Saturday, June 25, 2011

The right thing to do...

Audio File

The passage into NYS law of the Marriage Equality Act took relentless believers to make it happen. It also took more than forty years from what many consider to be the start of the Gay Rights Movement with the Stonewall Riots of 1969. It took forty years for the state in which those riots occurred to come full circle and legislate equality for those it once arrested for what is now legal.

It was also about that same time, in the early 1970's, that Sandy Brawders, a Candidate for Minister of Word and Sacrament stepped out on the floor of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church and identified herself as a Lesbian. The amount of courage that took is reflected in the need to post security outside Sandy's hotel room that night in response to death threats she received following her statement. And, now, nearly forty years later, the PC(USA) passes legislation that removes language in its constitution used to keep people who are LGBT from being ordained.

There must be something to this forty years - two generations. And whatever it is - it's way too long.

Those who fought back the police at Stonewall or who shocked the church into an apoplectic fit like Sandy - only wanted what any of us want. And here's the thing, they were right before any law or change in constitution - said so. They were right before any of the hearts and minds that have changed and will continue to change - said so.

I hope those who are still in strong opposition to equality for folks who are LGBT will come around. What I truly hope for is that those who are not in opposition, who have been silent observers will lift their voices and clear their throats  as we move forward in this nation embracing equality and in the PC(USA) speaking firmly in favor of marriage for all.

The New York State Marriage Equality Act has within it a freedom that allows couples to be married here without any residency requirements. The church, not quite caught up with that which it should have been leading, continues to have restrictions on such marriages. That is wrong.

The PC(USA) in its highest of ecclesiastical courts will soon be considering a second appeal in the case against The Rev. Dr. Janie Adams Spahr for marrying same gender loving couples in California during the time in which it was legal. The charges against her? Among them is not following her ordination vows. Janie's response - "I would not have been following my ordination vows to provide pastoral care to all had I refused to marry those couples. How could I have done such a thing?" Interestingly, while her first hearing did find her guilty on that charge, the judicial commission also held the church constitution responsible for the decision they needed to make, applauding Janie on her  ministry of more than thirty years to the LGBT community. Did you just go, "Huh?" Yes, many of us are still shaking our heads.

Sandy, Janie, and the many others who have led movements toward dignity, inclusion, radical hospitality, all-embracing love, and justice for all were never wrong. They stood by the oppressed and resisted a system that was in error; a system that caused terrible damage that eventually others, too, recognized and repelled against, so much so that change was imposed upon the system itself. And with every change, understanding was given a new chance. Healing was given new breath. And love was affirmed. And, yes, if God smiles...God did. All seems good to me...

When it comes to refusing equality and opportunity for folk who are LGBT, whether in ordination or marriage or anything else, in whatever church, institution, or other group - those in opposition are wrong. They are wrong as well as culpable for the damage done to others in the name and support of their opposition, an especially egregious wrongdoing when done in the name of God.

Thanks to all those who continue to lead because they are faithful to their call and commitment to a love and justice greater than any institution. It is time for all of us to end the silence, raise our voices, and in the company of others step out of the closets and finish the work ahead. It's the right thing to do - no matter what anyone says.