I choose the way of life

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has apparently urged students, staff and faculty at his Christian school to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon on campus. The purpose seems to be protection in the event of an attack.

“Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” Falwell reportedly said.

This from a man who purports to follow Jesus who told Peter to put away his sword.

But Falwell further appears to have added an Islamphobic remark.

“I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” Falwell said.

Donald Trump issued a call to bar Muslims from entering the United States.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” a campaign press release reportedly said.

This from a man who claims to follow Jesus who continually crossed lines of prejudice and discrimination.

To Falwell and to Trump, I say “No! You do not speak for me.”

I reject these messages of hate.

I reject these messages of hate because of what I understand it to mean to be a citizen of the United States of America. We are the home of the brave and courage comes from inside ourselves and among ourselves not from being armed to the teeth and shooting first. The message of Lady Liberty is a message of welcome not a message of exclusion.

F26 Lift Highlands Camp, CO 25 August 2012

I reject these messages of hate because they are incompatible with my faith in Jesus.

Jesus calls us to include not to divide; to love not to fear; to respond to violence with creative nonviolence. Jesus invites us to live into hope; to make ourselves vulnerable; to build and nurture community.

The world is a scary place. I know that.

However, responding with weapons and violence and judgement and exclusion leads only to more fear, destruction, and death.

The way to life, and it takes hard, hard work,  is to recognize we are all God’s children, created with an amazing diversity, to honor God’s image in one another, and to love one another. It will involve challenges and risks and pain and sorrow. But it will also involve grace amazing and joy abounding and blessings abundant.

So I reject these, and all, messages of hate. And I choose the way of life. I will protest hate and I will love as well as I am able.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events

Dear fellow Presbyterians

The Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, vice-moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has posted a call to Presbyterians to “stand up and demand more, both of ourselves and others” in responding to gun violence. Her words apply to all of us; the resources she cites may be used by anyone.

Dear friends and colleagues,

You have seen the facts: we’ve had more mass shootings this year than there are days, we are 5% of the world population and account for 1/3 of its mass shootings, and that there was not one but two shootings in our country on December 2 (and that’s what made the news).

I spent much of last night posting overtures and reports from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I didn’t do this just because I am the vice moderator and feel as though I need to inform others about the resources that our at our fingertips. Each Sunday when I opened the bulletin of my church, I would read, “We are all ministers of the church.” I didn’t really think that much about the statement growing up. There is not a hierarchy. There isn’t a boss who demands certain actions. We are all ministers doing the work we are called to on this earth.

We are a denomination of words. We’re great at policy making and debate. Some would even say experts! But as I watched the news unfold yesterday and today, I am reminded that we are all ministers.

It’s time for us stand up and demand more, both of ourselves and others. We have the policies and words to back us up. We know what the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) states about gun violence. It’s now up to us to do something about it. We can no longer avoid the tough conversations with our neighbors in the pews, leave the messaging to the preacher in the pulpit, rely on our pastors to do the leg work in our communities or believe that a statement from the denomination will be enough.

We are all ministers. We are all the Church.

We’ve engaged in a churchwide conversation about the identity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I want us to continue to engage in policy and statement making because it’s a way that we have a voice in the national conversation. But I also hope that our identity involves the local congregations to presbyteries to synods to the national leadership doing the hard, tough work of educating/engaging one another and our politicians in demanding changes to address gun violence. I want to be a part of a denomination that recognizes the historical reality of America that racializes others when faced with fear and decides to respond with love; we need to look no further than the Japanese internment, a black teenager wearing a hoodie, a Sikh man questioned about his Muslim beliefs, or news outlets that yesterday said the shooters names sounded, “foreign.” I want us to remember the photographs of Aylan Kurdi washing up on the Turkish beach and we open our doors to welcome more Syrian refugees because others pull back in suspicion.

Let’s not just talk about who we are as a denomination…let’s live it.

Gun Violence Prevention from 221st General Assembly (2014)

Gun Violence Policy from 219th General Assembly

Resource created for congregations based on the policy from 219th General Assembly

“Trigger” (A film created by David Barnhardt based on the policy from 219th General Assembly. It includes 4 lesson discussion guide if you purchase from PDS)

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

Choose welcome

Here’s a piece written by Ryan Smith, my colleague at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations about responding to the call of the Rev. Gradye Parsons to “chose welcome” in relation to refugees. 

