Only Say the Word: Affirming Gay and Lesbian Love
by Dr. Alan McManus
(Ropley, England: Christian Alternative, 2013)
A former Franciscan friar, Dr. Alan McManus holds degrees in Church History/Practical Theology and Religious Studies. He has taught languages at home and abroad, and Religious, Moral & Philosophical Studies in Scotland. He has published articles on political philosophy and WW1 remembrance in "Citizenship, Social and Economics Education." He is a member of Affirmation Scotland.
Foreword by the Rev. Lindsay Biddle, Chaplain of Affirmation Scotland
“In Only Say the Word: Affirming Gay and Lesbian Love, Dr. Alan McManus offers a unique queer interpretation of a few traditional Christian stories. He raises questions that require moving beyond the surface understandings, and he provides a deeper, fresh view of how these stories can be read.
“As a gay Catholic McManus speaks to his own faith and spirituality in his journey toward personal acceptance and his search for acceptance for himself and other gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and transgender persons within the Church. In slightly more than one hundred pages the author engages the reader in a conversation that will continue beyond the final chapter.”
—Review by the Rev. Dr. John W. Mann, Minister at St. James’ (Pollok) Parish Church, Glasgow, an Affirming Congregation in the Church of Scotland
Order now in Kindle edition or paperback from Amazon.com
Pastors: It's Time to Speak Out for the Common Good
Politics at its best serves the common good — far above any one interest or political party. And right now in Washington, we see that playing out as we continue to reach accord on immigration reform. But when it comes to our budget debate, partisan ideology and special interests are winning out over the common good.
The ever-looming “sequester” that was never supposed to happen goes into effect tomorrow. Billions of dollars will be cut from domestic and military spending without any plan or strategy; jobs will be lost and people will suffer. Public frustration is growing with our elected officials, while they continue to argue over the role of government instead of governing responsibly. The press discusses who wins and loses in the polls, but it is clear that it is the common good that is losing.
On the other hand, immigration reform is being discussed, at the same time with the same political players, in a very reasonable and hopeful way. On that important policy change, bipartisan work is going forward to shape legislation that could pass both houses of Congress.
In back-to-back meetings with church leaders and pastors, leading senators from both parties looked right into our eyes said, “To be honest with you pastors, we deal with most issues in ways that will help us win the next election; but on this one, we promise you, we will do whatever it takes to pass this, to fix this broken system, and protect the people you care about.”
So on immigration reform, it is quite possible we could see a desire to serve the common good triumph over politics as usual.
Republican senators went to the White House this week to discuss immigration reform with the president — but not the fast-approaching sequester. Why? There are, of course, differences between the two policy debates and what is at stake, including the amount of money involved.
But one big difference between the sequester battle and the immigration debate is the tremendous influence and impact of outside groups and constituencies — in particular, the faith community, law enforcement officials, and business leaders. The White House and Congress say that the faith community is having a decisive impact in the immigration debate, especially evangelicals who have turned toward reform because of the Bible’s instructions to “welcome the stranger.”
When it comes to the sequester, the faith community’s influence is not the same, but it’s growing. This week, a very similar group of nearly 100 church leaders and pastors from the Circle of Protection delivered a pastoral letter to President Obama, Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, and Republican leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. We thanked them for mostly protecting low-income families in $2 trillion of spending cuts so far, and we promised to pray for them. But we also called for an end to irresponsible “brinksmanship” and for respectful bipartisan dialogue. We said fiscal health requires both spending cuts and additional revenues, affirmed that government does have a responsibility concerning the poor, insisted that moral choices must be clearly made for vulnerable people, and invited both parties to work together, and with us, to replace poverty with opportunity.
From the Catholic Bishops to the National Association of Evangelicals; from Black and Hispanic churches to major mainline Protestant denominations; from large faith-based organizations that directly serve the poor like World Vision, Catholic Charities, World Relief, and The Salvation Army to mobilizing organizations like Sojourners and Bread for the World — the unity of the faith community is very clear. Together we are saying that it is time to move responsibly toward fiscal responsibility and protect the poor at the same time. That is our commitment and our principle, and we believe both political sides should embrace it.
But more politicians need to hear that message and feel that pressure. And, just like with immigration reform, they need to hear it from pastors. If you are a pastor, we want you to add your name. If you know a pastor, then forward this column to them now and ask them to lead.
Pastors are not lobbyists, and they shouldn’t be. But when 11 million children of God are trapped in a broken immigration system — or when special interests are dominating the future of the poor and most vulnerable — there are clear moral issues at stake. The media, with notable exceptions, is loving the fight, covering who might win or lose — rather than raising up the substantive moral issues. So it’s time for the pastors to help do that. Let’s make the common good more common in our nation’s capital.
The time to act is now. If you are a pastor, a priest, or any other religious leader, sign on to the Circle of Protection letter. Sojourners will immediately send an e-mail of the letter with your signature to your representatives in Congress. Then, we’ll let you know how to follow-up with your member of Congress by phone to make sure our elected leaders know they should find focus on the common good by ending the economic brinkmanship in Washington.
Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners. His forthcoming book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good, is set to release in April. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.
By Susan Perry | 02/14/13
The blog was well-intentioned, but giving parents gender-stereotyping tips isn't going to solve the science gender gap.
A lot of myths about gender brain differences get bandied about in the media, but a recent Guardian blog post aimed at helping parents get their daughters interested in science was so gob-smacking silly, it could be read as an Onion spoof.
The article overflowed with outdated gender stereotyping, as can be seen in these three back-to-the-‘50s examples from the article’s list of parenting tips:
Have her read instructions and recipes aloud. When she eventually performs science experiments this will help her break down the steps involved. It also helps with deconstructing more elaborate math problems down the road.
Research shows that as girls get older they retain their mathematical and scientific abilities when applied to domestic scenarios. So make your domestic scenario more mathematic and scientific. Shopping is filled with math problems, particularly if your daughter wants something that is too expensive.
Emphasize that we live in a scientific world. … [Girls] are invariably receptive and energetic students when the same scientific principles are presented to them as "social studies." The weather forecast, climate change, what we eat, illnesses and allergies, methods of transportation, the electronics that fill your house — are all areas of science that surround your daughter. Scientific theory fires her imagination when connected to current or domestic affairs, or when she can empathize.
To add scientific gravitas to its parenting tips, the article presented as facts several controversial and definitely-not-proven findings about neurological gender differences, such as “girls are more responsive to color than boys” and “girls generally begin processing information on the brain's left, or language, side.”
Fortunately, the article didn’t go unanswered. Dean Burnett, a British scientist who also blogs for the Guardian, quickly wrote a scathing tongue-in-cheek reply in which he pointed out that “it’s important to encourage young boys to take up science too”:
Whilst watching any particular sporting event, command [your son] at random to work out the scientific components of the game, e.g. what is the trajectory of the ball following that free kick? How much force did that cricket bat just withstand based on the velocity and approximate mass of a cricket ball? Judging by the severity of that injury, what is the likely period the player will spend in hospital and what therapies will be used to reattach the leg?
Encourage this behaviour further with social reinforcement. Take your son to a live football match or other sporting event, so he can impress all the die-hard fans with his meticulous analysis of the game. They will definitely appreciate it.
And in yet a third Guardian article, two other scientists, psychologist Chris Chambers of Cardiff University and anthropologist Kate Clancy of the University of Illinois, took direct aim at the pseudoscience in the original blog post.
“For instance,” they write (with British spellings and punctuation)
the author argues that girls are more responsive to colour than boys, so parents of daughters — the target audience of this piece — should “colour-code toys and blocks for sorting and patterning beginning at an early age”.
But does this argument stand up to the evidence? The nature of gender differences in adult colour vision is controversial, with some peer-reviewed studies pointing to a female advantage, others to a male advantage, and yet others indicating no difference. This complexity is mirrored in pre-school children, with boys and girls each showing advantages under different conditions. It distorts currently knowledge to say that girls are categorically more responsive to colour.
What about the claim that “girls generally begin processing information on the brain’s left, or language, side” and therefore that girls “deconstruct math concepts verbally”? Existing studies do indicate a slight advantage for girls in acquiring language at a very young age (1-2 years), but — crucially — this difference has been shown to disappear by the age of six. A recent review even concluded that overall sex differences in language ability and language-related brain functions are “not readily identifiable”.
Needed: a systemic approach
The original gender-stereotyping blog post had good intentions. It opened by noting that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently reported that among 470,000 15-year-olds in 65 developed countries who were given a science test in 2009, the girls generally outperformed the boys — except in the United States, Britain and Canada.
Offering pseudoscientific and gender-stereotyping tips for parents is not going to solve the science gender gap in those three countries. What is needed is a broad societal structural change, as Chambers and Clancy point out:
The broader societal constraints that lead so few girls to consider themselves “science people” by middle school derive not from whether we push them into science, but what we value in girls as a culture. What gendered representations of science continue to exist in underperforming countries like the US and UK? What messages do we send about how we value intelligence and knowledge, about how girls contribute to society? And, what would it take to overcome these obstacles to produce a more egalitarian learning environment?
Just telling parents of daughters to force their children to become scientists, without providing the foundational support of institutional change (or at the very least, some institutional navel-gazing), is telling parents to work alone and with the wrong tools. We would rather see a systematic approach to combating social inequality than another list that tries to tell parents they’re doing something wrong.
You’ll find all three articles linked together on the Guardian website.
Sandra Mader of Pasadena, California turned out to be our 1000th lucky "liker" on Facebook!
She lives at the end of the Rose Parade route where they park the floats for a couple of days "visit" after the parade.
As promised, here is a snapshot of how Sandra uses her voice for justice in her own words:
My work for justice has been mostly outside the church! During my 40+ years as a public school educator (high school English/ESL teacher, librarian, special ed. administrator) I focused on full inclusion of all kids, especially the recent immigrants who brought such richness to their ESL classes, in all facets of the life of the school.
