Friday, February 27, 2015

Violence Challenges Our Prophetic Voice

The prophet Habakkuk wrote long ago: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?  Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

These words could have been written yesterday.  As we look around there is so much violence:
  •  sexual violence against women as seen in our media and in the lives of professional sports figures;
  • violence on the streets of Wilmington, Del., to the point where people are calling the city “Kill-mington”;
  • violence between Ukrainians and Russian-backed separatists
  • brutal beheadings of Coptic Christians and many other innocent captives at the hands of ISIS;
  • the murder of three young Muslims in North Carolina;
  • violence against people of color and violence against the LGBT community.  
Violence seems to be the operating system in our world for solving our social problems and also obtaining wealth and power. We know violence does not produce the works of God and violence cannot be eliminated  by heaping more bombs on the heads of the perpetrators.

On the contrary, retaliatory violence creates an endless cycle of more and more destruction. Having more guns, more sophisticated weapons, more “stuff” to fight back with does not make us safer. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thou Art the Potter, I am the Clay

Many of us have sung the old hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”  It reminds us of the text from Jeremiah 18:1-4 that proclaims God as the grand potter of life and we are merely the clay in God’s hands.  The words to this famous hymn were written by Adelaide Pollard, a native of Bloomfield, Iowa.  According to “Women of” Ms. Pollard wrote this song as a response to a disappointment in her life.  She was trying to raise money for a mission trip to Africa and she was unable to find the needed funds.  During a prayer meeting one evening at her home church she overheard an elderly church member pray “It really doesn’t matter what you do with us, Lord, just have your own way with our lives.”  Touched by the faith of this saint Adelaide went home and wrote the entire hymn that night.

Ms. Pollard had an extensive ministry as a teacher at the Missionary Training School at Nyack-on-the Hudson and as an itinerant Bible teacher.  She worked with a number of evangelists who held revivals and healing services.  Interestingly enough, she finally had the opportunity to visit Africa later in her life fulfilling her greatest dream. 

All of us can identify with the experience of disappointment and unfulfilled wishes.  It helps to remember that God’s molding of us is always for our own good in order to “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy (Romans 9:22).  God’s timing is never our timing and God’s ways are higher than our ways.  Ms. Pollard finally visited Africa but only after God used her for other purposes and in the end she was more prepared for her trip when the time came.

During this season of Lent pray aloud the words of Ms. Pollard’s hymn and renew your resolve to accept God’s will for your life, whatever that might look like.  Fear and disappointment can turn to trust and praise as we experience the good that God has planned for us.

                  “Have Thine Own way, Lord, have Thine own way!
                  Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
                  Mold me and make me after Thy will,
                  While I am waiting, yielded and still.

                  Have Thine own way Lord! Have Thine own way
                  Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
                  Fill with Thy Spirit ‘till all shall see
                  Christ only, always, living in me                  

Monday, February 2, 2015


The first African American Methodist churches in the early 1800s were controlled by white senior pastors and trustees.  Chafing under oppression, the churches sought but were denied the dignity of self-determination by four consecutive General Conferences.  But in 1864, as the end of America's Civil War and slavery was imminent, their petition was approved, and the Delaware Annual Conference became the first African American annual conference to be formed in Methodism. 
Delaware Annual Conference Cabinet, 1918

A century later the 1964 General Conference mandated that all racially segregated conferences in the United States be disbanded.  Four years later, the segregated Central Jurisdiction, to which they all belonged, was abolished as well.

The sprawling Delaware Conference was the first to take on the challenging task of merging with predominantly white conferences in the six geographical areas where their respective churches resided.  Those conferences included: the Philadelphia (now Eastern Pennsylvania) Conference, the Peninsula (now Peninsula-Delaware) Conference, the Virginia Conference, the New York Conference and the North and South New Jersey conferences. 

The last formal conference session of the Old Delaware Conference was held on April 27-28, 1965, with Bishop John Wesley Lord presiding.  The bishop said, according to the Rev. Edwin L. Ellis, a District Superintendent who wrote about this event later, “We are restoring that which is broken.  This is a return to the way the Methodist Church began.  It was our sin which brought division… Surely now, we have much to share with all of Christ’s Church and this great dream will be now pouring out into the life of the new conferences that are being organized.”  (Commemorative Booklet: Delaware Annual Conference, page 101)