Posts Tagged ‘Equality’

The Evolution of Our Discourse

February 1, 2017

It is an evolution of conversation. There was a day in political as well as religious discourse when reaching across divides, finding common ground, give and take, even dare I say, compromise, was the work of those in leadership. We are years, perhaps even decades beyond that notion, it seems an almost fantasy laden idealism now as I look at our culture and society today.

For at least eighteen to twenty years I have been saying our society and culture, be it in the halls of government or the hallowed halls of the church, has devolved into an us versus them attitude. I have been guilty of it as well, my way or the highway mentality. I slip into that frame of mind when I find myself frustrated, overwhelmed, and tired. I have shared on more than one occasion that we are a nation, church, perhaps even world who have an insatiable need to be right and an insatiable need to be right at the expense of someone else. There seems no longer room for civil discussion, committed engagement, and compromise that furthers the common good of all.

I wrote a blog a year ago telling my denomination it is wrong in its treatment of LGBTQ persons. I still believe that. I stand by it with every fiber of my being, informed by my study of scripture, the traditions of the faith, my own experience, and reason… the foundations of my journey of faith! And while I believe this unequivocally I believe there is room for discussion and compromise in ways that build up the church that no longer does violence and harm to the faithful who are LGBTQ.

It is larger than that though. It is an issue and a problem that reaches across the landscape of what I believe to be God’s vision for the world and our corner of it. This notion of the need to be right has evolved into an even deeper ingrained entrenchment of society. It is an all or none scenario, and I would say, arguments that play the, us vs them, in ways that are untenable and unsustainable.

The extreme ends of any issue seem to believe that if they can even find one person that upholds their views it must be true for all and the other is obviously wrong. We no longer consider the middle ground of gray to even be a valid part of the discussion. It seems we have forgotten how difficult engaged and committed citizenship and faith are. It is not an easy thing this “We the People” or as the one of my tradition stated, how very difficult it is to practice “the narrow way.” You have to want this kind of freedom and place in the world badly and to continue with the incivility and bigotry is the easy way out because one does not have take responsibility for their own participation in the problems they can just blame someone else. Perhaps what we all need is a mirror.

I am often drawn to the words of a favorite speech in the movie The American President, when the character Andrew Shepard shares these words,

America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.

One of the reasons I like this quote so much is I hear it applying not only to our political landscape in our country and world, but also to the religious landscape, especially in our own United Methodist Church. Living together as progressive and conservative Christians as well as other religious theologies and ideologies is hard work, “You have to want it bad!” Sharing our passion and commitment to our vision of the world and the church requires the ability and finesse of finding common ground that ensures the common good of ALL concerned, not just the privileged few.

Maybe this writing is preaching to myself, I certainly know I have been guilty, but the question keeps coming back to me and so I will pass it on to those who take time to read, “How long?” How long will we refuse to listen? How long will we continue to make one another the enemy rather than owning we are all in this together? How long will we continue to deny we belong to one another? It takes ALL of us.

Life it too short to deny basic rights, equality, and justice to all of our citizenry, to all of God’s children. Life is too short to unfriend, belittle, attack physically and verbally, life is too short to live in hate and suspicion of the other. These are the reasons I continue to speak, to march, to protest, and to listen.

But if we continue on this path of exclusion, closed doors, closed hearts, closed minds, of either or with no common ground… will devour ourselves. There will be more of these ponderings… this is what is on my mind today.

Peace Be –

Kent

A Time for Silence and a Time to Speak

October 8, 2016

This is one of those blogs, it has been a long time since and a long time coming, that I write for my own peace of mind and therapy. When I find myself wrestling and pondering life, faith, and journey, I write, it is how I process.

I have been relatively silent for some time now regarding many things in our world, nation, and church. Part of that silence has been intentional. A portion of that silence can be attributed to my focusing more on my leadership and work at the church. A portion of that silence is linked to my school work and the need to focus on my academics. And, if I am entirely honest, a good portion of the silence is mental and emotional exhaustion regarding my work, activity, thought, and considering social justice and the state of our world, nation, and church.

The level of discord, hatred, bigotry, injustice, disconnectedness, and division is just overwhelming if one spends time considering all that is going on around us. I am confident I am not alone in this overloaded boat that can seem, at times, to be drifting toward a treacherous waterfall.

I had the incredible gift and opportunity to escape from it all a week ago. TruDee and I drove to Colorado and stayed in the mountains for a week. We spent time driving through the beauty of the changing colors of the Aspen trees. We drove and witnessed the majestic elk in Estes Park and listened to them bugle in the midst of their mating season. We ate too much wonderful food, we napped, read, sat together, and reconnected with dear friends over breakfast and coffee. It was a much needed retreat to reassess, rethink, relax, and renew my sense of direction and purpose. My heart, soul, and mind are full, my cup is full and re-energized.

My time away reaffirmed my commitment to my continued passion for social justice in our political system both civic and religious. As I consider our current political atmosphere I have been pretty much silent in regards to the presidential race, in part for the reasons listed above, but also because of my commitment to separation of church and state. While I believe I am entitled to my opinion regarding politics and party, I do not want to breach that separation should anyone deem I would be supporting a candidate by virtue of my position in the pulpit and church.

