A DeKalb minister: Clergy have not been silent on school problems

David Schutten’s comments Thursday on the DeKalb school crisis and the silence of the religious leaders drew this response from one local minister:

My name is Randy Shepley and I have served as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Tucker for the past five years. I have three children attending DeKalb County Schools. I am also a graduate of DeKalb County schools so the issues surrounding the DeKalb School system are of vital importance to me.

I wanted to share some thoughts with you regarding the final paragraph from David Schutten’s remarks that were a part of your recent posting. The remarks read:  “And, finally, as co-chair of the faith based and labor based community organizing group Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment, I find the silence of religious leaders disheartening and discouraging.”

I have never met David Schutten, so I do not assume I know his thoughts and motives behind his words. I do however, have two points of rebuttal related to the quote above.

First, if you want to find clergy and churches concerned about education in DeKalb County, find the churches that are serving teachers, students, and administrators. Our church has active partnerships with four community schools. These partnerships take many forms, but in the end, we serve students, faculty and parents in ways that respect religious liberty and diversity.

Furthermore, in the Tucker community, we are not unique. Many churches come together to support and love our schools. Can we do more to speak out against the injustices taking place in our system? Certainly. Are we silent? Not hardly.

Second, there are pastors, ministers, and church members who have worked tirelessly to stand up for our children in DeKalb County since the redistricting plan of 2010. I have been to Tucker Parent Council meetings, written letters, served on a PTA Board, been to BOE candidate meet and greets, been interviewed on TV related to the recent restructuring plan, and encouraged congregation members to be informed.

I am not nearly as involved as many parents and neighbors, but I, along with other ministers, do what our time and responsibilities allow. Perhaps a game plan for connecting DeKalb clergy to discuss these issues would prove fruitful. We may be surprised to find out how involved the clergy are already.

Mr. Schutten and I seem to agree the issues facing DeKalb County Schools are justice issues on behalf of our children, parents and faculty members and that these issues are integrally connected with our faith. My hope is the church can join the other voices of our county calling for the highest commitment to the education of all DeKalb’s children. As has been said before, “they are all our kids.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

37 comments Add your comment

Fred ™

February 8th, 2013
2:56 am

Odd how a Tucker preacher spoke up. A friend of mine Woodie Bowen, a youth pastor with Sozo New Covenant Fellowship (just around the corner from Pastor Shepley’s church), along with a couple other youth ministers helps Tucker High by teaching an ethics class. I’ll see him tomorrow and will get the full details, but his church has been reaching out to the Tucker Schools for as long as it has been open. Before that Woodie worked with the school when he was youth minister at Tucker Christian Church.

Maybe David Schutten has courted “preachers” more interested in politics than preachers who are interested in helping kids. Preachers aren’t supposed to be politicians, they are supposed to minister to their community. Perhaps Mr. Schutten needs to get out more and find out exactly who IS helping in the schools quietly and effectively rather than banging loud gongs like he is.

Jack ®

February 8th, 2013
5:07 am

Banging loud gongs is the new way to communicate, Fred.

MiltonMan

February 8th, 2013
6:41 am

With DeKalb (& Clayton) County around makes living in Fulton a little more tolerable. Educators complaining that churches are not helping out local schools??? Schools are “ground zero” for exclusion of anything remotely Christian-like. You get what you (& the ACLU) asks for.

catlady

February 8th, 2013
6:52 am

Correct me if I am wrong, but did Mr. Schutten said that there were NO churches involved? As I recall, he was bemoaning the fact that that he had not heard, from the big group, a speaking out, a holding feet to the fire, of the Dekalb school system and its leaders. I don’t think his point was that NO churches were involved with the schools. Silence is not golden when people of conscience should be protesting!

Dr. John Trotter

February 8th, 2013
7:07 am

David Shutten should have been speaking out from the very beginning…like MACE has been doing. Playing footsie with certain board members and all of the superintendents when they arrived is not the way to represent teachers. Oh, I forget, that ODE-GAE also represents the administrators too. Talking about conflicts of interest. Ha! MACE has been on DeKalb’s case from the jump street!

http://www.theteachersadvocate.com

http://www.georgiateachersspeakout.com

Progressive Humanist

February 8th, 2013
7:25 am

And why would anyone care whether religious “leaders” had anything to say about education? Particularly when the myths these charlatans are peddling are in direct contrast to objective knowledge. I can’t think of anyone less qualified to speak on education.

clem

February 8th, 2013
7:45 am

not very effective are they, sort of like the pols in dekalb. time folks in dekalb take a hard look at themselves and admit it just isn’t working.

