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2017 National Gathering Testimony: Glenn McCray & Charlie Scoma

Glenn McCray and Charlie Scoma provided the first testimony of the 2017 National Gathering on Monday afternoon.

 

Glenn McCray is a multi-ethnic, first generation American and “Seattle-ite” whose mother is from the Philippines and father from Louisiana. Glenn is happily married to Rev. Natasha Iwalani Hicks McCray, who serves as the pastor of Mt. View Presbyterian Church (Seattle), where he also attends and serves. Glenn and Tasha coach girls varsity basketball for their local high school and share a heart for reconciliation to God, self, and others. Vocationally, Glenn serves as the Director of Church-based Community Development with a Christian community development organization called Urban Impact. Glenn has spent more than a decade developing youth and education programs, serving as a chaplain for youth in juvenile detention, and working closely with other local organizations, schools, and local churches.

Charlie Scoma brings many years of experience in chaplaincy, ministry and education to the Seattle Police Department. He is an experienced counselor and trained in Critical Incident Stress Management. He has served in the fire service for over 13 years, he’s passionate about caring for others, and he is an instructor for an accredited chaplain academy, training other chaplains in the Northwest. He is an ordained pastor in the PCUSA and has an MSW from Rutgers University. Charlie coaches baseball and enjoys fly-fishing.

Finding – and Being – a Person of Peace

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Don Meeks and Jeff Krehbiel are curating “Can We Talk?”, a modest attempt at an uncommonly gracious conversation among colleagues who differ on matters of conscience. Can we bridge the theological differences that divide us? Can we even talk about them? Can we affirm the best in each other’s theological tradition while honestly confessing the weaknesses of our own? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Jodi Craiglow

“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.” – Luke 10:5-7 (NRSV)

At the end of October, Don Meeks approached me about contributing a piece for the NEXT Church blog about a lesson I’ve learned in my time as a bridge-builder. And as I thought about what I’d write, these verses from Luke’s gospel came to mind.

tsr_4366_webNow, I know we wouldn’t naturally associate this particular passage with peacemaking within the bounds of our own church. Luke 10 is all about Jesus sending out his 70-or-so protégés for their maiden voyage of cold-call evangelism, isn’t it? Well, yes… but I’m willing to argue that it has broader implications, as well. Follow me on this one.

Recently I’ve been reading Christine Pohl’s book, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, and she makes (at least to me) a startling point:

Personal hospitality, in home and in church, tends to be reserved for people with whom we already have some connections. It is hard for us to think of offering personal hospitality to strangers. Strangers that we do invite into our homes are rarely complete strangers to us. Complex educational, socioeconomic, familial, and religious networks reduce the strangeness, the “unknownness” of such people.

In other words, we like hanging out with people that we have at least some familiarity with, some sort of common ground upon which we can build a relationship. So, when Jesus was telling his followers to find and stay with a “person of peace,” he wasn’t just kickstarting a first-century Airbnb. He was telling them to keep their eyes open for that person God had already been working on (and through), who could serve as their cultural liaison. Jesus told them to hunker down with this person, so that their relationship could deepen – which then, if they played their cards right, would create common ground with that person’s entire cultural group. These visitors wouldn’t be “complete strangers” anymore; their “unknownness” would be reduced by the fact that they all now had a mutual friend.

So, why bring this up here? Well, my own experience has taught me that in a lot of ways, the factions we current-day churchgoers have forged ourselves into have made us “strangers” of one another. Because we choose not to interact with “those people” who don’t agree with us theologically, politically, socially… you name it… we have little to no idea who “they” really are. (This year’s election cycle, anyone?) That’s where a person of peace comes in. If God is calling you to a ministry of bridge-building, I’d wager my eye teeth that God’s already working on somebody within that group you’re being called to connect with. It’s your job to keep your eyes open for this person.

What should you look for? In my experience, these “people of peace” are relatively well-connected within their representative groups. They’re well-versed in the culture of their own group, but often have at least a little working knowledge of where you’re coming from. They tend to be good listeners, and like to get as full a picture of a given situation as they can before drawing conclusions. They’re usually the type of people who love people, and they’re willing to lend you a little of their social capital so that you can navigate your way through your new environment. (In other words, they’ll risk some of their reputation to boost yours.)

If you just read the previous paragraph and thought to yourself, “Hey – that sounds like me!” maybe God could be calling you to be a person of peace. I’d encourage you to keep your eyes open for somebody outside your “tribe” who might be interested in getting to know you. Build a relationship with this person, and then broaden that relationship out to others within your group. (And, if you’re feeling really feisty, let that “sojourning” person be a person of peace for you as you get to know the group they come from.) And, before you know it, the bridge is building itself.

That’s what happened for me… come find me, and I’ll tell you my story. And if at any point you’d like me to be your “person of peace,” all you have to do is ask.


Jodi CraiglowJodi Craiglow is a Ruling Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Libertyville, IL. She is a PhD student in Educational Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and serves as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University and Trinity Graduate School.

