Monday, December 3, 2012

The Silliness of Prejudice

Don's request for transfer was refused by a vote of 27-64.   Don rocked, however,   To turn away a minister with obvious gifts, experience, and deep faith because of prejudice (sorry, but however you look at it, that is all it is) reminds us that we have yet a long way to go.     Don with his wisdom, compassion and cane, reminds me of Gandalf!   He inspires me.    If you would like to send an email to Don, you can find his email address on the left sidebar of our church's webpage.  I am sure he would love to hear from you!

By the way the picture below is from the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade in Kingsport in January of 2012.  Don had marched with King in Memphis during the garbage workers' strike.  

My friend and colleague, the Rev. Dr. Don Steele, will be examined Tuesday, December 4th, at the presbytery meeting.  Welcoming a minister with 42 years of experience should be automatic.  There should be no exam.  It should have been an easy decision by the Committee on Ministry. 

But prejudice is irrational and silly. 

Here is Don's statement of faith and personal journey.  

Here is the speech I plan to give at presbytery. 

The Rev. Dr. Don Steele has been a Presbyterian minister for 42 years.  

When he was ordained, I was eight.  

He has a Ph. D. in Ethics and Spirituality.   Somewhere along the line he learned the difference between right and wrong. 

He has served as a minister of congregations across the United States from West Virginia to New Mexico.    How many sermons do you suppose Don has preached in 42 years of ministry?  How many weddings?  How many Bible studies has he led?  How many cups of coffee with parishioners struggling with issues and with confidences that he will take with him to his grave?    How many prayers has he shared with parishioners in hospitals and in homes and in his study?  How many funerals in 42 years?  I know of one important one at least to me.   This summer he held on to me while I held on to the body of my dead son.  He was there with my family in my home.  He was there as we sent Zach to his final rest at the crematorium.   Don is still there for us.  What does it take to be a minister?   You tell me.

He was the dean of the Doctor of Ministry and Continuing Education Programs at McCormick Theological Seminary.    In addition to administrative duties he taught master’s level and doctoral level courses.

He taught ministers how to be ministers.   There is no one in this room who is more qualified to be a PCUSA minister than The Rev. Dr. Don Steele.   

Already in this presbytery, he has been working.  He was responsible for distributing a $10,000 grant on behalf of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to flood victims in Washington County.   He serves on boards in Carter County for those suffering domestic violence and poverty.  He serves with me in my congregation.  I ask him for advice.  He knows what to do.  He has experience in the ministry.   It would be silly not to welcome him with trumpets into our presbytery.

Prejudice is really a silly thing.   When you prejudge people without knowing them you miss out.   It’s a waste.   We are not missing out in Elizabethton.     Whether you decide to miss out or not, that is your call.   It won’t affect us and it won’t affect Don.

But it will make the presbytery look kind of silly.

Even still, we will be here.   We will welcome and celebrate and be blessed by the gifts and skills of those who land on our doorstep even if they drive from Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol, Morristown, and Meadowview, VA to be with us.   The denomination is moving in the direction our congregation has been charting.   If you would like to join with us in this bold adventure of following Jesus we would love to work with you.  

Call us.  We would love to help congregations get over this stifling and silly prejudice.

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