I was inspired as a child by Eleanor Roosevelt to see value in all God's children and to raise my voice, literally and figuratively, for their protection and support. I was reminded this weekend of the importance of her words when I heard the St. Olaf Choir singing an original setting of E.R's "Evening Prayer"....."deliver us and save us from ourselves." A timely petition!
I'm a volunteer docent at Huntington Botanical Gardens leading discovery tours for elem. school students, Adaptations in a Changing World. The children give me weekly "sermons" to the beauty of God's creation with their smiles and words...."I feel so connected here." "I want to bring my mom here to see these colors." "This feeds my soul."
At First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood (home church for 30 years), I've been a member of Hollywood Mass Choir, an intergenerational, interdenominational, multicultural gospel choir, singing the good news throughout Los Angeles in churches, homeless shelters, civic events - and our annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert bringing together many people to experience the message of peace and justice that MLK embodied. I dream of a church where, "We'll walk hand in hand....and "We shall all be free."
I am blessed to be the moderator of Presbytery of the Pacific's Committee on Ministry where we are trying to live into being, "pastor, counselor and advisor to the teaching elders and congregations" in our portion of Los Angeles County. I was presbytery moderator in 2008 - and worked through the 3 moderator chairs.
The joys of my life are my 2 grandchildren, David a soph. electical engineering student at California Polytechnic Univ. at San Luis Obispo and Rachel a high school sophomore in a special ed class in Pasadena. I have a special place in my heart for all those "special" kids who struggle to be respected and included in school and in our churches.
Thanks Sandra. We LIKE you back!!!!
FEBRUARY 6, 2013
Guest Blogger: Rev. Dr. Arlene Gordon, President of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus (NBPC)
On January 24, 2013, Leon Panetta, Defense Secretary made an astounding announcement that will change the course of history for women in the military announcing the elimination of ground combat exclusion and suggesting a plan to move forward to eliminate all gender based barriers. The announcement, in my opinion, is a wake-up signal to the church and calls the church to also re-examine it's stance on women in ministry.
Ironically, this announcement came between theMartin Luther King, Jr. holiday celebration and the beginning of Black History Month. What a more appropriate time to raise the issue considering the journey of black clergywomen within the PC(USA). As we look to Committees on Representation for answers to why more black clergywomen are not being called to serve congregations within the PC(USA), a few troubling questions arise for me. How are Committees on Representation working with local judicatories to assure equal consideration of women in congregations and, particularly, black clergywomen or does that fall beyond COR boundaries? Has the time come for the church to pay more attention to the increasing number of black women in ministry who never receive a call? Why is it still an issue in these critical times in the life of our congregations to see a black women called as Senior or Associate Pastor?
The stakes are still high for black women who make the choice to be in ministry within the PC(USA) structure. While some noticeable change has occurred, the disproportionate presence of black women in senior pastor positions is still quite evident and the number of women who have completed all the requirements for ministry and have been rejected time and time again is astounding. In many cases, local PNC's (Pastor Nominating Committee's) eliminate women before they even have a chance based on the outdated and unreasonable bias that only men should be head of a church. Churches are willing to let women serve as Associates, Interims, and pulpit supply but when it comes to being the Senior pastor, forget it. If a woman is called it is usually the case that the church is hanging on for dear life and barely able to meet mandatory operational expenses, including paying a pastor. Because most Presbyteries do not interfere with the congregations choice for a pastor, the practice of not selecting or even considering a woman continues, even as I speak.
As President of the National Black Presbyterian Caucusand having served two different Presbyteries in a leadership position, I have witnessed first-hand the challenges for black Presbyterians and, particularly, black women in ministry. Noteworthy is the continued struggle of black women clergy to receive a call. As significant is the lack of youth and young adults in the life of our congregations and the seemingly disinterest in even considering a seminary education anymore. The struggle of clergywomen to remain in ministry with limited and insufficient salary packages has caused many to go into other fields. In other cases, women have been forced to take administrative positions rather than be placed in the church where they have a sense of call. Others have simply made the decision to depart from the PC(USA). The sacrifice, struggles and financial obligations of seminary education for black Presbyterians in these times is discouraging. Additionally, local judicatories through their Committees on Preparation for Ministry have discouraged and delayed, for whatever reasons, the journey toward ordination for many black clergywomen. The failure of pastor nominating committees to choose or even consider black women clergy for calls remains an issue that Committees on Representation must find a way to address.
The most recent test for black clergywomen comes with the focus on multiculturalism. Some would perceive the multicultural agenda as an old process of elimination all over again? I wonder if the new Book of Order intentionally leaves the discretion to implement Committee on Representation policies to local judicatories so that, essentially, they can ignore the policy. As we strive toward becoming one family of God, it is important that we not erase the plight, problems and successes related to our various cultures but instead make our legacies evident to future generations in the hope that they will learn and thrive from it.
The PC(USA) offers a wide variety of opportunities to be in ministry and mission that are exciting and enticing. However, the lack of persons in leadership as black clergywomen presents a difficult effort to encourage new leadership. CORs needs to find ways to encourage persons to want to be a part of an organization that still needs to work on and press the dialogue on many issues including calling black women as Senior Pastors?
