Archive for the ‘Martin Luther King Jr.’ Tag

Feast of John Harris Burt (October 20)   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOHN HARRIS BURT (APRIL 11, 1918-OCTOBER 20, 2009)

Episcopal Bishop of Ohio, and Civil Rights Activist

Bishop John Harris Burt comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via his connection to his father, Bates Gilbert Burt (1878-1948), already here.

John Harris Burt was a native of Michigan.  He, born in Marquette on April 11, 1918, was a son of Father Bates Gilbert Burt and Abigail Gilbert Bates Burt.  Burt, Sr., was the Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Marquette (1904-1922).  Burt, Sr., was later the Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Pontiac, Michigan (1922-1947).  Our saint, after graduating from high school in Pontiac, matriculated at Amherst College (B.A., 1940).  Then he studied social work for a year at Columbia University, followed by further studies at Virginia Theological Seminary (Class of 1943).

Then Burt began ordained ministry.  He, ordained to the diaconate (1943) then the priesthood (1944), was the canon of the Cathedral chapter of Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral, St. Louis, Missouri, as well as the Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, St. Louis (1943-1944).   He met Martha May Miller at St. Paul’s Church.  Next, Burt served as a chaplain in the United States Navy (1944-1946).  He married Martha on February 16, 1946.  Our saint was also the Episcopal chaplain at The University of Michigan (1946-1950).  He left that post to become the Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Youngstown, Ohio (1950-1957).  As the Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Pasadena, California (1957-1967), Burt made that parish a leader in social activism.  He was, for example, a prominent ally of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez.

Above:  The Flag of Ohio

Image in the Public Domain

Burt became a bishop.  He, elected in 1966, became the Bishop Coadjutor of Ohio on February 4, 1967.  He succeeded to become the Bishop of Ohio by the end of the year.  Burt served until he retired in 1983.  Our saint was outspoken and active.  He opposed the Vietnam War.  In 1967, Burt spoke at the International Inter-Religious Symposium of Peace in New Delhi, India.  Following the collapse of the steel industry in Youngstown, Ohio, our saint co-founded the Ecumenical Coalition of the Mahoning Valley.  This earned him the Thomas Merton Award, previously given to luminaries, such as Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan.  Burt, an early advocate for the ordination to women to the priesthood, promised to resign if the General Convention of 1976 did not approve such ordinations.  It did, much to the consternation of many a traditionalist Anglican.

Burt was active in Christian ecumenism and interfaith relations.  He was, for a time, the President of the Southern California Council of Churches, as well as a representative to the National Council of Churches at another time.  Our saint chaired the denominational Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (1974-1979).  He worked on Jewish-Christian relations at The Episcopal Church, the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, the United States Holocaust Museum, and the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel.

Burt understood that loving one’s neighbors had practical applications.  Therefore, for example, he worked on energy independence, as well as solutions to economic problems in Ohio and seven nearby states.

Our saint, aged 91 years, died in Marquette, Michigan, on October 20, 2009.  Martha, their four daughters, six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren survived him.

Burt said:

The world alters us as we walk in it.

He worked to alter the world for the better as he walked through it.

May each of us do likewise.

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God of Shalom, we thank you for the ministry, international work,

and community development work of your servant, John Harris Burt.

May we also, in the Name of Jesus, pursue peace with our neighbors near and far away,

and build up each other spiritually, economically, and concretely.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Amos 8:1-10

Psalm 1

James 2:14-26

Luke 6:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA, MONK, HERMIT, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 625

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Feast of Joseph Lowery (October 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Joseph and Evelyn Lowery, Atlanta, Georgia, 1994

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-47972

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JOSEPH ECHOLS LOWERY, SR. (OCTOBER 6, 1921-MARCH 27, 2020)

African-American United Methodist Minister and Civil Rights Leader

Joseph Lowery comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via civil rights activism.

The struggle to gain and retain civil rights, which should be automatic because one has a pulse, never ends.  At any given time, some person, group, or political party seeks to deny or curtail the civil rights of certain people based on an arbitrary characteristic.  These evildoers frequently cloak these efforts in the language of righteousness.  The life and legacy of Joseph Lowery contains lessons that, sadly, remain current and relevant.

Lowery, born in Huntsville, Alabama, on October 6, 1921, grew up in the (old) Jim Crow South.  His mother, Dora Lowery, was a teacher.  His father, Leroy Lowery, Jr., was a small businessman.  The 14-year-old Lowery once refused to get off a sidewalk as a white man approached and passed.  For this alleged offense, a white police officer punched our young saint.  The youth rushed home to get a gun, but his father dissuaded him.  The family sent Lowery to live with relatives in Chicago, Illinois, for a few years.  Our saint returned to Huntsville in 1936.  After graduating from William Cooper Council High School in 1939, he went to college.  He matriculated at Knoxville College, transferred to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, then studied at Paine College, Augusta, Georgia (Class of 1943).

