Monthly Archives: September 2013

A call to act on Syria

Photos by Paul Jeffrey, ACT

Dr. Mary Mikhael of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon reflects on the crisis in Syria.

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

May insight into Syria lead to action

1236420_590326721006111_1853073050_nConcerned about the crisis in Syria? Want to learn more? Want to respond?

In a series of video clips, Dr. Mary Mikhael of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon helps provide insight and understanding of the situation in Syria.

There are several ways to help the people of Syria. Here are some responses through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Additional resources from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) related to Syria are also available. 

Since the outbreak of armed conflict in Syria, Dr. Mary Mikhael has been interpreting the consequences of this tragedy for the Syrian and Lebanese people, particularly the Christian communities, on behalf of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. From 1994­ to 2011, Dr. Mikhael was president of the Near East School of Theology (NEST), Beirut, Lebanon, the first woman seminary president in the Middle East. She served on the NEST faculty from 1984 until her retirement. She received her Masters degree from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia, and her EdD from Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary. A Presbyterian born in Syria to Greek Orthodox parents, Dr. Mikhael is active in ecumenical and interfaith initiatives. She is a noted authority on the church in the Middle East and the role of women in the church.

On September 10, 2013 the Office of Public Witness arranged a day of visits for Dr. Mikhael on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. On September 12 and 13, 2013 the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations arranged visits for her in the UN community. Public events for Dr. Mikhael to speak to Presbyterians were held in both Washington and New York.

The videos are excerpts from a conversation Mary and I had at the office of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations on September 11, 2013 with David Barnhart (who took the photo of the interview) and Scott Lansing doing the video work.

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Filed under Current Events, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and Grace Ji-Sun Kim in conversation

The blog has featured Grace Ji-Sun Kim  and her book, Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit this week.

The series features an excerpt from her book that focused on Consumerism and Overconsumption.

Related posts include a brief review of Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit by Cynthia Holder Rich of and two conversations between Cynthia and Grace:

A Conversation with Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Part I

A Conversation with Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Part II

Lots of good stuff here. Thanks to Cynthia and Grace for this series!

See you along the Trail.


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Filed under Books, Friends

For all who worked to stop this

This afternoon 217 members of the House of Representatives voted to cut $40 billion over the next 10 years from SNAP (formerly Food Stamps). This will cut some 4 million people from the program, reduce benefits for others, and deny free school lunch to 210,000 children.

The question is not decided.

The Senate, particularly Democrats in the Senate, has expressed deep concerns. The White House has threatened a veto if the bill passes in this form.  The conversation will continue.

For now I grieve that elected officials could make such a decision. I give thanks for my friend and colleague Leslie Woods and all who worked for a different decision.  And I prepare for future opportunities for advocacy and witness.

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Filed under Current Events, Food

Grace Ji-Sun Kim on Consumerism and Overconsumption

Graces BookIn a post that originally appeared in and then on her own blog, Grace Ji-Sun Kim shares an excerpt from her book, Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit.

Here are some teasers that may inspire you to check out the blog and the the book:

One of the problems the Western world is facing today is how to live a life so that all of humanity can flourish and not just a select few wealthy people.

When one looks at the world today, an inescapable fact is the vastly unequal distribution of assets, wealth, affluence, and life prospects. We live in a world where a relatively small number of people, about one-sixth the world’s total population of approximately seven billion people, have a preponderant share of the planet’s wealth and resources, while a significant majority of the remaining six billion lead lives marked by insecurity, poverty, misery, disease, and death.

Today, as capitalism and consumerism drive the modern version of colonization known as globalism, the gap between the haves and have-nots widens beyond anything ever known in history. This unequal distribution of wealth is taking a toll on the fragile planet and ecosystems that we all belong to. What drives the rich to consume all the resources is understood to drive the economy, so many of the rich people’s practices are not challenged or even questioned.

After reflecting on the perils that the drive to consume pose to people and planet alike, Kim presents an alternative vision:

The real wealth of a nation is its people, and the purpose of development is to create an environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, and creative lives.  The good life is defined by the use of money to help people have decent, fulfilling lives. The good life is not having “more and more” but “enough” …

Kim addresses the tension within which humans live – a tension between freedom and limits – a tension expressed in Genesis 3. She goes on to explore the human role as a “steward.” She notes that too often humans chose to act, not as the stewards God intends us to be, but as bandits: cue Kurosawa and The Seven Samurai. 

The image of the steward intrigues me. Tolkien plays with the question of stewardship in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 1992 – as the United States marked the 500th anniversary of the invasion by or arrival of (depending on one’s point of view) of the Europeans in what we now know as the Americas – I preached a sermon contrasting the role of conquistador with steward. As Kim notes,  “It is not easy being God’s stewards, living in a garden where so much more is possible than is beneficial.”

Kim notes the warnings we are receiving about the consequences of our current consumer lifestyle of overconsumption. And she wonders if we will heed the signs and examine and change our ways of “being and living.”

There is much to ponder in the post. There are many topics for conversation. I encourage you to check it out!

See you along the Trail.



Filed under Books

Stop a New Round of U.S. Nuclear Missile Tests

From the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

In 1983, the U.S. Navy planned to name a nuclear submarine the U.S.S. Corpus Christi. Many protested naming a warship the “Body of Christ.” The compromise was to name the submarine the U.S.S. City of Corpus Christi. Not much of a compromise to my thinking.

This story does not quite fall to that level of inappropriateness. But it is close. There are plans to conduct nuclear tests on or near two important days for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons. Act now to call for the cancellation of these tests.

Two dates this month have special significance to those who want to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons: the International Day of Peace (September 21) and the UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament (September 26).

Instead of honoring the significance of these dates and working in good faith to achieve nuclear disarmament, the United States has chosen to schedule two tests of its Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile on September 22 and September 26.

Just hours after the International Day of Peace ends, the U.S. plans to launch a Minuteman III – the missile that delivers U.S. land-based nuclear weapons – from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Then, on the same day that most countries will send their head of state or foreign minister to New York for the UN’s first-ever High-Level Meeting on nuclear disarmament, the U.S. plans to send another Minuteman III missile from California to the Marshall Islands.

These missiles are designed to carry nuclear warheads capable of killing thousands of times more people than the chemical weapons used in Syria.

Your actions have helped stop Minuteman III tests before: in 2011 on the International Day of Peace, and in 2012 on the anniversary of the largest-ever nuclear weapon test conducted by the U.S. (Castle Bravo in the Marshall Islands).

We need your support to stop these two tests as well. Send a message to President Obama, telling him to cancel these two provocative nuclear missile tests and to attend the UN High-Level Meeting on September 26.

I called for these tests to be cancelled. You can too!

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Filed under Current Events, United Nations

Purple livery

IMG_3535 (800x533)

There are some flowers,
but mostly there is that

Central Park
Manhattan, New York
14 September 2013

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Filed under New York, Photo