Committees on Representation must continue to identify discernible indications that PC(USA) is striving toward more inclusive participation in its life and mission. This calls for a need to go beyond collecting statistical data to providing ways that all churches welcome the variety of gifts among its constituency. Black clergywomen's presence and perspective offer a source of enrichment in the life of the PC(USA). It beckons the whole church to move beyond stereotypes, prejudice, boundaries and limitations in order to see God's plan as reflecting the Body of Christ and clergywomen are included in God's plan. Therefore, black clergywomen expect Committees on Representation to continue to be the entity that encourages and supports an inclusive community of Presbyterians working together for the betterment of our whole church.
The Time has come!
ABOUT THIS BLOG
In Spirit and Truth is the blog of the General Assembly Committee on Representation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It will feature content written by the sixteen members of the committee, who are teaching and ruling elders from across the country, and our staff person in the Office of the General Assembly, as well as links and articles of particular interest. These blog entries are intended to prompt reflection and dialogue on aspects of expanding representation and supporting full participation in the PCUSA, especially at the assembly level. The ministries of advising, consulting, advocating, reviewing and recommending are vital to the life of the whole Body of Christ. Committees on Representation and/or their functions exists at all councils above session so from time to time we may highlight activities and insights from our sister committees on representation at smaller councils throughout the church.
Author Molly Casteel is an Assistant Stated Clerk and the Manager for Representation and Inclusiveness Services. She is a teaching elder (a.k.a. Minister of Word and Sacrament) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.
Weekly messages about leadership, discipleship, theological education, and contemporary culture
from Michael Jinkins, President of Louisville Seminary
January 29, 2013
Getting the Facts Straight about "Nones"
Recently I read an essay in the New York Times referring to the much discussed sociological category of "nones." That particular essay completely misread recent studies implying that "nones" are non-believers, even agnostics or atheists. I was just about to produce a blog on the subject when my colleague and friend Matthew Myer Boulton, President of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, posted his excellent blog, which he has given me permission to share with you (below). After reading Matt's blog, I felt it would be largely redundant to write my own. I want to thank Matt for his insightful comments and his willingness to appear as a guest blogger this week on "Thinking Out Loud."
Those who would like, may refer back to the blog I wrote when the Pew Study about the "nones" was originally announced or read the related news stories that followed publication of that blog.
The following post was written by Dr. Matthew Myer Boulton, President of Christian Theological Seminary, and appeared on his blog "Salt & Light." Previously, Dr. Boulton taught at Harvard Divinity School. His most recent books include: Life in God: John Calvin, Practical Formation, and the Future of Protestant Theology (Eerdmans 2011), and God Against Religion: Rethinking Christian Theology Through Worship (Eerdmans, 2008).
If you're a reader of the New York Times, or a listener to National Public Radio, or a follower of the Religion News Service, you'd have good reason over the past week or so to come to the conclusion that the United States - and indeed the world - is becoming less and less religious.
The Times recently ran an article on atheism in which, almost in passing, the author cites a Pew Forum study to support the claim that "roughly 20 percent" of Americans are "secularly inclined" as opposed to religious. National Public Radio ran a series this week entitled "Losing Our Religion." Religion News Service ran a story that The Christian Century published under the headline, "Unbelief is world's third-largest 'religion'".
And yet all of this is misleading, subtly but decisively. Each of these stories, in various ways, combines and collapses three categories: "Atheist," "Agnostic" (these two combined currently constitute only about 5% of the U.S. population), and "Unaffiliated," that is, those who do not claim a particular religious affiliation (the so-called "Nones," who constitute about 15%). But if you read the Pew Forum's report on the rise of the Unaffiliateds, you'll find that 70% of them believe in God; 60% call themselves either "religious" or "spiritual," and 40% of them pray. Lumping together this group with atheists and agnostics, or calling their increase a rise in "unbelief" or a case of "losing our religion," is sloppy analysis at best.
Worse, this kind of categorization lends support to the false impression that U.S. society, and world society with it, is turning away from religious convictions and toward atheism or agnosticism - a conclusion the data simply do not support. Affiliation patterns are changing, it's true (this is also true of political affiliations: "Independents" are on the rise in the U.S.). But we also live in a breathtakingly religious age: in percentage terms, religious belief and practice are basically holding steady in the U.S. overall, and globally, no less than 84% of the world's 7 billion people claim a particular religious affiliation - and a great many of the other 16%, while they may not identify as members of a particular brand of religion, nevertheless call themselves "religious" or "spiritual."
Religion deeply, widely matters, and will continue to do so, both at home and abroad. Thinking otherwise will lead our thoughts astray, whether we are within or without religious communities. And the stories we tell about religious trends matter, too.