Lowery became a minister in The Methodist Church (1939-1968).  He matriculated at Payne Theological Seminary (of the African Methodist Episcopal Church), Wilberforce, Ohio, 1944.  In the early 1940s, he had married Agnes Moore.  The couple had two children, Joseph Lowery, Jr.; and Leroy Lowery, III.  That marriage ended in divorce in the middle 1940s.  Our saint completed his Doctor of Divinity degree from the Chicago Ecumenical Institute, Chicago, Illinois (1950).  That year, he also married civil rights activist Evelyn Gibson, a member of The Methodist Church.  The couple had three children:  Yvonne, Karen, and Cheryl.

Lowery served as the pastor of Warren Street Methodist Church, Mobile, Alabama (1952-1961).  During those years, he became a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.  He helped to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Lowery also led the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, dedicated to the desegregation of buses and public places.  In 1957, Lowery; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and others founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  He held various positions in the SCLC before serving as the President (1977-1997).  The State of Alabama harassed Lowery and certain other civil rights leaders in 1959.  The state seized their cars and other property to pay damages resulting from a libel suit.  The United States Supreme Court, in New York Times Company v. Sullivan (1964), ruled that Alabama’s libel law violated the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech and press.  The State of Alabama, therefore, had acted unconstitutionally.

From 1961 to 1964, Lowery worked in the office of Methodist Bishop Michael Golden, in Nashville, Tennessee.  Our saint continued to participate in protests for civil rights during these years.

Lowery was pastor of St. Paul Methodist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, from 1964 to 1968.  He also marched with Dr. King at Selma in 1965.

Lowery was the senior pastor of Central United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia (1968-1986).  Almost immediately, he continued his tradition of getting arrested from a righteous cause, but in Georgia.  Our saint’s participation in a sanitation workers’ strike (1968) led to jail time.  This was neither his first nor last time to go to jail for protesting peacefully.  He, active in the anti-Apartheid movement, went to jail in the District of Columbia for participating in a protest there outside the South African embassy in 1984, for example.

Lower was the senior pastor of Cascade United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia (1986-1992).  He built up his congregation, community, city, and society.  Our saint worked to ensure that Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) lines ran through African-American communities.  He also helped to initiate a gun buyback program.  Evelyn initiated an HIV/AIDS program from African-American communities.  Lowery retired in 1992.

Lowery remained socially conscious, active, and controversial (as all proper social activists are) in retirement.  He served as the President of the SCLC until 1997.  Clark Atlanta University opened the Joseph E. Lowery Center for Justice and Human Rights in 2001.  At the funeral of Coretta Scott King, in 2006, in the presence of President George W. Bush, Lowery aroused much conservative ire by condemning the federal government for fighting a war in Iraq yet not a war on domestic poverty.  (One gets to denounce a U.S. President peacefully in the presence of that President in the United States of America, of course.  It is a grand American tradition.)  Later in life, our saint openly advocated for equal rights for homosexuals.  He initially spoke out in favor of civil unions, then, in 2012, same-sex marriage.

Evelyn Lowery died on September 26, 2013.

Our saint, aged 99 years, died in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 27, 2020.

Perhaps the best way to conclude this post is with Lowery’s benediction at the first inauguration of President Barack Obama, on January 20, 2009:

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest,

and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work

for that day when black will not be asked to get in back; 

when brown can stick around;

when yellow will be mellow;

when the red man can get ahead, man;

and when white will embrace what is right.

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say,

Amen!  Say Amen!  And Amen!

That vision remains in the future tense, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARBER LIGHTFOOT, BISHOP OF DURHAM

THE FEAST OF HENRI PERRIN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC WORKER PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN GLOUCESTER, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 655; AND SAINT MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR, EASTERN ORTHODOX MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR, 662

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROLANDO RIVI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1945

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us [like your servant, Joseph Echols Lowery, Sr.] to use our freedom

to bring justice among peoples and nations, to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Edward McGlynn (September 28)   Leave a comment

Above:  Father Edward McGlynn

Image in the Public Domain

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EDWARD MCGLYNN (SEPTEMBER 27, 1837-JANUARY 7, 1900)

U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Social Reformer, and Alleged Heretic

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When I feed the poor, they call me saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.

Helder Camara (1909-1999), Roman Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife (1964-1985)

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Charity is a noble virtue, but to make the whole world an almshouse is carrying it to the absurd.  The noblest charity is to do justice–not only to procedure, at the sacrifice of self, in an unselfish spirit, some improvement in the condition of mankind, but to compel tyrants to do justice to the victims they have wronged.

The supreme moral law, the law of gravitation in the moral order, is justice.  Justice is the one think necessary to hold society together, to give each individual man the proper opportunity of exercising his God-given liberty.  Justice must be like Him in whose bosom it finds its eternal resting place, universal–it must prevail throughout the universe of God.

–Edward McGlynn, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber. A Year with American Saints (2006), 581

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He believed in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man,….

–from an obituary of Edward McGlynn, quoted in A Year with American Saints (2006), 581

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INTRODUCTION

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Father Edward McGlynn paid close attention to the Lord’s Prayer.  The line,

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,

dictated his radical social ethics and political positions.

The Kingdom of God is radical, of course.  It confronts those who build and maintain exploitative and otherwise unjust systems, and shows them what they should be doing instead.  The Kingdom of God tells them, to quote Daniel 5:27:

You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.

