Pastoral Statement from The Possibility Project:

As of June 2017, we (Sophie & Jared) serve on the pastoral staff of The Possibility Project. As pastors, we understand we have a responsibility to shepherd and guide our community in conversation and action, particularly during troubling social and cultural moments. In response to the events at Charlottesville and the ongoing presence of white supremacy in our country, we offered this pastoral statement, which was originally shared on our Facebook page. 

As a church under the umbrella of the Church of the Nazarene, The Possibility Project affirms our new denominational statement which speaks against discrimination of all forms:

“Therefore, we renounce any form of racial and ethnic indifference, exclusion, subjugation, or oppression as a grave sin against God and our fellow human beings. We lament the legacy of every form of racism throughout the world, and we seek to confront that legacy through repentance, reconciliation, and biblical justice. We seek to repent of every behavior in which we have been overtly or covertly complicit with the sin of racism, both past and present; and in confession and lament we seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Further, we acknowledge that there is no reconciliation apart from human struggle to stand against and to overcome all personal, institutional and structural prejudice responsible for racial and ethnic humiliation and oppression. We call upon Nazarenes everywhere to identify and seek to remove acts and structures of prejudice, to facilitate occasions for seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, and to take action toward empowering those who have been marginalized.

As followers of Christ and pastors of this local church community, this is our effort to put the new manual statement into practice within our particular context, as we “Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14).

We renounce...

Our community firmly rejects the racism, anti-semitism, bigotry, and white supremacy on display in Charlottesville as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we recognize that this is not an isolated incident and that we must continually call out both specific instances and harmful structures.

We lament...

Our community grieves the violence in Charlottesville and the deaths of three people. We lament the pervasiveness of racism, anti-semitism, bigotry, and white supremacy in our church and culture and the failure of our church to more boldly speak and act against it. We cry out to God, knowing that God is grieved and holds our grief.

We repent...

Our community repents of our complicity in racism, anti-semitism, bigotry, and white supremacy. We recognize that, in varying degrees, we are tied to a racialized history and benefit from systems that prioritize whiteness and oppress people of different race, color, gender, and creed. We admit that we carry bias and prejudice in our hearts and thoughts. As we become more aware, we continually repent of our sin and change our attitudes and behaviors accordingly.

We identify and seek to remove acts and structures of prejudice...

We commit to evaluating our community’s beliefs and practices in order to resist racism and privilege.

We facilitate occasions for seeking forgiveness and reconciliation...

We commit to a posture of humility, asking for forgiveness in public and private forums from those we’ve hurt and moving toward reconciliation in partnership.

We take action toward empowering those who have been marginalized...

We commit to the following actions:

  1. Being in prayer so we may always be led by the Spirit of Life.

  2. Proclaiming in word and deed the gospel of love, peace, life, and justice over and against the anti-gospel of hatred, violence, oppression, and division.

  3. Participating in anti-racism training and educating ourselves on systemic injustice, while learning from and elevating voices on the margins.

  4. Collecting and creating racial justice resources to share with our church, district, and global church.

  5. Financially supporting racial justice efforts led by those who have typically been disempowered.

Our Weekend with Shane Claiborne

On a Friday night, we sat around the table eating popcorn, drinking hot chocolate, and talking with our houseguest...Shane Claiborne. Shane is an author, activist, and founder of The Simple Way, an intentional community in Philadelphia. 

We first came in contact with Shane’s work through his book The Irresistible Revolution. For Sophie, the book brought together her faith commitments alongside her concern for social issues, giving her more clarity on what to study in college and encouraging her to adjust her daily living to reflect these values. For Jared, the book served as a missing piece in what Church was currently offering and painted a picture for what fully dedicated Kingdom-living might look like now. He had the youth staff at San Diego First Church read the book. For the both of us, Shane’s work was both inspirational and challenging, and helped us shape the values of our marriage around simplicity, hospitality, and justice. 

So, why was Shane sitting in our house? Sophie will take it over…

During my first year in seminary, the state of Georgia scheduled an execution date for Kelly Gissendaner. Though I had advocated for the California proposition against the death penalty in 2012, regularly scheduled executions weren’t a regular practice there, so I hadn’t given much thought to the issue. But this execution was different. People in my community knew Kelly. They had served her communion. They had taught her in theology classes. They had written letters with her. They had received ministry from her. Her story was compelling, because I was learning about a prisoner as a real person. Flawed, yes. Guilty, yes. But also forgiven and transformed. Kelly’s story of grace highlighted for me the absurdity and barbarity of the death penalty. 

Despite a groundswell of support, including a petition of over 92,000 signatures, including many of yours as well as a letter from Pope Francis, the state of Georgia executed Kelly in September 2015. She died singing “Amazing Grace.”

Shortly thereafter, I met Shane at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference, where he told a few of us Candler students about his upcoming book focused on the death penalty, called Executing Grace: How The Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us. Shane told us when he did a book tour, he didn’t simply want to come read passages and sell copies. He wanted to highlight the way the death penalty affects real people, and bring alongside family members, ex-felons, and policy makers who deal with this daily. As he said, he chose to advocate against the death penalty, but for other people, the death penalty chooses them. 

