Archive for September, 2011

They’re Going to Kill My Friend

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

by Rev. Karl Kroger

(Written for the Pierre, SD Newspaper (www.capjournal.com) for September 23, 2011)

As I write this, a man I deeply care about is about to be executed. Unless a miracle occurs, when you read this, Troy Davis will be dead. Despite overwhelming evidence that casts doubt on his conviction, the powers that be in the state of Georgia are not concerned. Though Troy Davis and I have never met, I consider Troy Davis my friend. What do you do when someone is about to kill your friend?

Three years ago, while helping with a colleague’s youth retreat, I felt the call of God to help save a man’s life. In between the boat rides and the campfires, I could not stop thinking about the very real possibility that Georgia might execute someone who was innocent.

It seemed as if very few people even cared that the criminal justice system might have gotten it wrong. It seemed as if a flawed conviction only mattered, if it personally affected you. For most of the people and most of the churches in Georgia, permanently punishing the wrong man was not important.

But it was important to me. How as a society could such an ugly distortion of justice be tolerated? Furthermore, what if it was you or me, who was wrongly accused of a crime, and no one cared? Wouldn’t we want people to wake up and demand that all the facts be taken into account?

Praying for God to lead and guide me, trusting in the Holy Spirit to convict my heart, and compelled by Jesus’ command to love my neighbor, I surrendered myself to God to be used for the Kingdom. And so began my intense battle to save Troy Davis’ life.

Soon I began calling upon people to pray, to fight, and to offer advice. Within days, I recruited a few seminary friends to join me in the fight. We then rallied our seminary and our entire university, joining in with the people all across Atlanta, the state of Georgia, and around the world.

Momentum began to build and we started working with other organizations already fighting for Troy, including the NAACP, Amnesty International, and Georgian’s for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. The state was committed to killing Troy Davis, but we were determined to do everything we could to stop them.

And because of our actions, the intervention of the courts, and miracles, we did; three execution dates were put on hold. The instantaneous shouts of joy and songs of praise on those days were glorious! Millions of people worked to save Troy Davis’ life. We marched and we protested, we held vigils and we prayed, and we wrote letters and hung banners on the freeway.

All of the details of the case, the trials and appeals, the four execution dates are too lengthy to expound upon here. You should know however, that Troy Davis was found guilty of killing a cop, Officer Mark MacPhail. His death was wrong and is extremely tragic.

This week I watched as MacPhail’s daughter Madison, just a toddler at the time of her father’s death, spoke about the pain of growing up without a dad. She said there was something not right about living beyond your father’s final age. He died when he was only 27 years old.

As a Christian, I take seriously Jesus’ commands to love God and love my neighbor. Love, peace, kindness, and goodness are fruit of the Spirit and they are values of the Kingdom. They are part of the ways of God and they stand in contrast to murdering and executing people. Christians don’t all agree on that unfortunately, but surely we can agree that executing someone who is innocent or who has a strong case of innocence is stupid, unjust, and evil.

I grieve for Troy Davis, for his mother Virginia who died last year. What privilege to have known, embraced, and prayed with a woman of such grace and love. I grieve too for Officer MacPhail’s death, and for the pain his family still bears. May God bring healing and comfort to them.

Tonight my friend is scheduled to die. My heart breaks, but my hope is in Jesus Christ. And I know Troy’s is as well.

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Editor's Note: Despite the cry of thousands across the world for justice on behalf of Troy, the Supreme Court denied requests for a stay of execution. The state of Georgia executed Troy Anthony Davis, pronouncing him dead at 11:08pm on Thursday, September 21. May Troy's Spirit rest in the hands of God, and may God have mercy on us all…

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Rev. Karl Kroger's extensive work on behalf of Troy Davis began as a Candler School of Theology student in 2008. This advocacy inspired thousands to get involved with Troy's case and eventually led to Karl being awarded with Emory University's prestigious Humanitarian Award in 2009. Karl now resides in Pierre, South Dakota, where he is the pastor of Southeast Pierre United Methodist Church.

 

This article has been cross-posted with OnFire's blog, found at umonfire.blogspot.com.

Upcoming Events in DC

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

 

 

 

For Love of God and Neighbor

Monday, September 19th, 2011

 118 UM Church Leaders (including 18 Bishops) have now signed on to the "For Love of God and Neighbor" Common Witness Coalition Statement. You can too! Read the statement and then go to gc12.org if you'd like to sign on yourself.

Read the statement:

For the Love of God and Neighbor

A Common Witness to General Conference 2012

WE ARE people committed to following Jesus Christ to embody God's love and justice through The United Methodist Church. Ever open to the surprising movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst as we strive to love our neighbors, we embrace our unity in Christ in the midst of diverse opinions to provide a Common Witness:

WE BELIEVE in a church that passionately works for racial justice. We rejoice in the historical diversity of the Wesleyan tradition and the stream of resistance to racism that has existed from the beginning.  We confess that we also have a history of failing to eliminate prejudice, exploitation, oppression, fear and despair based on race and ethnicity. From the Ethiopian eunuch to the people of all nations at Pentecost, the church has a mandate to love our neighbors who comprise God’s diverse humanity.

WE BELIEVE in a church that embodies full inclusiveness. Jesus reached across lines of gender, class and religion. In the book of Acts, Peter was told not to call unclean what God has declared clean.  The Gospel welcomes all people regardless of human distinctions through God's grace. The invitation to Christ's banquet table is for neighbors of every age, race, culture, nationality, theological perspective, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, mental and physical ability, economic condition, and marital status.

