News for Sociology of Religion--Sat Mar 8 06:04:56 EST 1997

    KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The Rev. Mac Charles Jones, a longtime Kansas City activist and national leader, died late Thursday in Dallas of congestive heart failure. He was 47.  (*)

    The New York Times said in an editorial on Saturday, March 8: A top Turkish official passing through New York recently (New York Times) (*)



    c. 1997 Kansas City Star

    KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The Rev. Mac Charles Jones, a longtime KansasCity activist and national leader, died late Thursday in Dallas ofcongestive heart failure. He was 47.

    In the last year, Jones played a pivotal role in drawingattention to arsons at black churches in the South.

    In June, Jones took 38 clergy members from many of the affectedchurches to Washington to meet with President Clinton , AttorneyGeneral Janet Reno and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to call forhelp in stopping the arsons.

    ``We have lost a wonderful spirit,'' said James E. Johnson, anassistant secretary for enforcement with the Treasury Departmentand co-chairman of the National Church Arson Task Force. ``He gavevoice to a lot of folks that would have otherwise gone unheard.''

    Jones, who was pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church in KansasCity for 13 years, this week had begun working in New York as adeputy general secretary for the National Council of Churches, anorganization of 33 denominations of Christian churches. He wastraveling to a meeting of the group's racial justice committee inEl Paso, Texas, when he died.

    He had been scheduled after the meeting to travel to Tucson,Ariz., where he and Jannella Johnson Jones of Kansas City were tobe married in a public ceremony. The couple had wed earlier thisweek in a private ceremony in New York.

    Jones' body was flown Friday to Kansas City, where a memorialservice will be held Wednesday.

    Jones' death saddened many in the city's civil rights community.

    ``He preached a strong message of self-help, a message that hepracticed,'' said Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver. ``If he sawsomething that needed doing, he would jump in and get it done. Hewill be missed.''

    Jones collapsed after arriving Thursday afternoon at Dallas-FortWorth International Airport, where he was to change planes. He wastransported to Irving Health Care System, where he improved. But hedied suddenly several hours later.

    Jones' death was a result of complications from diabetes andobesity, said Charles Gaylor, a field agent with the Dallas Countymedical examiner's office.

    In 1984, Jones replaced the late Rev. John W. Williams as pastorof St. Stephen. He traveled throughout the United States and abroadduring his tenure, including trips to South Africa, Senegal andAustralia as a member of several church organizations, includingthe World Council of Churches.

    ``I don't know anybody who was an evangelist the way Mac was,''said the Rev. Nelson Thompson, president of the Greater Kansas CitySouthern Christian Leadership Conference. ``Every major hot spotaround the world, he had been there and doing ministry. He had aknack for it.

    ``When you talk about `the world is my parish,' that was truefor Mac,'' Thompson said.

    For the last 13 years, Jones was chairman of the social justicecommission of the National Baptist Commission of America. He was afounder in 1979 of the Center for Democratic Renewal. The groupmonitored activities of right-wing paramilitary organizations andthe Ku Klux Klan.

    With a 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound-plus frame, expansive gesturesand a riveting voice, Jones was a man who got noticed.

    He became a force in the city's black community after only ayear. He helped organize a daylong Black Unity Retreat thataddressed problems in the African-American community, and he gotinvolved in Southern Christian Leadership Conference activities.

    St. Stephen soon became host of the annual celebration honoringthe birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King.

    In 1993, Jones convened the National Urban Peace and JusticeSummit at St. Stephen, which brought together more than 100 currentand former gang members from throughout the United States todiscuss improving inner-city conditions.

    ``He showed the church what it ought to be and where it could beif it would take a stand,'' said the Rev. Sam Mann, a longtimefriend and pastor of St. Mark's Church. ``He was an exemplaryChristian, a follower of Jesus, identifying with those who weremarginal and felt left out. I didn't know anybody who did it betterand more faithfully.''

    Judy Hellman, associate executive director of the JewishCommunity Relations Bureau//American Jewish Committee, said the Jewish community had lost a good friend.

    ``He was a man of great courage and great heart, who foughtracism and bigotry around the world,'' Hellman said. ``He stoodwith and for the Jewish community many times.''