Mountain Man

February 8th, 2013
7:56 am

Not exactly sure the reasoning behind getting churches involved in school politics. What do you want them to do? I can see advocating to parents to want better education for their children. Play up the value of education. Ask parents to make sure they get their kids to school EVERY day, and on time. I guess they could do sermons on “spare the rod and spoil the child” and work it into school discipline.

Give me a break

February 8th, 2013
8:07 am

While I appreciate the response of this minister, I took Schutten’s comments as in the broader sense. And it is true that the clergy has failed the children of this county, particularly in S. DeKalb, where church members still tend to look to someone like their pastor as a community leader. Topic for another day and platform, but in general the black clergy has been horrible if you consider the tendencies of the unattended flock that makes up much of S. DeKalb. Then again…

… isn’t that deliberate? For the larger churches, where do we think the students who attend their Christian schools come from? Why, a broken public school system, of course.

History People

February 8th, 2013
8:11 am

Unbeleivable that on an education blog you have comments from people who have no clue about the significant role religious institutions have played in quality education throughout the history of this country.

Far before there was a monstorous education bureacracy and teachers unions the religious institutions played a significant role in the education of this country.

Ever heard of Notre Dame people……sheesh.

indigo

February 8th, 2013
8:39 am

“our church has active parterships with four community schools”

Christian churches should tend to their flocks and stay out of schools.

Maybe this pastor should carefully read The New Testament to understand the proper role of churches.

Solutions

February 8th, 2013
8:50 am

We would all be far and away better off is free public education were completely eliminated, leaving only the private sector and the religious people to provide schools. My money magically becomes up for grabs government money through the magic wand of taxation!

AnonMom

February 8th, 2013
9:10 am

I think that upon real, true investigation, we’d find that the “Bishop” has been much too involved in everything that has taken place over the past 10-15 years…..

Dawn

February 8th, 2013
9:19 am

Humanist Progressive and Indigo, you’re both overlooking or being willfully ignorant of both social and historical context.

Clergy have long served as community organizers and leaders, especially within both the social justice and civil rights contexts. Access to education is a civil rights and social justice issue. I think what Shutten is acknowledging is the failure of DeKalb’s clergy to call our school board into account for failing to serve all the students in DeKalb County. The Board of Education members in DeKalb have failed students by putting their personal and political objectives, grudges, and egos ahead of the interests of students and teachers in this County. Schutten is simply pointing out that clergy members (whether you as an atheist/agnostic/believer-separation of church and state like it or not) have a clear role to play in leading their followers to hold the school board accountable. And they, by and large have not done so.

Indigo, to your point, if “Christian churches and their flocks” were not involved in our public schools there would be many schools in DeKalb left without the volunteers who provide tutoring for ESL students. Many students living in poverty would not be provided with the “snack packs” put together by church members with the healthy snacks they donated which frequently provide the only healthy meals these kids get over weekends and breaks when they are not in school. There would be schools without reading and math tutors for children who fall between the cracks. I’m sorry if you think otherwise, but Christian churches (and Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques and Buddhist temples) are often the only source of volunteers within DeKalb’s most impoverished communities where parents work long hours and don’t have time to volunteer. I think perhaps you should read the New Testament and recall Christ’s call to serve the “least among us” and be thankful there are people willing to go to schools and serve children not their own regardless of whether they are Christian, atheist, or worship at the shrine of Shiva.

Progressive Humanist

February 8th, 2013
9:36 am

Dawn of History, People- And in the past people believed that bleeding a patient healed them, that the earth was flat and square, and that witches floated because the water rejected them. Religion serves no other purpose today than to separate a fool from his money and to indoctrinate individuals into archaic and barbaric belief systems. It is the antithesis of education.

