Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’

The Bending Arc

January 15, 2016

I received an email from a friend asking if I would be willing to come to Topeka to speak in favor of a bill being presented to a House Committee. Several years ago I committed, with the support of our church, to bring an alternative and additional voice of the faith to pertinent legislation and action. I agreed to come, wrote a written testimony, forwarded it and planned to make the drive Thursday afternoon.

 
I sat in the committee room as another bill was discussed and then HB2323 was presented. In essence it is a bill that adds “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, to protect the rights of our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender brothers and sisters. This amending language provides for safety, access, equality, and employment protection for those who at current time can be discriminated against, simply because of who they are.

 
I was one of five who spoke in favor of the amending language. I will include my complete testimony either as an attachment to this blog or as an additional page. As I believe this was not a religious issue, and even though I am a leader in the faith, I focused on the fact that our founders, both national and state, grounded our governance on equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one, none of us, should live under threat of discrimination and loss of livelihood, happiness, based simply on who we all are as children of the Creator.

 
There were an equal number of persons scheduled to speak in opposition to the bill. The testimonies quickly took a religious freedom bent even though this issue, this bill, this amending language has nothing to do with religion.

 
One Representative suggested that a clergy person could be compelled to hire or not a LGBT person, the one giving testimony concurred. A false statement. An attorney representing a Christian organization, when asked if a pastor could be compelled to perform a same gender marriage against his/her belief answered, “Yes.” An attorney! A lie. I was pleased when one Representative finally held her accountable, or at least tried to. As I sat and listened to misrepresentation of the LGBT community, misinformation, bigotry, prejudice, and blatant untruth being shared as if it were logical, rational, and just I literally finally had to get up and leave the room as I was having a difficult time remaining silent.

 
As I sat in my chair listening and struggling to find some sense in what was going on, the words from Martin Luther King Jr. came to mind. I suppose on one level or another it was because he has been on my mind as we move toward the day we honor his legacy and dream, but as I watched this unfold I could hear his voice, in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,”

 
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” ~ MLKJr.

 
I realize, over the years as I watch the political process I have suspected this, witnessed it from afar, experienced it myself, but somehow it was always rather subtle, in a way that made me want to say, “Really?” But it just never struck me deeply or at any kind of profoundly disturbing level.

 
I heard MLKJr’s voice today, witnessed his prophetic witness come to be, a religion that has become the tool of the state and a state that has become the tool of religion. Religious and political tools of fear, distrust, bigotry, discrimination, and misinformation designed to control and silence those who raised an alternative voice, all masked in the language of religious freedom. I saw it up close and personal, it lingered in the air we breathed, it was so thick in the room I could reach out and touch it.

 
This night as I reflect, and am more deeply disturbed and troubled as I have ever been as I watch, not only on our state level, but the national stage as well, a religious form that is defined by fear mongering, discrimination, hatred, suspicion, a religious form that is defined by who it can exclude and shut out rather than a nation founded on freedom for all, and a religious expression grounded in the unconditional love and grace of the Creator.

 
However, while in this present moment I am discouraged and heavy of heart I know, I know of other words that guide my thoughts this weekend. I know of those words spoken from the steps of the State Capital in Montgomery, Alabama, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

 
I suspect it will continue to be a long time coming, the kind of peaceable and just world we long for because the arc is long. Patience can be hard to come by, because the arc is long. Justice rolling like a river and righteousness like an ever flowing stream may be a distant horizon, because the arc is long. A world without fear, dishonesty, and discrimination may have lost the day today, because the arc is long.

 
But it bends toward justice. There is a light that shines in the distance, I may not ever bathe in its light, but I will not be dissuaded. The journey toward that light is our task, so that those who come behind us will know we were a part of why it shines, when it finally immerses us in the warmth of justice, compassion, welcome, and love. One day, one day my friends. Keep on. Keep on. For our way may be long, but it is the way to justice. And on that day, we will all say, Love Won, it always wins.

 
Tomorrow is a new day. The light will shine. The work will be done. And love will dawn.

 
Kent

Advertisements

Where Are You?

