Tomorrow is Visibility Day at the Vermont State House. It is a day for all those who support equal marriage for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons to be seen and heard, to talk with their representatives, and to give voice to their support of full equality in marriage. I plan to be in attendance.
First let me say that for a social-justice oriented person like me, being in ministry in a state capital is a tempting thing. I could find myself three blocks away at the capital building nearly every day of the week, supporting or protesting something. Realising that this could eat up a considerable portion of the time I have to do all of my ministry (and this is a part of my ministry, I do believe), I have given myself three areas where I will intentionally be socially and politically engaged as well as spiritually.
1. Addressing local housing issues. Not only do I think this is a pressing concern (about which I have blogged quite a bit), but I think that the approach is essential. It is not helpful for a bunch of middle class persons to get together and talk about homelessness and the lack of affordable housing and come up with ‘solutions.’ The proper approach I believe is to build some community around listening to the experiences and wisdom of those who have lived, are living, or are in danger of living without housing. Their knowledge of the problem and their suggestions for action should carry far more weight than those of folks (even the best-intentioned advocates) for whom this is a hypothetical question.
2. Ecology, Stewardship, and Sustainability. Because, frankly, we’re all in a world of trouble if we don’t clean up out act, kick our oil addition, and re-localize our economies. This is a moral issue, both in terms of the distribution of resources and in terms of the care of the earth, God’s sacred creation. The church has to be a leader in the movement to place care of the earth and one another above convenience and consumption, and one of the ways we need to minister is to engage in political action as well.
3. Full inclusion of GLBT persons in all aspects of society (including equal, non-separate marriage status). Understand that here I step beyond the current textbook stance of he global United Methodist Church, and that if your position differs from mine (especially you, members of my congregational communities!), there is plenty of space at the table for all positions within the United Methodist Church and within the congregations of Trinity and Grace UMC. Accord with the pastor in this issue is not a requirement! However, I feel strongly that this is a justice issue, particularly with respect to the civil rights afforded our citizens, and particularly when it comes to creating a separate-and-not-quite-equal citizenry. I also feel that for too long the faith community has been painted with a broad and monochromatic brush, so that to be a person of faith (let alone a leader in a faith community) is to oppose gay marriage. This is not the case, and other clear voices are needed to speak an alternative position. I therefore slap on my clerical collar and join in the day of witness, not as a representative of Grace or Trinity United Methodist Church, not as a representative of Troy Annual Conference or the United Methodist Church as a whole, but as a representative of the people of God and the clergy who serve in God’s church who think and feel differently. I do it as a representative of my own heart and my own conviction, because if I lacked heart and conviction of any kind, or ignored the heart and conviction that I have, I would be a poor example indeed.
As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments, and ideas, wherever you’re coming from.