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The “R” Word

2016 December 2
by Admin

Bishop David EppsThere is a word in the English language that has become so offensive, so distasteful, and so abhorrent that it is seldom used in conversation today. This word, at one time in this nation, was a common word sometimes used as a slur and sometimes as a descriptive word. It is the “word that cannot be named.” In fact, when the word is even referred to, it is given a letter. It is called the “N” word.

When I was a child in the South, use of this word was as common as any other everyday word among white people of every class, economic condition, social status, or religious affiliation. In my world, that all began to change around the summer of 1967 when, for the first time in Kingsport, Tennessee, the schools were integrated. Most of us (the white kids) had never even met a black kid.

Now, in August, the football players from Dobyns-Bennett and from Douglass high schools met in the same locker room to practice on the same field to play on the same team. Within a short period of time, the “word that cannot be named” disappeared from our youthful lexicon as teammates became friends…and finally understood that the word brought pain to our fellow players. I never used the word again. In time—and in not a very long time—my parents stopped using the word as well. What once was a common noun became a word as unacceptable as the vilest swear word.

But a new word has arisen that is as demeaning, as offensive, and as abhorrent as the “N’ word. It is slung around as commonly as the “N” word once was. It is the “R” word. It is used deliberately as a slur, often when the word itself is not appropriate. The “R” word is the word “racist.”

What is a racist? And what is racism? Both certainly exist in today’s society. But what do the words actually mean? The word “racist” denotes a person who possesses a particular ideology. The definition of the ideology of racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” That is, because of certain traits—such as skin color—a race is either superior or inferior. The ideology has been common throughout human history.

In World War II, the Japanese promoted the ideology that the Japanese were racially, morally and culturally superior. It was a racist ideology that led to horrific acts against peoples who were not Japanese. Certainly, the Nazi ideology was racist at its core, believing that certain people were superior and that others were inferior. The so-called Aryan race was inherently superior to, say, Jews, Eastern Europeans, and Russians among others. White Europeans who migrated to the Americas believed themselves superior to the native peoples and, certainly, superior to those Africans whom they enslaved. So, there are racists and there is racism.

However, the term, this “R” word, is commonly used to diminish and marginalize people who are not racists at all. Some people who believe in legal immigration, but not unlawful immigration, are branded as racists. Others, who are concerned about potential infiltration by terrorists and likewise branded with the racist label. Like unearned trophies, the label is handed out to people whether deserving of the label or not.

If one believes in voters proving their citizenship, they may be called racists. If a person believes that country music is preferable to hip-hop, the racist label may be slung. If a person voted for a certain person in a given political contest, depending on who they voted for, they may be called the “R” word.

Police officers are often accused of being racists but, in 25 years of service as a chaplain with a local police department, I never heard one single officer utter a slur about any other person based on their race. Were some of the officers racists? If they were, I never saw any indication of it in how they treated citizens with whom they interacted nor with those they stopped for traffic violations. All this is not to deny that racists and racism exists. It is merely to say that the word has been over-applied, over-used, and often not understood.

Following a column a few years ago, a reader, who chose not to reveal his or her name, wrote in and called me a racist. My non-white friends were more upset at the accusation than I was. They who know me knew how absurd the accusation was. I do not believe that any race is inherently superior or inferior. What I do believe is that we all are the sons and daughters of God and, thus, having the same Father, in whose image we are created, we are all brothers and sisters.

It is time to stop using the “R” word willy-nilly and reserve it for those who truly hold to a racist ideology. Just because someone does not hold the same political views, or religious preferences, or social agenda does not make them, or me, a racist. It simply means that we are different.

I despise the “N” word, whomever uses it. It ranks right up there with the “F” word. Polite people and people with character do not use it, even in private. The misuse of the “R” word should, likewise, be consigned to oblivion.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

Five Ordained as Priests

2016 December 1
Ordination to Priesthood - Nov, 2016

Left to right: Andrew Ellis, Tony McGee, Justin Allen, Paul Dickinson, Jim Gardner, David Epps

Five men were ordained as priests in the Charismatic Episcopal Church at The Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, on Christ the King Sunday just prior to Thanksgiving. All five had served as Deacons for several years.