October 15, 2015

I walked away from the meeting feeling as good as I have in a long time. My friend asked me, “So, this journey you have been on, how are you, where are you?” I had to pause for a moment before I responded. Over the many months, and to a large degree over the past several weeks I have been on what I consider an inward journey; inward into my past, my future, and finally my present.

There is so much to consider about what I, what we, experience in the past that shapes and molds who we become in positive and negative ways. And to come to the realization that just a blip on the screen of one’s life can effect so much, can open one’s eyes to a clarity and vision that grounds one in who, whose, what, and why they are.

There is so much in our world that can seem so broken. So much to worry about, fight against, stand up to, and speak out against. It is often difficult, I think, in our current reality to get to the important, deeper, and more life giving issues than in this soundbite world we live in.

There is so much attention focused on “what is in it for me” rather than making this world a better place in which to live for “all” of us. Depending on what side of the political and or religious fence one is on determines where we stand on so many issues, but really not “issues,” we are affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

Prepare here for personal, religious, political perspective rant. Too many lives and livelihoods are threatened in our country, in our world today.

The lives and livelihoods of persons, female persons, who want to access quality healthcare, prescriptions, abortion care, care that should be provided and decided between them and their doctors, and in clinics that shouldn’t subjected to false accusations and edited videos, government should not be making these decisions for women and their doctors.

The lives and livelihoods of parents and children who want a more safe and sane world, more safe and sane educational experiences, without having to worry about whether some unlicensed, untrained, unregistered individual is going to walk into the room with a gun with intent to do harm.

The lives and livelihoods of immigrants and their children and whether they are going to have a chance at education, food, medical care, and the opportunity to become citizens without the fear of deportation and inhumane treatment.

The lives and livelihoods of young black men and women, parents and children alike, who have to worry about being targeted and profiled unjustly putting their lives and livelihoods at risk.

The lives and livelihoods of the poor, middle class, working poor whose incomes and resources are continued to be mocked and swallowed up by the greedy and those who lack compassion.

The lives and livelihoods of those religious who simply want to practice their faith in peace but are besieged by protest, threat, suspicion, lies, and bigotry in a nation founded on freedom of religion.

The lives and livelihoods of those who simply want to embrace the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us, marry the ones they love, buy their houses, file their taxes, care for one another and visit one another when they are sick, and share the same protections under the law that my wife and I have.

The lives and livelihoods of all of us, when science is ignored and denied while glaciers melt, anomaly weather patterns create floods, droughts, and super storms that threaten life as we know it.

There is so very much wrong in our world, in our country, in our government, in our churches today. And I believe we are charged with the continued work of trying to make it a better place, for all of us, all of us.

All of this being said, I had a bit of a revelation along this journey I have been on over the last many months and last few weeks. Life is too short. Life is too short to get bogged down in what is wrong with the world. Life is too short to get caught up in a soundbite world that is more interested in shallow fear of the other, fear of new things, than it is in the weightier matters of the common good for all. Life is too short to focus on sensationalized headlines rather than substantive information and education. Whether it be in the halls of government or the sanctuaries of the church, life is too short to bicker about who is in and who is out, who is worthy and who is not, what I want to your exclusion, or who deserves and who is undeserving. Life is too short not to embrace the world, the whole of it and tell it, “I love you, and deep down inside … you are good; Good I Tell You!

With all of this preceding pondering, I can say I walked away from my meeting as good as I have been in a long time. “Where are you?” he asked. “I’m right here.” I replied. “Right here, in as good a place as I have been for a long time, here in this moment.” Life is too short to let the past continue to obscure and blur my vision. Life is too short to worry about the future. Life is too short to live anywhere but right here, in this moment.

My calling by the Spirit of the Divine as a politically active pastor, clergy, advocate, voice, thorn in the side, and nervous prophet is no less important to me, I would venture to say it is now even more so now. My encounters with the Divine contine to bring me peace, nurture, and connection. My calling is within and outside the halls of the church. Within to continue to challenge the status quo, to continue to look for where God is doing a new thing. My studies, I pray, will bring new revelations and understandings of what it means to follow The Way. Progressive and compassionate theologies grounded in love of God, neighbor, and self, not focused on fear and sacrifice. And that Spirit calls me to be a voice, presence, and advocate of social justice not only within the church but in the halls of government as well. Our Gospel is a Social Gospel and without the Social Gospel there is no Gospel at all.

