General Synod Highlights
Two years after becoming the first major denomination to support same-gender marriage equality, the UCC General Synod took no action on Tuesday, June 26, on a pair of resolutions meant to revisit, and in one case overturn, the original action. In hearings prior to the decision, Ginger Brasher Cunningham of the Massachusetts Conference said a majority of her committee assigned to review the measures "could not affirm" the actions. The churches that initially proposed the two actions in the Indiana-Kentucky Conference, have now either left the denomination or are divided about their intentions of remaining with the UCC. The Conference refused to take action on the measures at their annual meeting and no member of the Conference delegation wished to be associated with the resolutions. In taking "no action," Synod delegates declined to discuss the resolutions. To find out more about what happened at General Synod 26, go to www.ucc.org.
Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act
There is still time to let your voice be heard! The US Senate will be voting soon on the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. This Act would give the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias motivated violence by providing the Department with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. One in six hate crimes are currently motivated by the victim's sexual orientation (www.hrc.org). Yet Federal laws do not protect these people. Help change this reality. According to the Human Rights Campaign, opponents of the Matthew Shepard Act have sent five times as many emails, calls, and letters to Senators as those who support it. Let your elected officials know what you think. For more information, to watch a moving video and to send a letter to your senator, go to: http://www.hrc.org/FightHate.
Rev. Bradley Schmelling Removed from ELCA Roster
On August 8, 2006, Bishop Ronald Warren of the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) filed formal charges against ELCA pastor, Rev. Bradley Schmeling, because of his committed relationship with Rev. Darin Easler. Currently, the ELCA has a policy that excludes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in relationships from the ordained ministry. After months of hearings, the ELCA Committee on Appeals announced its most recent decision on July 2, 2007, requiring Rev. Schmeling to be removed from the roster of the ELCA because he has entered into a relationship with another man. Schmeling reportedly still has the support of his congregants and said he will defy the decision and stay as pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Ga.
UCC Minister for LGBT Concerns, Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, responded as a member of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable saying, “The struggle to realize the vision of God’s beloved community is often an arduous, painful journey which requires much courage and perseverance. The witness of Rev. Schmeling and the congregation he serves is like so many congregations in the welcoming church movement, a testament of grace enriched by the many blessings of God’s gifts for mission and ministry. They remind us that faithful discipleship is not without cost and I pray they may know they are supported by a great cloud of witnesses through this challenging time.”
To see responses from leaders of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, including Rev. Schuenemeyer's, go to http://www.thetaskforce.org/press/releases/prNRLR_070607.