us effect change. We encourage violence when we watch television programming that romanticizes violent heroes. Our children play video games like Tour of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Psychologists debate whether or not these things factor in increasing aggressiveness and violence in our children. What should be apparent is that we, as a society, have become desensitized to the Hollywood-violence and, as a result, have been desensitized to the real violence that surrounds us every day.

Our children demand Nerf-guns and light sabers for their birthdays and Christmas.

Perhaps if we changed our viewing habits a message will be sent to television and movie producers. Perhaps if we told our children “No” when it came to violent games and toy guns, a message would be sent to toy producers. Maybe these are small steps, but they are steps in the right direction.

Perhaps if we called and wrote our Congressional leaders, we could change laws pertaining to ease in which people can buy guns.  But, if we aren’t willing to be consistent and persistent in this message we can expect nothing from Congress.

We can hold vigils, we can pray today for what happened today, but what new tragedy will we be praying for tomorrow that causes us to forget Newtown, Columbine, or Mother Emanuel? Not so easy to forget those you say? Do you remember Birchwood, Wisconsin? Brookfield, Wisconsin? Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania? We remember Virginia Tech but do you remember Omaha, Nebraska? What about Carnation, Washington? We remember San Bernardino all the while forgetting Covina, California.

Through our inaction, we are morally culpable every time there is a mass shooting. It well past the time that we, as a society, demand more from ourselves, as well as from our government. It is the time that our church leaders make a stand through divestiture from companies that exacerbate the problems of violence. We should reevaluate what we see in theaters, on television and on DVD and Netflix. As hard as self-discipline might be when it comes to our viewing habits, our very lives might truly depend on it. We must be disciplined in our buying habits. We must become more cognizant of what our children play with and watch in theaters and at home.  When we accept the apathy in ourselves, we authorize the apathy of our Government, our churches and those we look toward to bring about the change we so desperately need.

If we are to expect accountability from our government we must demand it of ourselves first. And then, maybe we can end this madness.

Posted in Charleston, Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Justice, law, mass shootings | Leave a comment

Ali! Ali! Ali!

“As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him and who helped as many of his people as he could … I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxing champion who became a preacher and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.” Muhammad Ali in his 1975 Playboy Magazine interview when asked how he would like to be remembered.

Late yesterday afternoon, my wife and I were discussing death. Not a pleasant topic but one that, as we get older, we face more and more often. Friends from school pass away, family members go to their rest, church members die, and icons from our past go to their grave.

I’m not sure that I have been impacted by the latter ever as much as I am upon hearing of the passing of The Greatist, Muhammad Ali. As I watched the video homages memories of my childhood rushed back to me. Those weekends sitting in the living room with my father, watching ABC’s Wide World of Sports, watching Ali’s domineering presence in the ring, at the weigh-in’s, during interviews (especially those exchanges with Howard Cosell). My father loved boxing and would explain the “sweet science” to me as I sat in awe of Ali’s speed and grace. It was more than entertainment though. A special bond was developing with my father over his love for this sport. I remember seeing pictures of my Dad (my dad worked for Hickok Manufacturing, which awarded the belt) wearing the S. Rae Hickok Athlete of the Year Award, an award that Ali won in 1974. Years later, I would learn and train to box in the Navy. I’m not sure that I ever made my father prouder than my voluntary service and my taking up his favorite sport.

But something else was happening as I watched Ali in and out of the ring. A social consciousness was developing in my young mind. As a young Latino in a largely white school, I was in 2nd grade when the man known as Cassius Clay refused to serve in the Army. I had heard grumblings against the war at family gatherings and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I didn’t understand forced conscription. I didn’t understand foreign policy (a policing action?). I was preparing for my First Holy Communion and was devout in my faith as I progressed through my catechism classes. I only understood that Cassius Clay, soon to become Muhammad Ali, was practicing his faith and was being punished for that practice. I wasn’t old enough to understand the persecution and prosecution, although I grew to understand in the coming years.

