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Written by Gradye Parsons

Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.

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January 1, 2015

January 2015 - Tear down walls by building relationships, advocating for justice, and listening

If you ever watch any show on HGTV you know that every remodeling project will involve a wall coming down. The homeowner usually takes a few swings with a sledgehammer for show, and then the pros take over. The reasons these walls come down vary. Usually it is about creating greater flow, or better entertainment, or a more spacious feel. Whatever the reason, it is the opposite reason of what a wall does.

Tracy Kidder wrote a book titled House. It followed the construction of a house from acorn to last nail. He states that walls define a room's purpose. I have often thought about that when I am faced with walls that attempt to define people.

There at least two walls that are trying to define who we are. One is the United States-Mexico border fence and the immigration policies that wall supports. Boundaries are only one way you define a country. The values of a country and the way it values human beings are of even more importance. Locking up and deporting people who are fleeing for their lives seems out of accord with our values as a nation of refugees. The other wall that is just as real and overlaps the first is race. Some of us can't see it, and some of us can't stop seeing it. But it is there none the less. It is a wall that defines people and prevents us from living together as equally precious children of God.

The president has officially broken down some of the walls that existed between the United States of America and Cuba. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been working on that for more than 50 years. We have done that by building relationships, advocating for justice, and listening. Those tools are better at breaking down a wall than any sledgehammer. Those are the same tools we need to use to tear down the other walls.

The disciples tried to create an impromptu gated community in their hideout room after Jesus’ crucifixion. John 20:19 says, “...and the doors of the houses where the disciples had met were locked because of fear ... Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” Sisters and brothers, let’s tear down these walls. And the peace of Christ that passeth all understanding and walls be with us.

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Tags: cuba, gradye parsons, house, relationships, stated clerk, tracy kidder, walls


  1. Thank you, Gradye, for your wisdom. I appreciate and applaud your having visited the US-Mexico border last month, calling us out for putting up walls, listening to peoples mistreated and silenced, and leading us in the never-ending struggle for justice and peace. Those who have been marginalized and disenfranchised seek our help so that they may have life and have it abundantly. Some seek our help because their homes are no longer safe havens. Some seek our help because their livelihoods have been stolen by US interests. They all seek our help because they have no other choice. If Christians can view U.S. society as a macrocosm of a spiritual community—that is, a living, breathing, changing entity that follows ethical norms acceptable at all levels—then there should be no question about what our stand should be on immigration and The Wall.

    by Carol Schurr

    January 6, 2015

  2. Until our churches decide to leave their facilities unlocked at all times and available to the public at large, it is difficult to be critical of those who wish to maintain integrity of our national border. The United States has been an overwhelming force for good in the world. We should think long and hard about whether wholesale immigration without planned assimilation would undermine or further national and Christian interests.

    by Todd Capitano

    January 2, 2015

  3. I understand the gospel imperative to break down walls between people. Few things could be clearer from Paul's epistles. Where I struggle is with the implication that it is practically immoral for a country to define its borders for the sake of the people living within those borders. There are enormous moral consequences in terms of adequate provision of social services with unchecked immigration. There is the moral issue of what is driving people to flee from the country of their departure, and holding that country accountable to make changes that reduce the need/desire to immigrate. As a pastor involved in helping with the material needs of families of undocumented workers almost every week, I struggle with the notion that making immigration easier automatically makes their reality better.

    by Dr. Mike Garrett

    January 1, 2015

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