Category Archives: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Good reasons to come to Standing Rock – to do needed physical labor

On November 15, 2016, I had the privilege to go with Native American Presbyterian leaders to the Water Protector camps at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Among the reasons for people to come to Standing Rock is to do needed physical labor.

Darkness descended on the camp as we arrived.
We stood, watching the flames of the fire dance.
woodA man fed more wood, the smoke tickling our noses. 
“We need help in the kitchen.”
The voice came from behind.
I turned and walked across the compound. ”
What can I do?”
“Here’s a knife. Get some gloves in the back.
Help debone this suckling pig.”
That had never appeared on my resume.
But it was the work needed at the moment.
For the next thirty minutes, with Estrella and Quay,
I cut and tore meat from bone.
Meat from bone.
Meat from bone as a dog stared hungrily at my work.
“Healthy food,” Quay cheerfully told all who came and asked what was for supper.
“Ready in 45 minutes,” Brandon told everyone. No matter when they asked.
From around the fire came the sound of drums and song as we cut meat from bone.
Meat from bone.
Meat from bone. Until it was done.
I left the kitchen.
The dog stared.
The drums played.
The fire danced.
The people continued.

15 November 2016
Ft. Yates, North Dakota

Note – the photo, by my friend Buddy Monahan, shows me helping move firewood, another task I did for a time, a task that did not inspire bad poetry in the same way deboning did. 

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When incivility becomes the norm

by J. Herbert Nelson, II | Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly

This statement is a response to the violence on America’s streets after the election of Mr. Donald Trump as President–Elect of the United States of America. It was originally posted by the Presbyterian News Service

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson

LOUISVILLE – I read several post-election statements and heard news accounts of violence, riots, and protests while in Central America visiting Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission partners. The news images were shocking to both our partners and me. We struggled to understand the results of the election, particularly given Mr. Trump’s stance on immigration, which was the theme of my visit. However, I was not as startled as my Central American friends. Serving as director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., for six years prior to becoming Stated Clerk prepared me to understand the outcomes we face in electoral politics. Although I have shared parts of this writing before with congregations and audiences, there seemed to always be a sense of skepticism among the hearers. I proclaim the message once again, because the apparent shock for many has left people raising the question, “What happened?”

I wish to affirm in this moment that many in our congregations and communities hold legitimate fear about their safety and the protection of their human rights. We hold close our Muslim, Hispanic, African American, immigrant, and LGBTQ neighbors, and those from other marginalized groups. We hold close the women who give us life and the poor for whom daily bread is not promised. The rash of hateful harassment [1] reported in the wake of the election insists upon the urgency of the call to be one who “… executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:18–20, NRSV).

This writing is not a denial of the results of the election. President-Elect Trump is our newly elected leader. However, it is my hope that the post-election anger, pain, and frustration demonstrated on the streets will lay the foundation for a transformed political system in the years to come. Through coalition building and community organizing, we have an opportunity to create a vision of shared prosperity, safety, dignity, and justice that is truly inclusive and compelling to a broad base.

I insist, though, that no matter how robust the infusion of energy into the struggle for justice, it will never be worth the pain, suffering, and yes, death, which will be wrought by the promised policies of the incoming administration. My integrity as a spiritual leader commands me to face the reality that some of our communities are under grave threat. In my recent travels to El Salvador, I spoke with many who expressed fear for their family members’ safety in the U.S.; that the violence they fled El Salvador to escape would be brought upon them tenfold if they were deported back to their country of origin. People with preexisting conditions are troubled over what a sudden loss of healthcare would do to their wellbeing. Same-gender parents are rushing to finish their adoptions and secure their rights as a family. Survivors of sexual assault are contending with a culture that would elect to our highest office a known abuser. In this dark night, the doors of the Church are open as refuge, resource, and organizing home.

As Christians, we cannot accept a nation that normalizes violence, exclusion, and racism in our political rhetoric and public policy. We know God has called us to co-create a world where a dignified life is available to all, and anything less offers no suitable worship. In the coming months and years, “… From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Lk. 12:48 NRSV). We will be asked to open our church basements to late-night meetings, our sanctuaries to provide Sanctuary to those facing deportation, and to intervene in public harassment.

Just as the doors of the Church are open, so too are the doors to the movement for justice. We invite you to join us in our steadfast commitment to stand with the marginalized and our humble desire to contribute to strategy and vision that will help create the kingdom of God.

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Presbyterian advocacy group issues challenge to ‘raise our collective voice’

From the Advocacy Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns calls church to action

Press Release | ACREC

The Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC) calls the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to embody what it has confessed, “that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others. Therefore, we reject any ideology which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel.”
– Belhar Confession

People of color in the U.S. are being killed by police in disproportionate numbers because of the color of their skin, their race, and ethnicity. We condemn and lament the continued and routine killing of unarmed people of color particularly African American men and call for full investigations in the police killings of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Tyre King in Columbus, Ohio.

People of color in the U.S. live under surveillance, the threat of deportation, and constant systemic violence. We are alarmed by the Obama administration’s continuing pattern of deportation and family separation. We are alarmed by the ways in which police and ordinary citizens are deputized, formally and informally, to perpetuate this culture of surveillance and violence. We are alarmed by the persistence of anti-Muslim and Islamophobic rhetoric and policy proposals abounding in the current presidential campaign.