Father Paul Harold Dickinson, Sharpsburg, holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from San Diego State University (CA) and a Master of Ministry from St. Michael’s Seminary, San Clemente, CA. He has served in the aerospace and defense industry and worked at the White Sands Missile Range , New Mexico. He is certified in TRW Project Management and as a Laser Safety Officer. He was ordained a Deacon in 2014.

Father James Franklin Gardner, Tyrone, holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Southern Technical Institute, Marietta, GA (now Kennesaw State University) and a Master of Ministry from St. Michael’s Seminary. He is a decorated combat veteran of the U. S. Army, having served in Vietnam. He was ordained a Deacon in 2009.

Father James Anthony (Tony) McGee, Newnan, is a graduate of the Carroll Area Vocational Technical School. He is also a graduate of the Institute of Applied Evangelism and the Stephen Ministries program. He received additional training from the Berean School of the Bible, the Timothy Ministerial Training Program, and St. Michael’s Seminary. He is a Chaplain for the Order of St. Luke the Physician. He is a Vietnam veteran of the U.S. Navy. He was ordained a Deacon in 2002.

Father Philip Andrew Ellis, Tyrone, received his Bachelor of Science with Honours in Environmental Science from Worcester College, Oxford. He received the Master of Science in Environmental Quality Management and the Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Law and Management from De Montfort University. He also pursued postgraduate work in Theological Studies at Worcester College Oxford and received his Master of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, PA. He completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education under the auspices of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. He served as a Curate in the Church of England and as a Chaplain at Piedmont Fayette Hospital. He was ordained Deacon in 2014.

Father Justin Dale Allen, Woodstock, is a Certified Leader/Counselor of the Elijah House and Living Waters programs. He received training at the Chattahoochee Technical College and completed a certification course at Kennesaw State University. He received his ministerial training from St . Michael’s Seminary. He served with Home Ministries of Kennesaw, GA, an organization specializing in family preservation by providing counselors and assistance to DEFACS and the Department of Juvenile Justice. He was ordained deacon in 2004.

The ordaining bishop was The Most Reverend W. David Epps, Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South.

Make a Difference

2016 November 30

Bishop David EppsAs Christmas time approaches, it seems that everybody wants a piece of you. Enough catalogs to fell a rain forest arrive in the mail boxes, letters from worthy causes arrive in droves, appeals from charities, ministries, and a number of organizations fill the airwaves, and people stand outside businesses hoping for donations. It is an annual ritual to which we have become accustomed, if not entirely comfortable. It is easily possible to become cynical and callous during this time.

But the need is great. Not every child—even children in our own communities– will have a merry Christmas. Some families, even families where the adults work as much as they can, simply have too many bills and too low a wage to provide much of a Christmas. Which is why so many organizations step up and intervene. No one wants to see Christmas bypass a child.

Toys for Tots is one of those organizations that will be doing their part this season. Veterans of the United States Marine Corps, who now serve their communities as members of the Marine Corps League, will be placing boxes in businesses to receive gifts of toys throughout Coweta and Fayette counties. Many of these veterans will be found on the weekends standing behind tables at big box discount stores wishing shoppers a “Merry Christmas” and hoping that toys will be purchased and dropped in the collection boxes. The members of the Sgt Clyde Thomason Medal of Honor Detachment #1325 have been at this for the last several years.

The Marines have the help of a numbers of organizations and individuals that assist in the efforts and even veteran’s family members pitch in to help. Of the money and toys collected, 100% goes to provide toys for children in Fayette, Coweta, Meriwether, and Heard counties. It takes about $250,000 worth of toys to meet the needs of the kids and provide Christmas for those who, otherwise, would have an empty tree. In 2015, the local Toys for Tots program provided Christmas for over 5,000 children and the need this year is expected to surpass that number.

