September 27, 2016

Central Alums Ministering in Wisconsin

            On Friday and Saturday I traveled to the “north woods” for the 172nd annual gathering of the American Baptists of Wisconsin.  Held at Camp Tamarack in Waupaca, the meeting was a blessed time of worship, education, fellowship, and missional endeavors.  What a lovely season to be in the “Chain of Lakes” region of the state.

            What delighted me most was seeing how many of Central Wisconsin graduates are leaders in the region.  About 11 years ago, Arlo Reichter (then regional executive) and Timothy Ashley, an experienced theological educator, began a conversation about offering accessible ministry training in their region.  The fruit of the collaboration between Central and Wisconsin ABC was on display at this gathering.

            Central alums are pastors, denominational leaders, advocates for mental health, camp director and enthusiasts, staff ministers, interim pastors, and church planters.  Some remain bi-vocational and bring their professional wisdom and life experience to the work of ministry.  They are our “letters of recommendation” as they faithfully serve.

            A 2016 graduate, the Reverend Carolyn Dugan, is leading the camping ministry.  She must be related to St. Francis with her love of all living creatures.  It is said that when she talks with the animals, they speak back and she understands.  I went kayaking with her and nearly had the opportunity to remember my baptism!  Thankfully she manages human creatures well, also.

            One of the highlights of the gathering was hearing Dr. Ashley teach on the great Isaiah passages about God’s continuing creative work.  Expounding these texts with great passion and wisdom, he gave a virtuoso performance.  A virtuoso is one who has so practiced his or her craft that the instrument and person are one in their artistry.  It struck me how blessed his students and colleagues have been over the years to learn from this master teacher.  The biblical texts are so deeply inscribed in him, and his able interpretation awakens others to the riches of Scripture.

            Dr. Timothy Ashley and Rev. Maxine Ashley have been essential to the founding and implementation of the site for theological education in Milwaukee.  They have given of themselves unstintingly over these years. I am grateful for Maxine’s pastoral formation of these learners; her own pastoral practice is exemplary, and her students bear her graceful imprint.
            With the imminent retirement of the Ashleys, there will be a time of transition in the collaboration between Central and the Wisconsin region.  How grateful I am for the wise and energetic leadership of Rev. Marie Onwubuariri, Executive Minister, and Dr. John Jones IV, who will now lead the important work of Central Wisconsin.  There is no more urgent work that developing leaders for the church and larger community.

            Molly T. Marshall

Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving the world (which includes all God’s creatures).

September 19, 2016

Prayer and Politics

            The apostolic writer urges “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  As I read this text this morning, I realized how often I tend to despair about those in public office rather than intercede for them.
            When I was a visiting student in Cambridge during my doctoral years, I regularly attended Anglican services where the tradition is to pray not only for ecclesial leaders, but also for the monarch, the prime minister, and local political leaders.  This practice impressed me, for it kept the church from being insular, unrelated to the larger social landscape.
             Flying back into Kansas City last evening, I met a courageous moral leader, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II.  He is an imposing presence, and I immediately recognized him.  You may remember his powerful speech at the Democratic Convention this summer or know of his “Moral Mondays” work in North Carolina.  He is a significant prophetic voice in our time, calling us to renew our concern for the well being of our neighbors.  Tonight he will be a part of a traveling “Revival,” which will be held at St. James Methodist Church.

            Reverend Barber is unwilling for the church to be silent about critical issues of social justice.  It is not enough for him to use his pulpit to proclaim God’s mandate to care for the oppressed, he has taken his message to the state house and well beyond.  A self-professed conservative because he believes he must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, he nevertheless promotes a progressive political agenda that would revive the heart of our democracy.

            Accompanying Barber in “The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values” are other well known public theologians: Rev. Dr. James a Forbes, Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, and Sister Simone Campbell.  The goal of this movement is to redefine morality in American politics by pushing a broad social justice agenda.  The key issues are: the economic liberation of all people; access to quality education for every child; healthcare access for all; criminal justice reform; and ensuring historically marginalized communities have equal protection under the law.  Gathering in places of worship in across our land, this “Revival” is stirring people of faith to prayer and action.

            I will be attending tonight and am eager to learn of the impact of this movement, which calls upon elected officials and candidates for office to advance a moral public policy agenda that responds to the urgent needs of vulnerable communities.  This will require a fusion of prayer and political activity; one without the other is incomplete.

            Molly T. Marshall

                        Central prepares creative leaders for diverse ministry contexts.