The more we mislabel data and suggest that "roughly 20 percent" of the U.S. population are atheist or agnostic (to take the New York Times example), the more we run the risk of concluding that religion is on the way out - the "secularization thesis" that has come and gone, and now has come again, on the American scene. What's more, this misunderstanding runs the risk of actually contributing to the trend it falsely announces, since it conjures visions of a stampede for religion's exit door ("20 percent!") - and as every antelope knows, stampedes attract followers. On the other hand, the secularization myth may be especially tempting for historically mainline churches today, since it provides a handy excuse for any failure to attract or retain younger generations ("well, it must be them, not us"). In other words, for churches, too, mis-telling the story leads us to misinterpret our situation.
The point here is not that Christian communities should be complacent about the rise of the Unaffiliateds, or simply rest assured that religion is alive and well. Rather, the point is that we should read the data rigorously and wisely, resisting the "secularization" interpretation as long as the data do not support it, and instead working to be nimble enough to engage Unaffiliateds according to their own cherished values: independence and flexibility, to be sure, but also, in many cases, a genuine, vital interest in religion and spirituality.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 29, 2013SOCIAL ISSUES
American Baptists take on gun violence
By Bob Allen
American Baptist Home Mission Societies directors approved a statement intended to equip churches to take action on reducing the impact of guns on American life.
Directors of American Baptist Home Mission Societies unanimously adopted a statement Jan. 23 recommending 10 measures aimed at combating gun violence in the United States.
The measures, approved during a two-day retreat in Atlanta, include a ban on assault weapons, requiring criminal background checks for sales at gun shows, strengthening regulations of gun dealers, required reporting of lost or stolen guns to law enforcement, and restoring firearms research funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We want to provide the tools for local churches to take action,” saidClifford Johnson, president of the board that oversees the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA. “This will be a board of action. If we are to be true to our history, we have to speak out on issues like gun violence.”
The statement deplores acts including the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as symptoms of the “daily toll of gun violence in the United States.”
“Firearms are a part of the history and fabric of our nation,” the statement reads. “Changes in the laws governing the ownership and use of firearms must take into account this uniquely American experience and the ways in which our understanding of the right to keep and bear arms has developed over time.”
American Baptist leaders noted the Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees an individual the right to “keep and bear arms,” while also making it clear that such a right is “not unlimited.”
“Nor should it be,” the statement continues. “The liberties we enjoy are often in tension with one another, and no right should be so broadly construed as to undermine the ability of the broader community to maintain order and the peace necessary for human life and flourishing.”
The statement calls specifically for:
-- Decreasing the firepower available to civilians by banning assault weapons and prohibiting the sale of large capacity ammunition magazines.
-- Closing gaps in the background check system including requiring criminal background checks for all sales at gun shows.
-- Implementing a common-sense, comprehensive approach to help law enforcement prevent gun trafficking that will decrease the availability of illegal guns, including licensing handgun purchasers and strengthening the regulation of gun dealers.
-- Strengthening record-keeping of gun transfers, and requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns to law enforcement to ensure better accountability of guns for persons involved in the supply of guns to the illegal market.
-- Increasing resources and capacity for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and repealing existing statutory restrictions that hamper the agency’s ability to combat illegal gun trafficking.
-- Developing new technologies to help law enforcement more effectively trace crime guns and developing safety features to childproof guns.
-- Encouraging local efforts to prevent and reduce gun violence.
-- Urging firearms retailers to implement protocols aimed at preventing the sale of firearms to prohibited purchasers such as “straw purchases,” buying a gun for someone who is prohibited by law from owning one or does not want his or her name associated with the purchase.
-- Improving the National Violent Death Reporting System and restoring firearms research funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
-- Encouraging greater societal attention to issues of mental health and illness as well as cultural issues including the pervasiveness of violence in entertainment and the media.
“Pursued together, we believe these measures will reduce gun violence while maintaining access to firearms for individuals for the purposes of self-defense, sport and hunting, and we reject the rhetoric that misleadingly portrays these goals (reduced violence and legitimate access) as incompatible,” the statement concludes.
“In the name of the Prince of Peace, we encourage our constituent congregations and the membership thereof to join us in support of these measures as we commit ourselves and the American Baptist Home Mission Societies to the patient work of reform, of taking the sensible steps necessary to reduce gun violence in our land.”
Established as the Home Mission Society in 1832 to work on America’s frontier, American Baptist Home Mission Societies now ministers across the United States and Puerto Rico through initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
From 1972 to 2010, the society operated under the name National Ministries butreclaimed its historic moniker as more descriptive of the organization’s work to those outside of American Baptist circles.
Recently American Baptist Home Mission Societies declared its mission center in King of Prussia, Pa., a “gun-free zone” and encouraged churches to consider similar efforts to “alleviate the proliferation of guns in our communities and the nature in which they are out of control in so many of our lives.”
“Too many of our children are dying,” ABHMS Executive Director Aidsand Wright-Riggins says in avideo on the ministry website. “Too many of our citizens live in fear, and an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth as a result of using these weapons ultimately leaves our entire country blind and toothless.”
© 2013 Associated Baptist Press, Inc.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.
© 2013 Associated Baptist Press, Inc.