Our Candler community had been affected by the death penalty, and situated in Georgia, a state that had the highest number of executions in 2016, we knew it was affecting more communities. Furthermore, because it is our tax dollars and elected officials that enforce this punishment, we realized we were all implicated. As a seminary and students training to go into churches, we were convicted by Shane’s explanation that the death penalty has not existed in spite of Christians, but because of Christians. Situated in the Bible Belt, we wanted to have a discussion about theology, ethics, law, and the personal impact of the death penalty. So we invited Shane to a three city speaking tour called Executing Grace in Georgia: A Faithful Conversation About the Death Penalty.

As we traveled to 3 cities in 30 hours, I saw that this movement is building, and despite the continued operation of this death machine, I have hope. As Shane said in the final event, “Before every movement, they say it’s impossible. After every movement, they say it was inevitable.” Change seems unlikely. Change seems daunting and impossible. Yet we are committed to hope. As Kayla Gissendaner, Kelly’s daughter, said at the panel, “I never gave up hope because my mom deserved every ounce I could give.” If Kayla can maintain hope, so can I. If Kelly can die with Amazing Grace on her lips, we can trust that grace will indeed get the last word. 

(click photos for slideshow)

Sometimes Shane gets dismissed for being too idealistic or too outrageous. But spending a weekend with Shane, doing regular things like driving around Georgia and sharing meals, just revealed to us a person who is all in for Jesus. Shane sees injustice in the world and engages it with his whole self. Hearing about his family and his neighborhood, and the creative ways they are building a world they want to live in, reminded us that what he preaches is possible. More accurately, what Jesus preaches is possible. Shane is, simply, is doing what we’re all called to do as disciples of Christ. Shane is fully committed to loving God with heart, mind, body, soul -  and wallet, neighborhood, and vocation. He’s not special, he is faithful. May we all find more ways to be faithful to our calling. 


The reasons Christians should stand for life and stand against the death penalty are abundant. You can read them in Shane’s book much more eloquently stated than I could recount here, or watch this video series with Shane by our new friend Rex Harsin. And I don’t need to recap the full event - you can watch the keynote and panel discussion at Candler here. To get involved with this movement for grace and life, check out the resources + action steps we recommended at the event.

Beauty for Ashes

By now, most of us realize that sex-trafficking is a major issue today. Many of us have learned that it happens in our own neighborhoods. But few of us know how to respond, how to help, how to offer hope. 

This is a tangible way to join the fight against human trafficking. 

Many women are trapped in cycles of trafficking because there is little hope offered for an alternative future. It can be extremely difficult to leave what seems like your only option for money and search for a job when you have little to put on your resume. It's additionally challenging to recover from the mental and spiritual damage that was inflicted. Women escaping sex trafficking often lack two important things - a community and an education. 

This is a chance to give help where it's needed most. 

Point Loma Nazarene University has long been a voice for justice and addressed the issue of human trafficking. Now they've created the first ever university scholarship for survivors of human trafficking. This was the school we graduated from, the place that gave us community, spiritual encouragement, and a beneficial education. We can both testify to the beauty in this place. 

This is an opportunity to extend that beauty of community and education. 

Donate now to the Beauty for Ashes campaign, and contribute to the long-term rehabilitation for a survivor of sex-trafficking. This is a direct impact on the life of one survivor, which will lead to an increasing impact on our world. 

Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-3 (NLT)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
    for the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Further Exploration: 

Lean more about human trafficking at www.abolishhumantrafficking.com

The Beauty for Ashes Campaign Website & Facebook page

 "Securing the resources to fund a college education can seem impossible to a survivor. We don't think it should be....The money raised from this campaign will go to support the education of survivors of human trafficking. We look at it this way - an education in the loving, academically challenging and carefully mentored environment of a Christian university can take someone from Victim to Survivor to Thriver.

Press about the scholarship

A White Guy Walks Into A Black Church

Has your church changed the world? Sometimes we're tempted to believe church is another weekly activity. It's entertainment or moral encouragement or a social connection. Yet we do recognize deep down that Jesus established more than a sing-a-long and coffee hour. Jesus established a Kingdom. He initiated a new way of living, one with the potential to turn this world upside down.

Last week we worshipped at Ebenezer Baptist Church, in downtown Atlanta. This is one church that can truly claim some world changing members. Among other influential leaders, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was raised in this historic congregation. American culture is significantly altered because someone was transformed by the life, teaching, and salvation of Jesus, and undoubtedly, this body of believers. 

How is your church shaping people to participate in the Kingdom?

Who is encouraging you to put your faith into action?

How can your church challenge current culture?

                            Ebenezer Baptist Church today - educating, equipping, edifying.

                           Ebenezer Baptist Church today - educating, equipping, edifying.

Don't Start a Non-Profit

When confronted by the reality of social issues, it's a natural reaction to want to get involved. And we are indeed called to respond! Yet we need to respond smarter. At this point, the answer isn't always a new organization or a fresh fundraising campaign. Damage can easily be done by taking our good intentions and moving too quickly. When you feel a prompting to respond, slow down. Find and listen to who is already involved. Many groups have invested deeply and built roots over the years. They've built relationships that create sustainable change. They have wisdom and knowledge and experience that allow for effective transformation. Learn from them. Support them. Let's work together.

Here's a short introduction to the anti-trafficking work done by Restore International. 

[Well done Chadwick Gantes on a beautiful video. Check out his work here: http://gantes.co]

Scripture: Luke 4:16-18

And he [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

Further Exploration:

Read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...And Yourself