McGlynn comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via A Year with American Saints (2006).

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BIOGRAPHY

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Our saint, born in New York, New York, on September 27, 1837, came from Irish stock.  His parents were Peter (d. 1847) and Sarah McGlynn, who had left Donegal, Ireland, in 1824.  The McGlynn family had ten children.  Fortunately, Peter, a contractor, could afford to take care of his family properly.  Our saint studied first in New York City then in Rome (for nine years, in the Eternal City).  McGlynn, having received his doctorate in theology and philosophy, joined the ranks of priests (at the Church of St. John Lateran) on March 24, 1860.

McGlynn returned to New York City and began his ministry.  First he served as the assistant priest at St. Joseph’s Church.  Subsequent assignments through 1865 were:

  1. St. Brigid’s Church (as acting pastor),
  2. St. James’s Church (as pastor),
  3. St. Ann’s Church (as pastor), and
  4. St. Joseph’s Military Hospital (as chaplain).

Father Jeremiah Williams Cummings (1814-1866), McGlynn’s childhood priest, and the pastor of the Church of St. Stephen the Martyr since 1848, requested that John Hughes, the Archbishop of New York, assign our saint the assistant priest at St. Stephen’s Church.  McGlynn’s tenure as the assistant priest was brief; Cummings died on January 1866.  Then our saint succeeded him.  McGlynn served as the pastor of one of the largest Roman Catholic parishes in New York City until 1887.

At a time when the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the United States of America was obsessed with resisting the cultural assimilation of Roman Catholic immigrants, McGlynn had other priorities.  He supported public schools and defied orders to build a parochial school at St. Stephen’s Church.  He also befriended some Protestant clergymen.  Our saint caused plenty of scandal and outrage by doing all of the above.  Then he really got into trouble; he addressed economic inequality.

McGlynn looked into the heart of the problem and pondered structural changes to structural problems.  He dispensed many charitable handouts, of course.  Then he thought about why so many handouts were necessary.  He read Progress and Poverty (1879), by Henry George (1839-1897), and became a radical, like George.  George argued that all residents of a community should share equally in the economic value derived from the land.  He also favored municipal (public) utilities, free public transit, free trade, the secret ballot, greenbacks (as opposed to metal money), a universal pension, women’s suffrage, civil service reform, free bankruptcy protection, and the abolition of debtor’s prisons.  Much of George’s agenda has become policy in the United States of America, but parts of it have remained as radical in 2021 as they were in the late 1800s.

McGlynn got into hot water for aligning himself with George and George’s agenda, especially collective land ownership.  Our saint even participated in George’s failed campaign for Mayor of New York City in 1886.  Archbishops of New York John McCloskey (-1885) and Michael Corrigan (1885f) saw red, so to speak.  McCloskey ordered McGlynn to refrain from defending the alleged Socialistic opinions in public.  Corrigan forbade our saint from speaking at a campaign rally for George on October 1, 1886.  McGlynn refused. Corrigan published a pastoral letter defending property rights and condemning theories to the contrary.  McGlynn publicly criticized the document.  At the end of November 1886, Corrigan suspended our saint again.

Corrigan, citing alleged insubordination, removed McGlynn from St. Stephen’s Church in January 1887.  Our saint, summoned to Rome, on pain of excommunication, cited ill health and refused to make the trip.  His excommunication took effect on July 4, 1887.

Meanwhile, McGlynn and George had founded the Anti-Poverty Society in March 1887.  Our saint had become the first president of that organization.  He moved in with his widowed sister in Brooklyn.  McGlynn, having recovered his health, toured the West in his official capacity.  He also made clear that he rejected Papal Infallibility, which had emerged from the First Vatican Council (1869-1870).

Fortunately for McGlynn, his status in the church improved.  The lifting of his excommunication took effect on December 23, 1892, followed by his reinstatement to ministry the next day.  And, in 1893, Pope Leo XIII (reigned 1878-1903) gave McGlynn a sympathetic hearing in Rome.

McGlynn, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Newburgh, New York (1895-1900), died at the rectory on January 7, 1900.  He, 62 years old, had died of Bright’s Disease.

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CONCLUSION

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On April 4, 1967, at The Riverside Church, New York, New York, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968), delivered one of his most famous speeches; he unambiguously opposed the Vietnam War.  In that address, King also made other points, such as:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.  We must rapidly begin the shirt from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

At the risk of sounding like a very Low Church Protestant, can I get an “amen”?

King’s statement was radical in 1967.  It was radical in the late 1800s, too.

And it remains radical.  That fact speaks negatively, in moral terms, of societies, cultures, and nation-states.  That fact confirms that we–as societies, cultures, and nation-states–have, in the words of Daniel 5:27,

been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.

