Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Rev. Moss, Trinity and Thanksgiving

Obama Pastor Otis Moss: Don't Let Enemy Tell You How To Act

I find myself watching video clips on the Internet of Trinity United Church of Christ and of Rev. Moss and I am getting angry. I am getting angry at the less than subtle racism used to diminish this church and the one dimensional thinking used to understand or describe this church.

Is this a church that courts controversy? Of course it is. Are Christians to be complacent and accept things as is? Of course not. We are called upon to love our enemies, forgive, forgive and then forgive some more. We are called upon to turn the other check. So while I support Israel 100% I don’t assume that others who support talking with Hamas are supporting terrorism. It means talking with the enemy. It does not imply giving in to an enemy.

Fact Check: Reverend Otis Moss on Obama's Faith

Louis Farrakhan was honored in this church. I would not do that but I do not assume it means the church is honoring his past racists and anti-Semitic remarks. I assume they are honoring his compassionate works and his change of heart. Are we to accept that African-Americans can forgive and embrace George Wallace but they cannot believe that a Black leader can change? Or are we saying we cannot believe a Black leader can change? Even if their decision to honor this man is wrong it was done through the principles of love, reconciliation and acceptance. We need more of that, even if the world says it is naive.

Pastors Wright & Otis Moss III: The Enemy of Obama's Church

I watch commentators and bloggers refer to the church as “Gangster’s Paradise” or as “Obama’s Crackpot Church”. It is reduced to being described as pro Hamas, anti Israel, as an “outrageous church”, outside the norm and “that joke of a church”. I suspect this is all by people who believe they are practicing Christian Charity.

United Church of Christ

Now I don’t believe this is a perfect church without problems. Many of Rev. Wright’s comments were outrageous and divisive. I believe they were the exception to the rule but they were still a problem. Rev. Pfleiger looked as if he was seduced by the feedback from an audience. I can see that happening to me, getting lost in the moment and the feelings and reactions becoming more important than the message only to realize it too late. So, it is agreed, it is a church full of humans. But it is a church of Christians who combine faith and works.

What do they do besides preach and worship? Well, ministries include:
Senior Services, Adopt a Student, Africa Ministry, Athletes for Christ,
Can-Cer-Vive, Career Development, Caribbean Connection: This ministry is our Afrocentric congregation's attempt to educate our North American members about the many aspects of the Caribbean culture..
Church in Society: continually seeks ways and opportunities to educate, inform and empower the congregation and community to understand, identify and to be effective advocates for social justice policies that better our lives and our world.

Church School, Counseling, Alcohol and Drug Rehab, Literacy Training, Marriage Counseling, Domestic Violence Ministry, Dance Ministry, Grief and loss Ministry, Food Share, HIV/AIDS Ministry, ministry for young men and women coming of age and so, so much more.
All f this is Christ Centered.

So, maybe the podium is a place that allows for some easy sound bites for those who want to diminish this congregation for their own purposes. But wake up, how many of our churches provide this much love and contribution to our neighborhoods? This is a church that has grown to a membership of 6000. It rejects a silo mentality and works with others in the community. I find far more at this church worthy of honor and thanksgiving than to be critical of. Rev. Moss and Trinity will be in my prayers and they will be prayers of thanksgiving.

We Are Trinity United Church of Christ

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Kenya and the Church Struggling to Heal Wounds

We have always known that Catholics and other Christians are never believers living outside of their time and culture. That is clear in Kenya. The Catholic Church is struggling to help heal a nation that had been ravaged by violent tribalism after the last election. The Catholic Church has been viewed as aligned with the ruling party. There is now a coalition/unity government. Many are calling for amnesty and the releasing of prisoners. The government refuses.

Muslims have been less involved in the ethnic rivalry that marked the post election crisis. All religious groups are searching for a way to move toward healing but events are still current and the pain is raw.

Bishop Walter Obare of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya says that religion is in crisis in Kenya because it has been so politicized. Cardinal John Njue has opposed amnesty for youth arrested for post election violence. The Church is now seen as a tool of the government. Many of the opposition members have accused religious leaders in Kenya of being morally bankrupt. Many point to the early days of Kenya independence when clergy were seen as the defenders of the people and willing to speak truth to power.

So what is being done? The Catholic Church in Kenya has called for a six month pastoral healing program for the nation. 48 Kenyans will lead a pilgrimage to Namugongo Shrine to begin the period of healing. The pilgrims will pass through refugee camps in Uganda. At each camp they will pray and preach peace-making.

1,500 peace flags will be distributed to the parishes in Kenya. The flags will then be displayed. 20,000 pamphlets will be distributed, each with the Prayer of St. Francis on it.

30 clergy will then climb Mount Kenya and plant both a Peace Flag and the Kenyan National Flag at the summit.

Additional activities include programs as sports stadiums, distributing books on Christian values, renaming streets, bridges and specific sites and dedicating the sites to peace.

This weekend there is a 3 day conference on peace and justice. This will be followed up by a year long on youth and civic responsibility.

The Church, the religious leaders of all denominations and even of other faiths, along with the citizen of Kenya have a difficult challenge in front of them. The church has developed a robust plan to promote healing. Let us pray that loving your neighbor becomes more important than loving your Party.

Amnesty: Gross human rights violation

Saying Goodbye to the Pilgrimage and Hello to the Journey

Vatican (St Peter's Basilica, Square and Church) Rome Italy

Well today is the last full day in Rome for our Franciscan pilgrims. Our school has participated in the AFCU and Franciscan Pilgrimage program for a number of years. We have sent pilgrims with the leadership program in the fall, the faculty and staff program in early summer and the student programs in the winter. This opportunity to walk and live where the saints walked and lived, to worship at Sacred sites including the Vatican and to share with one another has to be having a powerful effect on our ability to integrate our Franciscan Spiritual and Intellectual Traditions into the fabric of our campus life.

Today the pilgrims will join the crowd at St. Peter’s Square praying the Angelus with Pope Benedict XVI. I am excited for them.

When we were in Rome the Pope was in Poland on Wed., the day of his audiences. The rest of the week youth groups and religious from around the world streamed in and out of the Papal Apartments waving flags, playing musical instruments, singing and shouting “Viva Papa”! We never saw him but his influence was very real. At night we would walk through the square and his apartment light was on late into the night, he is a busy man!

Our pilgrims will also go to St. Paul outside the Walls. We never visited there either. I think the fact that so much of the pilgrimage each year is the same and yet there are significant difference helps us grow. We share our common experiences. However, out of curiosity we are compelled talk and share about the experiences that make each year different and unique. We just keep learning from one another. I cannot wait to hear about their last day experiences.

Our pilgrims have already said Farwell to Assisi. That is the hardest part of the trip. Tomorrow they will say farewell to Rome and Italy. They will be a little sad but oh so happy to have so much to share. I will say farewell to our pilgrims and their time in Italy and “welcome home”. Then pilgrims, when things calms down, download your photos, get on your computer, write up your favorite or most powerful experiences and share them on the blog with the rest of us.

Welcome home pilgrims.

Papal Audience