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An apology, and a shift
Church pledges to take ministry to the street
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—A coalition of religious leaders from Los Angeles area Black churches are planning to launch a yearlong initiative today to "restore the union between the local church and the local community," organizers said.
"The Apology Tour'' is being spearheaded by the Reverend Shep Crawford, founder and pastor of The Experience Christian Ministries in Los Angeles and a Grammy-winning music producer.
"We are calling this The Apology Tour. Why? Because we, the church, want to apologize to the community for not being there the way you need us, the way that you would like for us to be," Crawford said in a video announcement urging other church leaders to get involved.
"We know the relationship between the church and the community can be strengthened. This is not only a moment, this is a movement. We're ready to apologize and to become one with the community."
The coalition includes more than 40 faith-based organizations. Plans call for the development of services such as court support, local school engagement, gang intervention, healing spaces and community meetings.
Shep Crawford. Courtesy TECM
On Sunday the leaders of the participating ministries will walk out of their churches and into their surrounding communities for one to four hours to talk with residents and offer services and giveaways tailored to the local needs and priorities.
"The Church is striving to strike a balance between having a church within the building and being the church within the community," Crawford said. "The building serves as a gas station, but the ultimate destination is to create a healthy community."
Ministries participating in the effort are located throughout California including Los Angeles, Compton, Long Beach, Inglewood, Watts and San Bernardino.
Crawford said the effort has been built around a concept he calls CPR:
-- Connection - reintroducing the church to the community.
-- Partnership - working with schools, parks and recreation
facilities, politicians, law agencies, and other community and faith-based organizations.
-- Relationship - healing strained communal relationships.
"The Apology Tour has my total approbation," Bishop Noel Jones, senior pastor of the City of Refuge Church in Gardena said in a statement. "I am sorry for failing to provide more wonderful alter- natives for our community's sons and daughters."
Black Lives Matter Los Angeles is among the community groups planning to link to The Apology Tour.
"Every successful Black liberation movement has had spirituality at its core," said Dr. Melina Abdullah, co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter Grassroots.
"The recommendation of Pastor Shep Crawford and other religious leaders to move the church into the streets is precisely the kind of infusion that we need to win in this justice struggle."
In addition to the community outreach, volunteers from Experience Christian Ministries and other faith leaders plan to host monthly training sessions to address issues such as motherhood and fostering community development and cooperation.
"The goal is for all participating ministries to meet with, talk with, and love the community surrounding their specific local churches," Crawford said. "We hope to establish the church's facilities as a safe and healthy space for community healing, resources, meetings, and peace advocate support.
"What we know is that in every community, there are several local houses of worship," Crawford said. "We also know that with the shift in demographics, and the residual impact of the pandemic, there is a greater possibility of disconnect in the relationship between the community and local ministry, house of worship,
and vice versa.
"Our objective is simple, to revive and restore that the relationship and have both become stronger together," said Crawford.
More information is available at https://www.theapologytour.com
The Rev. James Lawson takes part in a panel discussion during the launch of a research institute named in his honor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Lawson, pastor emeritus of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, was expelled from Vanderbilt in 1960 for his involvement in civil rights protests. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.
Rev. James Lawson faithfully advances nonviolence work
By JIM PATTERSON, Contributing Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)—One of the most celebrated and influential United Methodists is lending his name to an institute at Vanderbilt University that will promote and study nonviolence.
The Rev. James Lawson, who has been called the "architect of the civil rights movement," has given his blessing to the James Lawson Institute for the Research and Study of Nonviolent Movements at Vanderbilt University.
Lawson, 93, said that he will act as "spiritual adviser" to the institute, along with his ongoing work advising, teaching and writing. Lawson released a book in February on how to use nonviolent protest to cause change, "Revolutionary Nonviolence: Organizing for Freedom." He is starting work on a memoir, scheduled for pub- lishing by Random House in 2023.
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once referred to Lawson as the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world," said Daniel Diermeier, chancellor of Vanderbilt, during an April 7 event to introduce and celebrate the new institute. "Without Rev. Lawson's strategic ingenuity, spiritual guidance and moral example, the civil rights movement as we know it would not have existed."
The institute will "work toward a world with no violence," said Phillis Isabella Sheppard, professor of religion, psychology and culture at Vanderbilt who was tapped as the institute’s first director. "This is either a gran- diose fantasy to believe that such a world is possible or it expresses the most profound dimension to the work of this institute. I think it is the latter,” she said.
"Since 2000, I have done formal workshops on teaching nonviolence to activists," Lawson said. "So JLI is an effort to imitate the work I did across the South in helping to teach mostly Black folk how you can desegre- gate and help people—Black and White alike—to change, be converted out of racism into a desegregated society."
The Nashville model of nonviolence developed by Lawson, featuring sit-ins at downtown lunch counters, became a model for other cities in the 1960s. He had traveled to India in 1953 and worked as a youth minister for two years while studying Gandhian philosophy.
"JLI is devoted to the notion of reaching into the community … to help people see that there is a science of nonviolence that is as effective as the science of electricity," Lawson said. "That’s what Gandhi said. If you follow certain principles, you will find out that the consequences will be as predictable as the laws that surround ether and electricity. And that’s my thesis."
After returning from India, Lawson was recruited to train and advise civil rights activists.
"He had a fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King at Oberlin College," Diermeier said. "At that meeting, Dr. King urged the Rev. Lawson to participate in the urgent struggle in the American South."
