Too Painful for Words #AMEMassacre

State Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) gets emtional as he sits next to the draped desk of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Thursday, June 18, 2015, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C.  Pinckney was one of those killed, Wednesday night in a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.  (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.
(Lamentations 2:11)

Should Priest and Prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord? Young and old lie together in the dust of the streets; my young men and maidens have fallen by the sword.
(Lamentations 2:20-21)

On Wednesday evening June 17, 2015 at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina a modern crucifixion took place.  Taking the lives of:

Rev. Clementa Pickney (Pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. Church and a South Carolina State Senator) age 41
Cynthia Hurd, age 54
Tywanza Sanders, age 26
Myra Thompson, age 59
Ethel Lance, age 70
Susie Jackson, age 87
Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, age 49
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, age 45
Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., age 74  

Because they were bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, and spirit of our spirit we too are a suffering people.  We cry out with the Psalmist “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.  My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.  They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing”. (Psalm 22: 14-18)

Not only do we hurt with the Emanuel A.M.E. Church Family, but God also suffers with us because the name Emanuel means “God is with us”!  Our God meets us in suffering and in death.  The cross is the meeting place between God and us.  The cross is the place where God experiences human suffering and the human family understands the pain of God.  The wounded heart of God is revealed on the cross.  Abraham Heschel has reminded us that in the prophets God experiences pain and sorrow with a feeling of intimate and loving concern because life is a partnership between God and humanity.  The crucified heart of God in the New Testament is revealed through the death of Jesus Christ.  This death on the cross is not only the expression of God’s love for us, but also the defiance of God against evil.

Members of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church engage in a moment of silent prayer Sunday for Charleston
Members of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church engage in a moment of silent prayer Sunday for Charleston

It is so easy for us as a suffering people to grow weary and inarticulate in endless despair and aborted hope that will satisfy the forces of evil; however, the Apostle Paul reminds us “to be in Christ means not only to know the fellowship of His suffering, but the power of His resurrection”; therefore, as a crucified and a resurrected people let us make a double commitment to preach a liberating gospel from the evils of racism, materialism and militarism.  If we can make this commitment then we will respond to the Charleston massacre with living hope.

In 1850 Frederick Douglass, a member of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston stood in Faneil Hall in Boston speaking as if waiting justice would never wipe sleep from his eyes.  In response to his morbid message Sojourner Truth who knew the evils of slavery from personal experience, having been sold four times, and having risked her life many more times as a conductor of the underground railroad arose to her feet, and said with a commanding voice: Frederick is God dead?  As true believers with Sojourner Truth let us act on the words of James Russell Lowell: “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch [over] his own.”

Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr.
Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr.

Rev.Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr., Chair

Sankofa Institute for African American
Pastoral Leadership
Oblate School of Theology
285 Oblate Drive
San Antonio, TX 78216


Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., Chair
Dr. Diana Hayes, STD
Rev. Dr. Dwight Hopkins, PhD
Rev. Joni Russ
Rev. Dr. Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, PhD
Rev. James Noel, PhD
S. Addie L. Walker, SSND, PhD, Director
Dr. Scott Woodward, Academic Dean, OST
Dr. Rose Marden, Associate Dean Continuing Education, OST

Home Another Way


Several of us heard this powerful message at the #MissionSummit15 in Kansas City.

Originally posted on Talk With the Preacher:

Home Another Way
American Baptist Churches Mission Summit 2015

Acts 9:1-19

ABC SummitGood evening, American Baptists! It’s wonderful to be with you tonight as we gather for worship together.

I’m especially grateful to join you this week in celebrating the ministries of my friends Rev. Dr. Roy Medley and Rev. Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins. Roy, Aidsand, your leadership as General Secretary and Executive Director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies has helped us to live into our shared call as American Baptists and, indeed, as followers of Jesus Christ. Because of your capable and prophetic leadership, our denomination is poised to move in to the future with courage and vision.

I myself am proud to be an American Baptist, inspired tonight to live boldly into the adventure of discipleship by the leadership of these friends and so many of you. But unlike some of you “lifers,” I myself come a little late…

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Dean Flesher’s Year-End Review

Academic 2014-2015 was an exceptional year! Our student enrollment has increased to about 170 students in five academic programs: Master of Divinity (MDiv), Masters in Community Leadership (MCL), Master of Arts (MA), Doctor of Ministry (DMin), and Spanish Language Bachelor of Arts Equivalency in Ministerial Studies (BA equivalency). On May 16, 2015 we graduated 18 students that are now working in the following arenas:

