Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Michael Brown and Darren Wilson--we need a trial

I’m always most interested in what brings people together instead of what tears them apart.  That is why I wish the St Louis County Grand Jury would have issued a charge against Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown.

I don’t know what happened on that August 7 night.  And unless we were there none of us do either.  That is why we need a trial.  We need a legal process to determine justice and judgment. 

Because a trial won’t happen Michael Brown’s killing will be viewed through the prism of the media and the prism of race. 

Already Darren Wilson was interviewed on ABC news to share his side of the story.  I watched Lesley Mc Spadden, Michael Brown’s mother, share her side of the story on CBS news this morning.  I can understand why both of them would want to share their story.  But without cross-examination and the rules of a fair trial these interviews fuel the divide that exists.

It’s not surprising that a Huffington Post survey shows that 62 percent of African Americans believe that Darren Wilson was at fault in the killing and that 22 percent of whites believe the same.

I can understand why people all over the country have protested since the decision was announced on Monday night.  Violent protests are never justified, but civil disobedience in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is. 

But the story is not about the protestors.  The story is how race affects the criminal justice system in an unfair way.

I can understand how African-Americans can believe that the criminal justice system is rigged against them.  Because of my skin color I don’t have to worry about being stopped by a police officer for walking down the street.  In many parts of America that isn’t the case for African-Americans.  

The lack of a trial against Darren Wilson will continue the belief among many African-Americans and others including me that when an African-American is killed the justice system often does not operate fairly.

Our country needs a trial.  Without a trial justice will not be served.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reflections on November Presbytery meeting

This past Tuesday I had the privilege of attending the November meeting of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities area that was held at Macalester-Plymouth church that is on the campus of Macalester college.

I arrived early to set up a table for Chain of Lakes.  I passed out many brochures about our new congregation’s move to a facility we’re calling our new home on Davenport.  Our new congregation will have a permanent space in a well-traveled area in Blaine.  As soon as the way is clear we will no longer be a portable church.  This facility is not on our church property, but it’s in an area where many people who live near our property travel.  We are very grateful that the Church Development Team and the Board of Trustees of the Presbytery have helped us in this move.  We don’t have a move-in date yet, but I believe we will be able to start worship there before the end of the year. 

This will be our fifth facility in five years.

The highlight of the meeting for me was the examination of Kate O’Brien-Soltau and Lisa Ellwoods.  Kate has been attending Chain of Lakes since December 2012.   She was looking for a Presbyterian congregation in the north Metro and found Chain of Lakes.  I know that many people in our new congregation have helped and nurtured her in the final stages of her ordination process.

Kate was asked four questions.  At the end of the examination the Presbytery voted unanimously to ordain her as a Teaching Elder.

Right after that Lisa Ellwoods was examined.  Lisa is a member of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and has been working as an intern at Chain of Lakes since September.  Lisa started a house church in Montrose and learned the importance of being involved in a connectional church.  She didn’t come to faith until later in her life.  She has a keen understanding of what it means to be disconnected from church and God. 

At the end of her examination the Presbytery voted unanimously to move her to the Candidate stage in her process.

Some of the staff from Chain of Lakes came to the Presbytery meeting to watch these examinations.  Afterwards we all went out to a local restaurant to celebrate.  I cannot wait to celebrate Kate’s ordination this Sunday, November 16 at 3:00 p.m. at Valley Community Presbyterian Church. 

One of the reasons I love and serve the Presbyterian Church is we ordain women to be pastors.  I know of hundreds of women who have tremendous skills that they want to share with the church and the world.  I can’t imagine how diminished we would be if these gifted women couldn’t be religious leaders.  We have made tremendous progress in accepting women as leaders in the church; however we can never take this progress for granted.  Over half of the people who attend a church in Anoka County this weekend will attend a church where women cannot be ordained.

After our celebration at a local restaurant I came back to the meeting.  Worship had just completed.  The Presbytery spent a good part of the meeting talking about the future.  They offered people opportunities to participate in two Breakout gatherings.

I participated in a Breakout conversation on focusing the Presbytery committees on function and not structure.  Many good ideas were shared.  One idea I shared is to change the rotation of leadership, so that the same person does not have to be Vice-Moderator, Moderator, and then Chair of the Presbytery Leadership Team in three consecutive years.  I believe that the functions of those positions are so different that the Presbytery would be better served not to have people rotate through these three positions.

After that, Rochelle Le Tourneau compassionately shared the story of the closing of Familia de Fe.  She wrote an excellent summary of the process that can be found on pages 48-49 of the Presbytery packet at:

David Liddle shared what is happening with the Eden Prairie Presbyterian church.  Right now the process is in court filings. 

In his report Bill Davnie, Stated Clerk, shared the need in a written report for an Administrative Commission to be formed in response to some in the Presbyterian Church in Albert Lea’s who are interested in leaving the PC(USA).  I did find it a bit odd that the written report was handed out at the end of the meeting and wasn’t shared in the packet.  The report can be found on page 52 of the Presbytery packet.  However I trust the request and voted for it.

By that time it was time to go.  Even though my personal focus for the meeting was Kate and Lisa, I’m very glad that the Presbytery spent so much time talking about its future.