A Voice to be Heard
September 17, 2012 by Sharon Groves, Director, Religion and Faith Program
Recently, I had the honor and privilege of getting to see faith put into action at a many-faceted weekend Faith and Fairness Town hall, “Faith in the Voting Box,” in Phoenix. The events were organized collaboratively by the local Phoenix HRC steering committee and the LGBT affirming faith group, No Longer Silent: Clergy for Justice http://www.nolongersilent.org/.
In my mind this town hall exemplified what is possible when smart partnerships are developed and sustained across a city. No Longer Silent and HRC have been working together for years, and the fruits of our labor were on display in this beautiful and spirit-filled town hall convening. This event included, among other elements, a riveting discussion with: Bishop Gene Robinson of HRC’s Religion Council, Sister Jeanine Gramick, longtime Catholic activist for marriage equality, and Rabbi John Linder, local religious champion for LGBT voices; workshops on how best to put faith into action for LGBT equality; and the viewing of the award winning films, Love Free or Die and In Good Conscience.
I am so proud of the partnership between No Longer Silent and HRC. Such collaborations serve as a model for justice-minded civic engagement and, perhaps even more importantly, demonstrate how religion can bring out our best as we seek loving places where no one has to choose between who they are, who they love, and what they believe.
I hope you’ll take a moment to read the following blog about this event by Rev. Dr. Vernon Meyer, Pastor of Sun Lakes United Church of Chris and Co-President of No Long Silent Clergy for Justice.:
The question for many in the upcoming election is whether or not faith should play a role in making political choices and decisions. Many in the LGBT community have been hurt or wounded by conversations where one truth has to win over another. We hear various voices today claiming that God is on their side, which for those on the other side asks that we suspend logic and reason and what we believe God has given to us.
In the recent Faith and Fairness Town Hall in Phoenix, Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay and partnered bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church, called for a new civility in our dialogue and conversations. It is hard when our civil discourse, he said, ends up being about moral absolutes instead of the honoring and respecting of the experience of others.
Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a Roman Catholic nun who helped found New Way Ministry and has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality, also noted that for Roman Catholics the argument has focused on sexual ethics that have restricted women’s reproductive rights and have stood against marriage equality for gays and lesbians. She called for the focus to be placed on the great tradition of social justice.
Rabbi John Linder gave a different perspective. He drew attention to the reality of the Hebrew Bible Old Testament as an inspired product of human authors. He commented that the human focus changes the view we have of truth within the scripture. He also suggested that we look more closely at the Jewish tradition that allows for a broader wrestling with and struggle with the text. This opens up the discussion and gives space for different points of view.
Several times the speakers commented that the churches might have it wrong about women and LGBT equality. The longer the institutions hold on to the past and the old ways of thinking, the sooner they will find themselves either dying or dead. Do we continue to let others define who we are, they asked. Of course we can ask, “what’s the point of listening to religious leaders when it seems that they will never be inclusive?” And how many people realize that if they vote for candidates who do hold very anti-gay positions, how that ultimately ends up hurting the whole of the LGBT community?
In the end, the speakers asked us to consider the risks we take when we do apply our faith to our politics. This is especially true when we see institutional religion trying to impose its will on secular society around the question of marriage equality. Bishop Gene Robinson finally encouraged us to be purposeful in our advocacy and to not be afraid to identify the faith we bring with us.
While many in the LGBT community have given up on religion or feel, like many liberal Americans, that religion and faith have little or nothing to do with politics, I left the Faith and Fairness Town Hall with a positive feeling. I can be a person of faith and I can believe that women’s rights and LGBT equality are not contradictory to my faith, but rather they flow from my faith - and I can bring that faith to the voting booth with me!
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