A Kinder, More Compassionate Community
As one of the six pastors who signed a letter in the Daily Record, July 8, 2015, entitled "Clergy Support Ruling on Gay Marriage," I was profoundly saddened by some of the responses in the Letters to the Editor of the Daily Record. Many of the letters became deeply personal in their attack, especially against LGBTQ people. I think it is important for us, as part of the larger Wooster/Wayne County community, to reflect on this public debate as it asks the fundamental question of who we as a community aspire to be as a people.
This question becomes increasingly important as we do realize the rapid pace at which our society is changing and that Wooster, Ohio is not sheltered from this change. In fact, as a college community, the seat of Wayne County, a town with strong economic development and an excellent school district, we often find ourselves in the center of this change as we are a desirable community that attracts a diverse populace. It is in this context that the debate this past summer is so much broader and deeper than just marriage equality as it also relates to all those who are different from the mainstream, which is predominately white, male, heterosexual, and Evangelical Christian, to include woman, people of color, differing economic status, and different beliefs.
Taking this “threat of change” into consideration, I do now realize that we as a clergy could have been more mindful of how upsetting the Supreme Court decision was to many in our community as it represents such a huge cultural shift in our country that runs much deeper than “just” marriage equality. For this lack of sensitivity I apologize on behalf of myself and the community of faith that I represent as pastor, Westminster Presbyterian Church.
While I do apologize for my lack of sensitivity, I do not apologize for signing the letter with my colleagues as I think it was, and still is, important that people of the LGBTQ community, and for that matter all people on the fringes of society, know that there are welcoming communities of faith, affirming that we all are created in the Image of God and are people with infinite worth and beauty. In our efforts to make Wooster, Ohio a more compassionate, welcoming, and inclusive community I think it is important that we do not get distracted by some of the angry and demonizing responses that were written in response to our letter. It appears that some of these responses represent a voice that is so used to being the “mainstream opinion” that in righteous, self-indignant anger they seemed almost desperate to turn the attention back to a narrative that excludes and dehumanizes “the other”, especially the LGBTQ community.
For LGBTQ people, their families, and allies, this was a painful public debate as some of these letters felt like bullying, something so may in the LGBTQ community are all too familiar with. Fortunately, there were also numerous voices who refused to be silent in the midst of anger and violence, reminding us of the community we aspire to be as we grow in generosity of judgement and create a more welcoming community here in Wooster, Ohio for an increasingly diverse and pluralistic society. For those voices we are forever thankful as they reminded us of what we are about as a people!
Personally I think we all will do well if we become more mindful of one another, reach out in kindness, grow in compassion, and most of all, start practicing the Golden Rule:
‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, NRSV).
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