And in other religious policy news, true believers in New Guinea tortured and executed a witch for sorcery…

Progressive Humanist

February 8th, 2013
9:45 am

It sounds like Solution’s solution is to have a Taliban-style education system right here in the good ole USA. Brilliant! That one’s a real thinker. (But he doesn’t seem to know what the only two absolutes in life are, as noted by one of the greatest of the Founding Fathers.)

Dawn

February 8th, 2013
10:36 am

You know what…It is fine that you believe in nothing, Progressive Humanist. That’s your choice. But there are a lot of people, primarily African-American here in DeKalb, who do believe in God and who do look to their ministers for leadership and guidance on issues such as for whom to vote. And that is their prerogative whether you like it or not. And because there is a very large population looking to their clergy for leadership, it is incumbent upon those men and women to step up and show some courage and call that DeKalb Board of Education to the carpet for the mess they’ve made of our school system. It is long since past time for them to tell the likes of Sarah Copelin-Wood, Jay Cunningham, and Gene Walker to quit making every choice and decision of the BoE turn into a racial issue. And it is certainly time for them to tell every member of the BoE to put all the children of DeKalb first by stepping up and stepping down.

Fred ™

February 8th, 2013
10:48 am

History People

February 8th, 2013
8:11 am

Ever heard of Notre Dame people……sheesh.
+++++++++++++++++++++

Yeah, it weas established in 1842, ABOUT 200 YEARS AFTER Harvard. What’s your point? I’ve heard of GACS too but I sure as hell wouldn’t send my child to it.

Progressive Humanist

February 8th, 2013
10:52 am

All of that is well and good, Dawn. But it has nothing to do with whether an invisible magical primate used his powers of mental telepathy to will the universe into existence. That kind of thinking has no value to education.

But since you brought up race, I’ve long considered Christianity to be the last remnants of slavery for African Americans. Africans lived right next door to Jerusalem for well over a thousand years after the supposed birth of Christ, and all that time, to them, Christianity was nothing more than another crazy religion that those hot heads to the east fought about. Africans had nothing to do with Christianity even though it was right there for them to accept for generation after generation. It wasn’t until Africans were sold into slavery and brought to the New World that Christianity was foisted upon them, the White man’s version of a Middle Eastern religion with a white god who looked nothing like his Middle Eastern origins would suggest. Had there been no slavery, today there would be little adherence to Christianity by those of African descent. So was slavery part of your omnipotent god’s will? Or was it, along with Christianity, an invention of man created to control the minds of the less powerful and less well educated? I urge you to finally throw off the reins of oppression.

Fred ™

February 8th, 2013
10:54 am

Progressive Humanist

February 8th, 2013
9:36 am

Dawn of History, People- And in the past people believed that bleeding a patient healed them, that the earth was flat and square, and that witches floated because the water rejected them. Religion serves no other purpose today than to separate a fool from his money and to indoctrinate individuals into archaic and barbaric belief systems. It is the antithesis of education.

And in other religious policy news, true believers in New Guinea tortured and executed a witch for sorcery…
+++++++++++++++++++

I love to watch fanatics like you, (and indigo), practice your religion so fervently. There is no difference between you and a Southern Baptist when it comes to the closed minded spewing of your dogma. Toss you, a Baptist, and a Taliban member in a ring, arm you with swords, let you fight to the death, then kill the winner, and no crime would be committed lol. Just a cleansing of the gene pool.

Progressive Humanist

February 8th, 2013
11:26 am

Fred must have a misunderstanding of what a religion is (hint: the absence of a religion is not a religion; that’s simply a stupid assumption). He also appears to have a difficult time discerning the difference between fact and fiction. And while millions of people have killed each other throughout history over who believes the “correct” version of their invisible magical god, you won’t find atheists killing each other over who believes less in god. You have proven yourself to be a dolt. Congratulations.