Uh-oh.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1586

THE FEAST OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES RENDEL HARRIS, ANGLO-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN QUAKER BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND ORIENTALIST; ROBERT LUBBOCK BENSLY, ENGLISH BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR AND ORIENTALIST; AGNES SMITH LEWIS AND MARGARET DUNLOP SMITH GIBSON, ENGLISH BIBLICAL SCHOLARS AND LINGUISTS; SAMUEL SAVAGE LEWIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND LIBRARIAN OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE; AND JAMES YOUNG GIBSON, SCOTTISH UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITERARY TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

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Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may

do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ, our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 736

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Remaining Positive and Focused on the Morally Justifiable   Leave a comment

Above:  The View from the Camera Built Into a Computer on my Desk, June 14, 2020

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We live in times of rapid social and political change.  Change–even that which is morally proper–causes disorientation and disturbance.  Sometimes we ought to be disturbed.  Injustice ought to disturb us. The root word of “conservative” is “conserve.”  Whether one’s conservatism is morally defensible depends on what one seeks to conserve.  Sometimes one should conserve x.  In certain times, reform is proper.  On other occasions, however, only a revolution is morally defensible.  Yet, even in those cases, nobility must extend beyond the cause and encompass the methods, also.

Call me politically correct, if you wish, O reader.  Or call me a radical or a fool.  If you call me a radical and a revolutionary for justice, I will accept the compliment.  I support what Martin Luther King, Jr., called

a moral revolution of values.

I favor the building of a society in which people matter more than money and property.  I favor social and political standards that brook no discrimination and bigotry while granting violators of those standards the opportunity to repent.  I favor altering society and institutions, inculcating in them the awareness that keeping some people “in their place,” that is, subordinate, underpaid, poorly educated, et cetera, harms society as a whole.  I support building up the whole, and individuals in that context.  I oppose celebrating slavery, discrimination, racism, and hatred, whether past or present.  I stand (socially distanced and wearing a mask, of course) with all those, especially of the younger generations, who are rising up peacefully for justice.  The young will, overall, have an easier time adapting to morally necessary change than many members of the older generations will, no matter how devout and well-intentioned many older people may be.  To quote a cliché,

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless advice for confronting evil:

Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

–Romans 12:21 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985)

May all who seek a more just society pursue that goal with shrewdness, courage, and goodness.  To create a better society without incorporating goodness into methodology is impossible, after all.  May all who reshape society remain positive and focused on the morally justifiable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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To Be Clear   Leave a comment

Shalom in Hebrew

Above:  Shalom in Hebrew

Image in the Public Domain

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Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

–The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Riverside Church, New York, New York, April 4, 1967

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To be clear, I stand, without reservation, against police brutality, systemic racism, individual racism, the militarization of police forces, needless violence, and all excuses that cover up for not opposing and correcting these offenses against human dignity.  I also oppose all political dog whistles (mainly, appeals to law and order) that distract while they favor unjust order over social justice.  Furthermore, I oppose the use of force against peaceful protesters.  That unjust, oppressive, and repressive law-and-order “desert called peace” (as Tacitus referred to the Pax Romana) is NOT shalom.  It is not, in civil rights terms, beloved community.

I also understand that institutions infected with injustice change only when people force them to do so.  Society is people.  It shapes its members, who have the power to change it.

I favor a just social order.  I favor wise and necessary systemic reform.  I favor spiritual renewal, which must go hand-in-hand with the first two points.  I recognize that sin, guilt, reward, and punishment are both individual and collective.

I, as a self-respecting white liberal, also refuse to tell my brothers and sisters of color how they should feel regarding any matter related to racism.  I do not know how they feel.  I have not experienced what have experience and continue to experience.  I refuse to lecture them.  Instead, I listen to them and learn from them.  I respect them so much that I refuse to do otherwise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

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This is post #2100 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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Feast of Will Herzfeld (June 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Fair Use

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WILLIAM LAWRENCE HERZFELD (JUNE 9, 1937-MAY 9, 2002)

U.S. Lutheran Ecumenist, Presiding Bishop of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and Civil Rights Activist

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Will was a person with uncanny insight, constant respect for people, and a focus on the gospel.  He conveyed the partnership, accompaniment, of a large North American church with churches in other lands in a manner that transcended economic, cultural, and political boundaries.

–Bonnie L. Jansen, Executive Director, Division for Global Mission, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 408

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Bishop Will Herzfeld was a leader of U.S. Lutheranism.  He departed from one denomination, helped to form two denominations, and played a vital role in increasing the degree of unity of Lutheranism in the United States.  Activism in support of civil rights was a component of his faith.

Herzfeld grew up in the Jim Crow South.  He, born in Mobile, Alabama, on June 9, 1937, was a son of Julius Herzfeld, Sr., and Clarice Heinningburg Herzfeld.  Our saint grew up in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS)–in Faith Lutheran Church, Mobile, to be precise.  He attended parochial schools then other Lutheran institutions of education for African Americans.  Herzfeld graduated from the subpar Alabama Lutheran Academy and College (now Concordia College), Selma.  He carried negative memories of this institution for the rest of his life.  Our saint also graduated from Immanuel Lutheran College, Greensboro, North Carolina (1957).  Herzfeld went on to graduate from Immanuel Lutheran Seminary, Greensboro (M.Div., 1961), and to continue his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.  Meanwhile, he married Thressa M. Alston at Kannapolis, North Carolina, on June 11, 1961.  The couple had four children–two daughters and two sons–three of whom lived to adulthood.  Their first child, a daughter, lived only one day.

