There is such great sadness in the wake of the murder of three beautiful young Muslim adults: Deah Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, an3 shootingd Abu-Salha’s sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19.

I had this thought:
If the gunman in Chapel Hill had had a baseball bat instead of a gun, he might have hurt one of the three young people, but he could not have killed them all. Guns + male violence + prejudice IS deadly. We’ve got lots of work to do, friends. Lots.

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Ferguson & Durham

I wish I could say I was surprised by the miserable decision from the grand jury in the murder of Michael Brown case. But I wasn’t. I read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow this fall, so I guessed what was coming. If you haven’t read her work, put it at the top of your list. She carefully explains how law enforcement, searches, arrest, indictments, and sentencing are tangled in a racist system that was supposed to be a “war on drugs” but functions as a war on black and brown people.

What I didn’t know was that 99.99% of the time federal grand juries offer an indictment. So what happened in the Michael Brown case was very unusual. You can read about it here.

Durham protest for Ferguson

Citizens gathered in downtown Durham for a protest on Tuesday night after the grand jury’s decision was announced on Monday. Here are a couple of  Durham pictures. You can read the N&O article about the local protest, here.

Durham Protest lizzie mcmanus

Folks in Durham have been working to address racist practices in law enforcement. They engaged the help of researchers at UNC who studied more than a decade of data on stops and searches. You guessed it. Black men are stopped and searched in Durham more than anyone else. Read The New York Times story here.

I’m grateful to Ta-Nehisi Coates for getting me started reading about the new Jim Crow. Read Coates’ latest here.  I suggest you check his page weekly.

(Photo credit: upper, J. Stokes; lower, lizzie mcmanus-dail)

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Marriages in Durham

Same-sex marriages became legal in NC on Friday, October 10, 2014. When the Durham County Register of Deeds Office opened on Monday morning, couples began getting marriage licenses. I went to the courthouse on Monday afternoon and had the privilege of marrying a few couples, including these friends, Cathy and Nancy.

Photos by Jenny Warburg.Marriages Durham courthouse1

Marriages Durham courthouse2

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Are LGBTQ students welcome at Duke Div.?

Some background and photo-12 photo-14

Duke Divinity School orientation this month included a panel on Friday, Aug. 22, focused on diversity and inclusion. During Q&A, a student stood to ask a question something like, “What resources at the Divinity School are available to LGBTQ students and our allies? And what do you do as professors to combat heteronormativity in your classrooms?” Two professors answered the question well and then the dean, who was not on the panel, stood up, took a microphone, and said something like, “As a United Methodist minister and the dean of this divinity school he felt the need to say that the United Methodist Book of Discipline says (304.3) ‘The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.’”

Students organized a “show for support” for the LGBTQ community before convocation on Tuesday morning, Aug. 26. Over 70 people showed up, wore rainbow ribbons and stoles, stood in a big circle, and prayed together. They then went into convocation along with hundreds of others. (Pictures from event are posted on this page.)

Herald Sun coverage of “show of support:”

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite wrote a letter in response to reports:

The dean issued a letter on Tuesday, Aug. 26, saying he was misinterpreted, that Duke Div. really is welcoming. You can see it:

Meghan Florian wrote a fabulous blog about the Dean’s letter, “When an Apology is Not an Apology,” here:

Duke Chronicle article, Thursday, Aug. 28:

Duke UNIVERSITY has a non-discrimination policy (emphasis added ):

Duke University is committed to encouraging and sustaining a learning and work community that is free from prohibited discrimination and harassment. The university prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, genetic information, or age in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, financial aid, employment, or any other university program or activity. The university also makes good faith efforts to recruit, employ and promote qualified minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and veterans. It admits qualified students to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students.

The university also does not tolerate harassment of any kind. Sexual harassment and sexual misconduct are forms of sex discrimination and prohibited by the university. Duke University has designated Dr. Benjamin D. Reese, Vice-President of the Office for Institutional Equity, as the individual responsible for the coordination and administration of its nondiscrimination and harassment policies. The Office for Institutional Equity is located in Smith Warehouse, 114 S. Buchanan Blvd., Bay 8, Durham, North Carolina 27708. Dr. Reese’s office telephone number is (919) 684-8222 and his email address is

Finally, I wrote an email to the Provost:

Aug. 27, 2014
Subject: Treatment of LGBTQ students at Duke Divinity School
Dr. Sally Kornbluth, Provost, Duke University

Dear Dr. Kornbluth,

I’m writing to express my concern over reports coming out about Divinity School and about whether LGBTQ students are welcome there.

I am a Presbyterian minister, the Executive Director of the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South, and a 1977 graduate of Duke Divinity School. I was a member of one of the first Duke Div. classes with a large number of women (about 35 women in a class of about 125), and served as the second coordinator of the Duke Divinity School Women’s Center (which was opened Fall 1974). I remember what it was like to be a female student at Duke Divinity School and to have to wonder whether I was entirely welcome.

I am concerned about the mixed messages coming from Duke Divinity School at present. The dean, a respected New Testament scholar, has widely published his opinion that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. That alone might caution LGBTQ students and their allies from applying to Duke Divinity School, but the school also has a fine Gender, Theology, and Ministry Certificate Program and any number of welcoming and supportive faculty members. So the institutional message is confusing.