A Call for a New Social Covenant
In the past 20 years, the world has witnessed the death of social contracts. We have seen a massive breakdown in trust between citizens, their economies, and their governments. In our own country, we can point to years of data painting a bleak picture of the confidence Americans have in any of our traditional institutions.
Former assumptions and shared notions about fairness, agreements, reciprocity, mutual benefits, social values, and expected futures have all but disappeared. The collapse of financial systems and the resulting economic crisis not only have caused instability, insecurity, and human pain; they have also generated a growing disbelief and fundamental distrust in the way things operate and how decisions are made.
This week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, we are looking to the future and asking “what now?” At a Saturday session — “The Moral Economy: From Social Contract to Social Covenant” — a document will kick off a year-long global conversation about a new “social covenant” between citizens, governments, and businesses.
This is really “a call” for worldwide discussion about what values are needed to address the many difficult challenges and choices the world is now facing. Inequality, austerity, retrenchment, constraints, mal-distribution, growing conflicts over resources, and extreme poverty all raise questions about our values.
The introduction to the covenant says:
“The choices made about each issue are determined by the values we hold—the values applied by government, business, civil society, and individuals. Those choices need to be self-conscious—not based on the inertia of accumulated interests. This is not merely a philosophical enterprise; it is an urgent matter that requires moral courage. The stakes are high.”
While the social covenant call acknowledges the great diversity of global values, it puts forward three that express a consesus across cultures and religions. They are: 1) the dignity of the human person, 2) the importance of the common good, which transcends individual interests, and 3) the need for stewardship of the planet and posterity.
“Together these offer a powerful unifying ideal: Valued individuals, committed to one another, and respectful of future generations.”
We urgently need a new social covenant between citizens, businesses, and government. Contracts have been broken, but a covenant adds a moral dimension to the solution that is now essential. By definition, this will require the engagement and collaboration of all the “stakeholders” — governments, businesses, civil society groups, people of faith, and especially young people.
We should discuss social covenants many contexts, and the results will vary from place to place. But they should all include shared principles and features — a value basis for new agreements, an emphasis on jobs that offer fair rewards for hard work and real contributions to society, security for financial assets and savings, a serious commitment to reduce inequality between the top and the bottom of society, stewardship of the environment, an awareness of future generations’ needs, a stable and accountable financial sector, and the strengthening of both opportunity and social mobility.
Such a covenant promotes human flourishing, happiness, and well-being as social goals, and it elevates the movement from a shareholder model to a stakeholder model of corporate governance. Such new social covenants are already being discussed in a variety of settings and countries. The discussion itself will help produce the conversation leading to the results that we need.
A moral conversation about a social covenant could ask what a “moral economy” should look like and for whom it should exist. How can we do things differently, more responsibly, more equitably, and yes, more democratically? In forums where business and political leaders meet, the conversation should focus on the meaning of a moral economy as a way to safely interrogate our present failed practices. Such a discussion could lead to new practices driving both ethical and practical decisions about the economics of our local and global households.
Lack of trust is bad for politics, bad for business, and bad for overall public morale. It undermines people’s sense of participation in society as well as their feelings of social responsibility, and makes them feel isolated and alone—more worried about survival than interested in solidarity. Because the “contract” was broken, a sense of “covenant” is now needed, fused with a sense of moral values and commitments. And the process of formulating new social covenants could be an important part of finding solutions.
What better conversation could we have for the common good?
I had the opportunity to co-author this new social covenant and help lead the Global Action Council on Values, which issued this new call and document. I invite all of you to read the New Social Covenant and join the conversation!
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. His forthcoming book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good, is set to release in April. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.
Rev. Judy Lee Hay, a South Wedge icon, gives last sermon Sunday Pastor's path shaped neighborhood toward revitalization
Pastor Judy Lee Hay delivers her sermon as she is set to retire from the Calvary St. Andrew's Presbyterian Parish in the South Wedge on Sunday. Hay, a staunch advocate for the neighborhood, will offer her last sermon this Sunday. / KRIS J. MURANTE//STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Staff writer for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Rife with gang activity and strewn with vacant houses, the city’s South Wedge in 1973 was a dying neighborhood.
Forty years later, its real estate is among the most sought-after in the city, and its vibrant business district just welcomed its newest boutique: The Little Bleu Cheese Shop.
And in between, at nearly every step along the way, was Rev. Judy Lee Hay.
Hay, 66, of Rochester, will give her final sermon on Sunday. After 40 years as an advocate, steward, and champion of the South Wedge — as well as a pastor at Calvary St. Andrews Presbyterian Parish church — Hay is retiring to spend more time with friends and family.
But thanks in part to her efforts, the neighborhood she’s leaving behind is a different place.
Like many city neighborhoods, the South Wedge of four decades ago was being abandoned by families who were flocking to the suburbs. The recently-completed Inner Loop served to cut off the business district from downtown, and about 120 houses were vacant, including about 25 percent of the homes in the northernmost section of the South Wedge.
It was a neighborhood in need of saving.
“There were drugs, gangs, guns; it was pretty tough in that early transitional time,” said Hay.