While studying at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Lawson conducted workshops where he taught college students the principles of nonviolent protest. The late Rep. John Lewis, who would go on to serve more than 30 years in Congress, was one of his students.
Lawson was an adviser for the Freedom Riders who were beaten while challenging segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals in the South. News footage of the violence caused a turning point in the civil rights movement. He also advised the Little Rock Nine, students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.
Lawson said the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol aimed at preventing President Biden from taking office, was a stark contrast to Black Lives Matter protests, which [have been] overwhelmingly peaceful.
"Right now, we’ve got a very violent political situation," he said. "It has to be de-escalated."
"In 2020, the United States had the largest nonviolent campaign in the history of our nation, from May to August,” Lawson noted. "(There were) demonstrations in every state (and) more than 15-25 million people participated … in more than 2,500 locations."
The protests were "heavily mixed” with White and Black participants of all ages, he said. "The violence came from the police, the looters and anarchists," Lawson said. "They say it was very violent. Well, that’s a lie. That’s one of the lies like racism."
Diermeier said Lawson paid a heavy price for his activism, noting that Vanderbilt University expelled him in 1960 for his activism. He finished his theology degree at Boston University The Vanderbilt expulsion was a national news story and some students and faculty left the Nashville university because of it. Vanderbilt and Lawson eventually reconciled, and he has since returned to teach there and selected it as a repository for his papers.
From 1974 to 1999, Lawson served as pastor of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, where he is now pastor emeritus. He continued after retirement to lecture and train students in nonviolence. The Jan- uary 6 insurrection illustrated the continuing need for it, he said.
"I maintain that nonviolent thinking, history and language is what a democratic society must have," Lawson said. “If you don’t offer a nonviolent way of making changes, then you get Jan. 6.”
Recruiting youth to the nonviolent philosophy will be a priority at JLI, Sheppard said. Two groups, one for 13- to 17-year-olds and another for college students, will be formed. The younger group, called the youth council, will be comprised of students who want to learn about nonviolence. They will work on programming to attract their peers.
"The second group is the college cohort, where students from across Nashville’s local colleges will gather monthly to immerse themselves in thoughtful discussion to enhance their knowledge and commitment to strategic action," Sheppard said. "This is not immersion for the sake of immersion, but immersion for the sake of change."
Lawson maintains that a world of nonviolence is not a pipe dream, but an achievable goal. "One of the things that Gandhi taught me, by my study and research, is that nonviolent power is the creative power of life itself and the power that produced our universe and human life.
"If human beings could learn to tap and use that power, instead of the many powers that do exist, human beings will create a world that's beyond our imagination because they will be tapping the energy that created us, whether they call that God or just the energy of the universe," he said.
Jim Patterson is a UM News reporter in Nashville, Tenn.
First United Methodist Church anniversary set
COMPTON—First United Methodist of Compton (FUMCC) is hosting a special anniversary service at 10 A.M. on April 23, in recognition of 155 years of ministry in Southern California! The theme for the special anniversary Sunday is "Jesus is Alive... Walk With Him" taken from Luke 24:13-35.
Guest speaker will be Pastor Stephanie Hoxey. Hoxey currently serves as assistant pastor to Pastors Calvin and Apostle Veronica Moore of the Word of Fire Tabernacle Church. Hoxey was actually raised attending FUMC. She is the daughter of the late Maxcy and Blondell Filer, who were active in the Compton NAACP and the forefront of the local civil rights movement.
Her dad, Maxcy, who was known locally as "Mr. Compton," served on the Compton City Council for 15 years.
FUMCC is one of the oldest churches in Southern California. The current Pastor, Reverend Dr. Arnetha Inge, is encouraging the community to "come and join us for our 155th Birthday party." There will be light refreshments served after the service. FUMCC is located at 1025 S. Long Beach Blvd. Compton.
For more information, call the church at (310) 639-0775.
COVID masquerading as the predator in 1 Peter 5:8
‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour’
It is past the time for clergy in America to stop playing Russian Roulette concerning COVID-19 with the lives of their congregants.
The writer is not a member of the ordained clergy, but rather a lay Christian believer in the Word of God bearing due diligence in its study and meditation with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our Creator also endowed each of us with a mind and common sense.
With respect to the COVID pandemic, the faith community is divided—a mirror of the national optic; some advocating vaccinations, social distancing, and the wearing of masks, while others assail any and all protective measures, relying instead on their God-faith for complete protection. The latter is what many of their pastors are preaching to them on Sunday morning from the pulpit. What’s at work here is Faith and Foolishness.
Now consider the incontrovertible truth.
Those who professed a belief in a living God are numbered among the more than 1 million COVID fatalities in the US, alone. Presumably, that number swells around the globe. Bishops, pastors, priests, and missionaries have perished from COVID, which is acting like the predator spoken of in 1 Peter 5:8, none other than Satan: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.”
COVID is a predator, re-creating itself as ever more aggressive killer variants seeking unprotected humans to devour like unprotected sheep by bears, wolves, and coyotes.
The clergy must not side-step the warnings of the Bible contained in 1 Corinthians and John 8: 44:
“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8: 44
Pastors, urge your congregants to get inoculated so that those that may be carriers of the virus, but asymptomatic (not showing any signs) will not transmit the virus to the most vulnerable among them—seniors with conditions, and children.