These three words were emphasized today at the Freedom Center, the Underground Reilroad Museum in Cincinnati. There was so much information that it was overwhelming. We learned about the horror of the middle passage as slaves were brought to this country from Africa. We learned about the cruelty of a system that bought and sold individuals. We saw the cabin from Kentucky in which slaves were collected and housed until they took the 700 plus miles walking barefoot to Mississippi. we learned about the resistance of slaves, the plantation life, the political backgrounds. It was so much and so interesting. We saw several films and
read documents and listened on the IPad to narration. It was a lot.
But I am left with these words for social justice work - courage, cooperation and perseverence. It was what the slaves needed to survive and to resist slavery. It was what the abolitionists needed for their brave words and work in the underground railroad. It was what guided the politicians who worked to finally come together to pass the Emancipation Proclamation.
I saw these three words guiding the activity of the GLAD organization (Gay and Lesbian Affirming Disciples) during our General Assembly. The resolution which welcomes all people regardless of sexual orientation to the church was a major victory which was years in coming. Two years ago I went to the GLAD banquet and heard Mel White wonder how long we were going to discern about this issue. It had been 10 years. And so, Derek Penwell wrote the resolution and worked with others to vet it. It went through a long process through which it went before our Regional ministers and the General Board and finally it was brought before the whole assembly for a vote. There was talk about how this was going to split the church and supposedly some churches may be leaving the denomination over it. And so, all of this has required courage, cooperation and perseverance.
Tuesday afternoon wwe voted on the resolution. As I sat in the convention hall in Orlando, wearing my "All means All" T shirt and waiting for the vote I was almost overwhelmed with emotion. I sat beside Scott, Audrey's wonderful mentor and friend and Marsha, who has been a faithful friend to me from the beginning of the time Audrey came out. We sat behind Audrey and Miranda and Miranda's mother Linda. Actually we were all wearing "All means All" T shirts. I was so blessed to be present there and part of it -and being with Audrey who had her own part in the genesis of this resolution, and hearing Miranda speak to it in front of the 3000 plus delagats. The waiting was almost over and there was going to finally be some resolution about the resolution.
And when the vote was announced we were not allowed to clap. So we hugged and laughed and cried. A lot of tears. Because the courage, the cooperation, and the perseverance had brought us to a greater place of openness.
I know that this resolution - when it is all said and done - is really just a small step in the journey to becoming a place of welcome for all people. It does not guarantee ordination for LGBTI folks and it certainly does not mean that churches will want to hire gays and lesbians as pastors. But it is an important statement of justice within our denomination. We cannot care about social justice for the world if we are not attending to it within the Disciples of Christ.
This has been a time of realizing how important it is for Christians to stand with the marginalized and speak love and justice for all people. I realized it last week both in the matter of the resolution and in standing in solidarity with the NAACP (their convention was also in Orlando) after the verdict was announced to the Trayvon Martin trial. We have to care about everyone. But it is not enough for me to pray.
At the museum today I learned again - that social justice requires many people working together - cooperation, a willingness to speak truths that others may not be comfortable with - courage and the awareness that the journey is neverending - Perseverance.