For older children, donations of money are needed. Older children are the ones who are traditionally forgotten by most charities. It’s much easier to raise money and provide Christmas for cute little kids. But “tweens” and teens deserve Christmas, too. About $40,000 is needed to provide Christmas for local teens. Those gifts rarely wind up in the toy collections and must be purchased.

The Toys for Toys season began with the Kick-Off Classic between the Starr’s Mill and McIntosh football teams. Now, the effort is gearing up for the few weeks remaining before Christmas. The Marines are doing their part, as they always have. They are asking for your help to make a genuine difference in the lives of thousands of children.

When you see a collection box, put a new toy, or several new toys, in it. No used, hand-me down stuff, please. If you see some Marine veterans behind a table, stop and chat, give toys or drop some money in the collection box (Donations may also be sent to: Toys for Tots, P. O. Box 2307, Peachtree City, GA 30269).

This Christmas, the Marines need your help. More importantly, thousands of children need your help. This is not some far-away endeavor. This effort affects multitudes of kids in our own back yards. Thousands of children will have a Christmas because of you.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

This Divided Nation

2016 November 11
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Bishop David EppsSeveral people have commented, over the last few months, about the stark division in our country. Whether the issue is race, politics, economics, same-sex marriage, the legalization of marijuana, immigration, free college, minimum wage, military involvement, taxes, or a cornucopia of other issues, we are a nation split. That was certainly borne out in the election just concluded.

Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed their outrage toward their own parties, with the Dems nearly rejecting Hillary Clinton is favor of Bernie Sanders and with the GOP voters turning its back on life-long politicians in favor of a billionaire businessman. And, in a stunning upset, voters rejected the career politician and chose the businessman.

Stocks plummeted when it appeared that Donald Trump might actually win and then soared when he actually did. The pollsters, the pundits, and the media types wondered aloud how they could have possibly been so wrong. President Barack Obama remains personally popular yet his legacy issues seem certain to have been rejected and will likely be dismantled. The easy answer may simply be that Americans were sick and tired of all the “games playing.” Smarter people will search for the true answer in the days to come.

When the daughter of Senator John McCain was asked what it would take to heal the divisions, she replied, “Alcohol and prayer.” While the comment was made tongue-in-cheek, one has to wonder whether healing and unity can ever occur. Despite concerns by some to the contrary, there was no mass uprising and violence following the election. No one rioted. What did happen was that some Americans cheered and other Americans wept, depending upon which candidate they supported. Most Americans, I believe, breathed a sigh of relief, happy that the whole nasty business was over—for now, at least.

Perhaps surprisingly, the attitudes of both candidates and the current President were conciliatory. President-elect Trump congratulated Secretary Clinton on a hard fought campaign and said that Americans owed her a debt of gratitude for her many years of service. For her part, Mrs. Clinton urged her followers to unite behind Mr. Trump and “give him a chance” to govern. The President invited Mr. Trump to a White House meeting so that they could begin the work of transition. Such soft talk after such a brutally vicious battle was a welcome change.

The nation would do well to follow their example. Families have been split, friends have been lost, and bitter rancor has prevailed throughout much of the nation. It is time for the average citizen to return to civility. We are not the enemy. As Americans, we have a long history of passion and sometimes reckless pride. We play hard. We fight hard. We give our all. And, on the global scene, after the contest is ended, the battle concluded, we have often extended the hand of friendship to defeated foes and have made them some of our strongest allies. It is time to extend that grace to each other.

I never threatened to leave the country if the “other” candidate was elected. Such a sentiment is childish, petty, and immature. I will stay because, among other reasons, this is my country. I took a vow years ago to defend this nation and, as far as I know, that vow has no expiration date. This is my home. I will not abandon her because I don’t get my way. I will, however, seek to do what I can to make her better. I don’t have to take up arms to defend her. And while alcohol probably will not help, it just may be that prayers will work miracles.

