SCOTUS, The Church and Making a Faithful Witness
Well now, it’s been quite a week, hasn’t it?
You have to wonder if we realize history is made in real time, or does its import amplify from the rear view mirror? Within the past week, the violence of Charleston, the responses around the Confederate Battle Flag (btw, my view on this question: 1865 called, it should have never been up), it’s all so much so fast.
And then there’s SCOTUS. Two rulings came down this week that have something to say about who we are as a country. These rulings also have something to say about who we are called to be as a faith community…if we will.
First, the case involving the Affordable Care Act is significant in protecting coverage extended to those who have been beneficiaries of the law since its implementation. And that’s a good thing. I say that as one who’s not a fan of the law, and I’m not for one simple reason: it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Healthcare is a right, not a commodity. And it’s a right belonging to all.
But we have what we have, which makes it all the more necessary for us to advocate and agitate the Tennessee legislature to pass Insure Tennessee, extending Medicare to thousands upon thousands of those who could be covered but are not. If anything, the SCOTUS ruling should leverage the outliers (and our legislature is one of a few) to come along.
What may seem political on one front, and it is to a certain extent, is living into our witness as a faith people centered on the wellness of all God’s children.
And then there’s the ruling handed down just this morning making marriage equality legal across the whole country, including, at last, Tennessee.
It is liberation day for many who’ve waited for so long….too long. And I celebrate especially with our St. John’s members who have waited and wondered if there was ever a place for them know life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
And as wonderful as this day is, it brings into high relief the work that is still to be done. For while my members are now free to marry, they are not free to have their covenant celebrated in the place they worship or presided by any of the United Methodist clergy who are appointed to shepherd them. That is ridiculously sad. The SCOTUS ruling employed the word “dignity” a multitude of times, and the word seemed to open the door for the ruling. How can we United Methodists continue to use the words “sacred worth” and maintain status quo?
So now what do we do? And how do we hold the tension of a Church not of one mind while advocating for changes in our Discipline and polity?
The election of Isabelle Dillard and me to the delegation is a start, but only kinda. We’re both 2nd alternates to General Conference. We’re going, but the chance of getting to vote on anything specific relative to changing the Discipline on this question is slight. We are Jurisdictional Delegates and we will be involved in electing bishops. Seeking candidates open to changing the Discipline is a start.
What is St. John’s to do? And true enough, I recognize that not everyone at St. John’s is of one mind on this question, too. But having said that, I fully believe all of us at St. John’s want the best for the rest of us at St. John’s. I also believe that people can grow to change their understandings of an issue based upon the relationships we have made and will make with others who are different than us.
St. John’s needs to make a witness to the larger connection, not based upon what could be perceived as shaming others that they are wrong headed, but by persuading others that it is the call to love God and all that God loves first and foremost that defines a faith community. Why wouldn’t we do that through every means available? Why wouldn’t we explore podcasts, videos, website, or just conversation with those who are struggling?
We all know people who are really struggling with this question because they fear to embrace it is to do something against their faith, against God. What can we do to help people come to understand that to live into this question may well be their most powerful witness of their faith?
Let me recommend this blogpost as a beginning place. It is as concise and compelling a response to questions for those who struggle as any I’ve found.
It’s a new day for many reasons, yet so much work to be done. It’s another moment where the particular, beautiful, inclusive character of St. John’s must extend beyond the corner. It is time not just to be a church of open hearts, minds and doors, but to move into the connection with love and zeal to open hearts, minds and doors.
Finding the balance.