Pastor Gayle’s Reflections
“A letter to the UCC Family of Faith: We can’t let evil prevail”
This call to action comes from the Conference Minister of the Penn Northeast Conference UCC, with the affirmation of the denomination’s National Officers and the Rev. David Ackerman, Conference Minister of the Penn West Conference UCC.
“The news over the past weeks has revealed an undercurrent of hate within our culture and our country. Between the assumption that immigrants walking nearly 2,000 miles seeking asylum are seen as a threat to our security; the pipe bombs mailed to those who oppose our current political administration; the massacre of 11 Jewish citizens during services at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; and the shooting of an African American man and woman in a grocery store after a failed attempt to enter a church of Black worshipers, it is hard to find cause for hope in our nation.
The rhetoric of hate and divisiveness calls for a response from the faith community. While we should not advocate for candidates or political parties, we must advocate for justice, humanitarian treatment of our neighbors, and for safety in our places of worship. We are a diverse nation and until recently that diversity has been seen as a strength. We, in the Church, must stand as moral authorities proclaiming peace and hope, compassion and justice.
Wherever and whenever you have the opportunity to provide wisdom and comfort, inspiration and compassion, I urge you to do so. To be silent is to let evil prevail and we, as people of faith, cannot do that, any more than Jesus could do it in his time and culture. Find a way to bring peace and hope to your faith communities, your communities, our state and our nations.”
-The Rev. Bonnie Bates, Conference Minister, Penn. Northeast Conference UCC
Unfortunately, hate is not limited to the incidents mentioned above. Read these words from Michael Schuenemeyer, the Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy, UCC:
“The soul of our nation hinges on living the values that honor the worth and dignity of every person and the willingness to defend the liberty and justice of all. That is why a New York Times story published on Sunday, October 21st of this year is so disconcerting. The Times reported that a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) memo they obtained that contains information on efforts to narrow the definition of a person’s sex under Title IX to being male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.
There are an estimated 1.4 million transgender and gender non-conforming persons living in the U.S. and about 1.7% of the population (about the same percentage as people with red hair) has differences in development of sex characteristics, also known as intersex. People who are transgender and people who are intersex are our family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors and they deserve the same dignity, respect, and equality under the law as every other American. The United Church of Christ has recognized the inherent dignity of all and we are committed to fighting this and any attempt to marginalize these beloved children of God. Our renderings of scripture and faith oblige us in all times and circumstances to do no other.
Make no mistake, the policies proposed in the HHS memo are a cruel and pernicious attempt to undermine the dignity, worth and rights of transgender and intersex citizens. Even if it is only a trial balloon, it is stigmatizing and demeaning and thereby causes harm to persons of different gender identities and expressions, as well as persons with difference sex characteristics and their families.”
There is much hatred, unchecked privilege, and unexamined bias on display in our country right now. We, as people who proclaim faith in Jesus Christ, are called by God to struggle against these forces of evil. We are called to promote the in-breaking of God’s Love and Realm, here and now. These are potentially overwhelming responsibilities, yet we are also called to trust in God and find hope in the glimmers of God’s Love we witness. Together, we hold one another accountable, as well as support one another.
As we move toward the seasons of thanksgiving and preparation for the birth of Jesus, we must be ever vigilant in living out our faith. In this time and place, that includes daily calls to action in the fight against the evils of bigotry and hatred that have become all too commonplace.
May God have mercy on us all.