priest purpleFor many of us, the word priest conjures up images of old men in long robes walking down aisles swinging censors from side to side, or standing stonily at pulpit reciting liturgies in long-dead languages. The reality is much livelier than this picture, however, as the story of one activist priest in California illustrates. His story shows us that priests—whether traditionally ordained ministers or ministers ordained online—do not need to be the boring, stodgy, unyielding traditionalists we have come to know, but rather compassionate social justice advocates who actively engage their community—sometimes despite international boundaries.

Tradition vs Compassion

Father Richard Estrada was not born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth by any means, nor was he lavished with the riches so closely associated with the wealthy Roman Catholic Church. A fierce immigrant rights and homeless advocate, his life has been marked by loss and tragedy. His father fled the Mexican revolution on horseback to El Paso, and, sadly, both of his brothers died untimely deaths—one from a drug overdose, and the other from complications related to alcoholism. Such harsh realities shaped his current worldview, which de-emphasizes tradition and strict adherence to doctrine, and emphasizes compassion for social outcasts.

It was the Church’s unwavering stance on traditionally marginalized people that ultimately drove him to join the Anglican priesthood. Like many pioneering priests, Father Estrada has sheltered immigrant families in his church from the threat of deportation and demonstrated to raise awareness of the plight of young immigrants fleeing civil war in Central America. But he also witnessed the suffering of LGBT people and women under the heavy foot of Church teaching, ultimately recognizing the need to acknowledge them as full participants. Immigrants, the homeless, the poor, youth, women, and LGBT all had something in common—they were all snubbed by a privileged, wealthy male elite, whether that elite existed within the walls of a church, or within those of government.

Fighting for the Underdog

But this isn’t about just one activist priest working on behalf of maligned immigrants in southern California—this is about what it means to be any minister, priest, rabbi, imam, or other man or woman of the cloth. We have all heard about how good the Catholic Church has been in fighting on behalf of the underdog—the poor, the hungry, the homeless. Helping the downtrodden is supposed to be a foundational principle of religion, and, to be certain, organized religion has played a role in alleviating certain forms of human suffering, but it has also contributed to other forms of suffering or ignored them entirely, largely because the victims were regarded as “unruly women” or “sexually depraved”.

What people like Father Estrada demonstrate is that, as an ordained minister acting from a heart of compassion, you cannot simply welcome some outsiders with open arms while shunning others. Just as Jesus fled to Egypt to escape persecution, so do modern-day immigrants. Similarly, just as Jesus welcomed with an open heart the prostitutes, thieves, and lepers of his time, so must we welcome those “unruly women” and the “sexually depraved” who have earned a reputation for damaging some sort of “natural order” of things imagined by those in power. But when we welcome them, it must not be because we “love the sinner but hate the sin”—that is disingenuous—it must be because we recognize they are not sinning in the first place. Rather, it is they who malign ambitious women or same-sex relationships who sin.

One of the greatest struggles we face as ministers is the temptation to stick to tradition for tradition’s sake, even if it isn’t logical and actually harms people. Being a minister doesn’t mean putting people in boxes based on sexuality and gender any more than it does based on class, nationality, or immigration status; it means providing them the support and guidance that helps liberate them from these very confines. If we are going to lend a compassionate hand to one, we must lend it to all.

 

Source:

The Los Angeles Times

8 comments

  1. Christian Mabanga Stone SG says:

    Thank you to Joseph and The Los Angeles Times for posting the priestly obligations. God Is Wonderful, by choosing Israelites to be His own and to represent His saint in the last day, We must always refer to what God has down to His own From Egypt with Moses, The timing of Judges in Israel, From Samuel’s to the first King even King David…God use to kill at all but the covenant made with King David is special….We need only to be obedience and to love each one like our selves and to be born again for to inherit the Kingdom of God(everlasting life).
    Share or read in Q’uran 26, Doctrines and Convenants Sections 136, 1,2,Samuel all( Israelites choose their own king….But God supposed to be their King for ever and ever….
    May God bless all of you

  2. Kevin DeFranco says:

    Priestly obligations consist of having the ability to see and hear the Word of God. Taking these abilities and showing God’s children how to get back to Him in spirit. He is never coming back again in flesh. He did that once and was rebuked humiliated and crucified for it. We had Him right in front of us and blew it. True to form, man insists that he knows more than God, from the building of the tower of Babel to rejecting God as their guide and king and insisting on an earthly king instead. At one point, He divorced the nation of Israel for their idolatry and misdeeds. However, being that He is God and loves all who He created; took them back. King David though far from perfect, had certain qualities necessary to bring forth a Savior through his blood line. Then came Jesus, a long, long time from King David. The prophesy was fulfilled, He accepted all; yes prostitutes, thieves, all kind of manner of sinners. But He did not accept the continuance of their sin. He did not rationalize the existence of their sin. He did qualify forgiveness with the words “Go and sin no more,” He was kind and compassionate, fed the poor, healed the sick, even brought people back to life. He tried to show all of us how it would be to be with Him after this life. But He did say, “No one gets to the Father, but by Me”. And who was He?. He was the Word made flesh It is our obligation to teach the Word so that God’s children learn how to get back to Him. If we are unwilling to teach as it is written; then go be an expert farmer, or doctor, or engineer, all noble callings and helpful to people to show them how to live better here on earth. But this is not the end of our existence; there is an eternity waiting for us. It is our duty to prepare His children for that next step. There are certain things that He wants us to do and not do. He is not politically correct, its His way or no way. He wants it that way so there is perfect order, perfect peace and tranquility forever. Those who are truly called by God, are truly blessed by God, and have certain duties and responsibilities that transcend every day life here on earth. For those He has given much, He expects much. You really have to take this calling seriously and not limit it to everyday life struggles in the physical world, and emphasize what it takes to get back to Him in the spirit world. God bless.