    Rabbi Michael Zedek of Temple B'nai Jehudah said Jones ``alwaysquestioned that business as usual was good enough.''

    Three years ago, a series of fires broke out in black andracially integrated churches in several Southern states. Manypeople thought the fires were random, but Jones saw them as a muchlarger problem, said the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, generalsecretary of the National Council of Churches.

    ``It was Mac who brought to the council the issue of the burnedchurches,'' Campbell said. ``He said these churches are beingburned and we have to do something about it. That was his talent tosay, `This is an issue that you must look at.' ''

    President Clinton soon ordered federal oversight of the arsoninvestigations. Eventually, authorities made 143 arrests. Of thatnumber, 48 persons have been convicted and 221 investigations areunder way. Before the task force was created, authorities averaged13 arrests every six months.

    Born Jan. 7, 1950, in Phoenix, Jones received a bachelor'sdegree in communications from Lincoln University in Jefferson Cityand a master's degree from Northern Illinois University. He earneda master of divinity degree from Virginia Union TheologicalSeminary in Richmond, Va., and a doctorate from United TheologicalSeminary in Dayton, Ohio.

    Before joining St. Stephen, Jones held pastorates in Franklin,Va., and La Grange, Ga.

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    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    The New York Times said in an editorial on Saturday, March 8:

    A top Turkish official passing through New York recentlystudiously hinted that his government, a member of NATO, mightblock the alliance's planned eastward expansion unless Turkey wasadmitted to the European Union. The threat is probably a bluff, butit was a reminder that Turkey, now led by an Islamic primeminister, has its own international agenda and intends todemonstrate its independence from the United States.

    The change in Ankara does not mean that America and Turkey aredestined to come into conflict, but careful handling of therelationship by both countries will be necessary to maintainproductive ties. Turkey's pivotal importance to American foreignpolicy is dictated by history and geography. As a bridge betweenEurope and Asia and an important force in the Middle East andPersian Gulf region, Turkey can have a decisive impact on Americaninterests in a large swath of the world. As the NATO veto threatsuggests, Turkey can make itself felt in unexpected ways.

    Turkey's new government seems as insistent about joining Europeas were its secular predecessors. Ankara's application cannot andshould not succeed so long as its military and police forcestrample the rights of the Kurdish population in the name of a waragainst violent Kurdish separatists. But beyond that, Turkey'sclaim seems to be unfairly blocked by Greece's bitter hostility andthe anti-Muslim prejudices of other European states.

    Since Necmettin Erbakan, the Welfare Party leader, came to powerlast June as head of a coalition government, Washington has worriedthat Turkey would shift from its traditional European orientationand seek new, anti-American alliances with radical Muslim countriesin the Middle East.

    The concerns seemed justified by the anti-NATO, anti-Israelrhetoric Erbakan habitually used before his party emerged asTurkey's top vote-getter last December and, later, by his earlyofficial visits to Iran and Libya. But more recently he has hewedto a more pragmatic course, renewing Turkey's military cooperationagreement with Israel and continuing to provide bases for Americanair operations in northern Iraq.

    Now the more pressing question is whether the Islamic governmentwill respect the rights of secular Turks and maintain its alliancewith the United States. Erbakan recently stirred alarms at home bychallenging the strict secularist guidelines designed by thefounder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

    Unlike America's own secularist tradition, these leave littlescope for individual displays of religious devotion. Erbakanproposed relaxing the prohibitions against women's wearing veilsand head scarves in the civil service and public universities. Healso called for graduates of religious academies to be allowed toserve as military officers and supported the construction of largemosques in the center of Istanbul and Ankara.

    Many secular Turks, particularly women, fear that these stepscould be a prelude to fundamentalist intimidation. After aninappropriately pointed warning from Turkey's politically powerfulgenerals, Erbakan this week promised to respect existing secularistlegislation.

    Ankara should continue to encourage peace between Israel and itsArab neighbors, enforce U.N. sanctions against Iraq and show itswillingness to thwart Iran's export of terrorism. If it does so,the United States should be able to work constructively with theErbakan government. <

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