Election 2012, What Presbyterians Should Care About – Norb Kumagai

Photo: LWVC

As part of the ongoing Patheos 2012 election coverage and commentary, I am opening up my blog for Presbyterians to answer this week’s question, “What are the key issues at stake in this election for people of your tradition?” I gave no guidance other than to keep it under 500 words and to avoid bashing and dehumanizing rhetoric. If you would like in for this week, message me via my FB Page.

First up, Norb Kumagai -

We lost our Dad, Lindy Kumagai M.D., to cancer almost five years ago. Our Dad, one of the original faculty members at The U.C. Davis School of Medicine, was the author of the school’s “Special Admissions Program” and was Chair of The Admissions Committee the two years that Mr. Alan Bakke applied and was denied admission (U.C. Board of Regents v. Bakke, 1978).

In mid-November’07, I made arrangements with our County Elections Office for our Dad to cast a “Vote By Mail” Ballot (February’08 California Presidential Primary Election), as soon as it was legally permissible.  I recall explaining to our Dad that he would be able to vote early (“One, Last, Final Time”) and asked whom he would support to which he replied, “Obama, Because It’s All About Race”.

Sadly, our Dad was never able to cast a ballot for Barack Obama having passed away over Thanksgiving Weekend’07.

For me, someone who has a strong interest in civil rights and social justice issues, Election 2012 in many respects, is all about race. My faith and my personal experiences are what guide me.

Our Mom, my relatives and my grandparents were interned during World War II in Topaz, Utah. They were denied their constitutional rights as they were rounded up and “deported” to “The Jewel of The Desert”.  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., U.F.W. President Cesar Chavez and U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy all combined their faith with their advocacy for civil rights. As Presbyterians, we should be called to do the same.

We have witnessed Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s SB 1070 “Papers Please” which targets Latinos. Although The Supreme Court threw out most of the statute, local law enforcement is presently allowed to stop and question anyone whom they “reasonably suspect” is undocumented.

Voter Identification Laws, which Republicans claim will ensure the sanctity of the ballot box, also targets race. According to The Brennan Institute For Justice (New York School Of Law), potentially five million eligible voters, many of who are people of color, could be disenfranchised because they lack the identification necessary to vote in specific states.

U.S. Attorney General Erik Holder has successfully challenged both Arizona’s SB1070 and Voter Identification statutes. I’m pretty certain that former Attorney Generals John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzalez (who both served under President George W. Bush) would not have done the same.

Following The Rodney King Verdict and the subsequent unrest, a close friend of mine, Ms. Angela Oh, was asked by President Clinton to serve on a task force which traveled throughout the country and engaged others in discussions about race.

As you cast your ballot (either by mail or at the polls), please prayerfully ask yourself, are we progressing forward or taking our country back to the early 1960’s where African Americans lost their lives to ensure our right to vote?? I would welcome a renewed discussion about race relations and social justice issues once this election is over. Perhaps like-minded Presbyterians could lead the way.

[Norb Kumagai, who “Lives & Breathes Politics”, resides in Northern California and is an Ordained Elder in The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)]

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Thank You Tara Spuhler McCabe, Our Vice-Moderator

Tara Spuhler McCabe during her installation as Vice-Moderator of the PCUSA.

For those of you interested in the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), this morning, my friend and colleague, Tara Spuhler McCabe, resigned from the office of Vice-Moderator.  The circumstances that lead to her decision are complex and real, but in all honesty, when I first heard of this, I was pretty angry that it had come to this. Soon I will reflect on the whole situation and implications for the church and our general assembly, but for now I wanted to provide a space for people to leave words of support and thanks for Tara during this time. If you know Tara, you know that she was open to the movement the Holy Spirit throughout her discernment and that she is confident that this is what God is calling her to do for the good of the body of Christ this week and into the future.

Tara will be looking at this post throughout the week, so please leave any words of encouragement, care and presence. Be warned that I am still feeling pretty Big Brother/Poppa Bear about the whole thing, so any attempt by any “camp” to leverage this post and her statement to pick a fight, name-call and/or ally the troops will be deleted with a mighty click of the [DELETE] button. There will be time to reflect more upon the deeper causes and implications of this time, but for now, in this post, the world DOES indeed revolve around Tara.

Below is the text from Tara’s statement that was delivered on July 4, 2012 at the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA. While I am sure there were those at the assembly who both grieved as well celebrated her decision, it was received with a deep sense of appreciation by all. The only thing that would have made it just a tad bit sweeter - though not at all helpful – is if she would have dropped the mic and walked away. Well done Tara. Thank you for your grace and presence during this moment in the life of the church.

July 4, 2012

Mr. Moderator, sisters and brothers in Christ:

In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote:

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus….

It has been quite a journey over these last few days since being confirmed as your Vice Moderator. The amount of conversation in person and comments online indicate that my confirmation has obviously touched a nerve. And so I appreciate a moment to respond.

I am a pastor. That is who God has called me to be. As I reflect on what’s happening now, I think I am embodying the reality of a growing number of pastors who find ourselves caught. We are caught between being pastors – being with couples in those sacred moments when they make their vows to one another . . . and having a polity that restricts us from living out our pastoral calling – especially in states where it is legal for everyone to be married.

The tension over all of this is real, and clearly the energy and passion about this issue runs deep – and isn’t going away. I am surprised and saddened by the pervasive poisonous activity that has increased toward the overall tenor of our General Assembly and toward the Office of the Moderator. Individuals and groups with no personal relationship with me and have made no attempt to have one-on-one conversations with me or the Moderator are blogging and tweeting unhelpful and, frankly, divisive comments.

I am also saddened by the amount of energy and time that others have taken on, in the midst of their important work here, to defend what the majority has already decided, or to feel the need to protect me.

Because I have great appreciation and affection for this church and our process, I am deeply concerned that some within our community here plan to use parliamentary order, among other things, in a way that will serve as a stumbling block to us – keeping us from tending to the vital business that is before us as the General Assembly.

I do not want this situation to get in the way. And it is obvious that it is.

And so I am resigning as your Vice Moderator. It is my choice and my decision, and it comes from that same pastoral core that led me to be present for two women in their sacred moment in DC.

I am incredibly grateful to this Moderator who has already demonstrated the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace and who continues to affirm, support, and love me as a sister in Christ.

So, bottom line: I care too much about this church and about this assembly to let this situation continue. We have important work to do here, and so let us get to what it is God called us here to do.

May the peace of Christ be with us all.

Again, please do not try expend energy defending, attacking or instigated here. Tara is doing great, but it would be even better for her to know that people are there, friends, colleague and strangers who offer words of gratitude and encouragement. If your interest in the Presbyterians and our General Assembly is now piqued I live-tweet most of the plenaries via @brc_live and the hashtag to track is #ga220.


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