All this being said, as a citizen, a pastor, a husband, father, and grandfather of two incredible granddaughters I cannot keep silent any longer. The following pondering, statements, and words are not as a representative of the church I serve, nor is it to be considered as any kind of directive for those I serve. This. Is. Just. Me.

As I have watched the political campaign unfold over the many months it speaks deep to my overwhelmed-ness of thought, spirit, and emotion. Whether it is the instant information age in which we live or whether this has gone on since the beginning of our nation, I know it is both and, it certainly feels more prevalent now to me than any time before. The level of bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, ignorance, bullying, and hatred filling the airwaves, the news sites, and the internet feels like a tsunami of social injustice to one whose passion is working to end injustice in the world.

It was clarified for me today as I lay on a fishing dock listening to a meditation entitled Finding Clarity and Letting Go. This overwhelmed feeling I have been caught in stems from all of the isms, phobias, and vitriol language that has been permeating not only what I read and hear, but the very heart of who and what I am.

In the most recent release of comments made by Donald Trump I find myself angry and enraged at his continued misogynistic posture and these comments that demean women and are in and of themselves assaulting and descriptive of who he is and how he thinks. I would have to say, watching his campaign, unfortunately I was not surprised by what I heard, and it is a pattern we have seen since the beginning of his candidacy. As a husband, brother to a sister, father-in-law, and a grandfather of two granddaughters, the thought of having this person, with these views and practices, as president of our country is beyond me, I simply have no words other than horrified disbelief that it could even be considered.

It became clear to me today this candidate is, in some sense the encapsulation of so much of what is wrong with our country and world, a culmination of all the phobias, isms, bullying, incivility, anger, arrogance, and ignorance, and social injustice of which I long to eradicate in our world. It breaks my heart that there are so many in our country who believe he is the right person for the highest office in our land.

While I identify my disdain for this one, I also call myself into check in terms of my ability to remain engaged in the process and conversation with others. This candidacy also encapsulates what I see as a growing trend in our country both in politics of country and even the church. A trend that is a, my way or the highway mentality. It is a trend that is more concerned with being right than compassionate, it is a trend that has an insatiable need to be right and the other wrong, and to be right at another’s expense.

While I do believe this in the very core of who I am, there are times when I am moved to say simply, “No, you’re wrong,” in this case, “No, Mr. Trump, you’re wrong.” But being wrong or believing one is right does not dismiss one from the work of remaining connected and engaged in the process of bringing about justice and resolution.

Pondering my recent leadership courses in my doctoral work I would say this kind of speaking out and engaging is part of appropriate leadership whether one is working in the halls of government or in the halls of the church. Leadership is always risky, willingness to say the difficult thing, point out the injustice, make decisions and comments that may or may not be popular, but remaining engaged is part of the process. Some will be willing to remain engaged and lead alongside for the common good of all and some will not choosing to isolate and disengage themselves from the ongoing conversation and work.

I know there are those out there who will disagree with me. I know I have friends and family who will disagree with me as well. But I believe it is possible to disagree and still remain respectful and in loving relationship.

Surely our country, our churches, our communities and lives are better than a life and faith driven by hatred, distrust, and fear. Surely we can hear the clarion call of our for-bearers, complete with clay feet of their own and wrong in their own areas and thinking, who put forth the notion that all persons are created equal, regardless of gender, race, orientation or identity, national origin, religion or lack thereof, all persons. We are all in this together and we will either learn to live together as brothers [and sisters], or we will perish together as fools. (Martin Luther King Jr.)

I pray for together. I pray for Mr. Trump. I pray for our country. I pray for all of us. But prayer is not enough, prayer is nothing if it is not a precursor for action. Pray and pray we must, but stand and speak, stand and act, until all are welcome, appreciated, respected, transformed, educated, and loved.

May it be so. May it be soon.

Rev. Kent H. Little

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.

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!

Politics: Disappointment and Fanning the Flame

January 28, 2014

Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. I suspect that is true for a lot of things, it certainly is for me. Though I did not recognize it at the time my high school government teacher somehow planted a seed or a burning ember in my subconscious or my heart and soul around the notion of politics. Ironically I only had one semester of Ms. Davis as the result of receiving an F from the other government teacher in our school which then required me to take two government classes at the same time so I could graduate, thus my joining her class. It’s a long story, you are free to ask me about it sometime but I suspect this blog is going to be long enough without that addition.

As I remember back it was somewhere in my early to mid-twenties I began finding my way back to the library and my reading addiction really began and found itself focused on the life and legacy of John F. Kennedy. I do not know how many books I have read on his life and times, or the number of speeches I have read, I used to have a whole collection of VCR tapes of television programs and purchased documentaries about his life and death.

As TruDee and I became more and more involved in our local church I started lay speaking, filling in for vacationing preachers. Everywhere I went I was invited to consider the ordained ministry. My answer was always an emphatic “Not Interested!” As my journey continued my own pastor would ask me about ministry and he would receive the same response.