I am disturbed that the Duke Divinity dean, the chief administrative officer of a school within Duke University, would remind incoming divinity students that the United Methodist Book of Disciple says that “homosexual lifestyle is incompatible with Christian teaching.” His audience of incoming divinity students included LGBTQ students and students who are not United Methodist and therefore not bound by the UMC Book of Discipline.

His clear statement of his position creates a hostile environment for LGBTQ students. His statement fosters contempt for LGBTQ people and encourages others to think of them as less valuable than straight people. His statement opens the door for others to discount or disrespect LGBTQ students. When the leader says that the very lives of LGBTQ people are incompatible with Christian teaching, how can those students feel anything but demeaned?

The dean’s subsequent written statements that the divinity school really does welcome all students are not convincing.

I trust that Duke University is serious about its commitment to prohibit “discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, genetic information, or age in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, financial aid, employment, or any other university program or activity.”

I cannot currently trust that LGBTQ students are safe and will be treated with all due respect at Duke Divinity School.

In the wake of the dean’s statements during orientation, steps need ensure that Duke Divinity School is a learning and working community that is free from discrimination and harassment. I understand that there is a conflict between the official position of the United Methodist Church about LGBTQ people and the official position of Duke University about LGBTQ students and employees. I hope that the university can make it clear that it will protect the dignity LGBTQ students even if the United Methodist Church and the dean of the divinity school question their very lives.


The Rev. Jeanette Stokes, Duke Div.’77



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40th Anniversary of Ordination of Episcopal Women

Carter HeywardWhen Carter Heyward was ordained in the summer of 1974, it was a radical thing to do. There had been ordained protestant women in the US for over 100 years by then, but not many and not in the Episcopal Church. The Philadelphia Eleven, of which Carter was one, made the front page of newspapers around the country as they (and three renegade bishops who ordained them) blew through the glass ceiling that had so long kept women from being Episcopal priests.

The 40th anniversary of the ordination of Episcopal women was celebrated this summer in many places. One was held at he Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia where the 1974 “irregular” ordination took place. Another was held in Chapel Hill at another Church of the Advocate. I attended the one in NC on August 24 where Rev. Dr. Carter Heyward and Rev. Allison Cheek were present. What fun it was to be with these saints and to hear Carter’s message of Jesus’ radical love and kindness.

(Pictured: Rev. Dr. Carter Heyward, Bishop Michael Curry, unidentified woman, and Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple in Chapel Hill, NC. Photo by Jeanette Stokes.)

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Leaving Day

When I think of the memoir I wrote about my dad, Flying Over Home, the picture that always comes to mind is this one. (See below for ways to buy the book.) Here’s what I wrote about the photograph in an excerpt from Flying Over Home.Daddy on leaving day w me 1

Chapter 11
Leaving Day, July 1952

When I was small, I thought Oklahoma and Texas were the center of the universe, a perspective my Texas relatives encouraged, I’m sure. That may be why I thought Georgia was stuck off in some dark corner of the Deep South. It surprised me, as an adult, to discover that my father’s hometown of Savannah had long been a cosmopolitan city. Located on a good river at the edge of the continent, it was a center for international commerce and a doorway to the world. Before airplanes, people and goods crisscrossed America on trains and traveled around the world by ship.

I wonder whether growing up in that port city fed my father’s desire to travel. As a boy on the beach at Tybee Island, he could have looked out at the sea and longed to cross it. On the docks at Savannah, he would have seen ships from far-off places: New England, Europe, even Africa. A person could get on a ship in Savannah and go all the way to Tahiti, which might have fanned a boy’s desire to see the world.

My father wanted to go places and see things. One of my cousins remembers that when he’d come to visit, he’d always say, “Come on, Sugar, let’s go….” Fill in the blank: to town, to the beach, to get some ice cream. He just liked to go.

When he got the chance, Daddy did not hesitate to leave Georgia for parts unknown, first for North Carolina and college at Duke, later for New Orleans, Dallas, and eventually Tulsa.

The first time my father left our home for any length of time, I was fourteen months old. It was 1952, and he was drafted into the United States Air Force for two years during the Korean War. He was thirty-four and was leaving a well-established medical practice in Tulsa.

I recently came across some pictures of Daddy dressed in his Air Force uniform. His khaki pants and long-sleeved shirt are not yet straining over his small, squat, compact body….

The pictures have faded. In one small, square color print…Daddy is squatting in front of me, with his left hand on the brim of his hat and his right hand in his lap. The back of the photo says July 5. Just over a year old, I am standing in front of him, wearing a light-colored sleeveless pinafore with substantial ruffles at the shoulders. My right hand rests on my father’s left knee, and my left arm sticks straight out beside me, for balance. I’m staring up at my father. He smiles at me as I gaze at that sweet smile. We appear to be totally enthralled.


Flying pc FRONT for AmazonFlying Over Home
by Jeanette Stokes
(Words & Spirit, 2013) $18.95
ISBN 978-0-9821848-5-1


BUY it online ($20 includes tax & shipping):
With PayPal: here.
With your credit card  through RCWMS: here.
In your local bookstore or at

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A Riot of Tulips

The Duk10154518_10203463240566788_8081554873764868932_ne Gardens were especially beautiful this past weekend. The tulips nearly took my breath away. Each bed was more beautiful than the next. Cool weather and some rain has kept the flowers fresh longer than usual. What fun it was to walk among the beds and admire the combinations of colors.

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