Betsy Parks

February 8th, 2013
11:42 am

You know our community is at a breaking point when the really smart, reflective types start to argue too. Geeze, this is horrible. Let’s unite to get rid of this dysfunctional BOE, and stand together if the relief is challenged in court. Its not going to be easy but we can do it.
Please SIGN and SHARE:
http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-nathan-deal-and-georgia-state-board-of-education-review-sacs-findings-if-accurate-replace-the-dekalb-county-school-board

whatever

February 8th, 2013
11:51 am

I love that progressive humanist has benefited from the teachings of a system that was originally started by the religiosity of Christians here in America. Churches played an important vital role in the shaping of communities as we know them today. Just where do you think most schools were held? In a church. Until the founders of the community where able to build their own schools. I love that he can speak his mind. Freedom of speech is wonderful, glad our early leaders came up with that one. Community and Communist share the same root word but do not share the same meaning for most people in America. Tolerance is something that the religious folks in this country practice, some better than others. It would be wonderful if the progressive movement would practice this as well.

The Deal

February 8th, 2013
12:25 pm

I’ll try to stay on topic here because I could probably talk for a while about how ODE should have been speaking up long before now. Also, if David Schutten has information (”naming names”) that would help clear out corrupt and unethical staff, he should do it instead of holding onto it for his own personal threats.

I don’t think Schutten meant for a lot of theological discussions. I think he meant that there are communities within DeKalb, primarily black and primarily in central and southern DeKalb, where the church is at the center of the community, and church leaders and their word are taken seriously by parishioners. Those same areas are where people have been particularly misled and underserved by their elected board officials. With the leadership position those ministers hold, Schutten is calling them out for not using their leadership position to move their members to action with respect to school failure.

I thought “Give me a break”’s comment above about church schools, though, was very interesting. As long as the public schools are failing, the church schools are thriving.

Progressive Humanist

February 8th, 2013
12:57 pm

I love that “whatever” has benefited from evolution, which gave him a brain a bit bigger than that of a chimpanzee so that he can peck away at a keyboard and transmit his thoughts about mythology across the interweb, yet he’s likely a denier of the force that gave him the “intelligence” to do that. It also gave him the ability to string together off-topic and irrelevant ideas about freedom of speech and communism. Just where do you think that ability came from? A true Higher Power would have equipped him better intellectually. It’s time we stopped tolerating religious stupidity and exposed religious thinkers for what they are- out of touch with reality and a drag on human progress.

Berny

February 8th, 2013
1:19 pm

@Progressive Humanist – I love your 10:52 comment. It sums up this black woman’s views perfectly.

However, I agree with Schutten. This same churches and religious leaders give platforms to these S. Dekalb imbeciles when they’re running for reelection or blaming the white man for whatever is wrong with them that day. Where are they now when these imbeciles are the problem and thwarting the education of little black children with their antics?

whatever

February 8th, 2013
1:42 pm

S. DeKalb must be so proud.

Fred ™

February 8th, 2013
1:53 pm

Progressive Humanist

February 8th, 2013
11:26 am

Fred must have a misunderstanding of what a religion is (hint: the absence of a religion is not a religion; that’s simply a stupid assumption). He also appears to have a difficult time discerning the difference between fact and fiction. And while millions of people have killed each other throughout history over who believes the “correct” version of their invisible magical god, you won’t find atheists killing each other over who believes less in god. You have proven yourself to be a dolt. Congratulations.
++++++++++++++++++++++

There you go spouting your fanatical beliefs again. And just like a Baptist you have to resort to name calling. You haven’t a clue as to MY religious beliefs or lack thereof, because I didn’t state them, yet you attack me. I think YOU are the one who needs to learn to separate fact from fiction.

PROVE there isn’t a God you silly little man. You do that and you’ll be rich as no one to date has been able to prove there is, or there isn’t. But you fanatics just keep on spewing your dogma.

As Neil Peart said,

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose freewill.

But you keep on spewing your dogma and hate pretending you aren’t preacjhing. It’s obvious to the rest of us. Since all you HAVE is hate and bile, don’t forget to insult my mom next…….. it will be as meaningful as anything else you have said.

Here is me laughing AT you, not with you, hate monger.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpCASVFyQoE

Solutions

February 8th, 2013
2:29 pm

Progressive Humanist – I myself am an atheist, but if the religious people want to spend their own money building and running schools, then I support them. I am tired of being robbed on my property taxes in the name of education. Parents and parents alone should be required to fund their own child’s education, not a perfectly innocent property owner. Parents can pay for profit schools to educate the child, or they can send the child to a religious school, I don’t care one way or the other, as long as I am not forced to pay anything at all for that child.

