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October 30, 2016 Listen!
For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world. (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. December 6, 2015 on the eve of Hannukah)
Joining with Presbyterians and people of good will across this country the leaders of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church condemn the appalling anti-Islam rhetoric being spread in this country, Europe and elsewhere. Labeling Muslims as fanatics is the same as associating all Christians with the white separatism of groups like the Ku Klux Klan. It is not the time now, or ever, for people of faith to attack one another. This is a time in history when reasonable people of faith must to come together in opposition to fanatics within our traditions—whether they be Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim or any other expression of religious fanaticism. As it says in I Peter 2:15 “It is God’s will that by doing right, you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.”
We remember the tragic Salem witch-hunts perpetrated by Protestant fanatics in this country. We remember the Calvinist Huguenots who, because of their theology, were persecuted and banished from France by the Roman Catholic Church. We recall that the Spanish Roman Catholic Church killed many who inhabited the Americas who refused to convert to Catholicism, and whose leaders in Spain banished Jews from the country and isolated Muslims in a so-called re-conquest of the country. The history of religious intolerance is long and bloody. Furthermore, the language being used and the practices suggested are similar to those that preceded the holocaust leading to the killing of six million Jews. Unfortunately, this list of abuses could go on much longer.
We cannot be silent as if these matters were not serious violations of the common good upheld by the core values of our country.
Therefore, today we condemn Christian leaders, and all politicians, who urge their followers to arm themselves in preparation for a war against Islam. We condemn all efforts to persecute Muslims and banish them from our country. We also condemn efforts by any religious leaders and politicians who urge their followers to arm themselves in preparation for war against other religious traditions.
During this Advent season of hoping and waiting, we hope for the day when God’s reign of peace with justice will fill the whole earth. Until then we continue to seek peace and justice for all people.
Dear Governor Hogan
I am writing to you about your position on Syrian refugees resettlement. The Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) invited congregations around the country to consider the Biblical mandate to provide hospitality to strangers including those Syrian refugees who are fleeing civil war. After such conversation, the leadership team of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in North Bethesda voted to lead our congregation in helping resettle Syrian refugees if the opportunity arises in Maryland. We believe this to be a moral obligation of Christian hospitality that befits the followers of Jesus Christ our Lord. We believe Jesus to be the incarnate love of God born to a family who was also forced to flee for their lives. In this season of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, we are acutely aware of our call as Christians to care for others.
We understand and accept the challenges this presents to us if the opportunity arises and are prepared to face those challenges with faith, hope and love, undergirded with prayer. A process is in place that ensures that refugees entering this country are safe and it is constantly being improved for that very purpose. We support a fair and rigorous process of refugee resettlement that can be maintained while also sustaining the Biblical moral imperative to welcome the stranger.
We stand ready to be among those who will do what is possible to provide a safe place in Maryland for people fleeing the ravages of war. This is our Christian obligation.
Our hope is that you, as Governor of Maryland, will change your current position on the resettlement of Syrian refugees in our state. Maryland has historically been a state that welcomes those seeking a new home where freedom may flourish. This remains true and we hope you will provide positive leadership.
We also give thanks to God for your recent announcement of complete cancer remission. Alleluia!
The Reverend Dr. Roy W. Howard
Pastor, Saint Mark Presbyterian Church
Sermon November 15, 2015 Listen!
On Sunday April 27, the pastors and members dedicated the t-shirt Memorial to the Lost displayed on our lower lawn with members of Heeding God’s Call, an organization whose mission is to raise awareness toward action to end gun violence. 176 t-shirts represent 176 victims of gun violence in our local area, aged 1 to 83. The colors represent the three jurisdictions located in Greater Washington. The white shirts represent the 82 lives lost in Washington, D.C. The yellow are for the 31 lives lost in Northern Virginian. The blue shirts memorialize the 63 Maryland gun deaths in 2013. This public witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one way Saint Mark is proclaiming the new way of life in Jesus Christ that does not tolerate gun violence, that always grieves with those who are grieving and seeks the way of peace with all people whenever possible. Too many people have died and continue to die from senseless gun violence in our nation and in our neighborhoods. We are called to challenge this reality and pray for how we can support change.
Heeding God’s Call is made up of a wide variety of faith communities that band together to curb illegal gun trafficking through demonstrations at the gun shops where straw purchase happen. Straw purchasing is when someone buys a guns – or many guns- for resale to people who cannot legally buy weapons for themselves. Straw purchasing is the main way that handguns flood onto the streets and end up illegally in the hands of this who use them to destroy countless lives. Heeding God’s Call also works to educate the public, raise awareness and pushes for legislative change.
To support Heeding God’s Call and get involved visit www.heedinggodscall.org