  3. Christian Mabanga Stone sg says:

    Yes Kevin, I would like to add this in your sharing:- King David was the first to escape the former punishment from God. He change the way to punish leaders and rulers when King David anointed. This is a grace from the Father….Otherwise…with what we see about how our recent rulers people or teachers of the law doing is a character of race of vipers and rebellious and adulterous generation. Only by the assistance of the comforter we will be able to face it and to be the big winner at all. The dream from Enoch the prophet revealed. God bless all of you

  4. Brother John says:

    It’s interesting to note that there are only two of you here in your private bible study group. I guess most ULC members aren’t interested in proselytizing about the wonders of the Catholic Church or your fountains of bible knowledge. Have fun you two!

    1. Kevin DeFranco says:

      Your not at home here, go back to your Christian hating blog sites oh pagan one, oh cousin to great apes. You told us to go to a site for like minded people, and still you insist on going where you are not wanted. can’t you take a hint? You see Christian “brother John” thinks that we are delusional fanatics for believing the Word of God. He dismisses our Bible as trash, and fairy tales concocted by men to serve they’re wicked agendas. He does not believe that the Bible is divinely inspired. So knowing that, it is best to ignore him right off the bat. You will only waste valuable time engaging him.

  5. Brother John says:

    Hi Kevin! As much of the animosity on this forum is between Christians and “non-believers”, maybe much of it is simply misunderstanding one another. You seem to be more knowledgeable about the Bible than some, and you have repeatedly told us, and showed us, that you are fervent about defending your faith. It’s true that some of us do not accept the Bible as the word of God or even an accurate historical book and this, understandably, hits a nerve with you. I’m offering you the opportunity to help us non-believers understand why you are so devoted to the Bible by asking a number of questions that many would like answered. You’ve just stated that I believe you are one of the “delusional fanatics”, that I think your Bible is trash and fairy tales and that it’s not divinely inspired. Although this is a bit exaggerated, there is some truth to it.

    I hope that you’ll rise to the occasion and answer the following questions point by point. Feel free to do the same, Mabanga.

    1. Which of the many Bibles available have you chosen to use? Why?

    2. Where is the oldest original Bible that all modern Bibles follow and how old is it?

    3. Who chose which prophets are included in today’s Bible?

    4. Why were they selected over all others claiming to be prophets?

    5. Were these prophets literate? Did they write down their dreams and visions as they came, or were they passed on as oral traditions? Who did they tell them to and how did they spread?

    6. If the prophets didn’t write them themselves, who did and when did this happen?

    7. Why would we believe that the dreams and visions of the selected prophets were actually communication from God?

    8. Have their been any prophets since those that appear in the Bible? Wouldn’t it be wise of God to provide contemporary prophets that wrote in language that is more comprehensible in today’s world?

    9. Was Joseph Smith a prophet? If not, are over 14 million Mormons wrong?

    10. Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christians?

    11. Wouldn’t the men who wrote and compiled the Bible be considered ignorant and superstitious in today’s world?

    12. Are there any inconsistencies or errors in the Bible you use? If so, how can we rely on it for the truth?

    13. Was Muhammed a prophet?

    14. Is the Qu’ran a holy book that contains great truths like the Bible?

    15. If a child murderer, while in prison, truly accepts Jesus as his saviour, reads the Bible and prays constantly, and brings a number of other murderers to Jesus, will his sins be forgiven and will he go to eternal Heaven at his death?

    I’m sincerely asking this to help us all understand our various beliefs as the animosity between Christians and non-Christians is an on-going problem on this forum and in the world.

    1. Kevin DeFranco says:

      BJ, if I could I would delete all the posts we “shared”, as adversaries, but not possible on this site. Catholics did not endorse the King James at all. I actually have a Catholic Bible it is a lot different. I stated this on my post to you about the oldest known Bible. From the onset of answering your questions, I have been honest, transparent, and forthcoming with my answers. I said I wasn’t out to debate my beliefs. I did not expect to change your mind on any issue presented. I just gave you what I had to say about what I believe., that’s what you said you wanted. Enjoy your new site. As for me I’m going to play horse shoes, lots better to throw horse shoes than step in horse puckey on some of these blogs.(Marysbirdworld) good example.

  6. Kevin DeFranco says:

    BJ, you make me chuckle when you capitalize, all I think of is Marysbirdworld…Ouch!

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