Democrats love their nation. Republicans love this country, as do most of us. We are Americans. As Americans, we love our country even with all its flaws. We need to do our best to bring healing to our land. We need to quit screaming at each other. We need to start listening to each other. And we need to come together.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

This Coming Election

2016 November 5
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by Admin

Bishop David EppsSomewhere around 50%, give or take a few percentage points, of people who are of eligible voting age, will vote in a presidential election. If the vote is close, that means that about 25% of the people will determine the leader of the world’s most powerful nation. In fact, voter non-turnout insures that the minority of the country rules, not the majority. Some pundits say the number of stay-home voters this year will increase. Others have predicted a record turnout. No one knows, at least not at the moment.

When I cast my first ballot, I was a “low information voter.” I didn’t follow the candidates and barely knew who they were. I had no idea of the issues involved. Jimmy Carter was running against Gerald Ford. On the day of the election, I still had no idea. I was definitely an undecided voter. When I went to the polls, a poll worker offered me a handful of peanuts. It was an obvious attempt at illegal campaigning inside the polling place and by a poll worker, no less!

But, I had no idea about all that either. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer, he was a native Southerner, and generations of my family had always voted the Democrat ticket, so I took the peanuts and voted for Carter. Four years later, the nation had been humiliated by the Iranians, long gas lines and high gas prices were the rule, loan rates were outrageous, and jobs were scarce. I listened to the candidates, watched the news, tried to be informed, and voted for Ronald Reagan instead of Jimmy Carter. I was a low information voter no longer.

Now, I try to study the issues, examine the platforms of the parties, weigh the choices and vote for the person that I think will best represent my interests and the interests of the nation. This, I have done this year. With both presidential candidates being the two most unpopular choices in history, I have decided that either is not a great selection.

So I am looking at the issues. Who will best strengthen our constitutional rights? Who will appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will, in my opinion, support and defend the Constitution of the United States and interpret what the Founders intended? Who will help the poor to become trained, self-sufficient, and productive? Who will give serious attention to the current health-care debacle? Who will seek to help those of our citizens who are “special needs” people? Who will defend the nation from its enemies? Into whose hands will I trust my grandsons as two of them seek to serve in the military? Who will work to unify this severely polarized nation? Who will defend the lives of the children not yet born? These, and other issues, are important to me.

I will vote for the candidates for President, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and local and state offices, on the basis of my own values and not by party affiliation. Unfortunately, I have encountered a number of people who are just like I was back in the Day. They are going to vote for one of the two candidates for reasons that are based on something other than facts. There are people who will vote, and have already voted, for the silliest of reasons.

I can no longer sell my vote for peanuts. The future of my family and the future of my nation hang in the balance. Those who care about either will be informed and will vote on Tuesday.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

Standing on Shoulders

2016 October 28
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Bishop David EppsAll Saints’ Day is a solemn holy day of the Church celebrated annually, in the Catholic Church, on November 1. Different denominations of the Christian faith celebrate the day at various times and, some, not at all. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have died in the faith and have attained heaven. In our congregation, we observe the day on the Sunday closest to November 1.

While different churches have different types of observations, at Christ the King, the day has been very personal. It is a day to remember those people whom we have known and on whose shoulders we stand. Although we are indebted to the Prophets, the Apostles, the Church Fathers, John Wesley, Martin Luther, and many other great leaders of Christianity, those are not those whom we commemorate on this day.

Our church is 20 years old. We began in a living room and, after several weeks, moved into a funeral home chapel, Carmichael-Hemperley Funeral Home in Peachtree City, GA, where we held services for over six years. Fourteen years ago, we constructed a sanctuary and moved on to our property and built a Parish Life Center a few years later. Many men women, youth, and children were a part of that growth process. Some are no longer with us. They have attained Heaven.

