Traveling with South African 'Ex-Cons' to D.C.

Photo by Tom Getman

President Kgalema Motlanthe, Jim Wallis, and Denis Goldberg. Photo by Tom Getman

I was privileged to co-host with former colleagues the visit of former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, an ex-convict from the apartheid era. He served 10 years in prison for the “treasonous” act of standing against the Afrikaans Nationalist regime, along with Nelson Mandela and 1000s of others who spent many years on Robben Island or in Pretoria Central Prison. Many died in the process. President Motlanthe was accompanied by Denis Goldberg, who was convicted along with Mandela and served 22 years. Nicholas Wolpe, the facilitator of the trip, is a cousin of the late Congressman Howard Wolpe. Nic’s father would have been one of the Rivonia accused at the trial in 1963-4 but for having made a daring famous escape with several other comrades.

Fear and Learning in Kabul

Image courtesy Kathy Kelly

Image courtesy Kathy Kelly

Essentially, when Voices members go to Kabul, our “work” is to listen to and learn from our hosts and take back their stories of war to the relatively peaceful lands whose actions had brought that war down upon them. Before we'd even departed, the news from Afghanistan was already quite grim. Several dozen people were dead in fighting between armed groups. There was a Kabul hotel attack on international businessmen the week before. We earnestly wrote our friends with a last-minute offer to stay away, in hopes that we wouldn't make them targets of the violence. “Please come,” our friends wrote us. So we're here.

 

McKinney Police Chief: Officer's Actions at Pool Party 'Indefensible'

Via McKinney PD Facebook page.

McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley at a June 7 news conference. Via McKinney PD Facebook page.

McKinney, Texas police officer Eric Casebolt — whose recorded response to a disturbance call at a community pool party on Friday went viral, sparking national outrage about the force used against black teens — resigned from the police force on Tuesday. Police Chief Greg Conley said Tuesday evening that Casebolt was “out of control” and his actions were “indefensible.”

“He came into the call out of control and as the video shows was out of control during the incident,” Conley said, adding, “I had 12 officers on scene and 11 of them performed according to their training. They did an excellent job.”

Read Conley’s full statement.

From local ABC News affiliate WFAA in Dallas:

The 10-year veteran of the McKinney Police Department was placed on administrative leave Sunday after a 7-minute video of the incident at a Craig Ranch community pool gained traction on the Internet. That clip has now been viewed almost 9.5 million times.

The footage shows Cpl. Casebolt, who is white, aggressively responding to the disturbance call, using profane language with black teenagers, unholstering his service weapon and pointing it toward the unarmed teens, and restraining a 15-year-old girl in a swimsuit by forcing her to the ground and placing his knee on her back.

View the original video of the incident below.

Read more.

‘Blessing of the Bikes’ Helps Churches Make Climate Change a Local Issue

Photo via Ron Csillag / RNS

The sixth annual Blessing of the Bikes at Toronto’s Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church on June 7, 2015. Photo via Ron Csillag/RNS

It was the sixth annual Blessing of the Bikes at the downtown church — a type of local event that has become more common as a growing number of churches consider the idea that protecting the environment is not just a scientific or political debate, but a spiritual one.

The movement has grown in the past decade and crosses denominations. An “Evangelical Climate Initiative” issued in 2006 has been signed by hundreds of religious leaders, and the Vatican held a one-day summit in late April to “elevate the debate on the moral dimensions of protecting the environment.” Pope Francis is preparing this summer to issue an encyclical — one of the most authoritative church documents — framing climate change action as a moral and religious imperative.

Why Franklin Graham’s Effort to Blacklist LGBT-Friendly Companies Won't Work

Photo via REUTERS / Allison Shelley / RNS

Franklin Graham. Photo via REUTERS / Allison Shelley / RNS

If Graham is looking for national companies that have a zero rating, that’s going to be close to impossible. For companies that oppose LGBT equality, he’ll have to look at mom-and-pop shops in the 33 states that currently allow discrimination on the basis of sexual and gender identity.

Soon, Graham might have to stash his cash under his mattress, send smoke signals, and grow his own food.

Church Discipline Goes Wrong More Often Than You Think

Photo via Prixel Creative / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Prixel Creative / Shutterstock.com

Church leaders, I beseech you to study all sides of the situation carefully and prayerfully before you make a judgment on your church member that may alter his or her view of God or spiritual life forever. You have been placed in such a position to be the agent of change, to bring restoration to the individual.

As someone who has felt the sting of this, I ask you to consider these questions: Are we equally investigating BOTH parties? Are we taking the totality of the word of God into examination on this issue? What is the Holy Spirit telling us to do? Does Satan have a foothold of pride or control in my heart?

Seeds of the Good News: How #BlackLivesMatter Can Transform the World

Photo via a katz / Shutterstock.com

Protester holds a Black Lives Matter sign in New York City. Photo via a katz / Shutterstock.com

How does a social movement begin? How does frustration meet courage and conviction to bring a people together to engage in transformative work? What seeds do we plant to change a nation?

Social movements do not form out of thin air. They arise out of people’s suffering. Social movements are rooted in moments when people decide to change the conversation. The growing momentum around this new conversation creates a movement — a swell of influence in society that has the potential to change minds and transform society.

Pope Francis' Climate Change Encyclical Inspires Rabbinic Call to Action

 Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

More than 300 rabbis — inspired by the climate crisis, the Torah’s call for a Sabbatical Year of releasing the Earth from overwork, and the impending Papal Encyclical on the climate crisis — have joined their voices in the Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis: a call to action to prevent further climate-fuelled disasters and work toward eco-social justice.

Rabbis from across the denominational spectrum, at this writing 333 in all, signed in support of the call in less than two weeks, and their signatures continue to grow.

Weekly Wrap 6.5.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. I Went to Church with Bruce Jenner, and Here’s What Caitlyn Taught Me About Jesus
Caitlyn knows who Jesus is, and Jesus knows her by name. Whether that sits comfortably on a timeline or blog comment, I know firsthand that Caitlyn has heard the good news. And, Caitlyn has taught me more about Jesus.”

2. And the Award for Trailblazing Feminist Icon Goes to — Miss Piggy
The Sackler Center for Feminist Art awarded the Muppet with its First Award, which recognizes women for being first in their fields and has included the likes of Sandra Day O’Connor, because the character has “qualities that … women need to have to face the world as it is, and she gives us a good smile on top of it all.”

3. In Baltimore Schools, Free Meals for All
"Given the socio-economic status of the city, it's a no-brainer," [parent David T.] Clements said of the program. "Parents can now take that money and apply it to their futures."

4. Study Finds Global Warming Hasn’t Slowed
The latest study, published in Science, reverses previously held thought that global warming was on hiatus. Not so, according to the numbers, which were based on what the scientists say is more accurate land and sea temperature measurements.

Pastor: If DOJ Officials Won’t Read the Torture Report, I'll Read It to Them

Photo via National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Left to Right: Rev. Ron Stief, Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, Colin Jager. Photo via National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, N.J., travelled to Washington, D.C., on June 3 with a simple task: to read the torture report outside the Department of Justice.

“As a pastor, I know that admitting the truth is the first step toward redemption,” said Kaper-Dale.

“When the DOJ admitted in court that it hadn’t even opened, let alone read, the full Torture Report, I knew I had to help the department start the path toward redemption. By reading the report outside the DOJ, I hope to open the hearts of at least a few DOJ employees.”

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