Pastoral Ministry
Interim Ministry
Bi-vocational–Ministerial Staff at a local congregation
Running an specialized Independent 501c3
Social Worker at the local YMCA
Hospital Administration
Director of Communications at the Graduate Theological Union
Teaching at a private High School
Beginning a ThD program at the GTU

As you can see our graduates end up in a wide variety of locations and positions. We are no longer training solely for pulpit ministry in the traditional sense, but for broad categories of ministry inside and outside of the church building. National surveys have shown that church attendance and membership are in decline across the board, yet faith and spirituality are on the rise. This is a time for public discourse and theology. At ABSW we are training our students to become Public Theologians. Whether a graduate takes a church, chaplaincy position, or some type of non-traditional ministry, to be effective today they will need to have developed the skills for public discourse in diverse and unsettled environs.

Academic 2014-2015 was a politically charged year as our nation strove to confront the inequitable devaluation of some of its particular sub-cultures through public discourse and demonstrations. ABSW sought to address these concerns through relevant coursework that could be taken to the public-square as well as special chapel services and lectureships.

In fall 2014 we co-sponsored UNCO West (the Un-Conference) focused on entrepreneurial development of church/ministry; co-sponsored the Baptist—Muslim Dialogue along with Zaytuna College and the GTU Center for Islamic Studies; and embraced the #BlackLivesMatter movement through special chapel services that addressed issues related to race, poverty, police brutality, public demonstrations, and how to become a co-conspirator for the cause (Dec-Feb).

In spring 2015 ABSW professors geared their courses toward addressing the unrest in our nation, which included the creation of several new course options: The #BlackLivesMatter Movement; The Bible and the Newspaper; Parable Theory and African American Hermeneutics; Religious Readings of African American Women’s Literature; and The Food, Faith, Justice Garden Project. In addition, our Annual Drexler Lecture focused on the theme Extreme Poverty in the US: What to Do? and we co-sponsored the annual TransFORM conference held in Washington D.C.

As we move into academic 2015-2016 we are putting the pieces in place to take our curriculum(s) online. Beginning fall 2015 non-residential students can enroll in our MDiv and MCL programs online. To apply, visit our website, download the application, fill it out, and mail it in to our Director of Admissions, Rev. Tripp Hudgins.

If God is calling you to a ministry of Public Theology, then ABSW is the place for you.

Come join us, whether face to face or in cyberspace. Let’s start this new thing together!

11074135_10153323084959020_7941640121830232180_nDean LeAnn Flesher, Academic Dean and Professor in Hebrew Scripture

2015 Student Commencement Speech by Henry Washington

2015 ABSW Commencement Speech
Rev. Henry Washington

It seems like only yesterday, that we earnestly and excitedly enrolled at
American Baptist Seminary of the West. We were all optimistic about being
trained seminarians. We were taught to look beyond King James, to widen
our view of God and that our embedded theology might not be up to parr to
properly engage the social ills of the day. But more importantly, we learned
that the discipline of theology was vast and unabridged. That to talk of God,
is to walk upon the clouds. We used to be so happy to receive our papers
back; but just the other day, I realized that we were never really writing for
our professors but rather to stretch our own minds and to better articulate the
prophetic call through our own experiences.

We want to first acknowledge and say thank you to Beth Eden and pastor
James for having us and to Bishop Warner Brown and Taylor Memorial for
feeding us today. To our immediate classmates; Tony, Doug, Phoebe, Chuck,
Jong-Min, Sukkyu, Pray, Lana, Gilbert, Paul and Sydney (we’ve gone from a
GED to an MDiv). On behalf of the graduating seniors thank the faculty in
the persons of our president and vice-president Dr. Paul Martin and Rev. Micky Holmes and the entire ABSW falculty. You all have helped in shaping us into the theologians that we are and the ones we are becoming.

We thank Dr. Allen for allowing us think out of the theological box and
her tenaciousness, Dr. Burch for exposing us to some startling facts about the
historical Jesus, Dr. Guerrero for writing the most clear comments and
challenging us in her grading, Dr. Hall for forcing us to be clear, and then
making us be more clear yet again, Dr. Kunkel for helping us to revisit basic
grammar, and Dr. Grandison for exposing us to Theology Proper, Liberation
Theology, Sociological Ethics and for giving us so many opportunities to rewrite our papers. And where would be without Dr.’s Jennifer Davidson,
Tripp Hudgins, Margaret McManus, Valerie Miles-Tribble, Sam Park and J.
Alfred Smith who have supported us from day one. Thank you Dr. Burris, for
believing in me, helping me get started on this magnificent road and for being
my friend. And thank you Dr. LeAnn Snow Flesher for all you do for us and
this great institution of learning. We want to thank our churches, families and
support systems that have afforded us the opportunity to strive toward
academic excellence. Thank you Garden of Peace, thank you E.

