My Remarks at Faith Advocacy Day

Today, I am in Austin for Faith Advocacy Day. I’m honored to be the emcee of an interfaith event at the State Capitol, supporting equality for the LGBT community. If you’re a person of faith who supports the just and equal treatment of LGBT persons under the law, join us by signing up at “Texas Believes.”

Below are my remarks at the rally taking place right now….EF

logoMy name is Eric Folkerth, and I’m the Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. I am pleased and honored to represent not only myself today, but also the good people of our congregation.

I want to welcome you on behalf of the organizations sponsoring today’s event – the Texas Freedom Network and Equality Texas. Additionally, we are joined here by a large group of justice advocates from around the state representing the Texas Unitarian Justice Ministry. And I want to thank Chuck Freeman and the Unitarians for their willingness to join their voices with ours in promoting justice and equality today.

Before we get started, I want to make an announcement to any media present. We ask that you hold any questions until the service is over. All of the speakers will all be available at the conclusion of the service for interviews.

We are gathered here today at our state capitol as a new coalition of faith leaders from around our great state. We come for different faith traditions, but we stand today with a common voice and goal: We seek the just treatment of our LGBT brothers and sisters under the law of the state.

We believe passionately that there are many places throughout our state, and even at the state level, where addition protections under the law are needed for our LGBT friends. Our message is actually a positive one. We believe these laws strengthen every Texas family, bring together our communities, and protect rights in a way that is important for all of us.

My own commitment to this cause comes from the blessings I have received as the pastor of Northaven Church in Dallas. Our congregation is blessed to have within it a large number of LGBT people. Gays and straights all live, worship, and pray together within our walls. And all of us have learned that we are stronger together, as we raise our families together, and seek to be be God’s community of faith.

But I recognize, as a happily married straight man, that I am often afforded a level of legal and social protection that our LGBT members are still not afforded in many cases. So, today, I am thinking of Randy and Victor; and their two children. I am thinking of Mary and Lisa; and their daughter. I am thinking of Barry, who is a college professor, and of Ed who is a truck driver. All of them are a part of the beautiful LGBT community that I have come to know and love.

All of them are faithful members of our church. I’ve had the good fortune to worship, pray, and serve God alongside of them. All of them are upstanding citizens in our community. All of pay taxes, work hard, and are blessings to their neighbors and friends.

And the idea that any of them might be discriminated under state or local laws is absolutely unacceptable. Not only is this unacceptable to me as, a minister of the Gospel, but it’s unacceptable to straight members, who cannot fathom why any community in Texas would discriminate against LGBT people.

Thankfully, many of the companies and cities in the DFW area have already passed non-discrimination laws that are accepted and embraced by the whole population. So, our positive message to the rest of the State is: Have no fear. No one here today is asking for special rights or privileges. We are simply asking that the rights of LGBT persons not be diminished because of who they are and whom they love. There is nothing to fear, and everything to gain in treating all our citizens with dignity, respect, and justice under the law.

Finally, I am here because of the call of my own faith tradition – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Jewish faith, and the sayings of Mohammed both mirror this same spiritual truth: The most powerful and just way to treat all of our brothers and sisters is to treat them the way you would wish to be treated. The call of our faith, the call of justice under the law, compels us to this.

Today’s service is first of all a call to people of faith and goodwill all around this state to join us in speaking a message of equality and justice in Texas. If anyone would like to add their name and voice to this effort, they can do so by visiting our website – TexasBelieves.org – and signing up to join us in this good work.

Why is this call so urgent? I’ll let those joining me here today make the case for why people of faith should stand up and speak out for this righteous cause.

You are about to hear 3 voices, speaking from different faith traditions and denominations, but they speak for many of our colleagues around the state.  We invite you to listen closely to the words shared here, and let them speak to your conscience and call you to action for fairness and equality in our state.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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