Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leo and Leo


I'm so happy to have met the artist-- Leo Hartshorn-- who now attends Peace Mennonite in Gresham. It's an honor to know him.

Actually, Leo kinda looks like this Leo above here... At least they both have the long beard.
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An Open Letter to Portland Officials

A letter to the city officials of Portland, sent today:

My name is Steve Kimes and I have been a pastor among the homeless and the mentally ill in Portland and Gresham for 12 years. I have also led community meetings of the homeless communities in East County.

I want to thank you, as a city official, for allowing there to be discussions about homelessness in Portland. There are essential issues being discussed and I have hope that some good conclusions can be reached. I would like to make the following points that perhaps have not been thought of.

The homeless are citizens
Perhaps the homeless do not pay as much in taxes because they have no property, but that does not make them less than any other human being living in Portland. Although they are often labeled as “transients” that is almost always a misnomer. Most of the homeless were born in Portland and Gresham and consider this their home town. The homeless love their city and many of them do what they can to assist, even if all they can do is to clean up the streets of its garbage.

The homeless are dehumanized
Instead of being treated as citizens, the homeless are treated as less than human beings. To be treated as a human being, authorities must recognize that we have the same human needs as any other person. But the homeless are treated as creatures who do not need sleep, do not need honor, do not need nutritious food, and do not need human contact. Within the city, the homeless are treated like dangerous animals.
If any middle class citizen were rousted in the middle of the night, told to leave the home they were borrowing there would be a great outcry. Yet this is a common occurrence for the homeless. And if they dare to speak their anger, then they are threatened, ticketed, tased or arrested.

Homelessness is more complicated than houselessness
To solve the issue of homelessness, it is not enough to get everyone a place to live. Getting a house does not give someone dignity or freedom from the scrutiny of police officers. Nor does it provide a means of income. There are a variety of issues that caused folks to end up on the street in the first place: social disconnection, mental illness, health, addiction, and especially the need for paid labor. The homeless want to care for themselves, they just need the opportunity to do so, on their own terms.

The first step is making homelessness legal
In order for the homeless to receive their rights as citizens and the opportunities for them to help themselves, they need to no longer be criminals. As long as it is illegal to camp near the services they depend on, they will be unable to sleep well, which means that they will never be able to deal with their issues. The medical community, the mental health community and the military all agree that lack of sleep causes a person to become disoriented and make poor decisions. As long as the camping ordinance exists, then the homeless will be treated as criminals because of the tragedy of their lives.

Please allow the homeless to be citizens.
Stop Hobophobia.

Steve Kimes
Pastor of Anawim Christian Community

For more information about the dehumanization of the homeless, please check out:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Denominations and Limiting Jesus

Jeff Long posted: I used to think that Mennonites had a cultural identity problem because their name did not denote meaning, but only connoted it. I now realize that this is just as true for Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopals and Foursquare. Their names don't denote any meaning either. These titles only have meaning to their members.

I believe that for those who grew up in a denominationally affiliated church it has become a pseudo-ethnic identity for them. I believe that members make adult decisions to be Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran because they grew up that way and it is their heritage even though their individual beliefs and practices aren't consistent with Reformed, Wesleyan, or Anglican heritage and theology.

We have followed in the footsteps of Europe and slid into a post-denominational era.

This raises serious questions about the roles that identity, historical heritage and denominational affiliation will play in church planting, evangelizing and discipleship.

What will it take for us to be faithful to the Anabaptist and more specifically Mennonite tradition now that our denominational names are societally meaningless and not useful in naming our congregations.

My response:
We should never have been about being "Mennonite" or "Anabaptist". We should have always been followers of Jesus as Lord. This means, in a sense, re-inventing the wheel with every baptism. What following Jesus in my context will look different than yours, and a homeless follower's life will look differently than a doctor's. Why limit ourselves to denominational titles? That actually limits conversation, rather than encouraging it. We should have more discussions about how we specifically follow Jesus rather than putting ourselves in a denominational box that limits our following Jesus to a stereotype.

Yes, it is good to work together, and it is good to be in community. But should that community be limited along denominational lines? Denominational support has borders. Mennonite money is limited to Mennonite groups, even if solid Anabaptist work is being done among the Presbyterians, the Methodists or, God forbid, non-denominational groups. Why should we narrow our focus to only one group of followers of Jesus? Are we not ALL one?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Tithe is Too Little

Steve received an email, asking, "Should we tithe or not?"

Here's my response:
My views are complicated because I've been thinking about this for a long time, but I'll summarize:

1. Jesus does not require a tithe, but everything-- Luke 14:33 "No one can be my disciple without surrendering all of their possessions."

2. Jesus doesn't request that money goes to churches but to the poor-- Luke 12:33-- "Sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven."

3. The early church received generous donations, which were distributed to the poor-- Acts 2:43-44, Acts 4:34-35

4. Some of the poor are teachers of God's word, and they deserve their livelihood for their work received-- Matthew 10:10; Galatians 6:6

5. Some of the poor are our own family, whom we have a responsibility to care for-- Mark 7; I Timothy 5:8

Thus, the Scripture seems to teach:
We should give money to the poor, first to our families, then to provide our teaching pastors a livelihood, then to the poor in the church, then to the poor out of the church. In reality, if we really hold to this, then we should have little money left over for unnecessary things.

I hope that helps.