Herzfeld was an ordained minister in the LCMS from 1961 to 1976.  His first pastorate was Christ Lutheran Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama (1961-1965).  Our saint became a leader in the Civil Rights Movement while in Tuscaloosa.  He helped to organize the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1963.  Herzfeld, the first president of that chapter, worked closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968).  OUr saint also served as the president of the Alabama branch of the SCLC (1964-1965).  On the denominational level, he was active in the Southern District of the LCMS.  Our saint sat on the Stewardship Committee and the Family Life Committee.  Furthermore, he was the Vice President of the Lutheran Human Relations Association of America (1964-1966).

Herzfeld ministered in the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of the LCMS, starting .  He, based in Oakland, California, was an urban minister for the district (1966-1969).  Our saint also served as the regional mission executive of the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A. (1969-1973).  This service overlapped with his time on the LCMS Board of Missions (1969-1973), the Council for Christian Medical Work (1973-1975), and the Board of Directors of the Wheat Ridge Foundation (now the We Raise Foundation) from 1069 to 1972.  The latter organization addresses social inequality.

Herzfeld ministered in the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of the LCMS, starting in 1966.  He, based in Oakland, California, was an urban minister for the district (1966-1969).  Our saint also served as the regional mission executive of the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A. (1969-1973).  This service overlapped with his time on the LCMS Board of Missions (1969-1973), the Council for Christian Medical Work (1973-1975), and the Board of Directors of the Wheat Ridge Foundation (now the We Raise Foundation) from 1969 to 1972.  (The We Raise Foundation addresses social inequality.)

Above:  Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, California

Image Source = Google Earth

Herzfeld was the pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, California, from 1973 to 1992.  These were eventful years for U.S. Lutheranism.  Our saint, who had represented LCMS President Jacob Preus at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the LCMS mission in India in 1969, broke with Preus during the doctrinal turmoil (1969-1976) in the denomination.  Herzfeld became the vice president of the moderate Evangelical Lutherans in Mission (ELIM) in 1973.  Three years later, he became the Vice President of the moderate, breakaway Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), to which ELIM gave birth.  The AELC eventually changed its title to Presiding Bishop.  Herzfeld became the Presiding Bishop in 1984.  By then he had been active for years in efforts to merge the AELC, the Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987), and The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987) into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Herzfeld was socially and politically active.  He taught urban ministry at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, California, starting in 1976.  He devoted much to ecumenical Black Theology-related projects and organizations for decades.  Our saint always seemed to find time for work in civil rights.  He worked for nuclear disarmament.  Herzfeld, active in urban renewal in Oakland, served in a variety of capacities toward that end.  He also found time to be the chaplain of the Golden State Warriors, a professional basketball team, from 1984 to 1991.

Herzfeld made history.  He made history in 1984, when he became the first African-American head of a U.S. Lutheran denomination.  He made history in the 1980s by being prominent in the movement to bring global pressure on the Apartheid-era governments of South Africa.  Our saint made history by helping to seal the deal to form the ELCA.

Meanwhile, Herzfeld continued his education.  He earned two doctorates–one from the Center for Urban Black Studies, the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California; and the other one from Seminex.

Herzfeld resigned from Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, at the end of 1992 to accept promotion to the denominational level.  He moved to Chicago, Illinois, to become the Director for Global Community and Overseas Operations of the Division of Global Mission of the ELCA.  He, already a presence in global Lutheranism, expanded his worldwide profile.  He served as the Vice Presidency of Lutheran World Relief.  Our saint, a vice president of the National Council of Churches during his final years, was also active in the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation.  Herzfeld represented the ELCA globally in a variety of capacities and at a number of events.

In 2002, Herzfeld visited the Central African Republic.  He went there to attend the ordination of the first female Lutheran minister in that country.  Unfortunately, he also contracted cerebral malaria.  A month later, on May 9, our saint died at Resurrection Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois.  Had Herzfeld lived one month longer, he would have celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday.

Survivors included Herzfeld’s former wife, Thressa; his three adult children–Martin, Katherine, and Stephen; and five grandchildren.  Our saint’s second wife, the Reverend Michele L. Robinson, had died in May 2001.

Herzfeld’s death prompted many remembrances and kind words.  Perhaps the most poignant statement came from a colleague, Herbert Chilstrom, the first Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. Chilstrom said,

I’ve lost a friend.

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God of justice, we praise you as we thank you for the

life, work, and legacy of your servant, Will Herzfeld.

May we, deriving inspiration from his example,

confront and resist systems of oppression and artificial inequality

as we strive to live according to the Golden Rule

and to leave society better than we found it.

