General Synod 28 delegates on Tuesday passed a resolution to raise awareness of international instances of systematic discrimination, violence and abuse targeting persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The resolution, titled “Supporting International Human Rights Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” centers on instances in which such abuse is not prohibited by law but rather legally, politically, socially or even religiously sanctioned.
Ninety-eight percent of delegates voted in favor of the resolution. After it was approved, three LGBT members of the international community who have suffered extreme abuse due to their sexual orientation – Ahmad Khafajah of Lebanon, Linford Cunningham of Jamaica and a woman who, fearing potential retribution, identified herself only as Champo, of Zambia – addressed delegates.
“I wish I could say it gets easier to tell this story each time,” said Champo, “but it doesn’t. What you’re doing isn’t going to be changing lives, it’s going to be saving lives. When you (delegates) have a bad day and are trying to figure out what you haven’t done right, this is something you’ve done right. Be proud of yourself.”
“A gay Muslim at this convention,” said Khafajah, smiling and shrugging his shoulders as delegates laughed and cheered. He didn’t need to say anything else.
Added Cunningham, “Angels are rejoicing in heaven over the impact and enormity of this vote. We will never forget this.”
The Rev. Emily Heath, a Vermont Conference member and a member of the committee that reviewed the resolution, said, “All God’s children who are LGBT deserve freedom from fear of torture, freedom from fear of sexual assault and execution, access to education and competent health care, and guarantees of non-discrimination in their professional and family lives.”
Submitted by Wider Church Ministries, the resolution commits the UCC to advocate for fair and equal application of universal human rights principles and laws toward the protection of all persons from sexual or gender status-based abuse, discrimination or criminal prosecution. It concerns contexts in which abuse is not prohibited by law but rather legally, politically, socially or even religiously sanctioned.
The resolution states the foundation of human rights derives from the creation narratives of scripture in which human beings are created by God in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ public ministry begins with the Sermon on the Mount as he teaches his disciples to hunger and thirst for justice, to be merciful, to be peacemakers, and to accept persecution for the sake of justice (Matt. 5: 6, 7. 9, 10); in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus calls on his disciples to follow the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”