Category Archives: Global

Points of Light towards the Beloved Community

Dr Martin Luther King JrA couple weekends ago I was down in Atlanta visiting my brother and we had an amazing Sunday down at the King Center and Ebenezer Baptist.  As someone who has idolized Dr. King since high school and who has found his writings and sermons to be constant companions along my journey of understanding racism, equality, and social justice based in a vision of the Beloved Community it was truly a pilgrimage for me.  Standing outside of the house where Martin was born on Auburn Avenue and to see it preserved brought all of the books I have read about King growing up and developing come to life in a way which connected me with, not only the history of the civil rights movement but also, the possibilities of his dream for our day and age.

Ebenezer Baptist ChurchI was also very pleased to see that the exhibit didn’t just stop with Dr. King’s work in the civil rights movement but also touched upon his work as it developed to address the related evils of poverty and militarism.  I was honestly biting my tongue anticipating that the Poor People’s Campaign and King’s  speech and marches against the Vietnam war would be excluded.

Walking through those pictures just down from the street where he grew up and the church where he pastored when he was killed made this man and the movement he has come to exemplify come to life in a way which begs the question: why not now?  What is holding the people of this country from rising up again as a un-ignorable voice and force for peace and justice?  What would it take for we the people, in the midst of this increasingly global awareness, to believe that the world which God intends is indeed a possibility and that we have an enormous power as united people to bring this new world into being?

Michael Pfleger at International Civil Rights Hall of FameOn the way back to the car I made a more intentional stop at the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame as was cheered as I saw the foot prints of Michael Pfleger.  In addition to working with Father Pfleger in his role as co-chair of the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry I also had the privilege of doing an internship at the Faith Community of St. Sabina.   This amazing church and its faith-filled congregants have taught me more about living out faith than three whole years of seminary.  Quite a portion of my hope for the continuation of Dr. King’s dream comes from having experienced this community and having been deeply moved by their spirit and faith.

Good work is being done  in the churches, synagogues, mosques, and community development organizations across this county.  We must learn to lift up these points of light in spite of the seeming prevailing of darkness and to encourage our communities to be inspired by the Spirit which is surely at work even now.

Here’s a recent, ten minute interview with Rev. Dr. Michael L. Pfleger on the Tavis Smiley show.

The World Goes Urban… Ministry?

Urbanization of the WorldSocial scientist and demographers have identified May 23, 2007 as the transition date when the world urban population finally went over the 50 percent mark.  It took a long time to happen but in reality urbanization is a rather recent and rapid phenomenon.  In the past 107 years the world’s urban population leapt from 13 percent to 50 percent.  It is projected that by 2020 we will have five hundred cities with more than a million people.  We already have at least a dozen cities with over ten million populations.

Urbanization, however, is much more than population density.  It has to do with distinct forms of human relationship, communication, interconnection, and complex patterns of cultural, economic, political, and social life that transcend the close knit patterns of smaller communities.

Church and the CityThe church, however, is frequently not well equipped to respond to the challenge of urbanization.  Models of the church and of ministry, more often than not, reflect a rural or agrarian understanding of society.  If the church lags in its awareness of and response to the challenges and opportunities of urban life, it may be because seminaries and divinity schools are delinquent in preparing pastoral leadership for urban congregations.  According to a recent study done by Robert Kemper, only one third of all accredited seminaries offer even one course related to ministry in an urban society.

This is one of the gaps we see SCUPE filling.  As you equip yourself for ministry an urban world consider how SCUPE could be a resource to you.  SCUPE offers a variety of high quality courses for graduate and undergraduate students interested in urban ministry, African-American and Latin@ theological perspectives, social justice & community development.

More importantly, SCUPE provides the opportunity for you to use the city of Chicago as a ministry learning context.  This means connecting with some of the most innovative urban ministry practitioners, getting behind-the-scenes insight into the accomplishments and struggles of their ministries, and learning to listen to the city and community through a biblical lens that is both prophetic and imaginative.

Consider becoming involved though:

– our 2011 conference: the Congress on Urban Ministry

– our academic programs: various classes open to seminary students and lay learners

– our summer or semester long urban ministry internship opportunities for seminary students.

– Carol Ann McGibbon

The Art of Peace

Speaking of Faith has a recent podcast up on their website under the title: The Art of Peace.

Speaking of Faith the Art of Peace

John Paul Lederach describes what really happens when people transcend violence while living in it, and so find the moral imagination to live beyond it. Also, stories you’ve never heard in the news — from Colombia, Nepal, Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, and Burma.

Access the program at the Speaking of Faith website.

Urban Den-City

Earlier this week I received an e-mail from a pastor in Cagayan de Oro city in the Philippines.  I have to admit that I looked it up on the map.  As my geography skills probably hover just around average for Americans (as 2006 study reported that 63 percent of young Americans were unable to find Iraq on a map… as evidenced in this video) I was surprised to learn how big Cagayan de Oro is for a city I had never heard of.  The 2007 census estimated the population at 553,996 people.  By our own 2007 estimates, this would put the city at about the same size as Portland, OR.