May we also work to break down unnecessary barriers

to greater ecclesiastical unity and cooperation, for your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Amos 5:21-24

Psalm 95

Galatians 5:13-15

Matthew 25:31-46

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAROSLAV VAJDA, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOZEF CEBULA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILIUS OF SULMONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND ALMSGIVER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA, 1841

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW, EPISCOPAL ATTORNEY, THEOLOGIAN, AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Feast of Ruby Middleton Forsythe (May 29)   Leave a comment

Above:  Chapel/Old Church, Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, Pawleys Island, South Carolina

Image Source = Google Earth

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RUBY MIDDLETON FORSYTHE (JUNE 27, 1905-MAY 29, 1992)

African-American Episcopal Educator

Ruby Middleton Forsythe comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Episcopal Church.  A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016), an official resource and the volume containing the denomination’s side calendar of saints, has an appendix.  Two pages in this appendix list people officially “worthy of commemoration” whom The Episcopal Church has yet to recognize formally because four decades (give or take a year or so) have not passed since their decease.  Forsythe’s name is on this list.  I have no forty-year rule, although I understand why the denomination has one.

(Aside:  The Episcopal Church has made a few–at least two, to my knowledge–to this rule.  It added Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968); and Jonathan Myrick Daniels (1939-1965).  Both were martyrs for the Gospel and for civil rights.)

Our saint, born Ruby Middleton, spent sixty of her nearly eighty-seven years as a teacher.  Middleton, born in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 27, 1905, graduated from Avery Normal Institute, Charleston, in 1921.  “Miss Ruby,” as many people called her, went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree from South Carolina State College, Orangeburg.  Our saint lived in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, where she took care of her parents and taught until 1937.  Toward the end of that time she married Father William Essex Forsythe (1889-1974), the Vicar of Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, Pawleys Island, South Carolina.  The congregation operated a one-room school, the only local school for African-American youth.  Our saint did not move to Pawleys Island immediately, for she took care of her parents.  She did, however, visit Pawleys Island during summers through 1937.

Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church had originally been two missions, each with its own school.  Holy Cross-Brookgreen Mission dated to 1896.  Faith Memorial Mission dated to 1903.  Father Forsythe served as the vicar of both missions from 1926 to 1930, then as the vicar of the merged mission, starting in 1930.

Our saint taught in the school on Pawleys Island from 1938 to 1981, when she retired.  She outlived her husband, who taught in the school until he died in 1974.  Holy Cross Faith Memorial Church became a center of African-American life in the Diocese of South Carolina.  Camp Baskervill, a summer camp for African Americans, occurred on the grounds from 1939 to the 1990s, for example.

Our saint, who retired in 1981, received much recognition.  She received four honorary doctorates.  She was the subject of a segment of 60 MinutesNewsweek magazine declared her one of “America’s Unsung Heroes.”  President George H. W. Bush labeled her one of the Thousand Points of Light.

“Miss Ruby” died in Mount Pleasant on May 29, 1992.

The school closed in 2000.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

FRIDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF EMILY COOPER, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF LUCY LARCOM, U.S. ACADEMIC, JOURNALIST, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAX JOSEF METZGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF WILBUR KENNETH HOWARD, MODERATOR OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

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Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom:

Enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn,

that, rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth,

they may worship you and serve you from generation to generation;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 20-25

Psalm 78:1-7

2 Timothy 3:4-4:5

Matthew 11:25-30

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016), A60

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Feast of Lucy Craft Laney (April 15)   1 comment

Above:  Kindergarten, Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Augusta, Georgia, 1899

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-132449 (b&w film copy neg.)

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LUCY CRAFT LANEY (APRIL 13, 1854-OCTOBER 24, 1933)

African-American Presbyterian Educator and Civil Rights Activist

Lucy Craft Laney comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Our saint was a daughter of former slaves.  David Laney, a carpenter, was a Presbyterian minister.  In 1838, slaves who had been members of First Presbyterian Church, Macon, Georgia, became part of the African chapel, the origin of Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church.  Laney was a “leader,” functioning as a minister, of this congregation.  His ordination in 1866 made his ministerial status official.  He, having purchased his freedom in the 1830s, married Louisa, whose freedom he also purchased.  The couple had ten children.  Number seven was Lucy Craft Laney, born in Macon on April 13, 1854.

Presbyterian denominational history can be very confusing, even for those initiated into the mysteries of mergers and schisms.  I, having studied these matters closely, write authoritatively about them.  In the case of Lucy Craft Laney, I conclude that she belonged to the following denominations, in order:

  1. the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (Old School), until December 1861; then
  2. the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (December 1861-December 1865), which changed its name to the Presbyterian Church in the United States in December 1865.

Our saint’s family taught her the value of education.  She learned to read and write by the age of four years.  When she was twelve years old, Laney translated difficult passages of Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars from Latin.  Her formal education came courtesy of the American Missionary Association, which founded schools for African Americans in the former Confederacy.  She attended Lewis High School, Macon, from 1865 to 1869.  After graduating, she matriculated at Atlanta University.  Ironically, she could not formally study the classics there because of her gender; Laney objected.  Our saint, who graduated in 1873, had her credentials as a teacher.

Laney spent a decade teaching in other people’s schools.  She taught in Macon, Savannah, Milledgeville, and Augusta.  Then, in 1883, she founded what became Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta.  The first “campus” was the basement of Christ Presbyterian Church, Augusta.  This African-American congregation, formed in October 1882, had separated from First Presbyterian Church, Augusta.

