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.

A Blessing and a Call

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Over the weekend in Los Angeles, a theatre full of "justice junkies" (in the words of one speaker), gathered to be inundated with wisdom, challenges, Scripture, statistics, stories, and truth related to all forms of justice. Through speakers and music, we were pointed again and again toward the God who desires justice, who invites us into the redemptive work of the Kingdom. Forgive me while I process this information into a few more blog posts. But for now, may I point you toward this prayer, which was offered this weekend at The Justice Conference. 

A Four-Fold Benedictine Blessing

by Sr. Ruth Fox, OSB (1985)

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator, 
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour, 
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, 
be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

AMEN

Scripture: Isaiah 58: 6-12 (NIV)

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Further Exploration:

Look up the work of the following speakers (bios and links found here)

Dr. Bernice King

Lynn Hybels

Donald Miller

Brian Stevenson

Stephen Bauman

Justin Dillon

Nicole Baker Fulgham

Gabriel & Jeannette Salguero

N.T. Wright

Marcel Serubungo

Jenny Wang

Ken Wystma

Alexia Salvatierra

Eugene Cho

Jim Wallis

Sami Awad

Bethany Hoang

Noel Castellanos

Rick McKinley

Mae Cannon