Balancing Personal Convictions & Public Good

April 10, 2014 in Faith Matters by Mitzi Minor

Our healthcare system is in transition. At present we have the ACA which mandates health insurance for everyone, which is good but also new. Meanwhile, we’ve kept the old vehicle for getting most people their insurance, the employer-provided, “for profit” system. Jesus once said that putting new wine into old wineskins is a really dumb idea. We seem determined to prove him right.

When health insurance is mandated and then provided by employers, what happens when the needs and religious beliefs of employee and employer don’t mesh? As a woman I’m sympathetic to the women who want/need birth control coverage in their health insurance. As a person of faith, I’m sympathetic to those employers who don’t want to be complicit in medical practices which violate their religious beliefs. A just system should not create such conflicts, so our larger concern should be here.

But meanwhile, how should the courts decide this case? As a person of faith, I don’t believe that my religious convictions regarding healthcare should dictate what others can or cannot do about their own healthcare. One consideration: allowing religious convictions to determine health insurance coverage gets tricky. If Hobby Lobby owners can say they won’t pay for certain birth control methods, then what about employers who don’t believe in blood transfusions or consider smoking to be a sin and refuse to pay for lung cancer treatments, etc.? A 2nd consideration: being part of a pluralistic society means we always struggle to balance the public good with personal convictions. For example, my Christian convictions call me to oppose the death penalty, but I am required to pay taxes, some of which are used to prosecute death penalty cases. I have the legal right to protest the death penalty. I do not have the legal right to withhold taxes. So, the struggle of Hobby Lobby owners isn’t unique. It’s new because of the ACA.


Skipping to Work

April 3, 2014 in Faith Matters by Mitzi Minor

One downside to our capitalist, consumer culture is that we’ve reduced so many of life’s decisions down to dollars. So, jobs are about paychecks for rich and poor alike. As a youth minister, I knew rich kids who were forbidden to choose college majors in the area of their hearts’ desire because they “couldn’t make enough money” doing that work. I once heard a man in my home church say he went every day of his life to a job he hated so he could feed his family. Who among us wants a life like that? Poor folks are expected to accept any job that brings a paycheck, no matter how small it is, how demeaning and grinding the work, how badly they might be treated on the job, etc. Personally, I can understand those who choose a few less dollars from a welfare check to avoid such circumstances.

My understanding of the gracious, creative, loving God of Jesus, along with my experience of life, tells me we need to broaden our conversations beyond dollars. We can’t ignore dollars, but we mustn’t stop there. There are other, wider questions we can fruitfully explore. What makes life beautiful and purposeful? What kind of work enables you or me or any of us to become creative contributors to the world around us? What makes a classroom or workplace hum with positive energy? We’ve all seen kids skip down a sidewalk or across a playground. Kids skip when their joy just bubbles up and propels their legs forward, almost dancing. So, maybe THE question to ask, the one that captures all the others, is: What would make any of us (rich, middle class, poor) skip to work?

I’m pretty sure our capitalist, consumer culture isn’t going to lead us to such a question. But our faith communities can. And should.


Julie Bailey new pastor of First Presbyterian

February 26, 2014 in Faith Matters by David Waters

Jullie BaileyRev. Julie Bailey has been named the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Memphis.

She officially begins March 5 at the traditional joint Ash Wednesday service with First United Methodist Church. Her first Sunday in the pulpit will be March 9.

She succeeds the Rev. C.V. “Bo” Scarborough, who retired last summer.

Bailey also serves as the Presbytery of the Mid-South’s interim director of campus ministries at The University of Memphis.

“Julie is a dynamic preacher and leader, and we are overjoyed that she will be joining us,” says Linda D. Scholl, clerk of the session of the 186-year-old church. “This is certainly a unique and exciting arrangement that we feel will bring us new worship and service opportunities, for which we are known.”

Bailey is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga. Her husband, Davis Bailey, is pastor at Buntyn Presbyterian Church. They have two young daughters.

Julie and Davis previously served as associate pastors at Evergreen Presbyterian Church.

Says Bailey: “When I received the invitation from First Pres, I thought it was too good to be true: I get to pastor a church with a long-standing record of living out its faith in Memphis, while continuing with Presbyterian campus ministries at The University of Memphis. I am overjoyed, humbled, and excited. God never ceases to amaze me. I look forward to working alongside the members of First Pres in this new era of its ministry.”

Established in 1828, First Presbyterian Church has been located at the corner of Poplar at Third since 1834. It is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Noted for its urban outreach, the church conducts a sit-down Sunday soup kitchen, clothes closet, birth certificate and state voter i.d. programs for the homeless, and provides space for SNAP (food stamps) assistance during the week.

For further information, please contact church administrator Diana Veazey at



Syrian survivors speak at U of M Tuesday

February 10, 2014 in Faith Matters by David Waters

Three survivors of the poison gas massacres in Syria last summer are scheduled to speak Tuesday at the University of Memphis.

“Voices from Syria” will be held from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom. Refreshments will be served. The free event is being sponsored by the Syrian American Council and the Muslim Student Association of the U of M.

Last August, the Syrian regime attacked civilians with poison gas in two towns near Damascus, killing 1,400 people. Afterward, the regime promised to give up the weapons to avoid a U.S. military strike.



