EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is from the Rev. Stephen G. Hyde, Ravensworth Baptist Church, Annandale, Va., and is published with his permission.
Welcoming the stranger
Thirty-six times, the Old Testament uses the phrase “love the stranger.” If we could put on our [church’s] front lawn, for everyone to see, the scripture which guides our understanding of what it means for us to be people of God, selecting the New Testament words to write in the grass might require a contest. It could be Paul’s words to the Galatians:
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male or female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
It could be the words of Jesus:
Love one another, as I have loved you...or
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
I don’t think a contest would be necessary to select which Old Testament scripture to write in the grass. The words of Micah have fallen like a spring rain into our consciousness so many times they are deep in the soil of our life together:
And what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
I would like to say as plainly as I can that we desperately need a grander perspective. We are stuck in the mud of polarization and stereotypes, of lies and greed and paranoia, fear and suspicion, contempt and raw hatred.
It’s like we’re singing only half of Woody Guthrie’s song:
This land is my land!
This land is your land, this land is my land.
We have forgotten that none of it is ours, because this is God’s world...and all of it is ours, because God has entrusted us with its care. But it cannot be my land unless it’s also your land.
We are all immigrants, created fresh from the hands of the Creator-God, sent forth into a place that we did not create, to breathe the breath of life that we did not earn. If we could leave ground level for just a few moments, and let the Scripture take us for a ride to that dawn of creation when the morning stars sang together and the heavenly beings shouted with the joy of it all...the joy of a creation so fresh and new that no one has yet forgotten they are one with everyone and everything else; maybe we could be given a new vision of what it is to be daughters and sons of God, and to know that we are children of God only if everyone else is a child of God.
I asked a friend of mine, a pastor who is gay--a very courageous and battle-scarred pastor for whom I have great respect and affection--why gays and lesbians would still be drawn to church, which for the most part has let them down terribly. I’ll never forget what he said to me:
“We long to go back to the place where we first heard that God loves us, before we were told that God might not love us after all.”
No one has the right to tell anyone else that she or he is not a child of God, created and loved by God. When such a harsh, unkind word is spoken from inside the church, from inside any church, it is an abomination.
Injustice of any kind is an abomination, and it is unjust to dismiss anyone as being unworthy of God’s love.
No matter who they are...no matter where they’re from...no matter how they got here...NOBODY deserves to be called everything but a child of God.
Concentrating power in one man
The American Thinker article: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/11/a_national_security_hybrid.html cites 139 executive orders signed by Barack Obama, not the 128 cited in my recent letter to the editor. I relied on Snopes.com for the number, but it has surpassed 128 according to the referenced writer.
Regrettably, only a relative handful of U.S. citizens are aware of these all encompassing executive orders, and of how they acquire the effect of law without any review or debate by our elected lawmakers. Most troubling of all is the nightmarish, police state control these executive orders will have over the lives of Americans if they are implemented.
In the same vein, no news media except alternative sources of investigative reporting, seem the least bit interested in addressing the (documented) purchase of approximately 1.4 billion rounds of ammunition over the past several months by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. This enigma is practically unknown to the general public, the same civilians who will be subjected to a complete loss of freedom when the executive orders are implemented.
BOE not showing progress
Once again, I am writing to express concerns regarding the Sumter County Board of Education. The time for SACS' follow-up visit is drawing near, and there are new issues about which everyone should be informed.
First, there has been little work toward the requirements issued by SACS to the district in June of this year. Lip service has been paid, but very substantive work has been done.
1. The required mediation was only begun in late September and has yet to be completed. The Fanning Institute has visited once to interview stakeholders and is scheduled to return later this month to report their findings to the board. It should be noted that only one community stakeholder with concerns about the board was selected for an interview by the superintendent.
2. Work on communication as required has not been completed. The Board contracted with GSBA for that work. The consultant is due to be here later this month, but has already been instructed to deal only with questions and concerns "from the present forward." In open meetings, the majority of the board indicated that they felt past questions had been answered and there was no need to bring up past issues. The superintendent will be selecting those stakeholders who will be part of the small group discussions held.
3. Review of board policies as required has consisted of brief mentions in some board meetings that each board member should review certain sections at their leisure. The board has recently contracted with GSBA for a review of the policies but that work has yet to be completed. My understanding of the agreement is that GSBA is simply reviewing policies to be certain they are in compliance with the law ... not to inform the board of policy contents, which I thought was the intention of your SACS' requirement related to board policy.
4. The board has yet to address the issues and recommendations listed in the Grand Jury report. The board chair and one other board member have yet to reimburse the district for monies owed. As you may know, the board attorney filed a petition for expungement of the report. On Nov. 2, the courts ruled on that motion and denied it. Interestingly, as of Nov. 9, at least three of the board members (Meda Krenson, Mike Mock and Mike Busman) had yet to be notified of that ruling by the board chair, the board attorney or the superintendent. No mention of the ruling was made in the regular meeting of the school board on Nov. 8. Governance issues including violations of the Sunshine Law are still rampant.
5. Last week, on Nov. 7, the board attorney (a second one, E. Brian Watkins) filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court against the state school board and the governor. He also filed a motion for injuction to stop the state board hearing scheduled for Nov. 14. The courts granted the injunction on Nov. 13. The suit lists 6 plaintiffs, "in their official capacities as the majority of the Sumter County Board of Education." The other three board members had no prior knowledge of the lawsuit. The suit has not been discussed or voted upon in any open meeting of the Sumter County Board of Education. Consequently, I filed an Open Meetings complaint with the local District Attorney's office as well as the Georgia Attorney General's office on Nov. 8. Again, governance issues and violations of the Sunshine are still rampant.
6. This week, a group from the Georgia Accrediting Commission made a visit to Sumter County Schools as part of the district's application for accreditation by that agency. I believe this application is an attempt to circumvent the State Board's work in repsonse to the district's Probationary Status assigned by SACS/AdvancEd.
In regards to the upcoming followup visit by SACS, I have a grave concern ... We have a new superintendent, Donnie Smith. Mr. Smith has made clear his allegiance to the board chair and the other five board members who work in concert with her. Should the visiting team interview only persons named by the new superintendent, a very inaccurate picture of the present state of affairs could be painted. It is my hope that the team will insist upon speaking with the same stakeholders they interviewed during their visit last April.
I understand that the legal issues concerning the state board of education's hearings are out of SACS' control. I also understand that the proverbial wheels of justice grind slowly. However, in the meantime, our community continues to suffer. Such feelings of frustration and hopelessness exist that staunch public school supporters are beginning work on charter school applications.
Will we stand by and continue to watch our community fall apart under the watch of the majority of this school board? Do we want to see more and more opportunities for economic growth in our community disappear? Do we want to see our children and grandchildren forced to leave this community to find work?
I say NO! What say you?
Valerie R. Duff