What We Need To Hear

Larissa Kwong Abazia, Vice-Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reflects on what the story of an interaction between a Syrophoenician woman and Jesus teaches the church today.

What We Need To Hear.

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Filed under Current Events, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Stop the execution of Kelly Gissendaner

The state of Georgia should not execute Kelly Gissendaner on Monday, 2 March as currently scheduled. Tell Governor Nathan Deal to stop the execution.

The state of Georgia should not execute Kelly Gissendaner because:

  • while she asked someone to kill her husband, she did not kill him;
  • the person who killed Doug Gissendaner does not face a possible execution for his actions;
  • she has repented of her role in her husband’s murder;
  • she has been rehabilitated in secular terms; transformed by God in theological terms;
  • she has demonstrated that transformation in her living;
  • she has ministered to other inmates, serving as a “calming spirit”; and
  • inmates report on her role in their lives, including several who she helped as they contemplated suicide.

For all these reasons, the state of Georgia should not execute Kelly Grissendaner.

But, even if none of these reasons existed, her execution should not take place.

The execution of Kelly Grissendaner, or of any other child of God, demeans the state. It lowers the state to the level of those who kill. At the same time, it places the state in the position of God, making life and death decision. And, to paraphrase Dean Smith, state executions, in a democracy, make murderers of us all.

The state of Georgia should not execute Kelly Gissendaner on Monday, 2 March as currently scheduled or at any other time. Tell Governor Nathan Deal to stop the execution.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty

Former inmates say fight to save Gissendaner is only the beginning

W. Mark Koenig:

Women who knew and served with Kelly Gissendaner reflect upon her life, their incarceration, and their effort to work for their sisters still imprisoned.

Originally posted on Follow Love Be:

“As we stand on the precipice of participating as a society in another state killing of a human, I pause to think of the tragedy that extinguishing Kelly’s life perpetuates. In vengeance and punishment there is no real resolution for the living, only the uneasy perpetuation of violence. Resolution is for fiction and not true to the reality of human existence. The truth in the reality of human existence is our only resolution is death and hastening the death of another that we have judged does nothing but add a new complexity to life’s tragic scales. In acting to finalize any life, we truncate any real possibility of faith in redemption for ourselves. We limit our faith to systems, rote moral codes, social structures and rigid law. When we deem ourselves worthy of pronouncing final judgment on a soul as impossible of repentance, impossible of redemption, impossible of regeneration we…

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty

The death penalty

Like a middle manager
he sympathetically consults,
“There is really nothing
that I can do.”
This he smilingly says
as he pulls levers
and moves the gears
of the thousand ton machine.

“My hands are really tied”
and you would swear
a tear swells in the corner
of his aged lids.
His sad resignation
almost masks pudgy fingers
sliding and pushing buttons.

Brian Merrit, Evangelist and Founder of Mercy Junction of Chattanooga, and my friend, wrote this as he reflected on the impending execution of Kelly Gissendaner by the state of Georgia.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty

March with me on March 8

In commemoration of the 20-year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Presbyterian participants in the 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women will join the march for gender equality on International Women’s Day! Please join us and our partners, the City of New York, the UN Women for Peace Association, NGO CSW New York, Man Up Campaign, and the Working Group on Girls.

We will march through New York City midtown, starting at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza and ending on Times Square.

1:30 p.m. Participants begin to assemble (Dag Hammarskjold Plaza – 47th St and 2nd Ave)
2:30 p.m. March begins (see below map for the exact route)
4:15 p.m. Final convening point: Renewing commitments to gender equality (Times Square – 42nd St and 7th Ave)
5:00 p.m. March concludes

Participants are welcome to produce and bring their own banners with powerful messages calling for women’s rights.

If you attend the march, share your images and messages on social media via the hashtag #Beijing20, and follow @UN_Women on Twitter for coverage!

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Filed under Current Events, Human Rights

Glory, Selma, tears

On Sunday, at the First Presbyterian Church of Far Rockaway, I quoted the song “Glory” by John Legend and Common from the movie Selma.

The young people of the congregation helped lead the service. Not too long after the sermon, the dance troupe provided a liturgical dance.

As the notes to their opening song sounded over the PA system, Darnell turned to me and said, “It’s your song. It’s ‘Glory’.”

The moment led me to the conclusion I had to see Selma. When my friend Hazel proposed tea; I counter proposed we go to the movie. She agreed. We did.

I do not offer a review here, simply three observations.

  • Selma is a powerful, profound movie about the struggle to end racism in the United States. Many of the issues addressed in the movie remain with us. Some have morphed. Some stay the same. We have work to do.
  • I have been to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I was in Greensboro, Alabama to help rebuild the Rising Star Baptist Church. It had been burned in an arson fire. The rains came. Work stopped. We went to Selma to visit the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. After viewing the exhibits, the group went to the bridge. Some walked quickly and easily on to the bridge. I paused for prayer and reflection before I joined them on that holy ground.
  • I wept as I viewed Selma. Several times. Interestingly enough, my tears did not come during the scenes of brutality and hate, racism and violence. Those moments made me wince and broke my heart. Painful as they were, they did not elicit tears. Tears came as I watched moments of unspeakable courage, unbreakable love, and astounding grace.

I give thanks for those who lived the story told in Selma. I give thanks for those who retold the story of Selma. I give thanks for those who give of themselves today to finish the work begun so long ago.

To those who worshiped at the First Presbyterian Church of Far Rockaway, I gave homework. Listen to “Glory.”

To anyone who has read this far, I give homework. If you have not done so, listen to “Glory” and go view Selma.

See you along the Trail.


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Filed under Antiracism, Movie, Music

Let your mentors know

10898187_10205565343713833_2358578664913363875_nMy mentor and friend, the Rev. Dr. Otis Turner, is having a heart procedure next week. Please hold Otis, his wife Patsy, their family, and his care team in your prayers. It is a procedure he has had in the past and is reasonably simple. But it is his heart; and he is my dear friend.I remembered that today.

Otis worked for racial justice in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), our country and the world for more years than I can remember. He gave himself in the struggle.

Otis and I met while I served on the staff of the Presbytery of the Western Reserve. He was on General Assembly staff.

He quickly became my mentor and we developed a deep friendship that has placed a significant role in my ministry and my life.

Otis recruited me to work on the Facing Racism: In Search of the Beloved Community paper of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). After the General Assembly adopted the paper, I went to Louisville to work on its implementation. With Otis, and others.

For two good, important, life-shaping (for me at least) years, we worked together.Otis retired for health reasons shortly after I moved to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, but our friendship continued.

When he moved to Florida, we would talk on the phone every couple of months.And then, as it so often does, time slipped away. The time between calls grew longer and then extended to years.

Yesterday I spotted Patsy on Facebook. We became virtual friends. I asked about calling Otis. She said he would welcome a call.

When I called, it was as though no time had passed. Oh, he spoke more slowly and deliberately, but I likely did so as well.

We laughed. Tears welled in my eyes at times, and probably in his.

It was a sacred moment. A moment in which I learned of his upcoming surgery.

I have been praying since. I invite you to join me.

And I encourage you to contact one person who has been a mentor to you and let that person know!

Do it for the love of Otis.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Friends, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)