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RBG:…2 for Tuesday…BONUS BLOGS

September 23, 2020

Honored to share insights from two wildly disparate people, both of whom I know and respect.

This past weekend, Hannah Adair Bonner wrote —

For the first few hours after news broke of the passing of RBG, I was driving through the wilderness without knowledge of her death.

As I stopped to make camp for the night, cell reception returned and I saw the news.

It seems a fitting place to be – this utter darkness, this wilderness, this quiet, this solitude. As I sit in my campsite, the wind beats against me and howls as if it too is in wild grief. As if it wants me to know I’m not alone.

When the news broke, I was out of cell phone reception and turning onto a dirt road as I entered the forest. Just then, a bear stepped into the road ahead of me, as if to tell me the warning signs at the entrance are real. The bear stopped, looked me in the eye, paused, and then bounded away. I pressed on.

Tonight, I’ll do what I’ve been doing every night before I sleep, read from Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray. Someone suggested to me that in finding my own way forward, I should study the lives of the women who built the path.

Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray – legal genius, scholar, poet, activist, priest – forged the path that RBG walked, created the legal strategy that she would employ, as Rev. Dr. Theresa S. Thames reminded us tonight.

May we follow in the path that Pauli forged, that RBG paved. May we make it wider, firmer, broader still. May we be brave. May we be wise. May we be strong. May we press on.

*And may we vote. With everything that is in us. Remembering how Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray put her safety on the line to fight for that right.*

&

This past weekend, Maxie Dunnam wrote —

All the news outlets are full and raving about the tiny woman who was larger than life, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Like many, I have been inspired by her character and influence.

When Justice Antonin Scalia died back in 2016, the story of the friendship of Ginsburg and Scalia captured the attention of our nation. No two Justices on the Court could have been further apart in their interpretation of the constitution and the decisions the Court made. Justice Ginsburg’s death has stimulated me to reflect, as I have often in the past, on two of my treasured friendships.

During my years as Senior Minister of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, two of the most influential ministers in the city were Adrian Rogers and Doug Bailey. The two became my most trusted minister friends. Adrian was the nationally known “conservative” pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church. Doug was the “liberal” rector of Calvary Episcopal Church, and nationally known as a preacher and leader. Both were leaders in their denominations.

In Oct. 1991, Dr. Willie Herenton, who had made history as the city’s first black public school superintendent, defeated incumbent Dick Hackett by just 142 votes, to be elected the city’s first black mayor. The city was in an uproar. Panic spread throughout the city as the 142 vote victory was being challenged and talk of a recount was setting the city on edge.

Long polarized in racial division, the city’s majority-black population was hungry for change, and were celebrating what appeared to be a stunning reversal of power in their city where Martin Luther King was assassinated.

There were different pastor organizations in the city, but no single organization that would speak with a single voice that might be respected and received. It was clear, voting had taken place along racial lines. The more I thought and prayed, the more I felt the ministers of the city representing the white establishment, needed to speak to the issue. The white community needed to hear a call to accept the verdict of the election, and move to reconciliation and commitment for the sake of the community.

I wrote an eight-paragraph letter expressing the desperate need for the “city’s constituents to get together and turn the city into a community.” I wanted the message to be an open letter to the citizens, but primarily addressing the white community. I knew it would not be impactful unless it had representatives of the clergy leaders of the white community.

I was certain it was absolutely essential for my two closest friends, Adrian and Doug, to sign the letter which we would issue to the community through the daily paper. If I got these two friends, others would readily join us and perhaps we could calm the troubled waters.

I spent almost two days, by phone and fax, sharing the letter with them. Language meant different things to them, and both were persons of stellar integrity and did not want that integrity compromised. When we had perfected the letter, I limited the cosigners to a dozen for the city’s most influential clergy leaders in in order that we could get the letter in the Sunday paper as a quarter-page advertisement. The election had taken place on Tuesday. A reporter got hold of the ad and wrote a large news article. Our message was a clear call for reconciliation and unity, reminding our citizenry, God “has been powerfully at work in recent historical events such as the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the independence movement in the Soviet Union. That same God will enable us to achieve unity in our city.”

Dr. Herenton credited that statement with calming the raging waters, saving the city from destructive turmoil, and making his work as mayor successful.

Doug and Adrian had vast differences on social and theological issues. Doug and I had differences on social issues, especially human sexuality. Adrian and I had theological differences, particularly on the issue of “full salvation.” Both were my close friends.

Justice Ginsburg’s death, and her relationship with Justice Scalia, has inspired me to recall my friendship with Doug and Adrian. I believe there are lessons here for the radical division and destructive hatred in our nation today.

 

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