Pastor calls Planned Parenthood exposé ‘journalistic distortion’

By Bob Allen

donna schaper
Donna Schaper

The pastor of a historic New York City church with Baptist ties says much of the recent brouhaha over abortion rights has to do with the fact that Planned Parenthood caters exclusively to women.

“I think it’s unfortunately a big part,” Donna Schaper, senior minister at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, said July 25 on State of Belief radio with Welton Gaddy. “We are getting closer by the minute when women will be understood as full moral agents, when women will be understood as full human beings, as opposed to people complying just to our reproductive role.”Schaper told Gaddy, pastor of Alliance of Baptists-affiliated Northminster Church in Monroe, La., that she thinks people on the Religious Right “are having a hard time dealing with women as moral agents and as adults.”

She said it is inconsistent for the Religious Right to label abortion murder while at the same time opposing limits on gun ownership.

“When I find the awful pain that the freedom to have guns has caused — Sandy Hook, Charleston, I could go on — I wonder why we aren’t joining together to say let’s regulate guns and not women’s reproductive systems,” she said. “Guns do violence. Guns do murder.”

Schaper said she believes religious hypocrisy is biggest barrier to people’s spiritual lives.

– See more at: Baptist News Global.

Gun lobby and Peace Camp

believethereisgoodI have to say that I am appalled and deeply disappointed with the choke hold that the gun lobby has on the US Congress.  It is shameful in a nation in which over 90 percent of our citizens are looking for some sort of sanity around guns that we cannot even get a vote on a relatively tame proposal on gun control.  Pray with me and take whatever other action you are able that our legislative branch come to its senses and represent the people rather than a ridiculously powerful special interest group.

We are still looking for folk to attend Peace Camp this summer.  This is a wonderful opportunity that does not come west that often.  I know there is expense involved.  We are hopeful of engaging in fundraising and scholarships to enable everyone to go would like to.  Please let Pastor Tripp or me know if you have any interest at all.  I can testify personally as to what a wonderful experience it is.

Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday.  The lectionary gives us the 23rd Psalm and a passage from the shepherding discourse in John 10, but I was struck by the passage from Revelation, which also has a shepherd reference, so we will focus on that week.  I think it fits into the exploration in which we’ve been engaged of how the Resurrection of the Christ brings in the reign of God.  Revelation speaks a vision of saints alive, gathered in glory, in the heavenly realm.  I know we don’t want to direct our attention too much to what lies beyond when there is so much yet to be attended to in our present reality.  Still, the passage from Revelation points us toward the rich inclusiveness of God’s heavenly realm and calls us to work toward such community here and now.  See you on Sunday at 10 as we join in community.  Bring someone along to share.

May God’s new thing flourish within us and among us.
Pastor Rick

Easter and marriage, guns, immigrants and war…


Floral Easter cross
Floral Easter cross

In commenting on the Easter texts for this year, David Lose writes, “…when God raised Jesus from the dead God was creating a new reality; overthrowing death, sin, and all that would oppress us; and declaring once and for all that life is more powerful than death and love more enduring that tragedy.” A new way of seeing things, a new reality, a new creation, a new thing – God’s realm, God’s reality, God’s creation, God’s thing. Sunday we used Isaiah 65 as the text for the Easter sermon – “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people…” (Isaiah 65:17-19b).

This text is consonant with our theme for this year, “God’s new Thing” – “Look! I am doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?” (Isaiah 43:17). Sunday I said that, among other things, God’s new creation is character-ized by liberating freedom, radical hospitality and amazing grace. These are rea-sons to shout “Alleluia!” and to dedicate ourselves to making God’s new thing instrumental in our lives and in the world around us. Following Barth’s famous reminder that we should carry the gospel in one hand and the newspaper (or internet?) in the other, I want to just touch on four issues currently “in the news” that I believe need to be addressed in making God’s new creation a reality on earth.

The first is marriage equality. Two organizations to which I belong, the Alliance of Baptists and Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists were official participants in a Service of Prayer for Love and Justice held Monday evening, March 25, at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington D.C. in advance of the Supreme Court hearings in regard to California Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. If I had been closer, I would have joined in. It is quite appropriate to pray for wisdom and justice in this matter.