Intro to the OT, Intro to Theology and Understanding Biblical Languages
(Do you remember Corrina forbidding us from mentioning Jesus while studying the Hebrew Bible?) wasn’t this to help appreciate the text without
superimposing Christ into the OT? (Do you remember thinking how easy it
would be to write about Creation, Salvation and Sanctification?) Boy were
we wrong! How about when Dr. Allen critiqued my manuscript so hard that I
tore-it-up myself. (Anyone remember staying-up all hours of the night trying
to parse the Greek’s pluperfect or Hebrew’s Qal-Qatal or Qal Yiqtol roots and
stems? Thank God that we’ve gone through the fire and come-out as pure

Like Plato’s man in the cave, none of us can unlearn what has been poured
into us. We have been trained to chime-in on such world events as the threat
and growth of Isis, earthquakes in Nepal and cyber warfare in China. But
more importantly, we have been conditioned to speak intelligently about the
dialectic process going on in our hearts and minds, conditioned to impact our
homes and local communities and conditioned to bring hope to the poor, the
captive, the blind and the oppressed. Since Iron sharpens Iron, we must
continue the fellowship that we’ve begun with each other and start new
fellowships and conversations that are capable of changing the world for the
helpless and voiceless ones of the society. Watch-out world, here comes the
2015 graduating class of American Baptist Seminary of the West!


Guest Post by Beth Ford Friend: Mindful Motherhood


In every day, there are moments to hold in gratitude and moments to offer to God for healing, as well as fears that lurk in the shadows. By bringing these to the light, I grow in freedom. Tomorrow, we begin anew. Sometimes even, in the next hour.

Originally posted on Centering Down:

Today’s motherhood story comes from Beth Ford Friend. Beth and I first met in seminary many moons ago. She was then and still remains a kindred soul. Beth is the mom I wish lived across the street so she could talk me down from my frustrating days with her gentle spirit and remind me to enjoy the good days with her beautiful smile. Even though Beth lives miles away, today she comes to bless us with her own journey on learning to mother from a more contemplative, mindful place. I felt calmer after just reading it. I hope you do too!

When my first son was three weeks old, I met an angel. Her name was Josie, and she was a lactation consultant. I saw her only once, but even now, four years later, her words return to me.

I said something to the effect that the day before had…

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Baptist scholar leads celebration of his friend Thomas Merton

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“Little by little, I gained more confidence that I understood what Thomas Merton was trying to do,” Hinson said. “I think he was trying to make us understand how to be contemplatives in a world full of activity.”

Originally posted on CBFblog:

May 18, 2015

By Carrie McGuffin

ATLANTA, Ga.  — About 60 Cooperative Baptists gathered May 14 at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta to hear respected Baptist scholar E. Glenn Hinson and celebrate the contributions of contemplative theologian Thomas Merton.

To mark the centenary of Merton’s birth, the Pitts Theology Library at Emory hosted an exhibit in honor of the theologian’s life and legacy titled “The Journeys of Thomas Merton,” curated by Emory librarian Denise Hanusek and featuring many first editions of Merton’s books, pamphlets and photography.
Hinson, emeritus professor of spirituality and John Loftis professor of church history at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, shared with attendees about his friendship with the American Catholic writer and mystic. As a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, a monastery in Kentucky, Merton wrote extensively on contemplation, comparative religion and social activism focusing on the need…

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Pastoral is Political: Those “NONES” again


“When we reduce the Church to a set of marketing catch phrases, “branding” our “outreach” and “mission,” we forget. It is not about us. It is not about who we want to join us. It is especially not about locking onto the needs of special interest groups within the Church.”

Originally posted on RevGalBlogPals:

The Pew Research Center recently posted their findings: fewer adults identify themselves as “religious.” The decrease in 7 years was significant: from 78.4 percent of the population in 2007 to 70.6 percent in 2014.

“What this means” has been colored in fifty shades of… red and blue. It’s easy to take a daunting statistic and push it in the direction you want. I’ve read several articles on what “the Nones want.” It’s not changed, really, from the time I was a teenager. It boils down to two simple presuppositions:

1) “Nones” (or nonbelievers, seekers, disenfranchised members, or unchurched, depending on which expert you read) are looking for religious people who have genuine, personal, honest beliefs.

2) “Nones” are also searching for people who live out those beliefs in a way that brings hope and encouragement to others.

When I researched this topic several years ago as part of my divinity studies…

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