I remember sitting around the dinner table and, on occasion, we would roll the portable television into the dining room to watch the news. Walter Cronkite would give us reports while film footage from Vietnam rolled. We would hear body counts and those wounded. We would watch closely to perhaps catch a glimpse of a loved one that had been drafted and was “over there.” As our family sat around that table and broke bread, a different kind of communion took place. We came together as one, thankful that our cousins were not part of those body counts. We were thankful they weren’t part of the wounded.

Over the years, demonstrations against the war had been a regular occurrence. We saw draft cards being burned early on, then campus protests began in earnest. In March 1968, the My Lai massacre took place. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In June 1968, Bobby Kennedy was shot dead. In August of that year, the Democratic National Convention exploded into violence demonstrations.

In 1970, Kent State demonstrations resulted in the National Guard shooting and killing 4 students. Four million students across the nation protested. Later that year, two more students were killed during demonstrations at Jackson State.

As time went by, my brother became of draft age. We’ve never talked about those times, but I was always fearful that he would be drafted. We weren’t rich, not the kids of Senators, millionaires or CIA Directors. For people like our family, the draft was a way of life…and death. Ali showed that it didn’t have to be.

Then came Ali’s return from exile. In March 1971, came the fight between Ali and Frazier. The loss of Ali’s boxing license and exile from boxing for three years had taken its toll on Ali’s speed and stamina. He lost that fight. But in what was arguably Ali’s greatest battle, in June 1971, what had looked like a 5-3 loss for Ali (Justice Blackmon had recused himself and a 4-4 tie would have upheld a lower appellate court ruling against Ali), Justice John Marshall Harlan was given The Autobiography of Malcolm X and became convinced that Ali’s refusal to serve was truly based on Ali’s deep-seated religious objections. Justice Potter Stewart convinced the other Justices of this fact and in what appeared initially to be a 5-3 loss became an 8-0 victory for Ali.

This very well may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to the Vietnam conflict (the U.S. Congress hasn’t declared war since WWII). As protests grew and Nixon became embroiled in Watergate and eventually resigned from the office of President, in disgrace, our attention was often diverted, thankfully, to The Champ. From The Rumble in the Jungle to The Thrilla in Manila, our country (and my family) would focus on Ali’s return. Some of us cheering for Ali, some not so much.

Still reeling from the Civil Rights struggles of the 50’s and 60’s America became more and more aware of the struggles our country still faced. From the anti-war protests of the 60’s and 70’s; to the Paris Peace Accord in 1973; to the fall of Saigon; America sustained deep and festering wounds. Our Nation’s reputation was scorned, the conflict had no clear victor, veterans were not welcomed back home, and our country had to make a comeback.
What Ali had to overcome in his personal life, our Country was forced to do the same. The Champ did it with the resiliency of character and a commitment to his faith. In his private life, there were many problems. Failed marriages, promiscuity, financial problems. In the years to come, his struggle with Parkinson’s disease helped us to know what true courage looked like. When President George W. Bush placed the Medal of Freedom around Ali’s neck, it was as if every kid of color, every kid that grew up in poverty, every kid that grew up with the cards stacked against them, every kid that grew up with a physical or cognitive disability, shared that Medal with Muhammad Ali. He was more than a champion in the ring. Ali was a champion for the disenfranchised. Ali was a champion for the marginalized. Ali was a champion for racial and gender equality. Ali was a champion for justice.

And he was a champion for peace.

At a time when this Country, and the World, needed hope, Ali was there to provide it.

Muhammad Ali, you truly were The Greatest. Rest in Peace.

Posted in Hope, Justice, law, Marginalized, Martin Luther King, MLK, Peace, Race and Religion, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On being a Dad.

Last night Max and I got home around 8:15 after a long day of work, housework, school and church activities. Shelly and AJ are away at camp.

We chatted and read together. His inquisitive mind never ceases to amaze me.

He complained of growing pains in his knees and ankles and asked me to set an appointment with “his” Doctor. His discomfort breaks my heart.

I gave him a children’s aspirin and had to convince him they truly are chewable. I said they tasted like Sweetarts but he corrected me and said they tasted more like Bottle Caps. We now have a plan to go introduce Dad to this candy.

