Written by Emily Mullins
The Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ wants the denomination to stand up to bullies. Citing research that indicates that nearly one in every three students is involved in bullying at some point in their lives, and that children who are gay, obese or have some kind of disability are 63 percent more likely to be bullied than other children, the conference is bringing a resolution to General Synod 2013 to address these staggering statistics and seek solutions to end the epidemic.
"The UCC has long been an advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ community, but it goes far beyond rights to basic, fundamental human respect," said the Rev. John Deckenback, conference minister of the UCC's Central Atlantic Conference. "You're not going to achieve that if you're diminishing a person because of their sexuality, race or whatever."
Deckenback said the 2010 suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, who was unknowingly videotaped by his roommate while engaging in homosexual activity, inspired the conference board to draft the resolution. One of the Central Atlantic Conference board members is a Rutgers University professor.
The resolution speaks against any behaviors, actions or words that insult, injure, harass or cause physical or emotional harm to another person, and also supports programs and policies that help provide environments that are physically and emotionally safe for children and youth. It calls for all settings of the UCC to invest in, promote, and support strategies to prevent bullying and discrimination in places of learning so that all students have the opportunity to engage in the classroom, achieve academic success, and participate in other school activities.
"Bullying can have very tragic consequences, and one of the most tragic of such consequences took place at Rutgers University," Deckenback said. "This has served as a sobering reminder that the consequences of bullying are not just childish frivolity, but they are life and death situations as people struggle with their own self-esteem and as they struggle to be themselves."
The UCC Synod Scarf Project is another effort to bring attention to the bullying of LGBT youth at General Synod. In a colorful, symbolic move, the UCC has collected rainbow-colored scarves handmade by UCC members and friends who want to take a stand against bullying and violence. As of May 30, the Southern California Nevada Conference has received more than 2,800 scarves, and is certain to reach the project goal of 3,000. Each scarf will be given to an attendee who pledges to take action against bullying and other types of violence, whether it's writing to their congressional representatives, working with school administrators, or addressing violent behavior when they see it.
"If one child is brave enough to say, 'You shouldn't say that,' it becomes the cool thing," said the Rev. Marja Coons-Torn, conference minister of the UCC's Penn Central Conference and creator of the Synod Scarf Project. "This is the most grassroots project I've ever been involved in. It's just caught fire."
The Synod Scarf Project will be displayed at booth No. 348 in the General Synod exhibit hall, and there are still a few weeks to participate. Scarves should be colorful, vibrant, and full of love and hope, measuring 4 to 6 inches wide and 60 inches long.
Knitters, crocheters and weavers should send their completed scarves to arrive at the UCC Southern California Nevada Conference offices no later than June 14, 2013 to:
The Scarf Project
c/o UCC Southern California Nevada Conference
2401 N. Lake Avenue
Altadena, CA 91001-2418
For project participants who are attending General Synod, scarves can also be dropped off at booth No. 348 or at the Synod Scarf Project kiosk located near event registration. Please fill out and include this form with all shipments.
Learn more about the Synod Scarf Project on Facebook.