So upon arriving at Calvary St. Andrews in 1973, Hay brought together local block clubleaders, business owners, and residents. In 1975, they formed the South Wedge Planning Committee (SWPC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the neighborhood. Hay was appointed the organization’s first executive director.
Hoping to reduce the blight in the neighborhood, Hay and others started contacting homeowners and landlords, asking them to fix up their houses. SWPC established a tool-lending library where residents could borrow what they needed, and worked to secure revitalization grants from the city.
Summer work groups were formed, which included youths from the neighborhood and elsewhere, and the youngsters helped poorer or disabled residents work on their homes.
SWPC also brought in the Landmark Society to do an analysis of every house in the South Wedge, which is the city’s second-oldest neighborhood.
“People learned about their houses in a new way: Those on Hamilton Street that were part of the Underground Railroad, that began to emerge, and some had Greek Revival features, though people didn’t even know what that was at that stage,” said Hay. “But it was really about getting people to take an interest in their property and make that investment.”
If a homeowner or landlord refused to make necessary improvements, the committee would ask them to consider selling the home, even offering them the services of a local real estate agent who wouldn’t charge them any fees. By the time Hay stepped down from her position with SWPC in 1991, there were zero vacant homes remaining in the South Wedge.
Like virtually every project she’s been involved in over the past four decades, ridding the neighborhood of vacant homes was a hugely collaborative effort, said Hay. Without the buy-in from the block groups, and countless hours put in by volunteers all over the neighborhood, it wouldn’t have been possible.
“It’s like a philharmonic orchestra, the South Wedge,” said Ron Maier, who owns several properties in the South Wedge and has been involved with neighborhood revitalization efforts since 1975. “But she was able to be a conductor and really provide some of that direction and orchestration.”
As homes were fixed up and slum landlords were ushered out of the neighborhood, the business district began to re-emerge. Real estate prices zoomed up, with many homes more than tripling in value between 1973 and 1991.
But Hay was committed to ensuring that the neighborhood remained diverse.
“She wasn’t going to allow the South Wedge to be gentrified,” said former mayor William Johnson. “Her church became almost a sanctuary for the poor, for the people who didn’t have as much. They were made to feel that they were as important a part of the project as anyone else who could spend a million dollars.”
When School No. 13 closed as part of the city’s consolidation plan circa 1979, Hay and others fought to prevent the building from being demolished, and it was eventually converted into the Gregory Park Condominiums and targeted toward towards the young professionals community.
But in the mid-80s, when developers were proposing a variety of plans for a new complex across from Southview Towers, the South Wedge Planning Committee threw their weight behind a proposal that included a large portion of Section 8 housing.
Nonprofits who serve the less fortunate also found a home in the South Wedge during this time, with among the most prominent being the Veterans Outreach Center, which moved to its current location on South Avenue in 1985. St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, which provides health care, education, and social work for families without health care, opened on South Avenue eight years later.
After Hay stepped down from SWPC, the attitude persisted. The recently-built Erie Harbor, a series of high-end luxury apartments along the Genesee River, was tied in with a $16 million project to renovate the adjacent Hamilton tower, which offers affordable housing.
“As you’re building a community, you want to build the poor in, you want to build the middle class, and you want to make sure people are invested,” said Hay.
While fighting to revitalize the neighborhood, Hay was also helping to lead one of the more progressive congregations in the area.
When she arrived, Calvary St. Andrews was one of the few combined Presbyterian-Episcopal congregations in the country. The Episcopal Church had yet to allow the ordination of women, so Hay was not fully accepted by the entire congregation in the early going.
“Here I am, a Presbyterian, serving a joint Presbyterian-Episcopal congregation, serving Communion every Sunday when Episcopalians were not allowing women to serve Communion — can you imagine the tension we were going through?” said Hay.
But when Episcopalians did begin tackling the issue, Calvary St. Andrews, with Hay on staff, was uniquely positioned to be a leader in the movement for the Episcopal ordination of women. And when the Episcopal Church ordained its first 11 women in 1974, Calvary St. Andrews brought in one of the new pastors to celebrate her first service in Rochester.
Hay became head of staff at the church in 1979, and that same year, the church’s board voted unanimously to join the More Light Presbyterian movement, a group of Presbyterian churches that welcomed gays and lesbians. The movement, still in its infancy at the time, would eventually, in 2011, push the church to allow the ordination of gays and lesbians.
“We were saying ‘Finally!’” said Hay, adding that she still believed the church was behind the times on its views of marriage.
Her leadership has inspired many of her parishioners to continue attending the church even upon leaving the neighborhood; churchgoers at Calvary St. Andrews come from Macedon, Honeoye Falls, Gates, Bloomfield, and Webster.
“I changed religions for her,” said Toni Beth Weasner, 52, of Brighton. “I was born and raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools, but after I met Judy, I was so inspired that I switched to being Presbyterian.”
While many churches have struggled to retain membership, Calvary St. Andrews’ 150-member congregation has remained stable in recent years, said Hay. Her parishioners say that she’s a big reason that’s the case, and some are concerned about the church’s future.
