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

From a moment to a movement #2

Thanks to the Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia for gathering sermons, prayers, and reflections from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on responding to the killing of Michael Brown and the response in Ferguson and addressing the systemic racism which ensnares us all.

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Gee, but it’s good to be back home – in a sense

The Trail has brought me to Pittsburgh for the meeting of the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The PC(USA), as it is known, is my employer.

I lived on Neville Island – seven miles downstream from the Point in Pittsburgh – where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers give birth to the Ohio River – until I was 9 or 10 years old (memory fades). In a sense, this is home.

Here’s what’s up with the Assembly:

The 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) began yesterday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Find a variety of ways to follow the business of the General Assembly (the next few days are spent in committees – we are Presbyterian).

The General Assembly consists of commissioners elected by presbyteries. Half of the commissioners will be Ministers of Word and Sacrament, half will be elders. Few will ever have been commissioners to the General Assembly before, but most will have served in one of the other governing bodies of our church: the session, which provides care and oversight of a local congregation; the presbytery, which provides care and oversight of a group of congregations; or the synod which provides care and oversight of several presbyteries.

It reviews the work of synods, resolves controversies in the church, is responsible for matters of common concern for the whole church, and serves as a symbol of unity for the church.

The General Assembly has several specific responsibilities outlined in Chapter 3 of the Book of Order. The assembly seeks to protect our church from errors in faith and practice, is responsible for assuring that the expression of our theology remains true to the biblical standards in our historic confessions. The General Assembly presents a witness for truth and justice in our community and in the world community. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies.

What this does not say is how much of my life this event has consumed and will consume. It is so consuming that it will likely slow down my blogging some.

See you around the Trail.

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Filed under Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

Tulip after the rain

After the Presbyterian Ecumenical Advocacy Days cruise,
which did indeed last only three hours – sorry Gilligan –
we returned to the hotel.

The rain stopped.
Its aftermath remained.

24 March 2012

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View from the bus

We took a bus to the boat for the Presbyterian cruise
during Ecumenical Advocacy Days.

It rained.

24 March 2012

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I prayed for Trayvon

I prayed for Trayvon Martin today during the Training Day sponsored by the Presbyterian Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries.

I had called my friend and colleague J. Herbert Nelson, the director of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness on Wednesday saying that we should remember Trayvon’s death in some way. He agreed. I said I would bring one of my hoodies.

I arrived in D.C. on Thursday and J. Herbert asked if I would pray and include a prayer for Trayvon. After some reflection and prayer, I came up with an idea.

I put my hoodie in my backpack and carried it with me to New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. After J. Herbert preached, we sang A Mighty Fortress. During the next to the last verse, I went up to the chair beside J. Herbert, put down my backpack, and got the wireless mic. When the hymn ended and the congregation sat down, I moved into the pulpit and began.

“Sometimes we pray with words. Sometimes we pray in silence. Sometimes we pray through symbolic actions. Today we will pray in all three ways.”

I left the pulpit, picked up my backpack, and moved to a table set up in the center of the pulpit area. The table would later be used for a panel presentation.

In silence, I opened my backpack, and removed my hoodie. I deliberately shook it out so all could see. I then held it as high above my head as I could and slowly rotated it so that it faced each part of the congregation. It also prevented me from making eye contact with anyone and bursting completely into tears.

After I had shown the hoodie to the whole congregation, I snapped the hood back and showed it to everyone again.

Then I put on the hoodie and slowly rotated so everyone could see me.

Finally, I raised the hood to cover my head and moved back to the pulpit.

There I prayed with words for Trayvon and for all children who are victims of overt violence – children whose names are known and whose stories are told, children who are known only to the family and friends who love them.

I prayed for all children who are victims of structural violence – economic injustice, racism, homophobia – the systemic realities that shape our lives and too often stunt and snuff out the lives of children.

I prayed for those who gathered in Washington, D.C. to engage in advocacy for justice in Jesus’ name. May we have the grace to move from a love of power and the wisdom and courage to continue our ministry of speaking truth in love to power – this weekend and always. May it be so.

I uncovered my head and stepped down from the pulpit. As I moved back to my seat I again made sure not to make eye contact.

I am grateful to J. Herbert for this opportunity. I wish I could do more. I will.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Human Rights, Photo

Around Christ’s table, under a rainbow flag

The West-Park Presbyterian Church congregation gathered around the communion table for the benediction and closing song. As I moved forward, I looked up. There I saw the rainbow flag hanging from the balcony (I should have taken a picture). I stood under the flag and around Christ’s table with the cross, the cup, the platen. A light went on for me.

West-Park Presbyterian is a “diverse and inclusive community of people. West-Park emphasizes a progressive, dynamic, and responsive theology that is ‘reformed and ever-reforming.'” The congregation has a deep, rich history of seeking justice – a history that is still being made as they engage in rebirth, working with their community to create a sweat-free neighborhood, and supporting programs ranging from the West Side Campaign Against Hunger to God’s Love We Deliver to Living Wage NY, Justice Will Be Served, the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association, the Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness, and more.

