Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A New Voice in Oakland

The newspaper of the Diocese of Oakland has a particularly strong front-page profile this week of Walter Hoye, an African-American Protestant Pastor who recently spent 18 days behind bars for violating Oakland's 'Bubble Law', restricting free speech near abortion clinics.

While in jail, he was visited by new (not-then installed) Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone. The placement signals the new bishop's strong support for the controversial pastor who is trying to reach out to African-American churches with the message that abortion is disproportionately killing their community. (h/t A Shepherd's Voice who you should read for all things Catholic in California) Excerpts from The Oakland Voice:
Hoye, executive elder of the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in south Berkeley, is on a mission not only to save unborn children and offer abortion alternatives to women, but also to inspire religious leaders — particularly African-American pastors like himself — to take up the pro-life mantle within their congregations and local communities.

“The women going into this clinic are not fully informed on this issue because our pastors have been horribly silent on abortion,” he told The Catholic Voice. “They’ll preach about the cost of discipleship, but in America today you’ve got to be willing to pay the cost of discipleship.”

That “cost of discipleship” — a term borrowed from theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose open criticisms of Adolf Hitler led to his execution in a Nazi concentration camp — is a real risk for pastors in many Protestant churches where “you can get voted out of your pulpit on the same day you preach,” Hoye said. “So when I talk to these pastors, I know what I’m asking them to do. I’m asking them to risk their jobs.”

Yet there is much more at stake. African Americans, he pointed out, are the “number one customers” of abortion clinics today. Although blacks account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, 37 percent of all abortions in this country are performed on black women. With a live-birth rate lower than the mortality rate, Hoye said, there will be no black Americans left by the year 2100.

“Between 1882 and 1968, the Klan lynched 3,446 black folk. Abortion kills more than that in the African-American community in just three days,” he stated.

“When I explain to the brothers that abortion kills more of us than heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and violent crime, they begin to realize that this is the number-one issue facing the African-American community today.”

“I’m not using terms like ‘holocaust’ and ‘genocide’ to get a response,” he explained. “We’re literally killing ourselves.”

Unlike most black Americans, Hoye said he was “horribly disappointed” and “heartbroken” about the election last November of Barack Obama, who openly supports pro-choice positions and legislation, as the nation’s first African-American president. Most blacks “put their Bible down when it came to that election” and voted on the basis of the color of his skin, Hoye said.

Nevertheless, he places responsibility for the abortion issue squarely on the shoulders of Christians.

“This is a moral issue; it’s not a political issue. It’s not in the White House; it’s in the church house,” said Hoye. “Until we stand up as Christians and look at it as a moral issue, we’re not going to be effective in taking a stand against abortion.”. . .

. . .In the final days of his prison stay, Hoye had a “special visitor” in Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, who at the time had been appointed but not yet installed as bishop of Oakland.

They enjoyed a long visit together, shouting to each other through the thick glass of the visitation booths because the phones didn’t work.

“Getting a visit from him did my heart so much good,” Hoye said. “I am in love with the Catholic Church, I’m in love with this bishop. We had a tremendous visit.”

Bishop Cordileone told The Catholic Voice afterward that Hoye told him about “his high respect for the Catholic Church because we have been defending the sanctity of life all these years, and he even apologized for Protestants being late in the game.”

The bishop said he had the “highest respect” for the Baptist pastor for “what he was willing to suffer to bear witness to the sanctity of human life on this very contested issue, this very politically uncomfortable issue.”

Continue reading.