Laney served as principal from 1883 to 1933.  The school became Haines Normal and Industrial Institute because one Francine Haines donated $10,000 ($282,862.94, adjusted for inflation, as of the day I am typing this sentence) in 1886.  The State of Georgia chartered the school that year.  The Haines Institute, which moved to its new campus on Gwinnett Street (now Laney-Walker Boulevard) grew to 34 teachers and 900 students by 1912.  The school offered sewing classes, the first African-American kindergarten in Augusta, the first African-American nursing school in Augusta, orchestral concerts and other cultural events, and a college preparatory program.  Laney taught Latin.  Many graduates matriculated at respected Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  Novelist Frank Yerby (1916-1991), a native of Augusta, was an alumnus of the Haines Institute; he attended the school toward the end of Laney’s life.  Another famous person connected to the Haines Institute was Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), who taught there for a year then moved on to make her mark elsewhere.

Laney was active in the struggle for civil rights.  She, a friend of luminaries such as W. E. B. DuBois (1868-1963), Langston Hughes (1902-1967), and Madam C. J. Walker/Sarah Breedlove (1867-1919), was active in the National Association of Colored Women and the Interracial Commission.  She also helped to organize the Augusta Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.) in 1918.  Furthermore, Laney helped to integrate the work of the Augusta branches of the Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) and the Young Women’s Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.).

Laney died in Augusta on October 24, 1933.  “Miss Lucy” was 79 years old.

Haines Normal and Industrial Institute closed in 1949.  Laney High School replaced it.  Sadly, not one of the buildings of the Haines Institute has survived the ravages of time and political decisions.

Gwinnett Street, which borders the campus of Christ Presbyterian Church and the site of the former Haines Institute, has become Laney-Walker Boulevard.  Dr. Charles T. Walker was one of the founders of Atlanta University.

In 1974, Governor Jimmy Carter unveiled the first three portraits of African Americans in the state capitol.  The three honorees were Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915); Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968), and Lucy Craft Laney.

The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and Conference Center, Augusta, opened in 1991.

Fortunately, the indirect and intergenerational influence of Lucy Craft Laney has continued to grow.

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Everlasting God, you teach us that your ways frequently conflict with many of our societal norms.

We thank you for the life and legacy of your servant, Lucy Craft Laney.

May we, inspired by her example, resist social injustice and

testify with our lives to the image of God present in all people.

May we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, transform our societies,

changing our societal norms so that they will more closely resemble your ways,

for your glory and the benefit of all people.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Proverbs 2:1-5

Psalm 25:1-10

Galatians 3:23-29

Matthew 5:13-16

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BINNEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND “ARCHBISHOP OF NONCONFORMITY”

THE FEAST OF ANNA JULIA HAYWOOD COOPER AND ELIZABETH EVELYN WRIGHT, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATORS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HOST OF MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BADGER, SR., U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER; FIRST MISSIONARY TO THE WESTERN RESERVE

THE FEAST OF PEDRO ARRUPE, ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR AND MARGINALIZED, AND SUPERIOR GENERAL OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

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Feast of A. J. Muste (January 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  A. J. Muste

Image in the Public Domain

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ABRAHAM JOHANNES MUSTE (JANUARY 8, 1885-FEBRUARY 11, 1967)

Dutch-American Minister, Labor Activist, and Pacifist

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Only the nonviolent can apply therapy to the violent.

–A. J. Muste

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A. J. Muste comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber,  A Year with American Saints (2006).

Muste changed his mind on major points more than once, each time sending his life in a different direction.

Our saint, born in Zierkzee, The Netherlands, on January 8, 1885, to Martin and Adriana Muste, came from a Dutch Reformed family.  He, his parents, and his siblings, seeking economic opportunity, emigrated in 1891.  They settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, joined the Dutch Reformed Church there, and naturalized in 1896.  The working-class congregation that shaped Muste was quite conservative–diehard Republican and puritanical.  Dancing, attending plays, and listening to secular music were allegedly sinful.

Muste, intelligent, was a fine student.  He, the valedictorian of Hope College in 1905, taught Greek and Latin at Northwestern Classical Academy (now called Northwestern College), Orange City, Iowa.  Then our saint studied at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, New Jersey, from 1906 to 1909.  After ordination into the ministry of the Reformed Church in America (1909), Muste married Anna Huizenga before the end of the year.  The couple raised three children.

Muste liberalized significantly during 1909-1914, his tenure as pastor of Fort Washington Collegiate Church, Washington Heights, New York, New York.  He questioned the religious strictness of his youth, accepted the Social Gospel, and earned a degree from Union Theological Seminary.  Muste had changed so much in 1912 that he cast his vote for Eugene Victor Debs, nominee of the Socialist Party, in the presidential election of 1912.

