As a Christian, a clergy, as well as a committed voice of support for separation of church and state there can be a fine line of being a prophetic voice in the church, in community, and in the halls of government. It is an important line for me and one of the reasons I have decided to embark on a journey of academia in pursuit of a Doctor of Ministry Degree. The reasoning behind my decision is to better equip myself with tools to create collaboration, conversation, and move not only the church but society in social justice issues regarding race, gender, poverty, sexual orientation, and other areas that are once again in the spot light and threatened by the powers that be.
My interest in politics and the workings of our government began, though did not rise to the service until many years later, when I was a senior in high school in my required government class. A long story short, in the class I was enrolled in I tried to do just the minimum amount of work and found the teacher was true to their word and failed me for that semester. As a result I was required to take a double credit in an additional government class so I would be eligible to graduate. It was that second class and teacher, I would discover years later, that ignited a slow burning ember that would begin to burn brighter as I got older.
I found myself writing letters to the editor, to our state and federal legislators around issues and decisions they were making. Ultimately I found myself taking some night classes to obtain an undergraduate degree with some aspirations of a political career. Another long story short, through the encouragement and inspiration of my local congregation and pastor I felt the call to ministry, to which my pastor said, “Well, you should respond to this call, after all there is a lot of politics in the church.” A true word.
Undergraduate degree, Master’s Degree, and the journey of serving churches that strengthened my resolve regarding social justice and gave me the confidence to continue speaking out on behalf of those who have been oppressed, discriminated against, hated, imprisoned, abused, denied, and excluded have been an invaluable resource and experience for me.
I have found myself fortunate to be serving a progressive United Methodist Church that has a long tradition and passion for encountering the Spirit of the Divine through critical study, active practice, and a commitment to social justice for all.
It is in this environment of such a community of faith that prompted me, at the invitation of a local lobbyist, to travel to Topeka to testify at a committee hearing in opposition to a so-called “Religious Freedom” bill that was designed to make discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered persons as well as anyone else who may disagree with a particular religious belief. While I submitted written testimony I was not able to testify as the hearing ran too long and I was not given the opportunity.
What I learned in that time in the hearing room was the multitude of Christian voices that testified in support of this discriminatory bill and the realization that I was the lone representative of a faith community that would offer a voice of opposition. I sat in the room and wondered, where is the other voice? Where are the voices to speak out against this unjust law from the church? Where is the church’s voice that says this is a matter of social justice and it is wrong?
It was in that moment made the commitment to be as involved as my work allowed, not only within our own church and denomination but in my community, state, and nation to be that voice and encourage others to lift their voice as well.
As committed and passionate as I am about social justice and activism within and outside the church I realized perhaps my passion was not enough. I needed more tools to facilitate and give my passion more focus through research, statistics, resources, collaboration, and conversation across the spectrum of political stance and theological understanding. Thus is my journey back into academia to resource myself so that I might be better informed and more knowledgeable about that which fuels my passion for ministry and social change.
I have begun my reading and will start my class work on campus in seminary this coming June. I plan to journal here on my blog periodically to share not only new understandings but also my work in the church, community, and the halls of government, that hopefully will give others the inspiration to speak up and move our world into a more just, compassionate, and humble society in which Kindom really is a reality here among us, for ALL.
Thoughts, prayers, positive energy, and input and comment always welcome. Until next time, here I am, here I stand, and here we go!
Peace and Light on Our Journey!
Tags: All God's Children, change, civil rights, civility, Discrimination, DOMA, Equality, LGBTQ, politics, Poverty, Progressive Christianity, Progressive Theology, Religion, Separation of Church and State, Social Justice, Women's Healthcare