WE BELIEVE in a church that celebrates both women and men as equally created in God's image and blessed with gifts and graces for leadership and ministry. The diversity of gender expression by both women and men is part of God’s creation.  Cultural gender role expectations must not limit freedom in Christ.  In particular, we recognize the importance of the historic mission work of the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries and members of United Methodist Women as well as the women in so many countries who claim their rightful place in God’s mission and have blazed the trail of justice, service and righteousness for the entire church.

WE BELIEVE in a church that yearns to be global and connectional and addresses the residual structures of colonialism. Recognizing the membership growth within the Central Conferences, the tendency to focus upon U. S. issues at General Conference, and cultural issues with the Book of Discipline, we affirm that which moves us in the direction of 1) deeper connections throughout the global church, 2) greater local authority, and, 3) more equitable sharing of power, representation, and responsibility around the world.  Regional (rather than global) decision making will have a profound effect on our ability to be in fruitful ministry in each local context.

WE BELIEVE in a church that ensures peaceful pursuit of self-determination and religious expression.  We share with persons of other faiths the truth that has come to us through Jesus Christ, and we listen for truths we can learn from them. We do so in the hopes of deepening respect for one another, not to impose conversion nor express self-righteousness. We reject merging religious beliefs with nationalism or subjugating one belief system or cultural group to another. We deplore using religion to promote warfare or the exploitation of others and the earth.  Leaders in all faith traditions must lead the way, modeling respect for all our neighbors and all of life.

WE BELIEVE in a church that proclaims the stewardship of creation joyfully and without reservation as an expression of social and environmental holiness.  We confess our failure to recognize our essential interconnectedness with our environment, our exhaustion of resources, and our pollution of land, water, and air that threaten the continuation of our civilization. We urge the development of energy policies that aim at the well being of the whole world rather than simply the increase of goods and services.

WE BELIEVE in a church that strives for the economic justice called for in the scriptural witness: for fair scales and honest weights, to provide for the stranger, widow, and orphan, to forgive debts, and to live into the Jubilee. We recognize that economic injustice is linked to other forms of social evil, whether inequality based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, harm to creation, or the vast inequalities between nations and regions of the world that give rise to conflict and war. We hold that a nation’s greatness is measured by its treatment of its weakest members. To that end, we call for economic policies that reflect love of neighbor by ensuring such basic needs as food, clothing, shelter, quality education, health care, a clean environment and a living wage in a workplace open to collective bargaining and free from violence and coercion.  

WE PLEDGE TO

·Shape our lives according to the good news of Jesus Christ, the Word of God made visible in our midst.

·Be United Methodists who embrace our unity in Christ, even in the midst of diverse opinions.

·Work for racial justice and resist exploitive systems that teach racial/ethnic superiority and inferiority.

·Build in public expressions of inclusiveness and affirmations of diversity in our churches and societies.

·Welcome gender diversity and establish policies and practices that share power across gender lines.

·Include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons fully in our membership and ministry.

·Support seminaries, mission institutions and global partners in providing inclusive and shared leadership.

·Support the work with women, children and youth by United Methodist Women and Women’s Division.

·Seeking to honor and to reconcile our differences, speak respectfully with one another in love.

·Ground our ministries in a broad understanding of church, community, environment and world.

·Act on reducing carbon, radiation and other pollutants while refusing to give in to cynical despair.

·Document and announce specific actions toward these commitments to encourage others.

·Live our Wesleyan tradition as people of the warmed heart, enlightened mind, and extended hand.

 

You can download the entire statement, including the signatures (as of 9.19.2011) here.

You can sign on at gc12.org.

Job Opening at MFSA!

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Methodist Federation for Social Action Job Posting

Job Description: Cross Culture Common Witness Coordinator

To be filled:      October 2011

Status:              Full-time, grant-funded position with salary
                         and benefits

Reports to:        Executive Director, MFSA

Relates to:        Cross Culture Common Witness Work Group
                         Common Witness Coalition Coordinator and
                         Work Group

Please submit letter of interest, resume and references to mfsa@mfsaweb.org. No phone calls will be accepted. Thank you.

The Cross Culture Common Witness Coordinator (CCCWC) is a pilot project that advances the capacity of Methodist Federation for Social Action and coalition partners to live out the connectionalism of a world-wide church through relational two-way organizing which identifies both unique needs and common ground.  While this is a new position, decades of relationships exist between U.S.-based progressive coalition partners and United Methodists in Central Conferences.

The CCCWC is responsible for revealing, developing and mobilizing an identifiable progressive network of international relationships and for resourcing a team of volunteers to strategically build this connectional capacity and commitment from coalition partners.

Required Qualifications for the ideal candidate include:  demonstrated competency in multi-cultural projects, successful relational organizing experience, understanding of United Methodist structure and challenges, a curious active listener, values complex identities, active commitment to moral equality including all sexual orientations and gender identities, flexibility to travel, excellent phone skills, computer database and internet competency.

Preferred qualifications:  Language competencies (French, Portuguese), direct on-the-ground Central Conference experience, DC based, familiar with Raiser’s Edge software

Responsibilities include:

1)  Facilitate and mobilize a combined volunteer and staff team committed to identify existing and expand new culturally competent connections

2)  Build a transparent system for tracking, organizing, and matching these relationships using accessible technology

3)  Assess best model and resources to train and to prepare motivated progressives to commit to partnering for common cause and avoiding the mistakes of colonialism

4)  Identify and recruit  the best contextually competent relational individuals to be an advance hospitality team the week before and also during General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Florida and explore best strategy for engagement

5)  Create a sustainable plan to maintain commitment to Central Conference relationship building post General Conference including share success stories and challenges and ensuring continuation of this project.

National Office:212 East Capitol St., NE,Washington, DC 20003 * tel: 202.546.8806 *email: mfsa@mfsaweb.org