Purple flowers, Old Louisville 9

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9 April 2017
Louisville, Kentucky

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Easter 2017

lenten-reflections-on-the-confession-of-belhar“Brokenness, disunity, and hatred are evident all over the planet. The world needs the witness Belhar calls the church to live out in the world. The church’s primary responsibility is to love God so fully that God’s saving presence shines through her like light in the midst of darkness. The church then becomes a beacon of hope, a lighthouse on the shore of a storm-tossed sea. By confessing, internalizing, and living out the principles of Belhar in her own experience, the church positions herself to become what Henri Nouwen calls, ‘a wounded healer.'”
Mark Lomax
Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar

Christ is risen! Christ’s proclamation that God loves us and Christ’s call to love God and one another provide words of hope in this broken and fearful world.

This Lenten season have used a new resource to explore the Belhar Confession: Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar, edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in which I serve as a teaching elder (pastor), added the Confession of Belhar to our Book of Confessions in 2016. This confession came from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa. I am grateful to Kerri and Donald and all the authors.

See you along the Trail.

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Don’t slow the pace, stop the executions

On this Saturday after Good Friday, my mind has turned to the death penalty.

The state of Arkansas has scheduled eight executions (note that the article was written after a court blocked one of the executions) from 17 April through 27 April. The reason for the haste appears to be that one of the drugs the state has on hand to use in the execution will expire. The drug in question, midazolam, is a controversial sedative that will be one of three drugs used in the lethal injections.

In addition to the usual concerns about the use of the death penalty and the controversy surrounding the use of midazolam, questions have been raised about the impact of the pace of the executions on the people who will carry them out. Corrections officials who have overseen executions are among those speaking out. It is important to note that their letter addresses the pace of the executions. It does not ask the governor to halt the executions. As the Washington Post reports:

In a letter to [Arkansas Governor Asa] Hutchinson last month, two dozen such officials pleaded with him to change the pace, warning that “performing so many executions in so little time will impose extraordinary and unnecessary stress and trauma” on the corrections officials.

“Even under less demanding circumstances, carrying out an execution can take a severe toll on corrections officers’ wellbeing,” they wrote.

Jerry Givens, who signed the letter and spent 17 years as Virginia’s chief executioner, said corrections officers are already under enough pressure before taking on the added weight of multiple executions.

The Washington Post further reports there is concern that the timing may lead to a mistake.

Givens and the other corrections officials also worry that the pace “will increase the chance” of a mistake. They pointed to the last state that intended to carry out two executions in one night: Oklahoma, which bungled the execution of Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer, in 2014.

Lockett grimaced, writhed and appeared to be in pain during the process, witnesses said, dying a short time after the execution was called off. In a state review, authorities wrote that the execution team placed the IV incorrectly and that officials involved described a feeling of extra stress and urgency because a second execution was scheduled for the same night.

Courts have intervened to slow the process. The Death Penalty Information Center notes that there has been a Federal preliminary injunction against execution method that applies to all the death-row inmates. There has also been a State preliminary injunction against use of vecuronium bromide in execution that also applies to all the inmate.

In addition, one execution has been stayed by the Arkansas Supreme Court to allow the inmate’s competency to be executed to be litigated. And a Federal district court has issued a preliminary injunction staying the execution of a second inmate until Arkansas Parole Board complies with 30-day public notice period on the Board’s 6-1 recommendation to grant clemency and Governor Hutchinson decides whether to grant or deny clemency.

Nothing justifies the actions of the eight individuals on death row. All eight of them were convicted of capital murder. I grieve for the family and friends of their victims. I grieve for absent places and empty spaces.

But execution is not the answer. It will not restore their victims to life. It will not make the families and friends of those they killed whole.

Execution says more about us than it does about the person we execute. It lowers us to the level of those who kill.

Nothing justifies their actions. But execution is not the answer. Life imprisonment is. And that life imprisonment needs to be secure. At least one of the inmates committed murder after he escaped. That is not an argument for his execution; it is a wake-up call to the prison system.

The pace concerns me. But so does the idea of execution at all. I have contacted Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and asked him to grant clemency.

It is time to end the death penalty.

See you along the Trail.

 

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Lent 2017, day 46

lenten-reflections-on-the-confession-of-belhar“… Belhar claims the one God, revealed in Jesus Christ and present through the Holy Spirit, will be present and active when human lives are demeaned, threatened by violence, hemmed in, and held down by law, tradition, and institutional racism.”
John M. Buchanan
Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar

This Lenten season I am using a new resource to explore the Belhar Confession: Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar, edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in which I serve as a teaching elder (pastor), added the Confession of Belhar to our Book of Confessions in 2016. This confession came from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

See you along the Trail.

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Lent 2017, day 45

lenten-reflections-on-the-confession-of-belhar“The mind of Christ joins us to Belhar’s great themes, struggling toward visible unity and reconciliation as we stand by the suffering. Many of us have great privilege, thanks to the color of our skin, the families of our birth, the value of our education, and the esteem of our professions. Others of us have less privilege, and face challenges the more privileged can only imagine. Still, nearly all of us have some privilege in some given context.

“No matter our privilege, the gospel calls us to use our power to follow Jesus Christ. He gave up his power in order to serve, so that one day every knee should bend and every tongue confess that he is Lord.

“What does this look like in your world?”
Charles B. Hardwick
Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar

This Lenten season I am using a new resource to explore the Belhar Confession: Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar, edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in which I serve as a teaching elder (pastor), added the Confession of Belhar to our Book of Confessions in 2016. This confession came from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

See you along the Trail.

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Lent 2017, day 44

lenten-reflections-on-the-confession-of-belhar“The calling upon our lives is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Yet how can we do this when evil besets us, injustices overtake us, and the lives of black and brown folk are under attack? As we wander in the wilderness with Jesus during this Lent, there is a litany of names we could call right now as we wrestle with the militarization of the police–the names of boys and girls, and men and women who have been killed by police officers; and the names of unarmed people whose crime was being black. Additionally, the violence in our nation and the unattended spiritual and mental care of folks has precipitated last summer’s killing of police officers and members of the LGBTQ community at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida. … Belhar offers us insight on how to facilitate reconciliation and stand in solidarity with the oppressed.”
Floretta Watkins
Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar

This Lenten season I am using a new resource to explore the Belhar Confession: Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar, edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in which I serve as a teaching elder (pastor), added the Confession of Belhar to our Book of Confessions in 2016. This confession came from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

See you along the Trail.

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Lent 2017, day 43

lenten-reflections-on-the-confession-of-belhar“The church is not gilded sanctuaries, stained glass windows, padded pews, cushy carpets, table, and font. The church is people from every nation, culture, and ethnicity who (1) call on and believe in God through Christ; (2) are consequently filled with God’s Spirit and led by God’s word to light candles in the shadows of life; (3) live among and act in unity with people who’ve been abandoned, pushed to the margins of society, and disenfranchised; and (4) advocate for justice on the steps of the courthouse or the statehouse, serving the present age in ways that reconcile disparate peoples and groups.”
Mark Lomax
Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar

This Lenten season I am using a new resource to explore the Belhar Confession: Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar, edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in which I serve as a teaching elder (pastor), added the Confession of Belhar to our Book of Confessions in 2016. This confession came from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

See you along the Trail.

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