Nina Katz: 1924-2014

February 9, 2014 in Faith Matters by David Waters

jwkatzbw_t607Nina Katz, the Holocaust survivor who became a voice for tolerance, diversity and literacy in Memphis, died Sunday.

Katz was born in 1924 in Poland. In 1939, her parents, grandfather and younger sister were taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp where the perished. She was sent to Oberaltstadt to work in a textile factory in a slave labor camp. She was among 800 survivors to be liberated by Allied troops in 1945.

“Why I survived, I do not know. But I told myself I would carry the message of justice,” Katz told The Commercial Appeal in 2007.

Katz and her husband moved from Israel to Memphis in 1949. She helped to establish the Memphis Literacy Council, co-founded Diversity Memphis, and was the first female chairman of the board for the Memphis chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

“Her involvement and passion made all of us try harder, appreciate what we had more and realize that one person standing up could make a difference,” said Jim Foreman, longtime executive director of the NCCJ. “Let us all strive to be better in her memory.”

Her funeral will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Anshei Sphard Cemetery, 3160 Airways. The family will be sitting Shiva at a later time.


Live chat today with Crisis Center director

January 29, 2014 in Faith Matters by David Waters

Join a live chat with Mike LaBonte, executive director of the Memphis Crisis Center.

TODAY at 11:30 a.m.



Saving a neighborhood one Monday at a time

January 27, 2014 in Faith Matters, Featured Rotator by David Waters

Linda Headley was having lunch at her usual spot last Monday. It’s a soulful place in the basement of a 100-year-old church at the corner of Summer and Highland.

She was joined by other regulars — her friend Donna, John, the manager of the Walgreens across the street, Ponytail Bob, Pam the artist, and Pastor Rich.

“I was in the insurance business for 30 years,” Headley explained as her fellow diners dished up platters of barbecue, slaw and bread for about 75 other regular guests.

“When I retired, I needed something to do. First I volunteered in my church’s library but I got kind of bored. Not many people there. Plenty of people here.”

Here is the basement of Highland Heights United Methodist Church, which hosts a weekly lunch for its neighbors. They call it Table Talk.

It’s one of several neighborhood ministries the church hosts every Monday. There’s also a Bible study, a community art class, and a food pantry.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” said Headley, a member of Christ United Methodist Church.

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Pastor Orr’s 3-mile, 7-generation journey

January 27, 2014 in Faith Matters, Featured Rotator by David Waters

orrThe view from Pastor Bartholomew Orr’s church office doesn’t seem that interesting at first.

A narrow window looks southward across State Line Road down Swinnea Road. There’s an open field and a parking lot on the right, two relatively new and nondescript brick buildings on the left.

DeSoto County’s commercial growth is just beginning to reach this area about a mile east of I-55 near the border with Memphis.

Orr sees the encroaching sprawl, but his view down Swinnea Road extends much further.

“I’ve spent nearly my entire life on one end of this road or the other,” said Orr, who this weekend is celebrating his 25th year as pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven.

Brown Baptist, organized in the 1880s by former slaves, is one of the largest and fastest growing congregations around.

There were about 75 people at Orr’s first service as pastor in January 1989. This Sunday, more than 5,000 are expected to attend services at 8, 10 and 11:45 a.m.

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Grocer’s tragic death doesn’t diminish life’s work

January 22, 2014 in Faith Matters, Featured Rotator by David Waters


(Editor’s note: On 1/24, the Shelby County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that the cause of David Carter’s death was suicide).

David Carter, the local grocer who was killed during a robbery early Monday, was a proud father and grandfather and a prayerful man with a playful sense of humor.

He frequently shared loving notes to his children as well as Scripture verses and inspirational quotes on his Facebook timeline. He also posted a silly photo that showed “how baby carrots are made.”

Over the past two days, Carter’s Facebook page has become a digital Wailing Wall, a virtual visitation where the community is gathering to express very real grief and support.

Each of his children posted recent photographs of them with their dad, images that serve as both loving tributes and heartbreaking laments.

Extended family and friends as well as employees and customers are sharing sad and inspiring thoughts and prayers on Carter’s personal page as well as Easy Way’s fan page.

“I am very fortunate I hugged David Carter Saturday night and only wish I could once more,” wrote his cousin, Laurie Honeycutt Musselwhite.

“There was not a better person or family man than David. He worked hard and earned everything he had. Thank you, David, for being a positive influence on many people,” Brad Jenkins posted.

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Neighbors deliver gift to loyal newspaper carrier

January 22, 2014 in Faith Matters, Featured Rotator by David Waters


The early morning sight of Jeff Cain’s reddish Eddie Bauer edition Ford F-150 pickup truck has become as reliable as the sunrise in parts of Midtown.

“He’s still pushing that thing around,” said his uncle, Stennis Cain. “I don’t know how.”

Pure determination, I’d say.

Jeff Cain has been delivering newspapers to Midtown’s 38104 ZIP code since he was 11 years old. That was in 1965.

Back then, he’d help his uncle, or his father, the late J.N. Cain, walk the route. They both delivered papers for The Commercial Appeal for more than 50 years. You could say Jeff inherited his route.

Early each and every morning, while most of us are sound asleep, or wishing we were, Jeff Cain is on his way to Whitehaven to pick up hundreds of newspapers.

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