Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hinds Feet...

Hinds Feet...
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

In Good Hands: Young Leaders of BPFNA

Some peace and justice organizations are greying and recruitment of younger members is a real issue. This is also true for many progressive congregations. I am very pleased that this is NOT the case with the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America ( ). I have told many, many people that my highlight from last year's peace camp (McMinnville, OR, first week of August 2005) was the night that many youth and young adults signed personal testimonies of conscientious objection, saying that they would not join the military and, if a draft comes, would register as conscientious objectors. They invited us older COs to stand with them and sign their individual cards as witnesses. It was wonderful.

That spirit pervaded this conference. So many "Next Generation" folk are already leaders in peace and justice work and others are learning. There's Frances Kelly, who has literally been coming to peace camp since she was a baby and is now an undergraduate at Yale (hard for me to believe since she still looks like a skinny 14 year old to me!). Frances has been leading peace camp worship with liturgical dance since I can remember. 2 years ago, at Townsend, MD peace camp, she fell down one of the ultra-steep hills on that campus and broke her leg--but she still went, crutches and all, to the peace protest in front of Congress, calling for an end to the Iraq War and confronting members of Congress passing by!

Rachel (Rae) and Daniel Hunter, siblings, have also been coming since childhood and are now early 20-somethings. They come from a mixed marriage (Carol Hunter, their mom, is a Euro-American who teaches history at Earlham College and Bob Hunter, father, an African-American who works for InterVarsity, teaches courses in the religion dept. on race at Earlham and is a Diversity and Justice Specialist) and a rich history of involvement in both church life and movement work. Rae has taught high school theatre and middle school science, is an author and poet and currently serves on the BPFNA board as its pastor. Daniel has written a book on nonviolence training and community organizing and leads training in nonviolence around the world--working on hard on experiential learning as a key to empowering marginalized groups.

Then there's Daniel Collins, a member of the youth at Glendale Baptist Church, Nashville, NC who read Scripture at one of our services. He has already been involved in many justice actions domestically and globally and later this year (14-19 September) will travel with other Glendale youth to the University of Denver for Peacejam 2006: At this event, which will gather more living Nobel Peace Prize winners than ever before in U.S. history, Daniel and other youth will get to learn and be challenged from the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Oscar Arias Sanchez (recently elected again as president of Costa Rica), Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor and his co-winner Jose Ramos-Hortos (just elected president of East Timor) and many others. What a treat for Daniel and his friends to be mentored by such peacemakers!

Then there's Lucas Johnson, a young African American who joined BPFNA last year and whom I met at last year's peace camp. He is currently serving as an Americorps VISTA volunteer in Macon, GA working with Habitat for Humanity. Macon, GA has the highest concentration of churches of any geographic area in the Southeast (over 300 for a medium size town), but only 30 are partners with Habitat or seem concerned about homelessness or substandard housing. Lucas is working to change that. He is a member of BPFNA partner congregation Oakhurst BC in Atlanta and has just been elected to the BPFNA board.

Another young person, slightly older, working on homelessness is Rev. Laura Ayala, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Caguas (FBC Caguas), Puerto Rico. One of the few women pastors in Puerto Rico, she is also the Exec. Dir. of Coalicion Criolla de Ciudado Continuo a Personas sin Hogar (Caguas Coalition for the Homeless).

Other young people at peace camp impressed me, including Jessica Wilbanks, who simply cannot be more than 21 at the oldest. She's not a BPFNA member (I think she's Presbyterian), but came as a representative of Faithful Security: The National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Danger. This organization was formed by the late William Sloan Coffin in 2005 as an interfaith organization working to harness the moral power of faith communities against the resurgent danger of nuclear weapons, which most people had assumed had retreated after the Cold War. Jessica is the coordinator for Faithful Security. She comes from an evangelical background, but is eager to work with as many different faith communities as possible, knowing that the nuclear danger cannot be addressed with strictly legal and treaty language, but must have the spiritual and moral resources of the faith communities in order to defeat this threat.

