Monday, May 25, 2009

R.I.P., Ralph Winter, 1925-2009

Ralph Winter, a former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission, was one of the leading American missiologists of the 20th century. Read more about his life and legacy here.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Colorado Death Penalty Watch

State Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) and State Rep. Paul Weissmann (D-Louiseville) have written an interesting commentary regarding the possible repeal of the Colorado death penalty. While they dismiss moral reasoning as being not very helpful to the present debate, they advance two pragmatic arguments. For example, they note that Colorado is a defacto no-death penalty state, having only executed one person in the last forty years. But during that same time period there have been 1,435 unsolved murders in the state. Yet, Colorado spends millions of dollars each year on legal expenses related to the death penalty that could be better spent on putting murderers behind bars.

A secondary argument is that the death penalty is irreversable. In other words, if someone is wrongfully convicted and incarcerated, he can always be released later if he is exonerated. But if that person is wrongfully executed, then there is no way to bring him back to life. While there are no known cases in Colorado where somebody has been wrongfully sentenced to death, this has been a problem in other states and at least 130 persons have been exonerated from the death penalty after it was later found they were not guilty. As Carroll and Weissmann point out, there should be a zero margin of error when it comes to sentencing someone to death.

While I differ from Carroll and Weissmann regarding the weight that should be given to moral arguments in evaluating the death penalty, I think both of their arguments should be given serious consideration by all Coloradoans when this issue is raised again in the next legislative session.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quote of the Week

"I am so tempted to give up on a Christianity where preachers from their pulpits preach a personal piety that ignores public responsibility. Like Muslim apologists who keep reminding us that true Islam does not condone terrorist acts, I am placed in the position of having to argue that true Christianity does not condone torture."

Read the full article here.

Miguel De La Torre
Associate Professor of Social Ethics at Iliff School of Theology

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reflections on Denver's Cinco de Mayo Celebrations

Cinco de Mayo celebrations were observed in Denver this past weekend, serving as a reminder of the large influx of Hispanic immigrants into the Denver area and the state of Colorado during the past two decades.

When I was growing up in Denver, I don't recall being aware of the Hispanic community here, though certainly there must have been one. After going away to college and spending nearly six years in the Hispanic Caribbean, I returned home to attend seminary and discovered a booming Spanish-speaking immigrant population. The area around my grandmother's house in north Denver, near the old Lakeside Mall--which was largely Anglo during the time I was growing up--had become predominantly Hispanic. Indeed, a shopping trip to the Lakeside Mall in Denver was not a whole lot different than a shopping trip to the Mayagüez Mall in Puerto Rico.

My awareness of Denver's Hispanic community was heightened during this time, in part, due to my wife's job as a bilingual substitute teacher in the Denver Public Schools and also through my interaction with Spanish-speaking clients at Curtis Park Community Center.

Following my graduation from seminary, we spent another four years in the Caribbean and then returned home to find that the Hispanic community had begun to extend far into the Denver suburbs. It was not uncommon to hear Spanish being spoken in places like Arvada, Westminster or Thornton in the north suburbs (or Aurora in the south suburbs) and even where Spanish is not heard it can be seen on the storefronts of carnicerias and floristas in what used to be predominantly Anglo areas. Interestingly, a recent article in the Denver Post suggested that while the City and County of Denver is becoming increasingly whiter, the Denver suburbs are becoming more culturally and racially diverse, making the Denver suburbs some of the most integrated neighborhoods in the United States. Certainly, this resonates with my own observations of the changes that have taken place over the past two decades.

Cross-culturally speaking, it is an exciting time to be living in Denver. And last weekend's Cinco de Mayo celebrations were but one of many reminders of that fact.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Colorado Death Penalty Watch

Sadly, the Colorado Senate has voted down a bill to repeal the death penalty.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 04, 2009

Colorado Death Penalty Watch

It looks like there might not be enough momentum to push the current legislation through the Colorado Senate. We should know the outcome by tomorrow.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 01, 2009

R.I.P., Victor Mercado, 27 April 2009

My only encounter with Victor Mercado was through my participation in a week-long workshop that he offered on the Baptists in Latin America at the World Mission Conference in Greenlake back in the summer of 1990. Mercado retired six months before I became a volunteer American Baptist missionary in January 1993. Notably, he was the first area director for Latin America to be hired by International Ministries (IM) after American Baptist missions work in Latin America was transfered from the American Baptist Home Missions Society (aka National Ministries) to the American Baptist Foreign Missions Society (aka International Ministries). This was done, in part, out of recognition for the need to shift from a paternalistic approach to mission (in which our Latin American neighbors were viewed as a part of the U.S.'s back yard) to a mission of mutuality. Needless to say, Mercado provided much needed leadership to IM and its national partners in Latin America during this critical period of transition. He will be greatly missed.


VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 4/30/09)—Rev. Víctor Mercado, long-time American Baptist pastor and leader, passed away on Monday, April 27, 2009.

Mercado earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree at the University of Puerto Rico and worked for the General Electric Instrument Corporation before pursuing his seminary training at the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico.

After seminary, Mercado served pastorates of churches in Caguas, Trujillo Alto, and Santurce. He also served as the president and treasurer of the Baptist Convention of Puerto Rico, served on the ABC Nominating Committee for several years, and held various positions on the Evangelical Council of Puerto Rico.

In 1975, Mercado joined the board of American Baptist International Ministries as area director for Latin America. He later served as the area director for the Carribbean. His ministry focused on training leaders, strengthening congregations, encouraging inclusivity, and pursuing interdenominational cooperation. He was passionate about a holistic approach to evangelism and church growth, including prophetic and justice concerns. In 1984, Mercado was named the associate director of the Overseas Division of International Ministries.

In 1992, to honor his distinguished work in Latin America, Mercado received the Arturo Parajon Order award—the highest distinction granted by the Baptist Convention of Nicaragua. He received an honorary doctoral degree, “Honoris Causa”, in Latin American Theology, from the Baptist Seminary of Mexico. He also received numerous other honors and commendations from various American Baptist organizations, including the Hispanic Caucus and the Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico.

When Mercado joined International Ministries, he commenting on how he viewed his ministry in the ABC, saying, “I see my work as being an interpreter to American Baptists, and of finding ways to help Hispanic people. Not all Hispanic people are alike; each country and group has its differences, and we must learn about them.”

Mercado knew how to defend and give a privileged place to ABC mission partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, where he was considered a champion of their cause. He interpreted the missionary cause as key to liberation, integrity and dignity.

Reid Trulson, executive director of International Ministries, said, "Victor was a wonderful inspiration. His strong voice for justice was both powerful and prophetic. He leaves a rich legacy of faith and leadership in the American Baptist Churches, and his work will continue to bless International Ministries and our partners for years to come. He will be missed."

Said American Baptist General Secretary A. Roy Medley, “Rev. Mercado was a tireless voice for economic and political justice. While his words were not always easy to hear, they were always offered out of concern for the well-being of the poor and oppressed, the health of the nations, and the integrity of the Church of Jesus Christ. It was my personal privilege to have worked with Rev. Mercado when he served with International Ministries and I with National Ministries. Through our conversations and our work together, he stretched my thinking, deepened my concepts of justice, and broadened my perspective. For this, I am forever grateful. We in the American Baptist Churches were made a better denomination and better disciples of Jesus because of Victor.”

A viewing was held at Primera Iglesia Bautista de Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday, April 29, followed by a memorial service celebrating Mercado’s life and ministry, and a funeral service was held April 30 at the Funeraria Ehret in Rio Piedras.

Labels: ,