In the all too seldom opportunities I get to spend an extended period of time with each boy alone, I am equally amazed at how different they are from one another in some ways, how similar they are in others. And I get tickled when I see or hear myself in their deeds and words.

And as Max fell asleep, I listened to his soft breathing, looked at his sweet countenance, and grew further amazed that my love for both Max and AJ knows no bounds. These two rascals can still bring tears of joy to my eyes.

Just not while I’m doing their laundry.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Easter, 2016

I saved this for after Easter Sunday. So often, after the anthems are finished, our special meals are cleared off the tables and our friends, family and guests have returned from whence they came, we put our Easter-spirit away like a well-used Easter basket, not to see the sun again until the following Spring. But if we are to be an Easter people, we are to share the Good News that Christ has died, Christ has paid for our sins, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. It is the miracle of our faith that must be told, shared, and lived each and every day! As Christians it is our “raison d’être.”

With the nature of an unstable world full of matters that try to tear our faith asunder, we have the opportunity, no, rather we have the duty to share the news as Easter people.  We are obliged to turn to scripture rather than to steep in our fears.  We are to welcome the stranger, love our neighbor and enemy, and speak with words of love and not hate.  We are to do no harm, do good, and to stay in Love with God.  We should call out the divisive vitriol we hear, not only on the political trail but also in the pews, pulpits and Sunday School classes of our congregations.  General Conference looms on the horizon; we should be more concerned with how it is with one another’s soul rather than with one another’s resolutions and petitions.  These things are not seasonal.  These things are a way of life if we are to move on to spiritual perfection.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated in his letter from Tegel Prison to his family on Easter Sunday, April 25, 1943:

“The liberating thing about Good Friday and Easter is that one’s thoughts are swept far beyond one’s own personal fate to the ultimate meaning of all life and suffering, and of whatever occurs, such that one is seized by a great hope.”

May that great hope carry us through this year and the years to come. May we live into the Resurrection.

Posted in Central Texas Conference, Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, christ, Churches Uniting In Christ, Easter, General Commission on Religion and Race, Global AIDS Fund, Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ, Justice, North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Uncategorized, United Methodist | 1 Comment

When Systemic Racism Hits Home

If we are to celebrate Black History Month as a people of faith, we should make sure that history is accurate. Where it is inaccurate, we are obliged to correct it. Mere reconciliation and repentance is not enough, we must make reparations to make the Body of Christ whole.  We need look no further than our own communities to make a start.

Despite what it says in the book “The Central Texas Annual Conference 1866-2010. At the Center of Texas Methodism” by John Michael Patison, et al, Prince Memorial CME was the first church in Weatherford, Texas AND the second church in Parker County. Founded in 1854 under the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, founded by freed slaves, it predates the City Charter by two years. First Methodist Weatherford, was also founded, less than a mile away, but a few years later, and was also a Methodist Episcopal Church, South congregation. Despite transferring to the newly founded CME in 1870, after, for a short time, being part of a separate, ecclesiastical jurisdiction within the M.E. Church, South, for 16 years, Prince Memorial was the first Methodist church in town. I read this omission this morning in the aforementioned book.  Coincidentally, I spoke with folks at United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History at Drew University earlier this week in search of documentation of this history of Prince Memorial on a completely separate matter.

How a publication printed as recently as this book could eliminate this historically significant Methodist church is beyond me. Even the Weatherford Democrat, our local newspaper, recognizes the significance from a 2012 story:

“Prince Memorial Christian Methodist Church celebrated its 158th anniversary in April of 2012. The present church building, constructed after a 1912 storm, is a white clapboard edifice featuring an original bell tower, arched “cathedral windows” and steeply pitched gables. Prince Memorial is the oldest church building standing in Weatherford, and is the second oldest in Parker County.”

We cannot be a multicultural, multiracial denomination if we ignore, excise, delete, and fail to learn from our rich history of failing to be an inclusive church.  And we cannot live in unity if we continue to twist history, both secular and church, to only depict what shows the dominant culture in a favorable light.

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