Make a new name

One unnamed woman's contribution to confronting a culture of rape

by Ken Sehested

        By now you know about the judicial lenience given by California Judge Aaron Persky to Stanford student Brock Turner for raping an unconscious woman at a campus party. You may also know about the absolutely clueless letter read to the judge by the student’s father.

        And you were probably shocked to learn that a Vanderbilt University athlete, convicted of the same crime under similar circumstances, is facing 15-25 years behind bars. Turner got 6 months. One of the two is African American, the other white.

        These events are but the latest in a string of similar assault cases, like the recent one involving Baylor University football players, which brought down the school’s president and head coach. Notre Dame University was among the universities profiled in “The Hunting Ground,” a 2015 documentary examining rape on college campuses. Read more ›

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind

Part 1: Donald Trump’s favorite Bible verse

by Ken Sehested

“We’ll worship the hind legs off Jesus but never do a thing he says.” —Clarence Jordan

            Let’s be honest. Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” is likely the New Testament’s most memorable yet most effectively ignored directive.

            US presidential candidate Donald Trump hints at the disconnect in a recent interview. Read more ›

How long will you sit on the fence?

A Memorial Day sermon

Text: 1 Kings 18:20-39
29 May 2016
Circle of Mercy Congregation, Asheville NC

by Ken Sehested

       A week ago I was coming up with ideas to share with Brian about music appropriate for today’s service. I sent a note to Larry Wilson who, as a life-long Mennonite pastor, would surely know the Mennonite hymnal and might have some Memorial Day music suggestions for worship. Read more ›

“The Lord has taken you up”

A testimony

by Hillary Brownsmith

        The Body of Christ has seen queer folks angry. That anger is warranted. The church as the purveyor of a lot of violence against the queer community should witness that anger and make efforts to understand it. But I think the church also needs to see queer folks in our grief for the loss we experienced when we learned that the church is rarely the safe space it should be. The church may not have earned our vulnerability but it needs to bear witness to our grief for there to be true reconciliation.

        That being said, I want to share with you my personal story of grief and then, in the spirit of this month, I want to talk to you about pride.

        I was born in Dothan, Alabama. It’s a small town of no particular importance. It was named after a biblical city that is mentioned once in Genesis 37. The line is “I heard them say let us go to Dothan.” That verse is a nice, concise tagline for a small newspaper or welcome sign. However, if you read the verse in context, heaven forbid, you find that the whole story isn’t so pleasant. Genesis 37 is about Joseph searching for his brothers. On the way to find them, he runs into a man and asks him of their whereabouts. The man responds with the aforementioned tagline. Then Joseph, the teenage dreamer in the rainbow coat, goes to Dothan where his brothers strip him of his coat and sell him into slavery. I get the irony. Read more ›

Trans-formation

Controversy over the boundary of God’s welcome continues

by Ken Sehested

            A decade or so ago I served on the board of an organization connecting the work of the several “welcoming and affirming” organizations within various denominations. At one meeting, as part of a self-assessment of the movement, one admitted that the “t” in “lgbt” was still not exactly welcomed at the table. The admission brought nods of acknowledgment around the room.

            Going further back in time, partly for personal confession, when in the early ‘90s the Baptist Peace Fellowship board first began intentional conversation on questions of sexual orientation, an initial draft of a resolution used the word transgendered and I, among others, had never heard it before.

            Though it clearly doesn’t yet feel like it to those on that margin, we’ve come a long way, in a stunningly short period of time, in attending stories from the queer community generally and from the transgendered in particular. Read more ›

This is why they make you take vows

A "holy union" sermon

by Ken Sehested

Rev. Ken Sehested was asked to officiate at a covenant vow ceremony, for 12 same-sex couples, at the close of Asheville, North Carolina’s PrideFest on Saturday, 13 October 2007.

         Greetings. On behalf of the organizers of today’s gay pride festival—and of these couples who now stand before you—welcome, each and every one, to the close of this festive parade.

         Every genuine freedom march is a kind of ritualized renewal of commitments of various sorts. We march in the streets to communicate with the palaces, demanding that those without voice be given one, insisting that justice be granted where it has previously been denied. Read more ›

St. Peter and the Jerusalem Protocol

Commentary on Biblical Fidelity and Sexual Orientation

by Ken Sehested

This article, written in May 1995 to interpret the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America’s “Statement on Justice and Sexual Orientation,” was first printed in the Spring/Summer 1995 issue of Baptist Peacemaker, the BPFNA's quarterly journal. An edited version of this article was reprinted in Walter Wink’s book, Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches, Fortress Press, 1999.

      Culturally speaking, nothing seems to divide people more than the question of sexual orientation. At the center of this cultural wrestling match are the Christian churches. Much of the rationale for condemning homosexual behavior, even in secular institutions, is anchored in appeal to the Bible. Even the language of jurisprudence is affected by biblical tradition, with so-called “sodomy laws” criminalizing homosexual activity.

      We Baptists are on the verge of devouring ourselves in this dispute. But we’re not alone: virtually every mainline Protestant body along with the Roman Catholic church is embroiled in the controversy at the highest levels. Though the debate is less widespread within the “evangelical” side of the Protestant spectrum, the topic is sufficiently threatening to prompt preemptive maneuvers, as with the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent constitutional amendment—the first in its 150-year history—prohibiting membership to congregations which condone homosexuality. (Voting “messengers” to this year’s convention must attest to that article of faith with their signature during registration.) Read more ›

Fear Not!

The nonviolent war cry of the People of God

Ken Sehested

{This material was presented at the 11-13 December 2014 Christian Peace Circle retreat for leaders from various peace organizations in the US, held at Stony Point Center, Stony Point, N.Y.}

         The overall theme for this retreat is “Fear Not! The nonviolent war cry of the people of God.” The admonition to “fear not”—don’t be afraid, be still, take courage, be of good cheer—is a constant one throughout Scripture. It is always spoken in the context of danger and dread, typically against overwhelming odds, when things look like they couldn’t get any worse.

         The very first mention of God’s name in Scripture is uttered in the story in Exodus where the Hebrew people cry out because of the misery of their oppression. In the story of the calling of Moses, the text says “Then the Lord said, 'I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings. . . .' {Exodus 3:7} Shortly after that, Moses incredulously asks: “OK, so I’m supposed to go to Pharaoh and say “let my people go”? And just who exactly should I say is demanding this? Then the One whose name can never be spoken and never be tamed replies, “I am who I am,” or it can be translated “I will be who I will be.” [3:14. Karen Armstrong suggests it could also be rendered “Never mind who I am!”] Read more ›

Welcome to Ordinary Time!

A word from Gerald, the prayer&politiks guardian angel

Today we leave behind the bold drama and bright colors of the church year’s mountain range—Advent to Christmas, Ash Wednesday to Easter, all setting the stage for yesterday’s Pentecostal flames. (See the special artwork at bottom.) Now we descend to the plains of “ordinary” time and muted earth tones.

 

Not mundane or insignificant by any means. Even in his fantastical imagination, William Blake knew that “whoever would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars.”

Those of us in prayer&politiks’ corporate headquarters think of ourselves as one of those particulars. But, as you know, after the ecstasy comes the laundry. Our laundry list goes like this: Read more ›

Wisdom

by Ken Sehested

Text: Proverbs 8
Sunday, 6 June 2004
Circle of Mercy Congregation

I think it was last Monday, or maybe Tuesday. Nancy was ready to start putting this Sunday’s service together, and she asked if I had decided on a text and theme. Read more ›