By Daniel Colbert
By eight am Tuesday, I had already seen a Lutheran pastor dancing with a Wiccan priestess to an African-American gospel song, so nothing the Justices of the Supreme Court could say at oral arguments could possibly surprise me. Before the Court’s historic hearings on two same-sex marriage laws, an interfaith coalition supporting marriage equality came together at a church on Capitol Hill to pray, sing and witness to God’s love for all people.
Clergy from a number of faith traditions, including Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, and our conference’s own Rev. Mary Kay Totty, offered heartfelt prayers for justice and repentance. Rev. J. Bennett Guess’s reinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 13 was particularly moving, and I encourage you to read it.
But the part of the day I will always remember came after the service. I was a half block away when the front of our procession turned the corner onto First Street to join the marriage equality rally in front of the courthouse. Still, I could hear the cheer from the gay and lesbian crowd as they saw a group of clergy coming not to condemn them, but to stand with them.
People sometimes ask why I work for LGBT inclusion in the church. Why not just organize politically to try to change the law and leave church doctrine alone? Wouldn’t that be easier?
There are two reasons I can’t do that. The first is merely pragmatic: I don’t see things improving for LGBT people in our culture until things improve for them in the church.
But the second reason is more fundamental. For the way it has treated LGBT people in the past, I believe the church needs to do penance (myself first and foremost). And those of us in the church who believe that Christ’s message is not about exclusion and hatred but about abundance and love have a duty to be louder than those who have used His gospel to hurt. It’s the only way to set the record straight.
We walked into that crowd singing “This Little Light of Mine”, unashamed to proclaim God’s limitless love. We had arrived before the main group of anti-equality protestors. The gay and lesbian couples demanding justice in front of the courthouse would hear a lot of hate and abuse on God’s behalf that day. But the first message they heard from people of faith was that they are beloved children of God. Good news, indeed.
(Photo: Supporters of Believe Out Loud show their love of God and neighbor outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.)
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