Clergy Call 2009: Bishop Tonyia Rawls
August 2, 2009
Bishop Tonyia Rawls reminds us of the power a community can have when it rises to “resist those forces that seek to exclude [us]”. This is part of our ongoing series of speeches from HRC’s Clergy Call for Justice and Equality. Biography and transcript follow:
Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls is the founding pastor of Unity Fellowship Church in Charlotte, N.C., and in April 2008 was consecrated as one of the first women bishops in the Los Angeles-based Unity Fellowship Church Movement’s history. Rawls’ rapidly growing Charlotte church is the first of the denomination’s churches to open in the Bible Belt; its various ministries cover domestic violence, praise arts, HIV/AIDS, literacy and wellness. She has received numerous awards, including the Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Steering Committee and the Charlotte Business Guild’s Don King Service Award.
Good Morning, my name is Bishop Tonyia Rawls and I am here today because this country that I love is not yet just for all Americans. Regardless of race, gender expression, sexual orientation or land of native birth, America has promised her citizens that we will treat every man, woman, boy and girl justly, and offer to each access to the basic things needed to build a prosperous life for them and their descendants. Among these most basic rights are the right to have fair competitive access to employment and the right to feel a sense of security that violent hate crimes perpetuated against us will be swiftly investigated and prosecuted. That is why I urge congress to pass the fully inclusive Non-Discrimination Act and the HR 1913 Hate Crimes Prevention bill which is now before you. As an African American and as a woman I am all too aware of what is possible when a community rises to resist those forces that seek to exclude on the bases of human characteristics. The women’s suffrage movement was successful because reasonable men stood with them and said yes, our mothers, sisters, daughters and all women deserve the right to be safe and work at jobs they qualify for. The civil rights movement and subsequent Civil Rights Act opened the door wider for Black folk to have gainful employment and made provision for protest when injustice appeared on the basis of race. Reasonable white folk stood with them and said yes, our Negro brothers and sisters deserve the right to be safe and work at jobs they qualify for. Now this generation has been given the gift of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender American. We will in this moment in time, acknowledge what type of a nation we are. We ask this congress to stand with the clergy gathered here today in support of ENDA and HR 1913. We ask you to stand not just for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in your districts who campaign for you, pay taxes that help you remain gainfully employed, mow your lawn, cut your hair, teach your children and pray for you, but for the rest of the nation and world who once again looks to Capitol Hill with renewed confidence and hope. America’s light is beginning to shine brighter. As we work to rebuild, I pray we do it with all, and not just some Americans in mind. Reasonable LGBT people and straight allies are standing here today to say yes, our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fellow Americans deserve the right to be safe and work at jobs they qualify for, we ask Congress to do the same. The bible gave the assurance that nothing could separate me from the love and protection of God who sent the Son so that I might have life and that more abundantly. The framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights also gave the assurance that every American citizen has a right to be safe and have equal access to the opportunities that we as a nation have made possible. As a woman, a Black person, a spouse, a parent, a Bishop, a lesbian and a citizen of this great nation, I stand prepared to help ensure that we keep that promise, not just for some American’s, but for all.