Article of Faith: Keeping the faith after outcomes of ballot measures impacting LGBT people

November 10, 2008

Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator
(Office) 646.358.1479
(Cell) 787.602.5954

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 — Members of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, reflect on the outcome of key contests impacting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people nationwide. What follows is an Article of Faith calling on LGBT people to keep the faith in the midst of the election outcomes.

Article of Faith
by the Rev. Ruth Garwood and the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer
National Religious Leadership Roundtable

We have come through a historic election and many of us were involved in important ways, working for the issues that we care about. Regardless of how one feels about the presidential results, the votes on ballot measures addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) concerns were disappointing. While these ballot measures were only in a handful of states, the results affect us all. We write to express our solidarity, the assurance that we are not alone, acknowledge the significant progress made in spite of the results, and the good news of God’s presence with us, especially as we seek to move forward from this place. 

First and foremost, we praise God and lift up with deep gratitude all who gave so much to the cause of equality and justice in this election as volunteers or staff to campaigns, with donations and through their prayers. Thank you!

We witnessed an unprecedented effort to defeat a discriminatory constitutional amendment, Proposition 8, in California. People of faith provided significant leadership and support to this effort, joining with others to raise millions of dollars and log thousands of volunteer hours in phone banks, canvassing neighborhoods and getting out the vote. Similar efforts were waged to defeat ballot measures in Arizona and Florida, as well as to defeat an anti-gay measure in Arkansas affecting adoption rights. During many of these campaigns, we once again endured an onslaught of homophobic lies and deceit that demeaned our lives, and devalued our relationships and families in order to enshrine bigotry into the core documents of more state governments.

How could we not be disappointed and angry? How could we not carry a deep sense of righteous indignation at this injustice? The votes on our lives and our equality are unfair, unjust and wrong. They violate the core promise of our faith to treat others as we want to be treated.

Martin Luther King Jr. said that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann adds, “The moral arc of the gospel bends toward inclusion.” The testament of the open and affirming movement within the United Church of Christ and beyond is that we are making progress, mostly in small steps and sometimes in leaps and bounds. Although the progress of equality and justice may have been slowed, we continue forward. 

Even in disappointment, there are many things about which we can be proud and hopeful. The election results may not feel like progress now, but we must continue to learn and grow from all of our efforts, the relationships that have been built and the amazing organizing networks that have been created. 

Let us be present to each other, especially now, as we cope with these disappointing results, learn from them and move on. So, let us attend to one another with love and compassion, being vessels for one another of God’s gracious, loving and healing presence. May the solidarity we share strengthen us and our resolve for the challenging journey that lies ahead.

The struggle is far from over and one day our “yes” will come. This is a confident hope, rooted in the gospel promise of love, justice and abundant life. “God is turning the page!” as our sister, the Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder says, “And, if it is God’s will, then there is nothing in heaven or earth that can stop it.” So, let us continue to be vigilant, creative in our efforts, just in our actions and loving in all we do.

May God bless you, each and every one, and may God bring you the peace that surpasses understanding — the peace that only God can give

About the Authors: The Rev. Ruth Garwood is the executive director of the United Church of Christ (UCC) Coalition for LGBT Concerns and the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer is the executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy in Wider Church Ministries of the UCC. Both are members of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable.

Statement by the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel
Institute for Welcoming Resources and Faith Work Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“One of the core messages within many religious traditions is that of paradox: one thing is true even as the seemingly-opposite is also true. Hope has triumphed as this country has elected a man based on the content of his character, his gifts and skills, his vision and dreams. And yet, racism is alive and well — evidenced in many ways, including the destruction of affirmative action in Nebraska. We have, together, articulated that these United States are, indeed, becoming a more perfect union — with those of all races, creeds, genders, orientations, identities, political ideologies, abilities, national origins and ages invited to share the same table. And yet, the impulse to divide and disvalue has prevailed in Florida, Arizona, Arkansas and California, as same-sex couples and their families have seen their rights taken away by their fellow citizens.

“In the midst of these paradoxes, I cling to the paradox that is the core of my faith: even as we must wait, the victory has already been won. Justice, transformative love and life-giving hope have already triumphed. Ours is to usher them in. Ours is to root our lives in their reality and act in ways that give them life, even as the powers of injustice and hatred seem to hold sway.

“In particular, we must root our lives in the reality of love and justice and avoid two grave errors: acting out our frustrations and anger through violence, and allowing racism to be the lens through which we digest the passage of Proposition 8 in California.

“Our spiritual traditions all teach us that real power comes through nonviolent direct action. And so, we ask that any response to the passage of Proposition 8 be through candlelight vigils, through letters to the editor, through demonstrations, through legal actions, through talking with our friends and neighbors and through living our lives with integrity. These are the things that will help justice prevail.

“One of the truths of this election cycle is that racism continues to manifest itself — as evidenced in the Proposition 8 post-election blame game that serves no one well. As we move forward, we must continue to address the systematic oppressions that undermine our collective freedoms. We must continue to work within our LGBT community to bridge the gap between communities of color and white communities, in order to achieve not only full equality under the law, but the freedom of living in a more just society.

“And so, while I give thanks for the hope of this new political era, I also mourn the passage of so many racist and homophobic ballot initiatives. And I lift up the paradox to the transformative power of God even as I continue on in the struggle."
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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.