The service on Sunday begins as it always does and proceeds normally until after the sermon. At that point, someone reads from the Intertestamental book of Ecclesiasticus, (also known as Sirach) chapter 44, verses 1:15, which reads, in part:

“Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations… There were those who ruled… those who gave counsel because they were intelligent…who composed musical tunes…Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise. But of others there is no memory…But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten…Their descendants stand by the covenants…Their offspring will continue forever, and their glory will never be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation. The assembly declares their wisdom, and the congregation proclaims their praise.”

Following the reading, the names of those who were members of our congregation, and have died during the last two decades, are called out. This is followed by the ringing of the Sanctus bells after each name. Then, members of the congregation are invited to come forward and speak the names of those believers, parents, Sunday School teachers, pastors, and others who were an influence to them but are now deceased. It is always a moving and, sometimes, emotional time of reflection and remembrance. It is a reminder that, as a church and as individuals, we did not get to where we are on our own. We stand on the shoulders of those who have helped us and we want them to be remembered.

The intention is, that every year on this occasion, the names of all those of the church who have died, will have their names called. Someday they will call my name. Thus far, we have been faithful to commemorate these who have stood with us. The first name we ever called was Tom Hennessy. The last name that we will call tomorrow will be Seth Dickinson whose funeral was last Saturday and who left us at the age of 16. The youngest was William Gatlin, a baby boy who was stillborn. The oldest were several men and women in their 90’s. We miss them every one. There are 31 in all.

Our society tends to forget people rather quickly unless they are gangsters, rock stars, or film personalities. We choose not to make this mistake. We will remember those on whose shoulders we stand.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

It’s Almost Over

2016 October 22
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Bishop David EppsThankfully, the presidential debates are finally over. In just a few weeks the debacle and embarrassment that has been this presidential election will also be over. Never have two candidates been so loathed by so many. When one listens to people’s comments or checks out the postings on social media, it seems that almost no one is for their candidate. Rather they are against the other candidate. That’s not the best reason to vote for someone but it is what it is this year.

A rather large number of people are apparently choosing to vote for neither, choosing to stay home and not vote at all, vote for one of the third party candidates, or vote for all the offices except for the presidency. This election has been rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct on the one hand and corruption and lies on the other hand. One might have to go all the way back to the 1800’s to find an electorate so dismayed.

There are some passionate people of course, as there always are. There are the die-hards who would vote for a rattlesnake if it was a republican or a democrat. My family came from a long line of “yellow dog democrats.” That is, they would vote for a yellow dog before they would vote republican. My maternal grandfather broke out of the pack when George McGovern was the Democratic nominee. He just couldn’t bring himself to vote for a man who he thought was close to being a socialist. I can’t even begin to imagine what he would think today.

Some in my family, once the switch was made, tended to see the Republican Party as the party of morality and of law and order. Indeed, members of Jerry Falwell’s “moral majority” tended to vote republican. Having been burned by Jimmy Carter who was touted as “born again,” they switched to Ronald Reagan who talked the talk but, reportedly, Nancy held séances in the White House.

In past elections, one party and then the other could see its candidate as the “good” choice or a “bad” choice. At least, one candidate was “better” than the other. This year, the primary voters have selected what seems to be “the evil of two lessers.” Democrats are keeping an embarrassed silence about the WikiLeaks revelations regarding their candidate while a number of Republican leaders are distancing themselves from their own nominee.

But…it’s almost over. Just weeks from now one or the other of the candidates will be the President of the United States. One of the most loathed and distrusted people will be elected to the highest office in the land. It would seem like a comedy if it weren’t such a tragedy. But, maybe the opinion-givers, such as myself, will all be wrong. Maybe either President Donald J. Trump or President Hillary R. Clinton will be the best president, the most inspiring, and most respected leader in American history. It could happen. And if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Tennessee I’d like to sell you.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.