The list of impressive young Baptist peacemakers goes on: Johnny Almond, Minister of Music @ FBC Mt. Gilead, NC and Communications Director @ BPFNA; Lydia, Jerene, and Naomi Broadway of Durham, NC; Dee Dee Dikitanan of Oakland, CA; Justin Gall of Oberlin, OH; Trey Lincoln of Mount Gilead, NC and so many others-- far too many to mention, let this middle aged activist-theologian know that faith-based peace and justice activism, and the BPFNA in particular, is in good hands. Considering the news this week, that's very good to know!
by Michael, our reporter from the Baptist Peace Camp

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lost in a Fog

Tree in Fog
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Baptist Peacemakers on the Middle East

This statement was drafted July 14, 2006, by a caucus of BPFNA members meeting at the annual Summer Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, meeting for its annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia, this week calls upon the parties involved in the current escalation of tensions in the Middle East to step back from the brink of outright warfare, and to engage in negotiations to bring the situation to a peaceful resolution. We also call upon the leadership of the United States to assist in the negotiating process by refraining from placing blame on one party over another.

We are especially concerned because the weapons being used by Israel in its attacks upon Lebanon are supplied by the U.S. Such usage of U.S. tax dollars to finance military operations against a civilian population is a specific violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act and the Geneva Conventions. It has been reported that Israel has employed Lockheed Martin F-161 Fighting Falcons, as well as Boeing F-151s firing U.S.-manufactured AMRAAM, Sidewinder, and Sparrow missiles. Thus far, more than 57 Lebanese have died in these attacks, all of them civilians, a figure that includes at least 15 children.

At the same time, we specifically condemn the taking of hostages, whether civilian or military, by any governmental or non-governmental entity. We recognize that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has launched its current military operations in Lebanon as retaliation for the capture of two IDF soldiers and the killing of eight others, as well as the wounding of two. However, this event has been claimed by Hezbollah as being of their doing, and it is never acceptable to punish an entire population for the actions of a few. Such collective punishment is a violation of international law, and it only perpetuates a cycle of violence. Blaming the government of Lebanon for the actions of Hezbollah is counter-productive, as well.

Although we condemn the actions of Hezbollah, the principle of proportionality has been violated by Israel in its attacks upon Lebanon, which constitute the heaviest bombing of that country in 24 years, since Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The targeting of a civilian population is not in keeping with the values of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, and must not be accepted. It is not defensive behavior, but is an offense against the high principles of all of these religions.
At the same time, July 12 also marked the highest single-day death toll in Israel's current incursion into the Gaza Strip, resulting in the death of 23 people. That figure includes the deaths of at least 18 people in one home, including a mother and five of her children. We are very troubled about this action, since the entire population of Gaza has been suffering from the ongoing attacks by Israel, which have destroyed homes, bridges, businesses, and the entire electric supply for more than a million people.

In Lebanon, more than 20 bridges have been targeted, the television station has come under attack, and an air and sea blockade is under way. All three runways of the international airport have been destroyed, with the result that those wishing to escape the fighting by travel to Cyprus or elsewhere are prevented from doing so, while Lebanon's economy is also suffering because this is the height of tourist season and tourists are now also being diverted due to the closures.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has responded with additional rocket volleys into northern Israel, killing additional civilians. Hezbollah has called for negotiations and prisoner exchanges, although Israel's response has been a refusal to negotiate.

Believing that peace is the highest value in all three monotheistic faiths, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America expresses its condolences to all of the families involved, and urges the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and the government of Lebanon, as well as any and all parties of non-governmental status, to exercise restraint, to step back from the brink, and to begin to negotiate wholeheartedly for an end to all regional hostilities.
We reiterate that statements implying that one or another party is correct in its aggressive action against another are not helpful. No nation or group that takes out its anger on innocent civilians should ever be praised. We call on the U.S., and the United Nations, to use their good offices to intervene and prevent the escalation of this conflict into full-scale war.

Baptist Peace Fellowship of North AmericaMembers Caucus at Summer ConferenceAtlanta, Georgia USAJuly 14, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Doty Creek Old Regular Baptist Church

But then, how often do you meet regular Baptists?

Greetings from Baptist Peace Camp!

Last nght 10 July 2006 the opening plenary session of the Baptist Peace Fellowship summer confence was fantastic! Rabbi Michael Lerner talked about why people vote for the Right in the U.S even though it is against their economic and other interests: The world has generated a spiritual crisis through materialism.

