Remembering Edson Taft ‘Bill’ Lewis Jr.

I have lost a dear, dear friend, colleague and brother.

A thousand, thousand thanks!

‘He was known at home and in the community as a man who loved mercy, sought justice and walked humbly with God. He was with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the “I Have A Dream” speech and the Selma-Montgomery March. He had a passion for bringing people together from all walks of life to make the world a better place.’

I remember him as one who helped me know myself simply by saying, ‘when you are cut, you bleed justice…’

I remember him as one who offered acceptance in Christ however radical my thinking turned.

I remember him as one with whom I confided things I have said to no other living person.

I remember him as one who could hear and bear graciously the accumulated frustration of a lifetime of living among Christians.

I remember him as one who answered complex dilemmas with clear, solid and gracious council.

I remember his ability to bring grace and perspective to salvage seemingly irredeemable situations.

I remember him swaying church bodies with sheer force of mind, knowledge of history and good order, and powers of vision and oration.

I remember the instant flash of his eyes and smile whenever I walked into a peer group meeting, and his arms outstretched to embrace me.

I remember him asking ‘what have you been reading lately,’ and being amazed to learn that he’d been there and suggesting further reading.

I remember his work with Pastors for Peace and his willingness to defy offical policies because they are unjust.

I remember his persistent insistence on justice, and his ability to retain hope for a world of peace and justice even as injustice seemed to prevail.

I remember his willingness to share heartbreak from his own family, and seeing how the loss of a brother shaped and deepened his love of justice.

Although I will miss Bill’s presence and titanic intellect, I find that his perspective and love of justice so informs my own spirit, it is as though he is still here and always will be. Knowing Bill as I have, and sharing our love of justice, I feel that his departure enriches and makes more real to me something that we call, ‘communion of the saints.’

Remembering the Family Rhoden

If Death Comes, You Deserved It

Steven L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona is no stranger to us. Registering in the extremist/insanity category, Anderson’s screeds and conspiracy theories have amused and abused many. Today, we surmise that death comes to those who deserve it. Given how they lived, what could those who died in the Paris attacks expect?

But Piketon, OH hosted no Eagles of Death Metal concerts. Yet eight Rhoden family members died in their sleep. Perhaps this family will be linked to the marijuana plants found in the vicinity. One supposes that would certainly offer Mr. Anderson a tidy explanation of their demise.

Another Response

But then, suppose that God isn’t like that at all. Suppose that when his children in France or Belgium or Ferguson or Boston or Charleston or Piketon are snuffed out, God’s own heart grieves. Recognizing that this is indeed the case, United Methodists prepared these resources for lament. Nor are Methodists the only people to recommend community laments.

The Boston Catholic website has uploaded this document. There, we find such statements as:

‘The scriptures provide us with ways to express our hope that God’s intervention will change our feelings of emptiness, fear and sadness while we become even more aware of the events and how they occurred. We need to place our losses and the losses of the French people into the context and framework of faith.’

And…

‘There is a need to come together for prayer.’

And…

‘Safety and stability is given when communities respond in prayerful ways.’

There is a tremendous need community instruction from the perspective of Christian faith in God. But providing it will require courage. Such issues as these and other documents name will not go quietly into the sunset. But on the other hand, the conditions that give rise to tragedy make this response by the church all the more imperative.

The Rhoden family tragedy is yet another call for church to remember who she is, to whom she belongs, and for what end she exists in the world. Mr. Anderson is a good example of what we are not to be. Can we now find grace to minister positively when tragedy strikes?