To me, it is absurd for Christians to continue to argue for the sanctity of our cur-rent marriage practices as if they were somehow scripturally ordained and ancient. They are neither. Marriage has rarely been a sacred practice throughout history. If you want to read a trenchant commentary on this absurdity, I refer you to an essay by Christian ethicist, Miguel de la Torre on Christianity’s struggle to correctly interpret the gift of marriage.

As I have argued before, a Baptist perspective on God’s new creation would not allow us clergy to act as agents of the state (i.e., signing marriage licenses and making proclamations for the state). It would encourage us to bless all sorts of relationships in God’s name. It would challenge us as a community to support and sustain healthy relationships among all God’s children. It is past time for the church to treat all of God’s children equally and fairly, regardless of their God-given sexual orientation or gender identity.

Equally absurd and even more deadly are the specious arguments being used by various firearms advocates to oppose gun control. Twice in Isaiah, the prophet envisions God’s holy mountain, a place where “they shall neither hurt or destroy.” There is simply no room for assault weapons, large magazines of ammunition and the unmonitored sale of firearms in God’s new creation. In fact, “the wolf lies with the lamb” in a sacred image that moves us beyond enmity, the projected need for security and, I suppose even hunting. We may not be ready to become vegetarians and we may feel some need to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our homes from the difficult exigencies of modern living, but reducing the type and amount of weaponry generally available can only move us closer to God’s new creation. It is shameful that a powerful gun lobby can hold the nation’s leadership hostage when a growing majority of our citizens favor gun control and evidence from all over the “first world” testifies to the effectiveness of gun control.

Immigration Reform is in the news because the president has committed himself to this as a legacy issue for this administration. This week the Associated Press has made a (belated) decision to drop the hateful moniker, illegal immigrant, from the repertory for its reportage. Just yesterday, I saw on facebook this pro-vocative quotation from Elie Wiesel, “No human being is illegal. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?” Spoken like a true citizen of God’s new creation, Wiesel has long been one of its key prophets for our times.

We do not have the authority to declare any of God’s children illegal, unwanted or unwelcome. I know that immigration reform is complicated but that is not a justification for avoiding it. People who come to our shores looking for relief from oppression or just looking for a better life for themselves and their families need to find a welcome. Without delving into economic injustice and inequity, in God’s new creation (as we find on this planet for which God has given us responsibility,) there is enough resource for everyone to live well, without fear of hunger and homelessness. Hymn writer Brian Wren urges us to “Break the bread of belonging. Welcome the stranger in the land. We have each been a stranger; we can try to understand.”

Finally, there is ongoing news coverage of war and threats of war. As we try to scale back our military operations in Afghanistan, there are new threats in Syria, Iran and Korea. Deep-seated, irrational enmity, ancient and new, threatens to destroy the earth and its people. God’s new creation is a “peaceable kingdom” and as followers of Jesus, we have committed ourselves to the Prince of Peace. It becomes vital for us actively to bear witness to and work for peace on earth and good will among all God’s people. As no one is illegal in God’s new creation, neither is any-one enemy. Jesus, himself, taught us that the one we judge to be enemy is actually our neighbor! Somehow we must gain the perspective, believe it and hold on to it that we are all God’s children…everyone of us, regardless of the differences we may want to emphasize. God’s amazing grace extends to and embraces one and all.

In another commentary on Sunday’s text, biblical scholar, Arland J. Hultgren writes, “Easter…marks the beginning of a new creation. It begins with the resurrection of Jesus, and it continues in the passing of time where the gospel is proclaimed and people come to faith.” In the passing of time and in living out the gospel, the new creation comes closer and becomes more real. Hultgren concludes with a challenge to all of us who would be Easter people, citizens of God’s new creation, the living body of Christ. “The church,” he says, “at its best continues to be the community of the new creation in a world that is too often headed for dissolution by violence, abuse, death, and destruction. Being peo-ple of the resurrected Lord Jesus, the church is in the business of praying for the renewal of the world and seeking to renew it.”
This is God’s new thing for us, ancient and timeless as God’s own being. We are to pray for and to work for the establishment of God’s new creation, of God’s realm (as Jesus kept proclaiming it) on earth, here and now. It is a challenge and it is a gift to be called to such a life. More reasons to join the chorus and shout, “Alleluia!”

Pastor Rick