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A Pastoral Letter

A Pastoral Letter:
To our same gender loving brothers and sisters, their families, friends and allies

November 5, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Grace to you and peace on this day after the General Election and in the days ahead. 

We have come through an historic election and many of us were involved in important ways, working for the candidates and issues that we care about.  Regardless of how one feels about the Presidential results, the votes on ballot measures addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) concerns were disappointing.  While these ballot measures were only in a handful of states, the results affect us all. We write to express our solidarity, the assurance that we are not alone, acknowledge the significant progress made in spite of the results, and the good news of God's presence with us, especially as we seek to move forward from this place. 

First and foremost, we praise God and lift up with deep gratitude all who gave so much to the cause of equality and justice in this election as volunteers or staff to campaigns, with donations and through their prayers.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

As in 2004, the year leading to this election was marked by significant events giving marriage rights to same sex couples, namely, the California Supreme Court decision last May and the Connecticut Supreme Court decision in October.  To preserve the court's decision in California, we witnessed an unprecedented effort to defeat a discriminatory constitutional amendment, Proposition 8.  People of faith provided significant leadership and support to this effort, joining with others to raise millions of dollars and log hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours in phone banks, canvassing neighborhoods and getting out the vote.  Similar efforts were waged to defeat similar ballot measures in Arizona and Florida, as well as to defeat an anti-gay measure in Arkansas affecting adoption rights. 

Through these political processes, we once again endured an onslaught of homophobic lies and deceit which drove a wedge in many of our communities, demeaned our lives, and devalued our relationships and families in order to enshrine heterosexist bigotry into the core documents of more state governments.

How could we not be disappointed and angry?  How could we not carry a deep sense of righteous indignation at this injustice?  The votes on our lives and our equality are unfair, unjust and wrong.  They violate the core promise of our faith to treat others as we want to be treated and the promise that every American citizen makes, no matter their religious belief, to uphold the values of liberty and justice for all.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice.  Old Testament Theologian Walter Brueggemann adds, "the moral arc of the gospel bends toward inclusion."  The testament of the Open and Affirming movement within the United Church of Christ and beyond is that we are making progress, mostly in small steps and sometimes in leaps and bounds.  Although the progress of equality and justice may have been slowed, we continue forward. 

Even in disappointment, there are many things about which we can be proud and hopeful.  The election results may not feel like progress now, but as Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry says, "If we lose, we must lose forward."  That is, we must continue to learn and grow from all of our efforts, the relationships that have been built and the amazing organizing networks that have been created. 

Let us be present to each other, especially now, as we cope with these disappointing results, learn from them and move on.  So, let us attend to one another with love and compassion, being vessels for one another of God's gracious, loving and healing presence.  May the solidarity we share strengthen us and our resolve for the challenging journey that lies ahead.

The struggle is far from over and one day our "yes" will come.  This is a confident hope, rooted in the gospel promise of love, justice and abundant life.  "God is turning the page!" as our sister, The Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder says, "And, if it is God's will, then there is nothing in heaven or earth that can stop it."  So, let us continue to be vigilant, creative in our efforts, just in our actions and loving in all we do.

May God bless you, each and every one, and may God bring you the peace that surpasses understanding—the peace that only God can give.

Yours in the struggle.

Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer Executive,
Health and Wholeness Advocacy,
UCC Wider Church Ministries
                                                   
Rev. Ruth Garwood,  
Executive Director
UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns