UCC Clergy Applaud Supreme Court Decision

Witness for Justice

Witness for Justice

As United Church of Christ clergy we applaud the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of marriage equality. The UCC has a long history of social justice advocacy as well as pastoral support for victims of injustice, including those in the LGBT community.

In 1972 the UCC ordained the first openly gay person in a mainline denomination: the Rev. William Johnson. In the following four decades, our General Synod repeatedly supported equal rights for homosexual citizens in pronouncements to local churches and actions directed to legislatures.

Last year the UCC and its partners filed suit against North Carolina’s ban on same-gender marriage as a violation of religious liberty. In October, District Court Judge Max Cogburn agreed, striking down those laws as unconstitutional.

The UCC stance on this and other social justice issues is based on our core values, the first of which is our belief in the “extravagant welcome” of God. Because Jesus himself calls all who are weary and heavy-laden to come to the God of grace and love, we also are called to provide extravagant hospitality. This especially is important to anyone who has been shunned and shamed, made to feel unwelcome and unwanted. So when anyone walks in our door, we proclaim: “whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

The second core value is our belief in the “continuing testament” of God. The Old and New Testaments provide the foundation for our faith, but we believe God’s Spirit inspires a continuing testament today. As our Pilgrim ancestor, Rev. John Robinson, preached to the colonists, “God hath more light and truth yet to break forth from his holy word.”

Although some cite biblical texts to oppose marriage equality, we think these are taken out of cultural context and misapplied today. We remember in our all-too-recent history biblical texts were used to perpetuate systemic injustice toward women and people of color. While continuing to discern guidance from the Bible, we proclaim: “God is still speaking,” in new ways to address new realities.

Our third core value is our belief that God is changing lives today. The gospels begin with a call to change and they end with the promise of transformation. The apostle Paul calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

We hear testimony of such renewal every day, first from those who changed their minds because their hearts were changed. As more people brave the action of “coming out,” the rest of us realize we have congregants, co-workers, friends, and family members in the LGBT community. It is amazing how opinions can change as a result of personal relationships.

A well-known evangelical leader, sociologist Tony Campolo, recently testified to his change of mind and heart, noting that it was not only the result of “hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil” but also his friendship with gay Christian couples that facilitated his transformation.

Perhaps more importantly, testimony of transformative change is given by those from the LGBT community who had given up on the Church, but who found stronger faith in Christ when they found a home in an open Christian community.

Of course we acknowledge those among our congregants as well as colleagues who don’t agree with the decision of the Supreme Court nor understand why we, as clergy, so strongly support marriage equality. Indeed, we know some Christians who feel so negatively about this issue that they regard the movement toward marriage equality as a sign of the end times!

Instead, we believe it is a sign of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom among us, that realm of love, justice and peace which Christians pray will come in our Lord’s Prayer.

We reject the judgmental and at times hateful attitudes we have seen exhibited by others in the name of Christ, but we welcome and invite dialogue with those who disagree with us.

This is not the first time people of faith have disagreed on important issues. And this is not the last word on this or any issue the Church is facing. So the UCC also proclaims: never place a period where God has placed a comma!

~ Written by the Rev. Bob Stevens and signed by the Rev. Alan Miller, Conference Minister, Penn Northeast Conference, U.C.C. and 36 other Lehigh Valley UCC clergy:

Rev. Nancy Adams
Rev. Wilbur Albright
Rev. Al Bastin
Rev. Carol H. Bastin
Rev. Katherine E. Brearley
Rev. Jeff Brinks
Rev. Dr. Scott Brooks-Cope
Rev. Candi Cain-Borgman
Pastor Chris Cocca
Rev. Dr. David H. DeRemer
Rev. Barry K. Durie
Rev. Mike Eckroth
Rev. Emmajane S. Finney
Rev. Emily Jean Gilbert
Rev. Rick Guhl
Rev. Bob Gutekunst
Rev. Sharon Solt Hartman
Rev. Cliff Herring
Rev. Tom Hershberger
Rev. Steven C. Hummel
Rev. Curtis Kemmerer
Rev. Robert A. Lewis
Rev. Dr. Joanne P. Marchetto
Rev. Karen Moeschberger
Rev. Dr. Allan Kramer-Moyer
Rev. Ed Roosa
Rev. Alice Roth
Rev. Scott Sanders
Rev. Matthew Seeds
Rev. Dale L. Sattizahn
Rev. Lee Schleicher
Rev. Dr. Scott Brooks-Cope
Rev. Bill Seaman
Rev. Dr. Lloyd H. Steffen
Rev. Stephanie Anne Thompson
Rev. Jeffrey A. Wargo