At the encouragement of TruDee I decided to begin work on a college degree and started taking some night classes as we could afford them and as I had time. Word got back to my pastor who one day asked, “So, Kent, what are you going to do with your degree when you get it?” I replied, “Well, actually I have considered public service, perhaps even politics.” His response, “Oh, perfect, like I’ve been saying you need to go into the ministry, there is a lot of politics in the church!” Well, the call, college, seminary, ordination and the rest is history!

I have long been interested in, a student of, and an active voice for equality and social justice. I have preached sermons, led studies, counseled, and had perhaps hundreds of conversations on equality, inclusion, welcome, and justice. My position on various social justice and equality perspectives are well known among those who know me, or even know of me.

Recently I have been a part of events that have, I believe, fanned that flame that was planted long ago in an eighteen year old. I was inspired by Tex Sample, a longtime friend and past seminary professor, who spoke of many, me included, and who “know all the positions and none of the moves.” …we’ll leave it at that. I am blessed and fortunate to serve in a loving, welcoming, inclusive, Reconciling United Methodist Congregation here at College Hill in Wichita. I preach from a progressive theological lens and Biblical perspective and we often discuss social issues, equality, and justice for all. I have a supportive community of faith in which to serve and a loving environment to be cared for and encouraged. We are a community of faith committed to justice and equality for the LGBTQ community, justice for the poor and hungry, committed to quality scholarship, dedicated to caring for the environment, and a place where justice and rights for women, children, and all are taken seriously.

Part of the series of recent events that struck me was that, to some degree, when I am in this supportive environment, though not everyone may agree with everything I speak about, and though I try to challenge the community of faith to act on their faith and live it out and do something beyond our walls, I am preaching to the choir. After these recent events and after Tex’s comment, I realized I need to do more. I need to take our voice of inclusion and welcome beyond our walls and take it to another level.

Today I was invited to Topeka to speak to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee in opposition to House Bill number 2453, here is the link http://kslegislature.org/li/b2013_14/measures/hb2453/, in my opinion it is an atrocious bill that is an affront to the concept of Thomas Jefferson’s comments on the First Amendment regarding separation of church and state not to mention an offense to anyone who takes religious freedom seriously. My first thought was, “Whoa, I can’t speak in Topeka!” A little out of my comfort zone. But, I agreed.

I sat in the chamber and listened to the explanation of the bill, I listened to those who supported it, and was able to listen to a few who opposed the bill. The Committee ran over time and it was postponed until tomorrow morning before I was able to speak. I was disappointed.

That being said, I found myself inspired to do more. In some respect I heard more profoundly what Tex as saying to “me.” It is one thing to speak to the ideals of social justice and equality within the church walls where the majority agrees with you, it is another thing entirely to actually “do” something and move that voice to a whole other level!

I listened as some who were speaking saw absolutely no crossing of a boundary of separation of church and state. I listened as some spoke on behalf of “the church” and “Christians,” and “religion” as if there is only one valid perspective and understanding of those terms. I found myself wanting to stand up and say, “No! You are not speaking for “all” of Christendom, you are only speaking for a “part!” In the midst of all of this I realized that I am weary. Weary of the powers that be who would claim to speak for all of us and I have long been frustrated by our media, government, and other venues that seem to only acknowledge and draw input from one particular view and theology as if that is the only one that matters. And I’m sorry, I and many, many others “matter!” And as I sat and listened I heard the voice of Tex tell me, “You know the positions, and it’s time to move! It’s time to act and take it to another level.”

I could taste something here in this chamber that I am not sure I can give up, nor do I want to. That ember was fanned and I was reminded of the prophet Jeremiah when he said, “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

As a result, I believe it is crucial we take our voice beyond these walls of our beloved CHUM and speak it with clarity and conviction in the halls of government whenever we have opportunity. I will be offering my voice to those in Topeka who are fighting the battle and for the cause of equality and justice for all; for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, for the rights of women, for the eradication of hunger and poverty in our State and Nation, for the care of creation and sustainable choices, to ensure the proper funding and education of our children, to address the increasing wage crisis to help raise the working poor out of poverty with a livable wage, a just resolution to our immigration process, and to protect voting rights as well as other social justice issues and the critical need for separation of church and state and the protection of true religious freedom, and freedom across the board.

I realize that my time and voice in Topeka or other places will be limited by my commitment and service to you my beloved community here at College Hill and I would never let my advocacy in Topeka interfere with that calling and service. When I am unable to travel to speak I will submit written statements and letters to our legislators. But an alternative Christian voice that promotes inclusion, non-discrimination, truly religious freedom, and a commitment to separation of church and state is desperately needed! I trust you will help me be our voice not only here in Wichita but across our State and Nation.

Thank you CHUM for who you are and for giving us all voice, I could not do what I do, nor speak what I speak without knowing we stand together. I thank you Tex for your inspiration and guidance. Thank you Ms. Ann Davis for that ember and spark that still burns. Thanks be to God for my call, for the Spirit’s grace, wisdom, and love.

Rev. Kent H. Little

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.