A Repairer of the Breach

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Don Meeks and Jeff Krehbiel are curating “Can We Talk?”, a modest attempt at an uncommonly gracious conversation among colleagues who differ on matters of conscience. Can we bridge the theological differences that divide us? Can we even talk about them? Can we affirm the best in each other’s theological tradition while honestly confessing the weaknesses of our own? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by LeAnn Hodges

“We want to have our child baptized,” a visitor said to me after worship one Sunday. He held his son in his arms, and his wife stood back, looking a bit uncertain. “Well,” I responded, “how about we find a time to meet and see if this is the church you would like to join, and then we can go from there?” At that point, the wife chimed in that she would meet with me, but that she wasn’t sure she would join this church… or any church, for that matter.

leann-fontIn the coming days I met with the young couple and listened to their story. They were both from the same African country, but the wife was brought here at a young age through what her family thought was a chance for a western education. But it turned out to be a ticket into slavery in the metro-DC area. She was held captive until her late teens, when she was liberated by the help of a lesbian couple.

Given what she had experienced, it was no wonder that she hesitated when she stepped over the threshold into the church. The miracle is that she was able to set foot in a church at all!

In her upbringing the church was expected to be a safe space, and yet the church had provided a source of legitimacy for those who had forced her into slavery. In her upbringing, same-gender love was considered an unspeakable evil, and yet a same-gender couple became the agent of her liberation.

Over time, she watched as the congregation embraced her son with love and affection. She began to share her story with other members from the same region of Africa who had no idea of the scale of human trafficking that originated in their home region. And she shared her story with those who grew up in the metro-DC area who had no idea of the scale of human trafficking that enslaved people from all over the world here, in our own back yard.

In many ways, this incredible child of God has become a “repairer of the breach” in our congregation. She has opened our eyes to our own complicity in an unjust system that capitalizes on the abuse of human lives. This is no longer someone else’s problem. And through her powerful and gracious way of being, she has invited us into deeper conversation about what it means to be a congregation of uncommon diversity where African and gay sit at Christ’s table together.

We are a congregation that is all over the place in how we view the world, and how we understand the meaning of discipleship. Our individual moral absolutes are often at odds with the person in the next row on a Sunday morning. And yet, through the witness of this unlikely saint, some of those invisible walls that divide us have begun to crumble. The creation of safe space where we are able to testify to God’s work in our lives has confronted our easy assumptions of “the other” and required us to do the much more difficult and life-giving work of holy community.


leann-hodgesLeAnn Hodges is the pastor of Oaklands Presbyterian Church in Laurel, MD. As a pastor, her favorite part of her job is hanging out with people, learning their stories, and if possible getting in a good belly laugh at least once a day. And from those stories, she learns more and more about the depth of God’s love made known in Jesus Christ. In her free time… oh, wait… LeAnn has three sons, ages 12, 6, and 4… but when she used to have free time, she enjoyed gardening, knitting, reading mysteries, and watching sci-fi shows with her husband of 22 years (who happens to be a high school physics teacher). 

Can the Center Hold?

by Don Meeks

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

(The Second Coming – W.B Yeats)

These immortal lines, penned nearly a century ago in the tragic aftermath of the first world war, seem eerily prescient of our current moment in American culture. Things are falling apart in front of our very eyes. Or so it seems.

Racial injustice. Income inequality. Theological division. Political acrimony. The list could go on.

Can the center hold? Can we bend just a little further without breaking? Can we find our way through this wilderness? Can we bridge what divides us?

Or even more modestly, can we even talk about all this?

ncp-open-spaceA few of us in National Capital Presbytery have begun a project that is far easier said than done. Aware of the many divides that impact our churches, we have asked ourselves one simple question: Can we talk? That is to say, can we reach across one of the aisles that divides us – the theological aisle – and actually have a meaningful conversation as evangelicals and progressives?

Can we honor each other, in the name of Jesus Christ, as sisters and brothers? Can we listen deeply and attentively to one another? Can we affirm the best in each other’s theological tradition while honestly confessing the weaknesses of our own?

The catalyst for this conversation came from an event hosted by one of our sister churches in the presbytery during the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. The event featured a panel discussion on Christian civility between Richard Mouw, then president of Fuller Seminary, and Ross Douthat, columnist for the New York Times.

Mouw noted in passing the common practice in political conversation for one camp to put their very best up against the worst of their opponent. Naturally. This is how the game works. In short, demonize your opponent and you never need engage in substantive debate on the issues.

Driving away from that event, I wondered aloud to myself, “What would happen if we turned this thing on its head? What if I chose to openly acknowledge the worst of the evangelical tradition and practice, and chose to affirm the best of what I see in the progressive tradition? And…can I find a progressive to join me and do the same?”

I call this a “thought exercise,” for it requires a fair amount of thinking. Some hard thinking. Some counter-intuitive and counter-cultural thinking. (Trust me – it gets easier).

In time, I posed the thought exercise to one of my presbytery colleagues, Jeff Krehbiel, and thus began what we now call a modest attempt at an uncommonly gracious conversation among colleagues who differ on matters of conscience.

Jeff and I have co-moderated an on-going Open Space dialogue prior to presbytery meetings for the past two years. We modeled this conversation at the NEXT Church National Gathering in Atlanta last February. And most recently, we led a panel-discussion and officiated communion in presbytery plenary meeting.

Can the center hold? Can we find others to join us in this modest and gracious conversation?

Jeff and I have been asked to curate this month’s NEXT Church blog in hopes that we might widen the conversation and bend it toward reconciliation and bridge-building across the theological and other divides. We invite you to join us as conversation partners and ambassadors of reconciliation in Jesus’ name.


don-meeks-headshot-2Don Meeks is the senior pastor of Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Northern Virginia. He is active in the Fellowship Community within National Capital Presbytery.  His vision for ministry is to invite people to experience and express Christ-likeness in all of life. He is an avid golfer, psalmic intercessor and songwriter.