Prayer Walk at General Synod to show support for trans people, oppose harmful legislation
The United Church of Christ will be taking to the streets of Indianapolis in prayer during General Synod in encouragement and support for people harmed by current and pending legislation that threatens their right to be who they are.
Citing Psalm 145:17-18 — “God is just in all God’s ways and kind in all their doings; God is near to all who call on God in truth” — and a statement by Frederick Douglass, “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer, until I prayed with my legs,” organizers will call attention to laws that cause harm to trans citizens.
“Wherever the United Church of Christ gathers as the General Synod, we desire to leave an imprint of faithful witness as testimony to our collective understanding of a just world, in accordance with scripture and our Synod resolutions,” said Associate General Minister the Rev. Traci Blackmon, who is helping organize the prayer walk. “In our current socio-political climate, the Church desires to continue to be a reconciling force for good, calling our nation to come its higher self with love.”
In Indiana, Synod’s host this year, a new law that banned gender-affirming care for minors was signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in April. On June 16, a federal judge blocked much of it.
The UCC Prayer Walk on Saturday, July 1 will take place on the day that ban would have taken effect.
“This makes the witness even more necessary,” Blackmon said. “Indiana needs to know they are not alone.”
Anti-trans laws across the country
The rights of trans people in the United States have seemingly come under attack this year. The Trans Legislation Tracker cites hundreds of anti-trans bills introduced in 2023: more than 500 proposed in nearly every state, and more than two dozen at the national level. That includes 17 in Indiana.
Under the legislation passed by Republican majorities in the state House and Senate, trans youth in Indiana currently taking medication to transition would have had until the end of the year to stop doing so.
Indiana is one of 18 states, joining Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, trying to ban gender-affirming care for kids in 2023.
“We want the public to know that the United Church of Christ is not tone-deaf to the cries of LGBTQIA+ families in Indiana, Kentucky and across this nation,” Blackmon said. “We want the message to be clear that we stand with those whose very lives are threatened by anti-trans legislation and hateful rhetoric, regardless of religious expression or the lack thereof. As people of faith, we gather to stand against the legislating of any faith as an act of embodied discipleship that has long-standing history within the UCC.”
Reproductive rights highlighted, too
Advocates representing the wider church, led by UCC leaders — including Blackmon and Indiana-Kentucky Conference Minister the Rev. Chad Abbott — will walk from the Indiana Convention Center to the Capitol grounds. They’ll carry signs and rainbow flags and, on the south lawn of the Indiana Statehouse, they’ll offer a series of prayers, showing love and solidarity for those marginalized by such harmful legislation and other proposed bills that are currently before lawmakers.
That includes laws passed or proposed in many states, including Indiana, that restrict abortion services and reproductive healthcare.
“Praying just steps from the very halls where legislators have caused deep harm is a reminder that such a narrative of pain is not the only story,” Abbott said. “We will not waver in the face of such harm and instead name and acknowledge the dignity of all persons through the lifting of our prayers and lament. The world needs to know that there is another story, a story of a love so grand as to promise that no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome as one of God’s beloved.”
“The United Church of Christ is alive and well in Indianapolis and we will not be silenced in the face of injustice,” Blackmon said. “Our Conference membership and pastors have been actively engaged in the public witness to support trans families and the bodily autonomy of women. We are actively engaged in the pursuit of truth-telling about the history of this nation, and in all of our efforts we are guided by scripture and the testimonies and leadership of those in closest proximity to the pain caused by unjust laws.
“We do this because of our faith, and not in spite of it.”
Join the prayer walk
Prayer walk participants will be meeting at Hudnut Commons, a park just across from the Indiana Convention Center. Blackmon and Abbott will be joined by other denominational and faith leaders, as well as two Indiana state legislators who belong to the UCC — Sen. Shelli Yoder and Rep. Kyle Miller.
“We are inviting the wider church — along with Sen. Shelli Yoder, state Rep. Kyle Miller and ecumenical partners — to join us on the grounds of the State Capitol to love louder than the harmful legislation currently proposed by the Indiana legislature,” Blackmon said.
The prayer vigil, which runs from 2-4 p.m. on July 1, will include music and some brief remarks. Organizers plan to have transportation available for those who may be challenged by the walk.
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