People of color in the U.S. are being attacked and criminalized for their courageous stands against police violence, greed, environmental injustice, and treaty violations. We condemn the use of militarized private contractors to remove the Native Americans encamped at the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers seeking to stop the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline that threatens water, earth, and indigenous sacred spaces.

People of color in the U.S. are reminded daily in explicit and implicit ways of the hold white supremacy has over the soul of this nation. White supremacy; as a church we must say it. It is white supremacy that lies at the root of the systemic violence that kills, suffocates the life, limits the mobility, and creates the logic for the policing and detention of people of color in the United States.

Given this reality, ACREC calls the members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to leave the comfort of their buildings to put their bodies on the line as co-conspirators in a movement for transformation, to stand for reparative justice instead of cheap reconciliation, to join communities of resistance, declaring that all people are created by God which means uttering without equivocation that Black Lives Matter!

We call the members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to support the efforts of those gathered at Standing Rock to protect the water, the land, and the generations of people whose lives are threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline expansion.

We call the teaching elders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to not just lament and pray for change but to challenge the members of their congregation to acknowledge and confess our participation in systems of oppression and to lead them to work for justice in and outside of the church.

We call the ruling elders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to exercise their spiritual and ecclesiastical leadership by creating and formulating ways for their congregation to engage in actions – economic and programmatic – that interrupt white supremacy.

ACREC strongly encourages the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and all of its members to join the mobilization of 5,000 prayers and/or actions around the world calling for water rights, clean air, and the restoration of the earth and its peoples by participating in the International Days of Prayer and Action with Standing Rock (October 8-11, 2016).

ACREC also strongly encourages the congregations and mid-councils of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to support the newly established Freedom Rising Fund created as a result of an action taken by the 222nd General Assembly (2016). This fund will support specific actions, “not just in word, but also in deed, to address and improve the worsening plight of the African American male.” Congregations and mid-councils are asked to direct a portion of the Peace and Global Witness Offering to this fund.

Finally, we urge our church and all of its members, especially those who are white, to join us in breaking silence. Commit with us to raise our collective voice not just to proclaim the good news of God’s grace but to call out injustice, to call out the forces that threaten to tear us apart with xenophobic, racist, and Islamophobic rhetoric. May we have the courage.

Buddy Monahan (Chair, ACREC)
Thomas Priest Jr.(Vice Chair, ACREC)

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The Until We Meet Again Tour – 22 August 2016, part 2

The evening gig for the Until We Meet Again Tour took place at the First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York where the Presbytery of New York City gathered to say farewell to Andy James. Andy will leave for a call as presbytery staff in New Hope Presbytery serving as their Associate for Small Church Ministry and Technology. He had served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone and the Stated Clerk of New York City Presbytery.

Andy invited me to speak at Whitesone as one of the first stops on the Welcome to New York City tour. He also involved the staff and interns of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations in Whitestone’s witness and work to end violence against women and girls. On the weekend when that initiative began, Ryan Smith spoke at the first event, and Jamie Tan and I attended a worship and witness in a nearby park.

Andy is a friend. He will be missed in the Presbytery of New York City. But our paths will cross in the days to come.

Thank you for your ministry, Andy. Godspeed on your new tour and in your new service.

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The Until We Meet Again Tour – 20 August 2016

UN Ministry New LogoThe Until We Meet Again Tour for today saw most of my time spent at the Shire packing, cleaning, and walking packages to the U.S. Post Office. The tour included finishing the appraisal for the final Princeton Theological Seminary field education student who served at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

He was the 36th.

36 field education students, volunteers, and volunteer interns who worked at the ministry from 2011 through this summer when I left.

36.

36 unique individuals.

Each with gifts and skills; each with challenges; each with faith and grace.

Each served Jesus Christ.

Each touched my life.

Each is remembered.

To each, I say thanks.

36.

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The Until We Meet Again Tour – 9 August 2016

The Until We Meet Again Tour involves visiting people and places. Preparations for the move play a role, particularly as the day of departure draws near, preparations that can take place inside in air conditioning. Packing of books, there are a lot of books, is among those preparations.

IMG_3645 (578x800)

 

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Act for peace for Korea

Act for peace on the Korean Peninsula – sign the petition asking the U.S. government to enter negotiations for a peace treaty. 0001-42

On July 27, 1953, the guns fell silent on the Korean peninsula. An armistice brought three years of war to an end. However, a peace treaty has never replaced this cease fire.

Tensions remain between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. At times tensions heighten. Periodically they boil over into violent clashes. The continuing conflict diverts precious resources from the welfare of the people on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone.

The United States holds a special responsibility for a peaceful resolution of the conflict as it occupied the southern part of the peninsula in 1945 and signed the armistice in 1953. The United States maintains a military presence in the Republic of Korea. Joint military exercises fuel the tension with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Churches in the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korean, the United States, and around the world have joined a campaign to call President Obama and Congress to enter negotiations now for a Korean peace treaty, without conditions, to replace the armistice agreement.

The Korean Peninsula has known separation and conflict since 1945. It is time, it is past time, for peace for Korea.

Sign the petition asking the U.S. government to enter negotiations for a peace treaty. Invite your friends to join you. Let’s give peace a chance.

 

 

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