The Left wants to redistribute economic wealth more justly, but doesn't want to admit to a spiritual crisis. The Religious Right contributes to the spiritual crisis through siding with unjust economic and political patterns, but by admitting to a spiritual crisis (and then blaming the scapegoate of the month) creates the illusion of caring about the spiritual crisis and offering a solution. So, people vote for the Right because the Left won't acknowledge the spiritual dimensions of the current crisis.

I got to introduce the legendary C.T. Vivian as our keynote speaker and he addressed us on fulfilling Martin Luther King Jr's vision of a Beloved Community Now!
More later.
From Reporter-on-the-scene at the Baptist Peace Camp in Atlanta, GA, Michael WW

Friday, July 07, 2006


Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Standing Up

What might justice look like that is driven by love? I’m talking about undying love. A mother or father’s love? We know the story of the Good Father who welcomed his prodigal son home with open arms. Even though the son wasted all the money his father gave him, his father let that go, forgave him instantly and gave him back what belonged to him. His dignity, and this place in the family.

There’s another story. One of the undying love of a mother.

Listen to the story of the Good Mother, Rizpah, from the book of 2 Samuel.

Rizpah stayed by the bodies of her dead sons until she got what was due them. From harvest time until spring rains, she fended off the birds and the wild animals, keeping watch until justice was done. Whether this story truly happened or not is really not the issue here. What is important is that the author shows us what it looks like to do justice by standing up in love for another. God blessed her resolve, and King David was shamed into gathering the bones of these impaled innocents, and burying them with the bones of King Saul and his son Jonathan.

There’s another mother who is standing up, guarding the memory of her dead son. Her name is Cindy Sheehan. On August 11, 2005, she camped out near President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, hoping to get an audience from him regarding her questions about why her son, Casey had to die in Iraq. She buried him over a year ago, but his was not a proper burial. Justice for Cindy Sheehan will occur when the President is able to explain just what Casey was fighting for. Unlike King David, the President has yet to be shamed into doing right by Casey Sheehan and giving honor to his death. But Cindy continues to stand up for Casey, guarding his memory until the powers that be give him what is rightfully his – a purpose for his sacrifice.

Two GOOD Mothers, over two thousand years apart, standing up for their children and non-violently challenging the powers that be. Cindy wrote in her letter from Crawford, TX while she waited for President Bush to agree to meet with her (which he never did),

“The President said that my son – and the other children we’ve lost – died for a noble cause. I want to find out what that noble cause is. And I want to ask him, ‘If it’s such a noble cause, have you asked your daughters to enlist? Have you encouraged them to go take the place of the soldiers who are on their third tour of duty?’ This is George Bush’s accountability moment. The mainstream media aren’t holding him accountable. Neither is Congress. So, I’m not leaving Crawford until he’s held accountable.”

Wherever you stand with the validity of the war in Iraq is not the issue here. What is important is that Cindy is showing us what it looks like to do justice by standing up in love for another. The verdict is still out on whether she’ll get her answers. But she now has the support of millions who believe that the powers should be held accountable.

Doing justice can start out as a lonely endeavor, as it did for these two moms, but with God all things are possible. In fact, it is only WITH God that we have the power to make a difference. Let us ask God for the gift of endurance as we endeavor to stand up in love for those who are waiting for justice.


One of a series of devotions by Michelle, who recently helped lead a Mennonite youth camp and is cool that way.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Catching on...?

Kendra, Miranda and Roger
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.
We had, I reckon, 'bout six or seven cyclists at church this last Sunday. That's a record for us (not counting our Earth Day services, where we actually push for people to ride to church). This particular Sunday was just a high point in the growing trend to bike for a healthier creation.

In a church of under 100 people, we probably had nearly a tenth of the community on two wheels rather than four (and adding in the six or more folk who walk to church, we certainly had more than a tenth).

This is great Good News.

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.

~H.G. Wells

The bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created: Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon.

~Bill Strickland

Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.

~Grant Petersen

I have been out wandering
I have traveled far
And one conclusion I have made
Is God don't own a car...

~Jimmy Buffett