“At one time, the church saved the neighborhood, and now we’re hoping the South Wedge is going to save the church,” said Weasner.
Upon retiring, Hay won’t be allowed back on church grounds for six months, an ethical practice followed by many ministers of varying denominations. In the mean time, she’s planning a trip to the Holy Land, something she said has been on her bucket list for a while.
But it’s unlikely Hay will be able to stay away from church or neighborhood for long. She’s got a house in Penn Yan and plans to spend much of her time there, but when she speaks of the future, the discussion invariably drifts back to the South Wedge.
“At the corner of South and Linden, there’s a proposal for a whole new thing there that will change the whole corner…”
Pastor Judy Lee Hay delivers her final sermon, as she is set to retire from the Calvary St. Andrew's Church in the Southwedge, in Rochester Sunday morning, January 13, 2013. / KRIS J. MURANTE/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
South Wedge revival
A timeline of activity in the South Wedge during Judy Lee Hay’s early years in Rochester:
1973: Judy Lee Hay arrives in Rochester at Calvary St. Andrews church. There are 120 vacant homes in the South Wedge, and many properties are selling for between $5,000 and $20,000.
1975: The South Wedge Planning Committee is formed, with Hay as its executive director. An initiative to get rid of the neighborhood’s vacant homes begins.
Circa 1979: The city school district closes School No. 13 on Hickory Street. SWPC protests the closing, but once the closure is finalized, the organization begins working to prevent the building’s demolition. Meanwhile, more than 25 houses are sold through the city’s homesteading or tax foreclosures auctions and are renovated. Ten store owners apply for city grants.
March 1980: Five developers offer to buy a series of vacant buildings on South Avenue. “We never would have gotten this kind of response, and probably no offers, three years ago,” says Mark Dudman, a neighborhood planner for the city department of community development.
Summer 1980: School No. 13 is sold to a developer, who converts it into the Gregory Park Condominiums.
May 1982: Sentry Color Labs Ltd., a professional photofinisher, moves from Mt. Hope to South Avenue, marking the first new industrial development in the South Wedge in more than 10 years.
1982-1984: At least 13 businesses open in the South Wedge, mostly along South Avenue in a five-block stretch between Hamilton and Cypress Streets.
1984-1989: The city provides $4.4 million in housing improvement loans and $2 million in commercial assistance grants to the neighborhood.
1985: The Veterans Outreach Center opens in its current location at 459 South Ave.
1989: Only two empty lots remain in the South Wedge. The average sale price for a home in the neighborhood is $57,000.
1991: Hay steps down from South Wedge Planning Committee.
January 16, 2013
I wanted to greet you in the new year and share a few things with you. And, I hope that you will share something with the rest of us.
There are two new staff in Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries/PW. Rv. Nancy Benson-Nicol is the Associate for Gender and Racial Justice. You will perhaps recognize her name as the editor of the current HORIZONS Bible Study. She begins work on February 4. Nancy’s work “will include leading ‘Building the Beloved Community’ (antiracism) trainings, following up on General Assembly referrals assigned to the Office of Gender and Racial Justice, and the development programs and ministries at all levels of the church that implement the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s policies of becoming an inclusive, diverse, and racially just church.”
The other new person is Kate Carlisle, the Associate for Young Women’s Leadership Development. Her work will include “setting new directions in young women’s leadership development ministries. Along with other new young adult staff at the Presbyterian Mission Agency, this mission and ministry directly links to the 2013-2016 Mission Work Plan’s directional goal to ‘engage and join with young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.’”
I will have the opportunity to meet Kate in New York City the early part of March at the Commission on the Status of Women. I am looking forward to that.
There is a lot going on right now with CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. I will forward that information to you as I receive it. If that is too much information for you, please just delete it. But, I think most of you will find it helpful and I’m hopeful you’ll respond to your congresspeople as the requests come to us.
The Steering Committee here in Southern California for F.A.N. is planning a series of three symposia. We are calling them: “Collective Hope: Building a Future for Women” and the first one will be on Saturday, March 23. It will focus on women, poverty and the economy. We are pleased to have Dr. Jane Dempsey Douglass speaking about the Accra Confession and Rv. Dr. Margaret Aymer who will use the Beatitudes as a mandate to deal with the injustice and impoverishment of the poor. There will then be a panel and break-out sessions including the Director of Public Policy for California Church Impact and Lucy Boutte from the National Farm Worker’s Ministry. We have one more person to secure—hopefully from the garment industry.
Of course, all of you are very welcome to join us—we can even offer overnight accommodations in our homes—unfortunately, the airfare or gas will have to be on your own!
As mentioned above, I will be attending the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and I know I will see some of you there! Lunch together at some point would be great. I’d also like to suggest that if you have a concern or want to share some information, please do so.
I have not been able to get a correct email address for Ann M. Jones or Esperanza Guarjardo. If anyone can help me, I’d sure appreciate that. And…as we go along, please offer other names of interested women…or men!!
Again, Happy New Year! May this be a banner year for women!!!