The congregation is developing a partnership with the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations as one way to make local-global connections. My colleague Ryan Smith was there last Sunday to speak of our ministry and global discipleship.

Today, West-Park’s pastor, and my friend, the Rev. Bob Brashear invited me to join him in a dialogue sermon. We reflected on changes in the Middle East and North Africa and how those will impact the work of the church, my passion in ministry, and the resources I use to keep current on events. The sharing of the offering and a hymn followed. Then, as is the custom, we gathered around the communion table.

There I saw the flag. There I realized that I had failed to share a wonderful joy during the time of prayer.

Yesterday, Scott Anderson – now the Rev. Scott Anderson – was ordained again as a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Scott had been ordained but had set aside his ordination in 1990 when members of the congregation he was serving learned that he is gay and threatened to use that against him.

For over 20 years, Scott has remained faithful to Christ, faithful to Christ’s Church, faithful to that manifestation of Christ’s church known as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). For over 20 years, Scott has remained steadfast to God’s call, serving in many capacities – most recently as the Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches.

For over 20 years, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had in place policies that denied Scott the possibility to serve in ordained ministry.

That changed this year with a change in the church’s constitution. The Rev. Scott Anderson’s took place because of that change.

That change occurred in part because of the witness of West-Park Presbyterian Church and other Presbyterians who have worked patiently, tirelessly, faithfully to open the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) to our GLBTQ sisters and brothers.

The More Light movement played an important role in this change. More Light congregations are those which made a public affirmation that sexual orientation alone would not be a bar to ordination. The first church in the denomination to make a formal statement from the pulpit declaring itself a More Light Church: West-Park Presbyterian Church.

I did not interrupt the response to the benediction; but when the last note ended, I slipped over to Bob and said, “You know, we should have given thanks for Scott’s ordination.” Bob did not miss a beat. He called the congregation back and around Christ’s table, we gave thanks to God.

See you along the Trail.

The photo shows the flag flown outside their living quarters by this year’s college staff at Ghost Ranch.

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Disappeared

I will not sleep well tonight.

Of course I rarely sleep well, but at least I will know why tonight. 

It is hard to sleep, at least for me, when my heart aches even more than usual.

I learned last night that Antonia Ariza went missing on September 1, 2011. The information came from our partners in the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia. Antonio has been working with the church for a number of years in their ministry of accompaniment with people who have been displaced in Colombia.
Despite the ongoing and repeated threats to his life, Antonio has remained committed to the cause of peace and justice for displaced persons in Colombia. He was continuing his tireless activities as president of the Atlántico chapter of the National Association of Displaced Persons of Colombia (ANDESCOL).    
Antonio’s whereabouts remain unknown. He has become one of the disappeared.
The IPC is mounting a search for him and are pressing his case to all authorities in Colombia. Presbyterians are joining in the effort. I spent a good portion of the day working with partners from the Colombia Accompaniment Program on a letter to the US Embassy in Bogota from Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The letter is at the request of the IPC and is shaped by information they provided.
The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has identified action steps to take. The list was created with the assistance of Rev. Sarah Henken, Regional Liaison for the Andean Region for Presbyterian World Mission. The steps are designed to pressure the authorities in Colombia to place the highest priority possible in the search for Antonio. 
Here’s an update from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship on the action steps: 

Update:

Thank you so much to everyone for your outreach in regards to the case of Antonio Ariza. We have received word from the US Embassy in Bogota today through numerous channels that they have our information and that they are working on his case.

We have also received feedback from many of our loyal grassroots supporters that they are experiencing issues with email bounce-backs from both US and Colombian addresses that we have provided you with. We apologize for this inconvenience, be assured that the addresses are correct, but their systems have a number of safeguards to prevent spam, and due to the volume of emails we have generated, some of them are being turned away by the automated systems. We have no control over this.

At this time we do not need to continue to send faxes to the US Embassy. They have received our message, and additional faxes would probably be counterproductive since they have been flooded today by our organization and our partner organizations. Please continue to fax/email the offices of Colombian officials as able.

Thank you so much—your solidarity means so much and we will continue to keep you posted about our continued advocacy for Antonio. Your prayers continue to be of great need and comfort to all in this time.

–The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

I had the privilege to meet Antonio when I was in Colombia during Holy Week and Easter of 2011. My heart breaks for him, for his family, for his friends, and for all who have been disappeared. My heart breaks that we live in a world where some people think they can simply make people with whom they disagree, people who threaten them, disappear. And not only are there people who think that – they are in position to make it happen.
May God’s peace be with Antonio – with his family – with his friends – with the people of of the IPC – with all who been disappeared – with all who sleep poorly tonight as they wait and worry for loved ones.
See you along the trail. I look forward to the day I see Antonio.

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Filed under Current Events