Saturday, February 20, 2016

Atticus Finch and Nikki Haley

          The death of Harper Lee and the South Carolina primary point us to a singular message: It’s time for our bishops and church leaders to speak out for LGBTQ persons. Silence will lead to continued discrimination.
          Harper Lee portrays Atticus Finch in two different ways in her books. The Atticus Finch in the newly published, “Go Set a Watchman” is silent and complicit in the face of the increasing racism around him. The Atticus Finch of “To Kill a Mockingbird” boldly stands up against racism telling Scout, “Before I can live with other folks, I have to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Which Atticus Finch will our church leaders choose to emulate as we approach General Conference?
          The news of the South Carolina primary last weekend featured the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley. Last summer Gov. Haley demonstrated the effect that a bold stand can make for legislative change. Following the Charleston murders, she broke her silence regarding the Confederate flag. She took the political risk and moral high road by boldly calling for the Confederate flag to be taken down. Just like our bishops, she had no authority to take action. But her voice encouraged the legislature to quickly vote to remove the Confederate flag from the State House.
          I recognize the difficult dilemma that Bishops find themselves in these days. They are committed to their covenant with each other and their covenant to their denomination. Many are working behind the scenes and out of the public eye to help LGBTQ persons. I understand and appreciate all of that… But
As we approach General Conference, the public silence of our bishops and church leaders will lead directly to the General Conference choosing to make no change in our Book of Discipline this year. That will mean a continuation of the 44 year war against gays. That will mean the continuation of discrimination in the official policy of our church.

          Sixteen years ago, 15 bishops decided to make a bold stand for LGBTQ persons. Isn’t it time for another bold stand – in the spirit of Atticus Finch and Nikki Haley?  …in the Spirit of God?  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Silence Equals Discrimination

          The sign said: Silence equals Death. It was from thirty years ago when our nation’s leaders didn’t want to get involved in addressing the challenges of AIDS. Their silence led to lack of information and funding, which resulted in death to many.
          Today in our denomination, silence equals discrimination. Most of our Bishops and church leaders are silent in responding to our church’s position on homosexuality and the LGBTQ community. I believe their silence will result in continued discriminatory policies in our Book of Discipline. Their absence of leadership around these critical issues will lead to 2016 General Conference decisions that will continue to harm LGBTQ persons.
          I had the privilege of talking about this with Bishop Jung a week ago. He and his wife were so gracious to invite me out for dinner. I was staying that night in front of the Wisconsin Conference Office on the sixtieth day of my Tent Witness. He shared me with the challenge of holding in tension the covenant he has with the other Bishops in upholding the Book of Discipline and God’s covenant with him. Bishop Jung helped me see the dilemma that Bishops and church leaders face these days.
          Jesus faced a similar dilemma with the religious leaders of his day. They wanted him to be silent in the face of the discrimination and oppression of outsiders like Samaritans, lepers, tax collectors, and other outcasts. Jesus indicated his covenant with God had priority over whatever covenant he might have with the Jewish leaders. Jesus was not silent in his promotion of justice for the outsider.
          A few weeks ago at a RMN event in Illinois, Bishop Carcano told the story about the 15 bishops who boldly took a stand at the 2000 General Conference for LGBTQ persons. She told about the consequences she personally experienced for supporting those Bishops.
It’s time for another bold stand by our Bishops and church leaders. It’s time to end the silence. It’s time to speak out for an end to the discrimination.
My daughter is lying by the side of the road. Sarah has been beaten up by a church that won’t bless her marriage and won’t let her serve in ministry. It’s time for Bishops and church leaders to go to her side, instead of walking by on the other side.

It’s time for those of us in the pews and pulpits to tell our leaders: silence equals discrimination. They will listen when we send our e-mails and Facebook messages and letters to their offices. They will listen when we tell them: It’s time to speak up. Our church and General Conference will listen when we unite together and say out loud: No more discrimination.