World Population Density By Country

This e-mail from a potential Congress 2011 attendee got me thinking though about how different urban areas are globally.  The most obvious example of this is population density.  I tend to think of Chicago as an incredibly densely populated area but in reality, it doesn’t even crack the top 125 on this list of the most densely populated cities in the world.  In fact, it takes up until #90 for Los Angeles, the most densely populates U.S. city, to even factor in.  That being said, I think I am ready to learn more about cities on a global scale.  How does population density affect oil consumption?  How do architecture and public space affect crime and civic engagement?  How do culture and faith affect a people’s ability to live together peacefully?

Petrol Use by Urban Density

This process of connecting with one of our global partners has been a reminder that people experience immensely different realities depending on their specific contexts.  While we need to be rooted in our immediate communities we also need to be connected to global communities.  Increasingly, we are learning that we are more connected that we could have ever imagined.

Want to learn more about some of the most densely populated cities in the world?  Here is a brief slideshow compiled by Forbes.

The Role of Utopia in Vision

Yvonne Delk spoke passionately this morning at our SCUPE staff meeting about Haiti through the eyes of the three orphanages (1, 2, 3) she has been working with in recent years.  Through her visits (pre-earthquake) and education Rev. Delk has gained considerable insight into the history and struggle of the people of Haiti from colonialism to their over- throwing of French rule to the economic ostracism and divestment that has characterized the European response to the first free black nation in the Western Hemisphere and early herald of the post-colonial world.

Yvonne Delk at '06 Congress

Delk voiced the cry she directed towards God in the hours and days following the earthquake but then shifted her focus to the ways in which this was a disaster whose destructive magnitude was predicated largely by humankind.  The response of humankind now must be swift and immediate (and not rooted in the militarism that seems to have dominated the U.S. response so far) but also it must work to create instances of restorative justice that will repair and make amends for the history of abuses leveled at the people of Haiti.  The blood of the death toll rests not merely with the act of nature that was the earthquake but with every economic act that weakened the structure of Haiti buildings for the earthquake, weakened the infrastructure that would have cared for those injured by the earthquake, and the shrouded the nation in a deathly poverty before the earthquake.

What then should be the world’s response?  We know it needs to be more/different than what has been done so far (consult Bill Quigley’s “Too Little Too Late for Haiti? Six Sobering Points”).

What if the world’s response to Haiti spurred a worldwide response of restorative justice that began to make amends for the centuries of colonialism, racism, and slavery that has stolen and debilitated entire nations of people?  What if this response did not wait for disasters of such horrible magnitude as the Haiti earthquake and did more than create merely momentary compassion?

My own utopian dreamer alarm bells are going off here but it’s important to remember the original purpose of utopian visions like that of Thomas More, Plato, and the bible’s Isaiah.  Konrad Raiser (former general secretary of the World Council of Churches) has pointed out that a true utopian vision has the power to reveal and break down false constructs of reality and then mobilizes us towards potential change.

What would a utopian response to the Haiti disaster look like?

It is only after engaging the vision that we can begin the work of tempering this vision with pragmatic concerns and blowing it open with creativity and prophetic imagination.  Only then we are truly free to ask (in the full sense of the word free):

How can the global citizenship work towards a global response that prevents this disaster from becoming what it is starting to become (which is a debacle)?  How can people collaborate towards creating this response and engaging the individual, community, organizational, faith- based, corporate, and governmental resources?


Another world is possible.  Another world is necessary.

The Role of Non-violence in Peacemaking

Tuesday night I attended a forum on non-violence held at Columbia College here in Chicago’s loop sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee.  Notable individuals present on the panel included Kathy Kelly of Voices of Creative Nonviolence and Rabbi Brant Rosen of Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston.  The the forum’s credit there was also a “below 45 voice” in the form of Madelyn George, a Columbia College student who has been increasingly involved in acting for peace.

While the forum was lively and thoughtful it quite predictably degraded, in the question and answers portion of the evening, into theoretical and situational questioning… as if we were attempting to achieve the Platonic ideal of nonviolence.  You know, the questions like:

“Is it still non-violent action if there is property damage or if the demonstrators are wearing socks made in a sweat shop?”


“How would you advocate nonviolence if Hitler were to invade Rwanda using genocidal alien technologies?”

I may exaggerate a bit here but you get the idea.  While occasionally intellectually reveling these ‘intentional quandaries’ ignore the values of context and discernment.  As a primarily un-lived, academic idea, discussions around the concept of non-violence often fall prey to this pitfall.  We let the seemingly unreachable pinnacles of an ideal stop us from using the ideal in its most relevant and human form – gritty, impure, messy, and effective.

Where non-violence really came to life was in the stories of Kathy Kelly’s adventures planting corn on top of nuclear missile silos and being sentenced to a year in prison for crossing over into controlled space at Fort Benning’s military training school.  It took on flesh in the communal fasting of Rabbi Brant Rosen as a part of Ta’anit Tzadek – the Jewish Fast for Gaza and in the creative driven activism of Madelyn George and the students of Columbia.  These stories were wrapped in the fabric of real life – dripping with defiance and sacrifice.  These stories stretched beyond the conceptual boundaries and pitfalls common when talking about non-violent direct action and into dipped into the rarefied air of doing of doing non-violent direct action.

May it be so with us as well.  That we may always move our discernment into action – our faith into compassion and love embodied in our person.

If we let compassion guide us to action we might be surprised how often this action is actively non-violent…