I still intend on changing the world, even if it is just my little corner of it, moment by ticking moment. My renewed vision of the present moment has clarified for me my vision of the task that lies before me. Life is too short to sit idly by and watch as injustice after injustice diminishes and belittles the lives and livelihoods of too many women, men, and children.

I am no longer governed by fear, but am led and guided by, immersed in the love of the Divine, a love that I believe we are all immersed and connected within. This love of God is a love from which nothing, no thing, not one thing, can ever separate any of us … in each eternal moment, we are loved, period! I am here, right here, and present in as good a place as I have been for a long time. I am not going away or shrinking back, the moment before us is huge, but we will persevere, we will see the day, when Love will, Love does, when Love Wins!

Just a long process of pondering along the Journey of the Way… the Way of Light, Life, and Love.

Kent.

Living Together

July 6, 2015

Simeon and Mozart, for the most part are good buddies. They wrestle and play together primarily in the backyard but now and then get started in the house and have to be invited outside. They can be found hanging out together side by side on the living room floor or sitting shoulder to should on the deck keeping watch. Every now and then though, and it tends to happen around the presence of some kind of edible thing, they get into it. They fight, and I mean really fight. They have been known more than once to even draw blood before I can get them separated. It is bound to happen I suppose, to some degree they are a bit like our human children, well hopefully with the exception of drawing blood, they can get along really well and then something sets one of them off and here we go!

I suppose on one level or another humankind tends to reflect that nature as well. Though it is always my hope and prayer we can find a way to rise above such things. What started this whole reflection was my presence at Phillips Theological Seminary the past two weeks. I have begun a journey into doctoral work and I found the first on campus session challenging, refreshing, and energizing. The program focus of my studies will be Collaborating for Change, a program designed to enhance leadership, study, preaching, and bringing a wide diversity of thought and position to the table, so to speak, to bring about just and compassionate social change.

We were there when the recent Supreme Court decisions were released and they caused much cheering, discussion, and reflection among us. It was heartening to be in a religious setting with various Christian denominations and find celebration and solidarity among other colleagues and new friends.

Of course it did not take long before the media began covering the decisions and hearing not only affirming commentary but dissenting views as well. I remember thinking, as it seems I too often do in recent years, how sad it is that we cannot disagree without being civil and respectful of one another. There is a broad range of disagreement on the decisions and so many other things. Everything from religious freedom being attacked, to the destruction of marriage, to the notion that God is going to rain wrath, vengeance, and destruction down on the U.S.A., as if slavery, racism, and the genocide of native peoples were not good enough cause for righteous destruction but somehow health care for all and civil rights for same-gender couples is.

A question was asked of us as we prepared to leave the last day of class in response to a video we had watched by Jim Wallis, “What questions are tearing your heart apart now?” The question is a challenging one. Challenging because though I have numerous things I could site in regards to an answer, how does one journey down to the core of what underlies all of those responses?

In thinking about answers, at least at this point of my journey, at the core of all that I see as broken in our world and especially in our country, is the need to find the other as less than. From the very beginnings of our country there have been those we have persecuted, denied rights, slaughtered, driven from their land, put on reservations or in internment camps, written out of equal protection under the law, and legislated discrimination against. And as time and history goes on it is apparent that many if not most of these efforts to identify the other is not just an individual injustice but built into the very systems of our government, society, and culture.

In Jim Wallis’ video he made a statement that resonated with this thought, “We can’t just keep pulling bodies out of the river without sending someone upstream to find out who is throwing them in.” Or perhaps to be specific about a current issue, We can’t just keep pulling down confederate flags, we have to find out why our system supports a racist symbol. Or perhaps, It’s not enough to just keep saying, ‘We don’t hate LGBTQ persons,’ we have to find out what it is about us as individuals, as a society, and culture that continues to belittle and see our brothers and sisters as less than.

I wish Simeon and Mozart would be as passionate and energized about resolving conflict as they are at proving which one is the boss. They will continue to do well together and they will continue to fight and do damage now and then. That’s their nature. But I do not believe we as human kind are bound by such instincts, we can rise above the vitriol language and hate, if we will work hard enough together to make it so.

Those are the things right now that tear at my heart. I am not oblivious of the fact that with 322,583,006 people in the U.S. we are not always going to agree, but somehow must learn to live as if all really are created equal. Somehow we must not only quote, but believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s immortal words, “We must learn to live together and brothers and sisters, or perish together as fools.” Somehow we must find a way to live out that call of the Spirit to practice what we preach and create a world of Justice, Kindness, and Humility, even when we disagree.

May that day hasten to be. May it be so. May it be soon!
Pastor Kent

Bigger than the Supreme Court

June 27, 2015

I have been considering and pondering all that has happened over this past week and am compelled once again to put my ponderings in writing. The final decision released this past week was on a challenge regarding same gender marriage bans. The Supreme Court of the United States found in favor of same gender marriage in all states across our great nation by a five to four vote.

It is important to remember in the context of religious thought and communities of faith in our nation that freedom of religion has not been threatened by this decision. There is nothing that happened within the walls, doctrines, and disciplines of the church that affects us. Those communities of faith and clergy who wish to affirm and participate in marriage ceremonies will continue to have that ability and those who do not will continue to have the ability to refrain, religious freedom has not in any way been threatened by the courts.

This decision was a civil rights decision based on our Constitution which does not consider the religious persuasion of its citizens but rather equality in the eyes of the law. I appreciated Justice Kennedy’s closing of the decision,

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

This decision is about basic civil and human rights and it is the right decision under the laws of our Constitution and our great nation.

While this is a huge step toward a more free society and culture and a much needed one, not to mention constitutional, this move is bigger than the Supreme Court. For me, as a leader in the church it is about social change, cultural evolution, and social justice. This decision for the church is not only bigger than the supreme court it is bigger than marriage.

While in my own United Methodist Denomination my ability to be in ministry to all of God’s children continues to be undermined by my own Disciplinary rules, I continue to stand within its bounds and work for change. This decision of the court causes my heart and soul to rejoice with gratitude for our system of government as well as gratitude to God. I believe this is participating with what the Spirit is already about in our midst. It saddens me that our civil law and government seem to be more in tune with what and where the Spirit is about among us than in my own church.

This decision is bigger than the Supreme Court because it affirms that hope that was already in place, that hope that was already being lived out among those who simply longed for the same rights as I have as a heterosexual of privilege and standing in culture and the church. It is bigger than the Court because it speaks to the will of the people, it speaks to an ever increasing awareness of justice and right, it looks to the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and states that although that “arc of the moral universe is [still] long, it [continues] to bend toward justice.” Thanks be to God.

As I consider the ruling it occurs to me that the decision is not only bigger than the Supreme Court, it is bigger than marriage in and of itself. Granted it allows the same rights and privileges under the law for any and all married persons now, and for that I rejoice with all my friends and family who have longed for this day! But I also think of my LGBTQ friends and family who are single and who may or may not choose to enter into a marriage relationship. This decision, while it revolves around the rights of those who wish to proclaim and have their marriage recognized, it also honors and empowers those who chose to remain outside of a married relationship. This decision also honors and affirms who they are with the same civil rights and access under the law I had prior to my own marriage.

This past week was an incredible week of justice and freedom for all on so many levels; the ACA affirmed once again and millions continue to have access to health care for which they may not have been eligible before, here in Kansas a court stating our legislature’s school funding was unconstitutional and hopefully requiring them to provide adequate funding for our public schools, recognition that the Confederate Flag is a too long standing symbol of racism and hate, and of course the decision Friday affirming same gender marriage across our great land! We should celebrate and relish the joy and victory.

I would caution us though, on two different levels. One is that now we have celebrated let us not become complacent in thinking the work is complete. We do not have to look far in our journey of history to know the law of the land does not change the condition of the heart. The Civil War ended in 1865, the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964, and just a few days ago nine innocent people were killed in cold blood for no other reason than the color of their skin.

We don’t have to look far in our journey of history to know the rights of women were well settled in law years ago, and today are still seen by too many as somehow inferior, not worthy of an equal wage, or incapable of making their own healthcare choices.

We don’t have to look too far in our journey of history to recognize the dangers of violence and the use of weapons designed for nothing but death, institutions and care designed to help those with mental illness, and too easily accessed firearms and cuts to healthcare to know Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and too many others have stained our history and lives.

We have to acknowledge our place in history that says in this moment, we are in a state of incivility in a supposed civilized nation. We have to make a change.

Our work is not done until not only the law of the land continues to evolve toward justice, compassion, and peace, but our hearts must be transformed as well, the heart and soul of our country, our society, our communities, and ourselves as individuals. Our work is not done, vigilance is required, action is needed, and silence is still not an option. Racism, sexism, gun violence, fear of the other, bigotry, and hate are a cancer on our country and world and the only cure is justice, compassion, and civility, the only cure is love.

Finally, there are a lot of people, friends, family, a lot of God’s children just like us who are hurting and struggling with this cultural shift, and it would not bode well of us to gloat and be haughty in our success. I would say, as tempting as it may be, even toward those who have been hateful toward us. For in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, ““Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” We as a community of faith are called to grace, to live into and live out the gospel of love for all. So let us continue the work of justice, and of kindness, and of humility as we work alongside the Spirit of God in bringing the kindom here, on earth.

In closing I will share a prayer I learned this week as best I can remember it,

“Go with God. Go in Peace. Wage a little peace. Love one another…ever single other.”

May it be so. May it be soon.

Peace and Light – Kent

Supreme Court Decision Same Gender Marriage, Letter to the Editor October 8, 2014

October 8, 2014

I applaud the decision of the Supreme Court to deny gay marriage appeals, though as of Wednesday of this week it appears the struggle is far from over. As a person of the Christian faith I hope one day rights and privileges afforded me and my spouse will one day be granted to all LGBTQ persons as well.

Though there are religious communities who do not embrace full inclusion of LGBTQ persons and same gender relationships and marriage, which is within their freedom of religious rights, there are growing number of us, the community I serve included, who are in full support of equality in our communities of faith.

But this is not just a religious matter, some say it is a state’s rights issue. Same gender marriage is an issue of rights, however, a state does not have the right to discriminate against a couple simply because of their orientation. When a state passes a law that is unjust, discriminatory, and not in keeping with our constitution the Federal Government should step in and provide for civil and equal rights under the law.

I look forward to the day soon when the law banning same gender marriage is overturned here in the great State of Kansas and civil and legal rights are restored to those who have been denied and discriminated against. May it be soon.

Rev. Kent H. Little, Senior Pastor
College Hill United Methodist Church

An Open Letter to My Granddaughter on the Occasion of Her Birth

September 15, 2014

Dear Kadee,
It is now near a day and a half since you were born and I am struggling to find the words to write and say. I am a bit speechless and yet one day you will know as with any preacher that does not last long. I am sitting alone in the dining room of our home with a cup of coffee with only my thoughts and a picture of you before me on the table, as your Grammy is already with you. I have yet to hold you but I can already sense your warm smooth skin, your sweet fragrance, and the softness of the new born hair on your head. I already know you are the most beautiful and loved baby there is, that is Poppie talk and you’ll need to get used to it as will anyone else who happens to overhear.

This morning as I ponder the world into which you have been born I want to share some thoughts, wisdom, and other comments with you within this first letter. Our world is filled with a lot of scary things. There are wars being fought over religion and territory. There are people who claim to speak for God who commit atrocities against their fellow humankind without thought or remorse. There are people in our own country who want to retaliate in a kind of eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth mentality that only perpetuates more war and violence.

There are people in our own country, in our own government, even in our churches who would do violence to another, discriminate against them, call others names, and deny them legal, civil, and human rights for no other reason than for who they love, the color of their skin, the state of their finances, the religion they practice or lack thereof, and Kadee, in the world we live in today there are those who would deny you rights and privileges and freedoms simply because you were born a little girl.

Dearest Kadee, I know you cannot read this yet, I hope someday you do and it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I hope you read this when you are a young woman and say, “Poppie, really? People used to do those things to others? That is so sad and I’m glad it is not that way any longer.” I do not write these words to scare you; I would never do such a thing. I write these words to apologize. I am sorry. I am sorry we are not able to welcome you into a world in which equality and justice for all are the rule of the day. I am sorry we who have come before you continue to screw things up so badly for those who would come after us. It is not fair, but please do not be afraid.

I write this note to you on a cool September morning as the sun begins to break over the eastern horizon. This letter to you is a hope-filled promise and reassurance. As the days carry on I want you to know for all the scary stuff that is out there it is still a good world. This is a beautiful world filled with the very Presence of God, with grace and love and music and harmony, it is just that sometimes it takes a little extra effort to find it and embrace it.

There are still those who believe and fight for equality and justice and right. There are still those out there who know what it is to love unconditionally and strive to make this world a better place. I want you to know Kadee I try to be one of those persons and as of September 13th I have one more very special reason to continue the fight and promise to you to do my best to leave this world a little better than I found it, not only for you and for all those who are like you and just beginning.

Kadee, you have been born to incredible, grace-filled, loving parents, your mom and dad will immerse you in the very unconditional love of the Spirit. You will be surrounded by so many family and friends who will love you unconditionally, of that I have no doubt! That love, I pray, will nurture you into whatever kind of dreams you are able to dream, into whatever kind of magnificent woman you choose to be. But I get ahead of myself and now I am dreaming of what might be rather than what is and who you are in this moment.

I’m going to close now, precious little one, and get on with my day looking forward to that moment this afternoon when I can wrap you in my own arms, kiss your face, and hear you breathe and coo. Your Poppie will always love you, always, no matter what and there is nothing you can do about it.

One additional note Kadee, I am publishing this note to you in our church newsletter and on my blog because not only do I hope all these things for you, but I pray every day all of us, the church, our society and culture, universally will one day embrace such a world where justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream, a world where love and justice for all is the rule rather than the exception, a world where all means all. May it be so. May it be soon.

May you always have Peace and Light for your Journey,

Poppie

Full Statement at Equality Rally Topeka February 25, 2014

February 27, 2014

I edited the length of this statement on the fly Tuesday wanting to make sure I kept it brief because it was VERY cold and did not want to over stay my welcome, this is the full statement I had written and the core of the message was retained. I was very honored to have been invited to be a part of this important event.

              I have a confession.  I am straight, I am a person of faith, and I am a citizen. That may not be particularly astonishing news, though it may be to those who occupy this rotunda behind me that I am all of these things and find HB2453 an offense to my citizenship, to all of you, and to my deeply held religious beliefs!

              I am glad to see HB 2453 stalled by Senator Wagle and the hopes for passage seen as dim based on pressure from the business community and the possible negative economic impact it would have. That being said, it is unfortunate and unjust that the discriminatory abuse and damage it would do to real people, with real lives, for no other reason than who they love, was not the primary reason for the Bill’s controversy and stalling by the Senate President.

              As I read the bill I see no way to compromise or rework the bill that will not result in discrimination against citizens in our State, and in particular in its current form, discrimination against same gender couples, not to mention the broad scope of ambiguous language used that opens the door for all kinds of “religious” objections to marriages. To those who say this bill is not promoting discrimination, I would say, you are at best are too biased toward the subject and the Bill to be objective or and at worse you are simply disingenuous.

            When I look to this bill as an actual “religious” protection from my own Christian tradition, Jesus was only critical and condemning of the oppressive civil government of his day and the oppressive actions of some of the religious leaders of his day. Other than that he welcomed into his presence “All,” he certainly did not send anyone away because of his “deeply held religious beliefs.”
           

             Personally I do not believe HB2453 is dead yet and that is why we must remain ever alert to the goings on here in our state and national government. This “bill,” whether in its current form or some amended form thereof, is not a “religious freedom” bill at all and it breaches any sense of separation of state set forth in our Constitution and the writings of Thomas Jefferson. This bill is a “discrimination” bill cloaked in religious language in order to appeal to certain theological based persons in our state.

            I would implore us to not respond and react in kind to those who would discriminate against and oppress our friends, family, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, nieces and nephews I would encourage us to overcome them with love. Love is a powerful force, love is what has brought you here to this place, and it has the power to transform our land into a land of equality and justice for all, where ALL MEANS ALL, is the rule and not the exception.

            I want you to take a second and look around you, really look at the person/persons next to you, how many are here? The day is coming, and I believe it is not far off, when love will be celebrated for all regardless of gender, a day when love is love.  The day is coming when moms and moms, dads and dads, and moms and dads will tell their children of this day and more to come. We are not there yet, obviously, the road will not be easy, the resistance will be strong, and when it is difficult to put one foot in front of the other, and the days are long and the nights are longer, when your knees feel weak, your arms are weary, and your voice raspy and tired of crying out, you remember this sight, your remember why we rally, you remember all these persons with you here in this place and around the world who stand by your side, you remember the equality and justice for which we stand. We may not change the hearts of souls of everyone, but if our standing and speaking up help others to stand and speak up then this rally is worth the time! And when you stand and speak know, you are not alone. You are NOT ALONE!  Thank you … Peace and Light for Our Journey!

How Long?

May 6, 2013

A good friend of mine asked me a very pertinent question the other day regarding our United Methodist Church in the wake of another one of our prophets facing charges for presiding at the wedding of his son and his partner, “When will UMC leadership finally “get” that this issue is about civil rights? How many more good pastors will have to be sacrificed on the altar of the Judicial Counsel before the Book of Discipline is changed?”

It is a good question. It is a question that I have myself asked as I read the reports from our last General Conference. It is a question I ask myself again as the news spreads across our denomination and our country. It is a question that brings me to echo the Psalmist cry, “How long O Lord?” How long will we continue to exclude and reject some of God’s children because of our clinging to what I believe to be antiquated understandings and continued bigotry?

I read so many publications, leadership articles and books, blogs and ponderings and hear us asking, “Where are the young people in our churches,” and we wonder why our churches are declining. I believe a significant part of the answer is in two parts. One is our own conflicted nature in our Disciplinary language, we say all persons are welcome to participate in our church and are of sacred worth to God….except if you happen to be gay, lesbian, trans-gendered, or bi-sexual, if you are a part of those children of God you can only participate partially.

For most young people I visit with, the idea that the church continues to say we support equal civil and human rights for the GLBT community, and then proceed to deny them equal rights in the church is at best double speak and at worse hypocrisy. Why would they want to be a part of our church when we cannot even agree to disagree, when we say come to our church but you will only be allowed to sit in the pew and listen, we don’t want you to lead, to be married, or to preside at table and follow your God given call into ordained ministry?

How long will it take? I don’t know. Will it split our church? I do not believe it will split our church any more than it already has. I do not believe that because I believe this is not an either or conversation. In my opinion the United Methodist Church will finally come to its senses and remove the restrictive and unjust language of its Discipline regarding same gender relations, or it will die. Do we really believe we can continue to invite disciples in order to transform the world and invite our GLBT members be satisfied with only partial inclusion or to be asked to leave altogether? Is that what we really want? I know it certainly is not in my image and vision of the Kindom of the God of Love.

This is a human rights issue. This is a civil rights issue. This is a justice issue. That is why I continue the fight and run the race; I love my church too much to let it die. But I must admit as I read these stories I believe as long as we continue to cling to the letter of the law and disregard its Spirit, compassion, inclusion, grace, and love I am pessimistic at best. So I will remain steadfast at the side of my gay and lesbian friends and community until the day they are welcome on both sides of God’s table. Because until that day we are none of us really fully welcome.

I Support Marriage Equality, Civil, and Human Rights

March 26, 2013

Comments Shared at the “Light the Way to Justice Event” here in Wichita.

