Monthly Archives: June 2016

A story about where we (CDC) come from

 

Tomorrow folks from Central District Conference congregations will be coming to Columbus as the Annual Meeting begins.  Here’s a story that has helped me better understand CDC:

Joseph Stuckey was born in Berne, Switzerland in 1826 and migrated to the US with his parents when he was five.  Joseph was baptized into the Amish Church and lived his adult life in central Illinois.  He took up farming, became a part time minister, and taught himself English by reading an English language newspaper.  He and other farmers benefited from high grain prices during the Civil War, and Joseph decided to retire from farming at age 42 in order to become a full time minister.  He came to be in high demand as a preacher and church leader, traveling widely throughout the Midwest.  Over his lifetime he married over 250 couples and officiated over 1000 baptisms.

1872 was a defining year for Joseph Stuckey, setting a trajectory for who Central District Conference is today.  That year a member of Stuckey’s congregation, Joseph Yoder, wrote a poem in which he praised universalism, the idea that God would save all humanity.  This was outside the church’s teaching, and the Amish bishops concluded Yoder should be excommunicated.  Joseph Stuckey was not in agreement with Yoder’s poem, but came to his defense, saying “He is still my brother.”  This, in turn, caused Stuckey to be dis-fellowshipped by many of the bishops, while other bishops and ministers publicly and privately let him know they agreed with his stance.

The Amish of Illinois who followed the “Stuckey way” came to be less strict in their teachings, and formed positive relationships with their close theological cousins the Mennonites.  Stucky continued to insist that following Christ involved a way of life that kept people in fellowship with one another.  The current Central District Conference is a merger (1957) of the Central Conference which formed around Stuckey’s values at the end of his life, and the Middle District of Mennonites.

CDC still bears the imprint of Stuckey’s approach to faith.  We continue to put relationships at the center of our work, allowing for theological differences, and trusting that the Holy Spirit is at work among all of us.  I hope you’re able to join some of the events this weekend.

 

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In the arms of Ali

 

“My conscious won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father… Shoot them for what? …How can I shoot them poor people.  Just take me to jail.”

— Muhammad Ali on his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War

This week I’ve been amazed at all the tributes to Muhammad Ali.  I knew parts of his story, but was unaware of how big a cultural impact he made.  What an important and complex life.  How significant that a prominent black Muslim man – and a professional fighter! – was a leading voice in resisting war.

One of my favorite stories I’ve heard this week took place in 1981 as his boxing career was winding down.  Ali was in LA and received word from a friend that there was a man downtown who was going to jump to his death off an office building.  The police had been unable to talk him down, and a gathering crowd was actually yelling at him to “Jump!  Jump!”  Ali was compelled to go to the scene.  As it turned out, the suicidal man was a Vietnam vet traumatized by his war experience.  LA Times photographer Boris Yaro got pictures of what happened next and gave this account:

There was this great confusion, and people yelling. I saw this two-toned Rolls-Royce drive through the police lines and a lot of guys jump out, Ali in front of them. He turns into the building, and soon I saw him at a window maybe 20 feet from the jumper, and he yelling at the guy.

mohammad ali at window

We can hear Ali yelling, “I couldn’t lie to you. I love you. You’re my brother.”

“Don’t cry for me, I’m going to jump,” the guy yells back at Ali. And then the guy yells, “Look out! The VC is in the schoolhouse!” God, it was weird. The cops think he was having a flashback.

Anyway, Ali keeps talking. We couldn’t hear all that he was saying, not down on the street. Ali was now talking low and soft to the guy. Then Ali appears right behind the guy on the balcony. He puts his arms around the guy and maybe he stays that way for about a minute and a half. I expected him to pull the guy back, but he didn’t. He took his arms off the guy. Maybe he did that three times, put his arms on the guy and then takes them off. You know a cop would have yanked the guy back, but Ali didn’t. He wanted the guy to come off on his own.

mohammed ali with arms around jumper

It was like Christ making a disciple. Then the guy put his head on Ali’s shoulder and you could see his body quiver like he was crying heavily. You could see Ali’s face was contorted, that he had been crying, too. Then Ali put his arms around the kid and lifted him, and the kid sort of folded into Ali’s arms. Then they disappeared inside the building.” (Newsday, January 21, 1981)

mohammed ali rescues jumper

A few days later Ali spoke to Newsday reporter Bob Waters and said:  “I felt love, maybe for the first time. That kind of love, like killing me inside. I love Allah, my wife, my kids, friends. I even love you. But this was screaming inside of me. And I said to myself, ‘Cool, cool, stay cool. Help this brother. Allah, help me help my brother. Oh God, help me.’”