Our Stated Clerk, the Reverend Gradye Parsons invited Presbyterians to take a selfie with a banner saying “We Choose Welcome,” responding to fear of Syrian refugees. This week, my colleagues at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville joined together in the chapel to choose welcome themselves.

As I sat in my office in New York, across the street from the United Nations, I thought about welcome. I thought, as Rev. Parsons reminded us of the innkeeper not welcoming Mary and Joseph. I thought about our recognition of World AIDS Day and was reminded that it wasn’t until 2009 that HIV/AIDS status was no longer something that could block entry or green card status here in the United States.

I watch the flags float in front of the United Nations and am reminded that the UN, an intergovernmental body’s own Charter begins with “We the peoples…”

I am reminded that we are all “we the peoples.” No matter where you are born, where you live, what faith you practice, who you love, what race you are, or so much more. We the peoples are determined (as the United Nations Charter reminds us) “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…” “to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours…”

So we choose welcome!

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations joins others in the faith community in advocating justice and peace within the United Nations system, including with governments from across the globe. The United Nations Charter sets the goal to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetimes has brought untold sorrow to mankind…”

While we have not seen a third World War, the succeeding generations of the authors of the United Nations Charter have seen war, conflict, strife. We know that right now, the UN estimates that more than 60 million people are displaced by violence and conflict. Presbyterians join ecumenical, interfaith and secular partners in advocating here at the United Nations, the one global roundtable.

A refugee himself, John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion said, “We are not to reflect on the wickedness of men but to look to the image of God in them, an image which, covering and obliterating their faults, an image which, by its beauty and dignity, should allure us to love and embrace them.” We should love and embrace all, no matter who they are or where they are from.

In this Advent season of anticipation and hope, I am thankful to be part of a community who today, across the street from the United Nations, joined Presbyterians in affirming “We Choose Welcome!”

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Filed under Current Events, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, United Nations

An invitation to “Choose Welcome”

I have posted one of my sermons about refugees as well as sermon from the Rev. Randy Clayton. Here’s a post from the blog of the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

I can count on one hand the number of times I have spent Christmas in my own home as an adult. We have shared that day with grandparents and other family. In a pre-Amazon era, we hid presents among the luggage and spent those days on the road just like Joseph and Mary. But of course I knew that my bed was there to welcome me when it was all over.saint mark presbyterian church holding a sign saying we choose welcome

Right now the United Nations says there are more than 60 million people displaced on our war-weary planet who will probably never see their home again. That’s the largest number ever recorded. They have left their homes because of violence, poverty, and fear. There is a story repeated around the world. Some armed men come to your house. They demand money from the parents. They demand that the son joins their gang. They want to sell the daughter into the sex trade underworld. You can’t go to the authorities because the gang is the authorities. What do you do as parents? You flee with your family.

As a church of 1.6 million people we can’t take in 60 million even if our government allowed it. But we can help change the way people talk about the 60 million. I recently put out a Facebook challenge asking congregations to take a selfie with a We Choose Welcome banner. The challenge was to send the photo to their public officials. One congregation that accepted the challenge is St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville, Maryland. I want to give them a shout out.

Maybe your congregation is not ready to go on record on this issue. But sometime over the next Advent days we are going to once again bash the innkeeper for having no room for Joseph and Mary. So perhaps that can be a teachable moment for all of us.

Thank you Gradye!

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Advent, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Nations

The time is now


Nicole Kung, NK Body Philosophy:
 It isn’t the falling that matters. It’s the getting back up.

Alfred Pennyworth: Why do we fall sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up
Bruce Wayne: You still haven’t given up on me?
Alfred Pennyworth: Never.

In my efforts at self-care, I have fallen often.

I have learned  how to pick my self up.IMG_3419

Family and friends, long-time and new, have never given up on me.

As the year comes to a close, with holidays and football games and all sorts of challenges ahead, I begin again. Again. The time is now (also from Nicole).

As in the recent past, I will attempt to post results on Steps along the Trail. You are welcome to follow. Or not.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Exercise, Family, Food, Friends

Purple flowers – Battery Park 5

IMG_8366 (800x533)

25 November 2015
Battery Park
Manhattan, New York

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Purple flowers – Battery Park 4

IMG_8347 (800x533)

25 November 2015
Battery Park
Manhattan, New York

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Filed under New York, Photo