Fred ™

February 8th, 2013
2:33 pm

Gee Solutions. Who paid for YOUR education? Or your PARENTS education? You shouldn’t have to pay for the military either right, since you don’t want war……….

Just damn. People are so……….. well I better not say that………..

But I’m glad you have chosen not to procreate. We nipped that defective gene in the bud…….

Progressive Humanist

February 8th, 2013
2:35 pm

Ah, Fred.. Can’t tell the difference between mockery and hate, huh? I do you like how you use a rock drummer from a terrible 80’s metal band for support. That sounds about right coming from you.

Your challenge to prove there is no god reveals your limited level of education. The terms “prove” and “proof” are for courtrooms and mathematics, not science. In science we find evidence for, support for, confirm hypotheses, etc. And there is no evidence or support for any supernatural being, and therefore educated people would conclude that your archaic stories are fiction, and only fools believe them. We also can’t “prove” there are no leprechauns, fairies, unicorns, goblins, ghosts, gods of Olympus, super heroes, etc., now can we? Do you believe in those too? There is just as much evidence to support those (none) as for the god you believe in, derived from the fantasies of ancient sheep herders. The sad part is that you are a human living in the 21st century who bases his life on the delusions of primitive hunter-gatherers from not long after your ancestors crawled down from the trees. It’s bewildering how an adult in this day and age could have that such a childish intellect.

bu2

February 8th, 2013
2:57 pm

Since Maureen hasn’t put this out yet, from the AJC article:
Mark Elgart has an opinion that Atkinson’s departure “doesn’t help.” Also regarding the failure to get a permanent chairman, “It speaks volumes about the uncertainty of the system and provides no confidence moving forward.”

bu2

February 8th, 2013
3:08 pm

@PH If you can’t see that being an atheist is every bit as much a leap of faith as believing, you are failing to follow the logical, scientific train of thought you proclaim to worship. Either a supreme being created the universe or it just happened. Whether you choose to believe the former or the latter, you are taking a leap of faith.

Tucker Mom

February 8th, 2013
4:19 pm

I agree with Pastor Shepley’s reminder that “they are all our kids.” As a person of faith myself, I do not think that it is enough to only consider the well-being of my own children or even of just the schools that they attend. I appreciate the challenge of Scripture that commands, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is a useful challenge for communities that are filled with people from all sorts religious or non-religious backgrounds.

I am sure that Progressive Humanist and others would agree that there is something that all of us can do to promote the interests of one another, regardless of our convictions on any number of issues. There should be no dogmatic litmus test before we are encouraged to tutor a child, plant a garden, send a note of encouragement to a teacher, attend a meeting, chaperone a trip, volunteer in a library, walk a neighbor’s child to school, vote — or hold our leaders to account when we perceive that they have looked to their own interests rather than the interests of others, especially our children.

Progressive Humanist

February 8th, 2013
5:42 pm

bu2- Please don’t try to pretend you know anything about logic or science. I don’t know how the universe came into being, and while there are a number of feasible hypotheses based on the evidence we have, just because we are not sure yet doesn’t mean that the automatic default is straight to the dumbest possible option, the one that there is no evidence for whatsoever: that an invisible, magical primate-like creature sharing about 98% of the same DNA structure and much the same body type as a chimpanzee willed the universe into existence by sheer thought; that this being was somehow around before time, space, energy or matter, yet used a brain that somehow functioned without time, space, energy or matter to “think” existence into being. That’s just sheer stupidity. It’s a false choice to suggest that there’s either a definitive scientific answer on one hand, and barring that, it has to be the idea on the other hand dreamed up by primitive hunter-gatherers who thought that a snake could talk. It doesn’t take any leap of faith at all to reject those sorts of asinine ideas, and you apparently don’t even realize how asinine they are or what comprises evidence.

Beverly Fraud

February 9th, 2013
5:45 am

Mark Elgart has an opinion that Atkinson’s departure “doesn’t help.”

Doesn’t help who? I think the above statement is as damning of Markie Mark and the SACS agenda as it is of DCSS.

Festus

February 9th, 2013
7:54 am

” You are out of your mind ‘Progressive Humanist’. Surely your great learning has driven you mad ! “