News from the Associate Executive Presbyter
MATTHEW 6:34 ON STEROIDS
What do I mean by this title? You know Matthew 6:34, at least the latter part of the verse: “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV).
I have started this article several times over the past week, and have had to stop and begin again. Why? Because I have been trying to write about the recent spate of gun violence, and almost every day, it seems, a new incident occurs. Shootings have happened at places one ordinarily would consider to be very safe – a neighborhood grocery store, a Presbyterian church, an elementary school, a hospital. There have been over 233 mass shootings (4 or more killed, not counting the shooter) in the United States so far in 2022, according to the Washington Post.
One would hope and think that people would be safe anywhere, but ... On the Sunday of the Irvine Presbyterian Church shooting, I was moderating a session meeting where the session was discussing its Sunday morning security protocols. When I got home I had a text from one of the elders alerting me to what had happened in Laguna Hills.
Think of the troubling aspects of these incidents, beyond someone pointing a weapon at defenseless human beings, especially children. Racial and racial/political hatred. That at least two perpetrators were teenagers. The likely presence of mental illness. Assault weapons.
I am reminded of an exchange between King Theoden and Aragorn in the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:
Theoden: So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?
Aragorn: Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.
As part of the Church of Jesus Christ, how can we “ride out” to meet such hatred? Part of me is at a loss as to what to say when each day seems to yield more incidents of violence in the midst of everything else that we have been dealing with over the past two-plus years. The never-ending coronavirus pandemic, and how it seems to multiply the stress of daily life and make what otherwise would be molehills into mountains. The often-times coarseness and intolerance of our political discourse. The Ukraine-Russia war. Inflation. Supply chain issues. The ever-increasing cost of gasoline. Fears of a recession. The loss of respect for the sacredness of human life, and how our culture has glorified violence. The role that social media – part information superhighway and part open sewer – has played underneath these issues.
Beneath all of this are important spiritual issues integral to the church’s calling. We should not be at a loss for words, and need to find our voice on these issues. We need to move the church back into the midst of the public arena and not allow ourselves to be pushed to the fringes of relevancy. Here are a few of my thoughts:
Many have been willfully ignorant of and callously indifferent to the sin of racism and the spiritual crisis it has caused. Collectively, we have allowed fear to give way to silence -- continuing and perpetuating racist ideologies, theologies, and practices that have found welcome and continue to fester in our places of worship, communities, homes, and hearts.
Therefore, Central Florida Presbytery commits to act for racial justice, equality, and respect for all people. We commit to demonstrate this within our communities, through our prayers, policies, and practices.
The ARC has also raised awareness on the issue of violence directed towards Asian American/Pacific Islanders (AAPI). We continue to remember our sisters and brothers at the Geneva/Irvine Presbyterian Churches in prayer.
This is just scratching the surface of how we might respond to what is happening around us. How has your congregation responded? How can Central Florida Presbytery assist in this?
There is one more thing that we can do to help the church sharpen its voice on this issue. You can join with me in praying for Erika Rembert Smith. Why, you ask? Because Erika is one of our commissioners to the upcoming 225th General Assembly meeting, and is the Moderator of the very timely assembly committee Addressing Violence in the USA. The GA meeting begins June 18. Erika’s committee meets in Louisville June 22-26; I worry that this won’t be nearly enough time! All committee reports will be acted on in plenary sessions from July 5-9 in a virtual setting. Our prayers are with this committee as they speak not only to this important issue, but also to us.
Here is our complete list of commissioners and advisory delegates and their committee responsibilities:
Executive Presbyter / Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams