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 ›

Public reasoning and ekklesial reckoning

Commentary on the Vatican conference calling for “spirituality and practice of active nonviolence” to displace church focus on just war

Ken Sehested

We must acknowledge the essential defect in the just war tradition, which is the assumption that violence can
somehow achieve justice. And we must with equal courage acknowledge the essential defect in pacifism,
which is the assumption that justice can somehow be achieved simply by opposing violence.

—Ivan J. Kauffman, “If War is Wrong, What is Right? The New Paradigm”[1]

            Ever since Pope Francis was selected to lead the Holy See three years ago, the Roman Catholic Curia watchers have had a field day with his many uncommon statements and actions. The most recent bustle had US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaking at a Vatican conference on economic inequality, just days after the issuance of Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), a papal exhortation reframing the plight of divorced Catholics and “all those living in any ‘irregular situation.’” Read more ›

Boots on the ground and other obfuscations

On this, my 65th birthday, I’ve made a new vow.

by Ken Sehested

        On this, my 65th birthday, I’ve made a new vow. From here on, whenever some public figure says “we need more boots on the ground” in any of our nation’s 134 theaters of conflict, I shall write them to say,

        “Sir/Madame (bloodlust increasingly an equal-opportunity villainy), please come out from behind the dishonesty of your words: When you advocate for more “boots on the ground,” have the courage to say “we need more of your sons and daughters.”

        If by “war” you mean “conflicts where the US is launching extensive military incursions, including drone attacks, but that are not officially ‘declared,’” [1] there are but five: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Read more ›

Dragged into the marketplace

Sermon based on Acts 16:16-34

by Ken Sehested
Circle of Mercy Congregation, 20 May 2007

        Ever since Easter the principal lectionary readings have been excerpts from the books of Acts which records the story of the birth of the church after Jesus’ resurrection and then the subsequent missionary journeys of Paul and other church leaders.

        Today’s story is actually two stories: a short one, which I just read—about Paul healing a “slave girl”—which sets up a longer one, which Nancy told to the children—when Paul and Silas are dragged into the marketplace of the city of Philippi, A city on the Aegean Sea coast of what is now the modern country of Bulgaria, in what was then a Roman colonial region. There they are accused by the slave girl’s owners of unlawful activity, and the city magistrates convict them toss them into prison. Read more ›

Accounting for the hope that is in you

A sermon

by Ken Sehested

Texts: Isaiah 5:7-8; Luke 24:44-53; 1 Peter 3:13-22
Circle of Mercy Congregation, Sunday, 5 May 2002

        Before I begin, permit me one brief aside. It was on this day—5 May 1773—that Baptists in Boston agreed to refuse payment of taxes due to support the state-sponsored pilgrim-puritan church of the region. Such historical memories help us remember who we are and thus more able to account for the hope that is within us. Read more ›

Bearing Courage: Rooted in Hope

Address to the 2016 Alliance of Baptists Convocation

by Ken Sehested

         It’s daunting to sit on this stage alongside the talent assembled for this presentation. Obviously I cannot speak of women’s experiences from the inside; but I have consciously, most of my life, attempted to stay close to both the pain and the promise of women’s voices. Not as a moral gesture or generous heart, but for the sake of my own soul. In the end, this is our mandate as followers of the Way, to locate ourselves in compassion proximity to the cracks, attentive to wherever life is unraveled. In the prophetic words of Leonard Cohen, “There’s a crack in every thing. That’s how the light get in.”

         Over the course of my life I’ve frequently been asked how I ended up where I am. Raised in a small West Texas town, then in South Louisiana, in traditional Southern Baptist congregations shaped by pietist-revivalist religious currents (which is very different from fundamentalism), to then evolve into a career as an outspoken advocate for justice, peace and human rights.

         I don’t have a simple answer to explain that evolution, but I do recall a series of small moments when—partly from choice, partly from circumstances—I crossed inherited boundaries to be exposed to the ruptures in our social fabric. Read more ›

A Cuban pastor responds to President Obama’s visit

Shortly after President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, Rev. Eduardo Gonzalez, pastor of Iglesia Enmanuel in Ciego de Avila, Cuba, wrote a letter to his congregation’s “partner,” Northminster Church in Monroe, Louisiana, and copied others here in the US who have visited. Here is the text, along with a brief response of my own.

         “Dear brothers and sisters

         “For many years our brothers and sisters from Northminster Church have been asked by their fellow citizens what kind of mission work they come to Cuba to do. It has been hard for their inquirers to understand that they do not come to build schools, because we have schools and education, available for everyone, that they do not come to do medical work, because we have free medical service, that they do not come to evangelize, in the traditional sense of the word, because we have pastors and preachers that can do that.

         “Their answer to that question had always raised doubts and laughs among other conservative Christians, that found no sense in what many churches and other organizations for many years have been doing in Cuba: “building bridges of love and understanding” through which our governments are walking through now. Read more ›

Prisoners of hope

Letter to a friend kidnapped in Iraq

by Ken Sehested

Introduction: On 27 November 2005 a group of four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) were kidnapped by a jihadist group following a meeting in a mosque in Baghdad, Iraq. One of the four was a personal friend, Norman Kember, a 74-year-old peace activist from England. I wrote the reflection below the next day. Having traveled in Iraq twice, once with CPT shortly before the 2013 US invasion, I took the news pretty hard.

Right. CPT kidnap victims (l-r): Tom Fox from the US, Norman Kember from the UK,  and Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden.

I NEARLY GAGGED ON MY GRANOLA  when I saw your name, about 10 paragraphs into a story summarizing the weekend’s violent episodes in Iraq. Having been among the references for your application some months ago to join the delegation, I knew, but had almost forgotten, you were there. Read more ›

“Jesus in the middle of the fighting”

Story behind the “Jesus Prince of Peace” icon

by Ken Sehested

Two things distinguish the “Jesus Prince of Peace” icon (displayed below). One is the sheer fact of the hand-drawn images of brutality and violence surrounding the central figure. This isn’t normal iconographic practice.

The second distinctive is that the iconographer is a Baptist—not your usual religious affiliation for such artists. And he is from Georgia, but not that Georgia.

The artist’s name is Mamuka Kapanadze. He is the iconographer for the Evangelical Baptist Church of The Republic of Georgia, whose liturgical culture is heavily influenced by the Orthodox tradition. Read more ›

Listen to the daisies

A profile of Georgian Baptist Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze

by Ken Sehested

      Baptists and bishops have never played well together. With a few exceptions, neither has been friendly to clergywomen. So how to explain the anomaly of Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze of the Evangelical Baptist Church (EBC) of the Republic of Georgia?

      Certainly one of her influences was St. Nino, the 4th century Cappadocian woman who first evangelized her homeland, the region then known as Caucasian Iberia, which became only the second kingdom, following neighboring Armenia, to officially convert to Christianity. But there was also her grandfather, a Baptist pastor.

      “When our Archbishop started a Bible school in our church, lots of young women came to study theology. Most of us thought we would use this experience teaching Sunday school, or being good mothers for our future children. We never imaged some of us would become ministers.” Read more ›