Muste was theologically honest.  By 1914 he no longer accepted the Westminster Confession of Faith, so he resigned his pastorate.  Our saint served as the pastor of Central Congregational Church, Newtonville, Massachusetts, for about three years.  (Muste succeeded Jay Thomas Stocking in that role.  Stocking’s immediate predecessor was Ozora Stearns Davis, who served in 1900-1904.)  Muste, a pacifist, founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1915.  In 1917, after the United States entered World War I, Muste resigned his pastorate under pressure.  Our saint volunteered for the Civil Liberties Bureau (a precursor of the American Civil Liberties Union) in Boston, in 1918.  He defended draft resisters.  Later that year, in Providence, Rhode Island, our saint joined the Quakers.

Muste became a labor union activist in 1919 and remained active in the cause for the rest of his life.  For sixteen weeks that year, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, workers went on strike.  They had a just cause; they worked 54-hour-long work weeks for $0.20 an hour.  (That amount, adjusted to inflation and keyed to the Consumer Price Index for 2018, the most recent year I can adjust amounts for inflation, is $2.90.)  Police spies tried to goad workers into committing violence, but Muste encouraged striking workers not to resort to violence.  Police beat him and incarcerated our saint for a week, though.  Later that year, Muste helped to found the Amalgamated Textile Workers of America.  He served as the secretary until 1921.

Muste became a radical–a Marxist-Leninist, even, for a time.  He, the president (1921-1933) of Brookwood Labor College, Katonah, New York, left the American Federation of Labor in 1929.  Our saint helped to found the Conference for Progressive Labor Action.  He also worked to build a labor third party, culminating in the Workers Party of the United States (1934-1936).

Muste changed direction again in 1936.  He left Marxism-Leninism behind and became a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A..  Our saint’s writings, starting in 1936, were clear; the proper revolutionary force was Christianity.  From 1937 to 1940, he was the director of the (Presbyterian) Labor Temple, a mission of the Presbytery of New York to working men of New York City.  Our saint, the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation from 1940 to 1953), mentored Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), who taught nonviolent resistance tactics to Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968).  Muste’s obvious opposition to Marxism-Leninism, starting in 1936, did not spare him from allegations during the 1950s of being a communist.  He was certainly a consistent pacifist, opposing wars, whether declared or “police actions.”  Muste also spoke out against racism at home and abroad.  Furthermore, he insisted that good housing and proper, affordable health care were human rights.  Those views were sufficient to prompt much criticism of him.

Muste died in New York, New York, on February 11, 1967.  He was 82 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Happy to Be an Episcopalian   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I have belonged to three denominations and chosen one.  When my parents were Southern Baptists, so was I.  Likewise, in 1980, when my father left the ordained ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention for that of The United Methodist Church, I became a United Methodist at the age of seven years.  Thus, in June 1980, our family moved from Newington, Georgia, where he had been pastor of North Newington Baptist Church, and settled in the parsonage in Vidette, Georgia.  He served as the minister of the Vidette, Friendship, and Greens Cut congregations in Burke County.  In the ensuing years, I took the grand tour of rural southern Georgia.  My initial spiritual formation occurred within the context of rural Southern United Methodism, a different creature from United Methodism as it exists in much of the rest of the United States and the world.

Yet I have always had an inner Catholic.  The sacraments, central to my faith, were too infrequent in those rural United Methodist churches.  My attraction to the Deuterocanon (what many call the Apocrypha) asserted itself, also.  Furthermore, my interest in history, and therefore, in ecclesiastical history, made me an outlier in the congregations my father served.  Church history, as it existed in those places, started with Jesus, ran consistently through the Apostles, jumped to the Crusades, jumped again to Martin Luther, ran forward, and really started sprinting with John and Charles Wesley.  That version of church history left many gaps.

In the autumn of 1991, I started my studies at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia.  I started attending services at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, on the Sunday after All Saints’ Day.  On December 22, 1991, Bishop Harry Woolston Shipps confirmed me.  I remained in the Diocese of Georgia through 2005, belonging to the following congregations:

  1. Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia (1993-1996),
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church, Baxley, Georgia (1996-1998),
  3. Christ Episcopal Church, Cordele, Georgia (1998-2001),
  4. Trinity Episcopal Church, Statesboro, Georgia (2001-2003), and
  5. Christ Episcopal Church, Dublin, Georgia (2003-2005).

I have worshiped as a member of St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, in the Diocese of Atlanta, since August 2005.

I have enjoyed the liberty of being a layman and the pleasure of belong to congregations that respect scholarship and encourage the asking of questions.  My father, as a pastor, censored himself; he made honest theological statements at home he dared not utter from a pulpit.  I did not feel free to ask certain questions in those churches.  In Episcopal churches, however, I have asked questions freely and heard priests utter statements (not all of whom I agreed with) that would have gotten my father into great trouble.  The threshold for offending people was low in his case; my father once offended people by supporting the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday.  That position contributed to us moving.  On another occasion, he upset a parishioner by preaching that Jesus had a sense of humor.  He had allegedly insulted her Jesus.  The District Superintendent did not take the complaint seriously, fortunately.

Many of my statements on my weblogs, such as this one, would have cooked my goose in those churches.

So be it.  I refuse to back down from my Catholic tendencies and my acceptance of Single Predestination.  I refuse to back down from my support of civil rights (and not just based on skin color), of Biblical scholarship, and science.

I am where I belong–in The Episcopal Church.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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