At a recent congregational meeting, members of First Congregational Church of Berkeley (FCCB) voted for the first time in the church’s history to take a specific stand on a ballot initiative. The church voted unanimously to oppose Proposition 8, a voter initiative on the November ballot in California that would amend the state constitution to eliminate the right to marry for same-sex couples. The extended applause that greeted the vote evolved into a standing ovation from the more than 200 members present at the meeting. Shortly after the meeting, members hung a twelve-foot banner outside the sanctuary declaring “Everyone deserves the right to marry Vote No on Prop 8.”
For FCCB, taking a stand on the right to marry is a natural outgrowth of their Open and Affirming commitment and the calling to seek justice for those who face unfair treatment. Marriage is a widely understood and highly respected designation, and excluding same-sex couples from marriage sends an unmistakable message that their relationships are inferior. As FCCB member Alison Beck explained, "Proposition 8 singles out one group of Californians lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and deliberately and explicitly deprives them of fundamental rights. It is aimed at the very heart of our values as Americans: equal treatment under the law."
In addition to formally voting to oppose the initiative, FCCB has been actively working to defeat Proposition 8 for several months. The church formed a Marriage Equality Ministry Team and now hosts weekly phone banks to reach out to undecided voters and deliver the message of fairness and equality for all our neighbors. In addition, the church has been actively involved in a statewide interfaith coalition working against the initiative, and recently hosted an outreach event for other faith communities to discuss the right to marry and learn how their congregations could become active in the movement to preserve marriage for all couples. Volunteers staff a table after worship every Sunday to collect donations, distribute campaign materials, and sign up volunteers to phone bank.
Due in large part to a dedicated staff of trained ONA consultants, congregations, campus ministries and other UCC bodies are increasingly "going ONA" -- making public statements of welcome into their ministry to persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Thirty of the 38 Conferences have at least one ONA Consultant.
The UCC Coalition of LGBT Concerns and the Health and Wholeness Advocacy Office of Wider Church Ministries have partnered with welcoming organizations in other denominations and the Institute of Welcoming Resources to provide training for persons interested in serving as an ONA resource. Upcoming training events are listed below. These trainings are ecumenical and include UCC specific information and resources. For further details, please contact Michelle Sims at the Coalition office at 216-861-0779 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
| Goshen, IN
|| October 24-26|
| Independence, MO
|| November 7-9|
| Washington, DC
|| November 14-16|
| Anaheim, CA
|| January 8-11|
| San Antonio, TX
|| February 5-8|
| Great Falls, MT
|| February 18-21 (Lutheran Oriented)|
| Detroit or Ann Arbor, MI
|| March 13-15|
| Tallahassee, FL
|| March 19-21|
| Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
|| April 24-26|
Staff from several different ministries of United Church of Christ have provided resources on bullying which can be found at http://www.ucc.org/justice/children-and-youth/what-can-we-do-to-stop.html. Bullying is a form of abuse that can be physical or verbal. The church is called to create an environment in which bullying is reduced. This means fostering respect for all people. The site is currently a work in progress, but already presents different points of view and different kinds of resources for the prevention of bullying and improved response to bullying. The site provides links to resources from other organizations as well.
We are in an historic battle to preserve marriage rights for same sex couples in the State of California. What happens in California has important implications in the struggle for justice and equality throughout the country. The margin is razor thin and so we are working hard to win the hearts and minds of undecided voters in California. Although Californians are the only ones able to vote on Proposition 8, there are ways everyone can help protect marriage equality, whether or not you live in California. Wherever you are, we are asking for your help to support marriage equality by joining the effort to defeat Proposition 8.
Just more than four months ago, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. A few weeks later, two very important things happened. Same sex couples were able to be legally married in California and opponents of same sex marriage qualified a measure for the November 4 ballot, Proposition 8. If passed, Proposition 8 will take away the right to marry from same sex couples by amending the state's constitution.
This action is consistent with the resolution adopted by the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ, "Equal Marriage Rights for All," which urges congregations and individuals to "work against legislation, including constitutional amendments, which denies civil marriage rights to couples based on gender."
At their annual meetings last spring, both California conferences affirmed the California Supreme Court's decision and their support for marriage equality. Their Conference Ministers, Rev. Mary Susan Gast (Northern CA NV Conference) and Rev. Jane Fisler Hoffman (Southern CA NV Conference), issued a joint statement calling for the defeat of Proposition 8.
Wherever you are, this is what we need from you!
- We ask you to get on the phones.
- We ask you to make and solicit donations.
Getting on the phones
New technology allows us to enlist your energy to directly talk one on one to undecided California voters. Reaching out to them is the single most important act you can take to help us win on November 4. Phone banks can be established in your congregations, homes, and/or on your own in California and thorughout the U.S.
Go to this link: www.noonprop8.com/wecallvoters and help us double our phone banks and reach out to every Californian who needs more information and wants to have a one on one conversation. If you have ever said that you wished there was more that you can do...NOW is the moment to act.
Making and Soliciting Donations
Every individual can go to http://www.noonprop8.com/ and donate today! We can only win by getting our message out and we need your help to make it happen.
If you've already donated, please, do so again! Now is the time for sacrificial giving.
- We recommend $2008.00 to honor the year this mile- stone decision was made.
- Or $365.00 for the full year that teams have been on the ground readying for this struggle!
- The cost of a marriage license in California is $77.00.
Every contribution makes a difference. Please be as generous as your can. [Note: These gifts are important, but they are not tax deductible.]
If your congregation would like to take an offering, please do not receive cash and checks payable to the church. It is very important that you contact Deb Peevey at email@example.com to receive proper instructions on the best way to do this and to be sure that you comply with California law for such donations.
For those who live in California, there are leadership teams in both United Church of Christ Conferences in the state coordinating efforts and providing assistance to individuals, congregations and other settings of the church. Please contact your Conference's coordinator for information on how you and your congregation can get involved.
Please do whatever you can and do it today!