Saturday, June 30, 2007

Caucasian Writer Co-Authors Book on African American Ministry

Caucasian Writer Co-Authors Book on African American Ministry

*Note to My Blog Readers: Please feel free to forward this news release to your local newspapers.

The Elephant in the Room

When Bob Kellemen offers seminars on his new book Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction, he starts by addressing the proverbial “elephant in the room.” “Why did a white guy write a book about African American church life?”

As Kellemen explained, “First, I didn’t write it, I co-wrote it with Karole Edwards who is a wonderful African American friend and a graduate of the seminary where I teach. Second, we like to say that we didn’t co-author the book as much as we co-edited Beyond the Suffering. We wove together first-hand accounts of the amazing narratives concerning how African American Christians found courage and comfort in God and each other to move beyond the suffering of slavery to a place of healing hope.”

Kellemen continued, “But that still doesn’t address what prompted my interest in this fascinating topic. I grew up on 11th and Hovey in downtown Gary, IN. I’ve spent my whole life in a multi-cultural environment. Currently I teach at a school (Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD) with no majority culture. God has called me to a life-long, multi-cultural ministry.”

A Mutual Passion

Kellemen’s co-author, Edwards, shared her own passion for Beyond the Suffering. “For me the journey began as I delved deeper into historical African American stories and discovered a cavern of invaluable truth. As I was being changed by the story unfolding before me, I wondered how others might also be changed by seeing God’s story unfolding through our history.”

Baker Books

According to the publisher, Baker Books, “Beyond the Suffering is the African American story told by African Americans for the benefit of all Americans. The African American Church has always helped hurting and hardened people through personal and corporate ministry. Beyond the Suffering uncovers the great spiritual riches of this African American Christian tradition.”

Kellemen concurred. “Beyond the Suffering desires to inspire today’s generation as they hear the voices of past African American Christians speaking through its pages. By listening to its historical narrative, readers learn to speak to today’s world with relevance. Beyond the Suffering assists African American and non-African American lay people, pastors, and Christian counselors to become more spiritually aware and skillful by deriving modern implications from these recovered resources. And it equips all believers for more effective cross-cultural ministry.”

Pulling the Rope in Unison

Of the 100s of real-life vignettes recorded in the book, Kellemen shared one story (“Pulling the Rope in Unison”) illustrative of the practical nature of the entire book. “Venture Smith was born in Guinea about 1729. Kidnapped at age eight, Robertson Mumford purchased him a year later. After living with Mumford for thirteen years, Venture married Meg at age twenty-two. They remained together for over forty-seven years, through many trials and tribulations, until parted by death.”

“Venture’s narrative contains an explanation for their marital faithfulness. On the occasion of their marriage, Venture threw a rope over his cabin and asked his wife to go to the opposite side and pull on the rope hanging there while he remained and pulled on his end. After they both had tugged at it awhile in vain, he called her to his side of the cabin and by their united effort they drew the rope to themselves with ease. He then explained the object lesson to his young bride. ‘If we pull in life against each other we shall fail, but if we pull together we shall succeed.’” According to Kellemen, “premarital couples, newlyweds, and seasoned married spouses would all do well to heed Venture’s guiding wisdom.”

Dr. Tony Evans

Internationally-known African American pastor and author, Dr. Tony Evans, in his Foreword to Beyond the Suffering noted that “Most students of history focus on the pain of the African American experience in America. There was a lot of pain! And we should not minimize that pain. However, as the title suggests, Beyond the Suffering goes further. It shows us how the pain experienced by people from the African American culture can be redeemed to give life to people from any race or culture. The captivating true stories and first-hand narratives have a therapeutic and healing quality for the reader and those they serve. After you read Beyond the Suffering, you will have a deeper understanding of how God forged character in people through their suffering and be able to apply many valuable insights to your personal life and future ministry.”

So About That Elephant?

So, about that elephant in the room? Kellemen said, “Regardless of the color of our skin, we are all human beings with similar struggles and suffering, hopes and dreams. Beyond the Suffering listens to the voices of a people who ministered in the crucible of suffering. Everyone, from every race, can benefit from hearing these voices, from reading and applying these courageous stories.”

To Order

Beyond the Suffering is available at, Barnes and Nobles, Wal Mart, and other bookstores and bookselling websites.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Dissecting the Controversial High Court Decision

Dissecting the Controversial High Court Decision[i]

Should society be color-blind? Is the US Constitution color-blind? These are the questions debated by the US Supreme Court in their controversial June 28, 2007, decision striking down two school integration programs. With its emotional and splintered decision, the Court wrestled with a question that has dogged the long fight over integration: "When will the nation be able to disregard an individual’s race entirely?"

A Conservative View

Some conservatives, citing Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s hope that people will one day be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” and former Justice John Harlan’s opinion that “our Constitution is color-blind,” have long argued that the time has come to set aside racial preferences of any kind. The way to remedy discrimination against minorities, they insist, is not to endorse discrimination against whites.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., joined by the court’s three other conservatives, gave some hope Thursday to advocates of that approach. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Roberts wrote in perhaps the snappiest sentence of his opinion.

For decades, some conservatives have argued fiercely against atoning for the nation’s racial sins by explicitly favoring minorities, whether through affirmative action, contract set-aside programs, or desegregation plans. Society should be color-blind, they have contended, and perpetuating racial classifications is highly destructive.

A Moderate View

On the other hand, the moderate-conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that a color-blind society may be a wonderful goal, but it ignores reality.”The enduring hope is that race should not matter; the reality is that too often it does,”
Kennedy wrote. “As an aspiration, Justice Harlan’s axiom must command our assent. In the real world, it is regrettable to say, it cannot be a universal constitutional principle.”

A Liberal View

Liberals have argued with similar passion that after centuries of slavery, discrimination and racism, simply treating everyone equally now will not alleviate the inequality still suffered by blacks in housing, education and other areas.

“The Constitution cannot plausibly be interpreted to rule out categorically all local efforts to use means that are ‘conscious’ of the race of individuals,” Justice Breyer wrote. “The context here is one of racial limits that seek, not to keep the races apart, but to bring them together.”

The Constitutional Issue

The impassioned dispute that played out among the justices in the pages of their opinions often touched on what is generally regarded as the grandest civil rights case of all: Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1954 case that outlawed segregation and the doctrine of “separate but equal.”

Both sides Thursday claimed the mantle of Brown. Roberts and his camp claimed that Brown’s principle, that students cannot be discriminated against on the basis of race, was the one they were following.”When it comes to using race to assign children to schools, history will be heard,” Roberts wrote. “Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. The school districts in these cases bear the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again—even for very different reasons.”

That argument seemed to particularly anger the court’s four liberals, who reacted strongly against the notion of comparing the school districts in Louisville and Seattle, struggling for racial balance, to the racists and bigots of the nation’s past. “It is a cruel distortion of history to compare Topeka, Kan., in the 1950s to Louisville and Seattle in the modern day,” Breyer wrote.

Justice Stevens used similar language. “There is a cruel irony in the chief justice’s reliance on our decision in Brown vs. Board of Education,” he wrote. “It is my firm conviction that no member of the court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision.”

Not every case so visibly stirs the justices’ emotion. In most decisions, those in the minority conclude their opinions by writing “I respectfully dissent” or simply “I dissent.”Breyer’s dissent Thursday seemed impelled by a stronger force. “This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret,” he concluded his opinion. “I must dissent."

[i]Excerpted and edited with personal commentary by Bob Kellemen from the Chicago Tribune, June 29, 2007, by Naftali Bendavid, Washington Bureau Tribune staff reporters Michael J. Higgins, Carlos Sadovi, and Gary Washburn.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Son Marries

On Saturday, June 23, 2007, Shirley and I had the joy of celebration the wedding of our firstborn son, Josh to his new bride, Andi.

Memories. Nostalgia. Josh's birth, first months in Winona Lake while completing seminary. Move to Elyria, OH and nine years of family and ministry there. K-4th grade. Moving to MD and a dozen years there in the pastorate and seminary with Josh in 5th-12th grade and college, wrestling, studying, friends. A year back in Indiana as Josh completes his Sr. year of college.

Meals together. Playing. Devotions. Vacations. Long walks. Great talks. Best friends. Story telling. Church life. Friends. Holidays. Holy days.
Cheers and tears. Love, faith, hope, grace, peace.

Where did the time go?

Fortunately, we made and by God's grace kept, the commitment to enjoy every moment, to focus on the family, to resist the tendency to allow ministry to drown out family.

Would we do anything differently? Well, of course, with 20/20 hindsight, there are always changes that could have been made. But, regrets? No, not really. Together, we lived life to the fullest. We were, and are, family.

The next step? Loving our adult son and our new adult daughter-in-law. New memories. New nostalgia. New commitments.

Three Books for My Birthday

Three Books for My Birthday

What more could I want for my next birthday than three books--especially if they are my own books! On August 1, my birthday, Beyond the Suffering will be released by Baker Books. That same day, BMH Books will release the revised third editions of Soul Physicians and Spiritual Friends. Quite the birthday present.

All three books, though unique in their own way, have one guiding theme: using the Word of God and the history of the Christian church to relate God's truth to our daily lives and ministry.

Soul Physicians provides a unique theology of Christian living.

Spiritual Friends builds upon this theology by offering a training manual for developing 22 skills of biblical counseling.

Beyond the Suffering highlights how lay and pastoral African Americans practiced soul care and spiritual direction to move one another beyond the horrible suffering of enslavement to a place of healing hope through Christ's resurrection power.

Yep, a pretty nice birthday present!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tennis and Life

Tennis and Life

In the women’s fourth round of the 2007 French Open, Maria Sharapova saved two match points but drew jeers while beating Patty Schnyder 3-6, 6-4, 9-7.

Spectators turned on Sharapova at 7-7 in the final set, when she won a disputed point while serving at 30-love. Schnyder watched a serve land in, then complained she had held up a hand to call for time.

Mother Teresa As a Tennis Player

The chair umpire ruled the point would count, giving Sharapova her first ace of the tournament. Sharapova said later she didn’t see Schnyder’s hand until after hitting the ball—and had no regrets about what happened.

“It’s pretty hard being a tennis player and Mother Teresa at the same time,” Sharapova said. “You’re fighting for every single point out there.”

Sharapova As a Philosopher

By Sharapova’s reasoning, one might also conclude that it’s pretty hard being a human being in the world today and living like Jesus at the same time.

Actually, according to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus would agree—it is hard to live a godly life in a godless world.

Of course, Jesus’ definition of “success” is worlds apart from Sharapova’s. Wasn’t that the whole point of His Sermon on the Mount? To turn the world upside down. To turn upside down our perspective on how we live and on why we live.