I think it important to be clear that although I am a clergy person here in Wichita and my particular viewpoint and theological perspective informs and shapes my commitment to stand in opposition to Prop 8 and DOMA, and I do pray the Supreme Court vacate these amendments, I am not speaking of religious doctrine, dogma, or influence.
My religious beliefs and theological perspective fuels my stance for marriage equality and equal rights under the law. That being said, I believe too many times religion is the problem. Although I can never fully remove the hat of my calling and vocation, I speak here to the issue of civil law and injustice, and in particular the two cases that will be heard by the Supreme Court today and Wednesday. I believe these and others are perpetuated by religious intolerance and lack of understanding. Citing a blog by the Rev. Vicki Flippin, serving at The Church of the Village New York City, “our religious institutions have been used to push discriminatory laws that dishonor loving and committed relationships and have been on the front lines of denying rights to couples just because of their gender make-up.”

So, while I may hold to a particular religious viewpoint of justice and equality, these laws and their arguments should not be about religion or even politics, these unjust laws are about denying basic civil and human rights and should be overturned and denied. I concur with John F. Kennedy when he stated, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

All of us, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexual, and straight will continue to shine the light of understanding and perseverance, we will not be moved nor shall we rest until we all have equal access to basic privileges, benefits, opportunities, and rights; for until all are equal and free under the law, none are free. My lesbian, gay, transgendered, and bisexual brothers and sisters should have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and love, with the right to marry the love of their lives as do I, without interference from government or religion. May it be so and may it be now!

Our President and DOMA

June 4, 2012

Recent statements by our President and rulings by our courts has created once again a firestorm of commentary, statements of support as well as condemnation, and within the church across denominational lines sermons preached and blogs written.

The first lately was President Obama’s statement in support of same gender marriage. It took a lot of courage for him to make a potentially fatal political move like that. Though I have not agreed with every decision he has made in his Presidency, as if I do with any of our politicians, I find him to be genuine and willing to do the right thing at times even at the risk of his political aspirations. Whether his statement of support will continue to gain any traction and affect change in our country regarding the civil rights of our gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered family and friends is yet to be seen. I commend President Obama and thank him for his willingness to take a stand.

The second recent incident was in relation to The Defense of Marriage Act ruled unconstitutional by a Boston Federal Appeals Court. This was another courageous move by the legal system in our country to address injustice for those who long for the same rights and privileges enjoyed by heterosexuals in our country. The language of “defending marriage” has long been of concern to me as I try and figure out what the government and others are trying to defend marriage from? With the current rate of divorce and abuse among heterosexual marriages it would seem to me we would welcome two consenting, committed, mutual, loving adults who want to live in a married relationship.

Currently our own denomination, the United Methodist Church, does not support same gender marriage nor am I allowed to officiate at a ceremony celebrating such joy and love even among our own members. I continue to work toward the day when love will be celebrated in our church whether it is between two opposite gender persons or two same gender persons. May that day hasten on.

It saddens me that so many have turned this into an opportunity to go on the attack, especially in the church. One preacher suggests we round up all the homosexuals and put them in a fence until they all die off. Another preacher here in Kansas suggests we encourage the government to kill them. To hear these words come out of churches is horrendous, disgusting, and not church or Christ worthy. These words of hate do not come from the Spirit of the gospel of Christ nor do they come from “the church.” They are wrong and pollute the image of Christ and the church.

As for me, I believe we must continue to be persistent in the message of welcome, inclusion, grace, and love. These are the fruits of the Spirit, these are what it means to be church, a community of faith. There are signs of hope, but change does not come without its risks and struggles. The wheels of change grind slowly and there are days when I think they have ground on long enough and it is time to throw up my hands and toss in the towel, but I am reminded by the words of Martin Luther King Jr. I keep near here in my office that reminds me to persevere.

“I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, because you will reap what you sow. How long? Not long, because the arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

May the journey be hopeful, may the light be bright, may our voice never fade, and may justice never tarry.
Peace and Light for Your Journey. ~ Pastor Kent