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Baptism: “Infant” or “believer's” style?

One congregation’s story of attempting faithfulness to the truth in both historic traditions

        When Circle of Mercy Congregation began in 2001, the founding pastors—Joyce Hollyday and Nancy & Ken Sehested—intended affiliation in both the Alliance of Baptists and in the United Church of Christ. This choice required making some kind of decision on the practice of baptism, since the Alliance is faithful to the Radical Reformation's tradition of “believers” baptism, the UCC to Reformed and Catholic tradition of “infant” baptism.

        To prepare for this part of the discussion leading toward the congregation’s bylaws, Ken Sehested wrote the reflection below. The congregation later approved specific language for its policy (posted below, following the initial “policy reflection”).

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Policy reflection on baptism

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In praise of the undazed life

A personal recollection about my Dad, marking the anniversary of his birth in 1922

by Ken Sehested

“Why stand ye gazing . . . ?" (Acts 1:11)

       My Dad wasn’t the least bit athletic; nor were others in his family. So we’re not sure where my sporting interest and coordination came from. I played every kind of ball available, whether organized or sandlot ad hoc. (And, last I heard, I still own my high school’s record in the discus throw.

       Dad found a way to stay connected with my love of sport by volunteering as an assistant coach of my Little League baseball team. It required little experience—or skill, for that matter. Only attentiveness. (There’s a lesson in there for us all.) It certainly wasn’t for the glamour. Read more ›

Strangers & Aliens

A collection of biblical texts regarding the fate of immigrants

Selected by Ken Sehested

Dispute over the fate of immigrants is at least as old as ancient Israel’s covenant documents,
though the word is commonly translated in English as “strangers” and “aliens.”
Below is a sampling of relevant biblical texts.

Deut. 10:19   You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Read more ›

Forgiveness is not forgetting

Charleston's challenge

by Ken Sehested

        In the surge writing following the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the most significant may be Roxane Gay’s “Why I Can’t Forgive Dylann Roof.”  (Stacey Patton has a similar piece in The Washington Post, "Black America should stop forgiving white racists.") I think it most significant not because I agree but because it states what so many feel because of a culturally-warped reading of Scripture.

        Gay realizes that this counterfeit forgiveness is a form of cruelty to victims. All she says is true—but not true enough.

        We have yet to grasp the distinctive character of the Beloved’s initiative on our behalf, “in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Only as we are shaped by this conviction—thereby unleashing the capacity for "transforming initiatives," in Glen Stassen's wonderful phrase—is the capacity for nonviolent living released, the power by which we confront injustice yet refuse to deepen the cycle of violence. Such living requires a beatific vision drawing us forward, not a misery-immersed shove from behind. Read more ›

Boycott, divestment and sanctions: Israel and the Occupation

We cannot ignore this contentious conversation

by Ken Sehested

Introduction: In a 5 June 2015 Huffington Post article, Dr. Chuck Currie, Chaplain and Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality at Pacific University, urged fellow United Church of Christ members to reject that body’s Synod resolution supporting the "boycott, divestment and sanctions" action in opposition to Israel's occupation of Palestine. This week I’ve written the following response.

        Thanks, Chuck, for sending me your post in opposition to the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) initiative. I haven’t been involved in the movement, and won’t be at the Synod to deliberate the question. But your thoughtful writing is worthy of response.

        I fully agree with you that pursuing a two-state solution appears, from every angle, to be the preferred route to get us where we want to go. Any lasting security will surely be a mutual security. And I certainly agree that boycotts are morally ambiguous, since they are such blunt instruments for social change. Read more ›