Dear UM Moderates: What We Need To Hear You Say

Dear United Methodist Moderates:

I call you to publicly support the civil marriage rights of gay and lesbian persons, and to implore our civil servants to support the constitution.

Whatever your personal/theological views of same sex marriage in the Church, please know and remember that the UMC has a strong statement supporting the Civil Rights of gay and lesbian persons (see the full statement at the conclusion of this blog).

Therefore, I implore you to support the civil right of our citizens, and of your own church members, and to push our government officials to do the same.

iStock_oath-300x336As you know, government officials in many states are refusing to do their duty to uphold the Constitution, and to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. In the cases where a civil servant (county clerk, for example) has sworn an oath to their office,  that oath includes a provision that they uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States. Here, in fact, is that oath as found in the Texas Constitution:

“I, _______________________, do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of ___________________ of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help me God.”

By not issuing licenses, then, they are in violation of their duties as a public servant, and of the Constitution of the United States. This is clear. Therefore, in your position as moral leaders in your communities, I urge you to speak to those intransigent leaders, and to insist they follow the law.

During the past few days, one of my deep frustrations so far –in the statements I am seeing coming from Bishops and other “moderate” leaders around the connection –is that the statements are entirely focused, unduly and fearfully, on avoiding conflict within our churches. And as such, they are, in the main, entirely failing to address the Civil Rights of gay and lesbian persons.

Personally? I would want your support for full inclusion of LGBT persons in the Church. But, especially over the next few weeks and months, I would EXPECT you to say something….anything…about the Civil Rights of gay and lesbian persons under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and to encourage our United Methodist people to show similar respect for our constitution and law.

This is the struggle for Civil Rights in our time.

Eventually, both God and your grandchildren will hold you to account, not only for what you did or did not do to “save the church,” but also what you did, or did not do, to support the basic Civil Rights of lesbian and gay persons.

Looking back from your own future selves, did you…

Say something bold about supporting the Civil Rights of all people? (as our polity suggests you now should)

Or, did you…

Cower in fear over possible conflicts in the Church, and fail in any way to acknowledge the rights of Americans?

Your legacy, and the judgment of God, are awaiting your future self. United Methodists everywhere, gay and straight people everywhere, public officials everywhere, await your witness NOW.

——————
From the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church:
“Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting the rightful claims where people have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law. Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.”

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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...)

5 thoughts on “Dear UM Moderates: What We Need To Hear You Say

  1. Expect defiance from me. No support. Demonstrate 1000 more levels of maturity instead of unreasonably expecting automatic compliance because the Supreme Court took this action.

    1. “Automatic compliance” is absolutely the mature response to a change in civil law. Even a response that says “I disagree with this law, but I will support THE law,” is also a response that shows maturity.
      Genuflexive assertions of “defiance” is the immature position.

      Again, I am not speaking about people’s personal views, nor their theological ones. But about support for civil law.

      1. You do realize, for a country in which slavery and disenfranchisement of a variety of groups have at times been the law of the land, calling for a blanket approval of all civil laws is at best dangerous and at worse a ludicrous, blind capitulation to Caesar? Legal and moral are hardly coterminous categories.

  2. The two examples that I am aware of were Alabama and Texas. In Alabama, the decision was made to delay the issuing of marriage licenses in some place for the 25 days or so that they are allowed by law. While I find it silly and juvenile, I understand it and it is within the boundaries of the law. This could possibly be because there is some hope that congress will pass law providing protections to workers who do not wish to issue said licenses. In Texas, it was not (technically) a call to not issue licenses but a statement that you could and that if you did, there would most likely be lawsuits. Should Alabama not issue the licenses after the time allowed by law is up or if Texas, as a state, enact policies that infringe upon the rights as defined by the court of any person as a matter of state policy, I will happily sign a petition that does not threaten with the judgement of God if I don’t. Until that actually happens, the only examples that I know are one that is within the law ans one that tells employees that they can refuse to issue a license, but if you do, there can, and most likely will, be penalties for doing so. So we have a state following the law (seems silly to petition them not to, no matter how juvenile their response is) and a state that obviously does not agree with a decision telling (tacitly encouraging) it’s workers that if they do not issue the license that there will be lawsuits. Isn’t that the same as any other form of civil disobedience, with the possible exception that you don’t agree with their belief in this case.

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